Yoga Festival Haarlem 2015 Report

Can I get a round of applause for dragging my sore, tired ass out of bed the day after my half marathon to go to this yoga festival?


What’s that?

I’m an entitled, privileged person who does not deserve needless admiration for making normal life decisions?

Yeah okay, fair enough.

For cool yoga, great food and cute as fuck yoga tights, click on.

I was not missing Yoga Festival Haarlem 2015. Not even if I had run a whole marathon chased by herpes-zombies the day before.

It’s real early when I leave home to pick up my darling Mariet, and we arrive at the gorgeous Elswout Estate in Haarlem around 9:45. The weather isn’t great, rainy and cloudy, but right  now it’s dry and everyone seems happy enough.

The festival grounds are full and festive, with tons of activities, stands to get food or yoga gear (or aroma therapy: Mariet and I both got our favorite essential oils there) and tents in which the yoga workshops take place.

HATHA YOGA & METTA MEDITATION We get our tickets and immediately duck into a tent for our first yoga class: Hatha yoga and metta meditation. Teacher Helene Kissels is accompanied by a minimalist-guitar player, who strums pretty cords nd melodies while we do yoga and meditate.

Yoga Festival Haarlem is all about the second chakra and enjoying life. Helene explains a little about that, and how in this yoga class we’re going to focus on the hips and area around that second chakra. We do hatha yoga (yoga through movements) and even though I’m a little stiff, I enjoy doing the postures very much — I feel that it helps my soreness (and it did, I was ache-free the next day).

After the yoga we do a metta meditation: this roughly translates to loving kindness. This is a thing.  Helene guides us with her voice, and the meditation is all focused on feeling love and kindness for yourself and others.

This is good for me, because I suffer from this medical condition where I am a bitch from time to time.

FOOD First food of the day? Lekker Raw is here today, and I get us these cute bites of raw crackers with cucumber and my absolute favorite thing: Zuchini pasta with pesto and rawmezan. I get us one portion to start with, but Mariet loves it so much she gets her own.

PICTURES We take some pictures in the beautiful fields and green surrounding the estate. I am donning these amazing tights by Spirit of Mo. I fell in love with them as soon as I saw them and I wasn’t the only one: Other people at the festival commented on it all day. Keep an eye on my blog, there might be a give away coming your way!

(Oh and by the way, I normally have a strict leggings-aren’t-pants-rule, BUT I was doing yoga all day, the fabric is perfect and absolutely not see-through AND my ass looks great. So you know. Rules are meant to be broken.)

LUNCH Vuur en Vlam. Their pumpkin soup and bread dip with peas and basil was amazing.

BREATH WALK After lunch, we woud go join the Breath Walk in the forest. Me, naive pour soul, thought to myself: “Oh great, a relaxing walk with a few deep breaths, no problem.”

Um, no. It was a Kundalini yoga exercise – which IS something that I am very interested in but I haven’t tried-, focused on working with breath for energy, boosting energy with your body and you know, doing very yogic intense things.

First we did Kundalini yoga exercises as a warm up, and as we walked we learned all about the Kundalini Deep Breath. Then the actual Breath Walk: Exhaling and inhaling in 4 segments each, syncing your steps with your breath, doing mudras in sync with your steps AND silently focusing on the mantra Sa Ta Ma Na. Holy mother of multitasking.

I had to get into it (no offence but we looked like complete weirdos practicing this breath walk: standing in place and huffing and puffing while nervously ticking off our fingers with looks of concentration on our face) but once I did, it was a nice exercise. You can’t really think about anything else while you are trying to do everything synchronised AND chanting silently to yourself.

I actually do it now when I walk from the subway to work (it’s a boring walk and you can only playback to Britney Spears so many times before other people are genuinely concerned about you).

Then we had a drink, and I needed a cup of coffee. Fun fact: After running the half marathon I thought I would fall asleep easy and be all well-rested and shit, but the adrenalin kept me up until around 1 and I woke up at 05:30.

I think my teeny tiny eyes are enough evidence but if not, Francien from GL2R can attest to my shenanigans: I handed in my race report around 6 o’clock that morning.

LAUGHTER YOGA I had heard about this yoga, but underneath all the yoga and self help lives a very sceptical ‘are you fucking kidding me’ kind of person. So I was intrigued, but walked in with a sense of cynicism.

I took a look at the teachers and I couldn’t decide if they looked jolly, or just downright manic. But, deep breath, open mind, let’s do it anyway.

What happened next is literally one of the weirdest, most uncomfortable, funniest shit I have ever been a part of. And I have been LARPing once. My bar is set pretty high.

We have to fake laugh for starters, for long periods of time. I look at Mariet while fake-laughing loudly — WITH HORROR IN MY EYES.


We do strange exercises, like imagining blowing giant bubbles of bubble gum and popping them, we dance and high five everyone. We yell together “Great, Very Great, Yaaaaayyyyy” and it is all so, so weird. What is happening. This feels so weird. These people are insane.

But the combination of feeling uncomfortable, seeing other people be uncomfortable too (but still going along) and the genuine enthusiasm of others starts making me laugh for real more and more. I go from fake to real laughter, and then back to fake laughter, and back to really laughing.

And I go from into pure, unadulterated joy when we do an exercise with animal sounds. Mariet is picked from the audience to be the leader. She starts doing this impression of a gorilla and everyone goes along, we’re all moving around like monkeys and making monkey sounds (while laughing).

And then there are these two super cute, gorgeous girls, who have been uncomfortable with the whole thing just like me, and out of NOWHERE, randomly, they start making these agitated chimpanzee type of sounds.

I fucking lost it laughing.

And because of that, everything inside me just went “FUCK IT” I joined in, screeching like a chimp as loudly as I could.

I could hear Mariet start laughing at my sudden burst of crazy, and the tent went along.

Because it is yoga, we also did a savasana (resting pose) at the end, and we could not stop laughing. For real. Not fake laughter, but really crying with laughter. For no other reason than that we felt like it.

Once the laughter died down, and relaxed in our pose, quiet and withdraw into ourselves, I felt incredibly light.

Even now, a week later, I still feel the effect. Relaxing, cathartic and even cleansing in a way. I feel like I laughed off some baggage.

And it made me realise something very important about myself:

Sometimes I try so hard to be funny that I forget to have fun. 

I love making people laugh. There is nothing wrong with that in itself. But I will also do it to deflect, to impress and to distract. And sometimes, if I focus all my energy on being funny instead of actually enjoying myself, this takes away from my ability to have fun.

Laughter yoga was, in a weird you-guys-are-on-the-crazy-train-choo-choo way, very good for me. I might actually want to take a course.

Aren’t these yoga tights the fucking bomb?

Girl on the right is yogi Sandra who set up the brand with a fashion designer and a photographer: Zen by Sen. Mariet and I are IN LOVE wit the Atlas-leggings.

After laughter yoga we stocked on Yogi Tea, ran through the rain to get to the car and went back home.

I think that even despite the weather, Yoga Festival Haarlem 2015 can be called (another) great success and I’m so happy with the experiences I had there this year. Onto even bigger and better, I’d say.

See you there in 2016?

(If you want to see it from Jet’s perspective and enjoy some serious double chin action of yours truly, click here.) 

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  1. Your description of laughing yoga is very contagious.
    This post also inspires some un-yogic (un-yoga-ish?) greedniness in me.

  2. I live almost next to Haarlem, and I totally forgot about it. I hope that I won’t forget it next year. I am barely started with yoga (mainly doing stuff at home as there is no good school nearby) but it’s a keeper 🙂

  3. I had my first yoga festival a few weeks ago and I love it. Maybe I’ll be there in Haarlem next year 🙂 It looks very inspiring and also like al ot of fun. Especially the laughing meditation. HAHAHA. I’m starting to laugh already when I think about it.

  4. Thanks for your great review of our laughter yoga session at the Yoga Festival Haarlem 🙂

    We loved presenting it and hope to see you sometime at one of our monthly Friday evening laughter sessions at Lachclub Haarlem! We’re on facebook.

    P.S. I thought it was a teeny weeny weird too when I first did laughter yoga, but I just loved it that you can make such fun with total strangers!

  5. What a honest report of laughteryoga. It describes very well how people can be oncomfortabele but how wonderful the effect is when they reallly join in. I am active with laughteryoga and train people and very happy with it and convinced about the wonderful Healing effects Maarten Vos