It's 6 p.m. on a Friday evening in Buenos Aires and I'm off on a night out. This is most unusual. In fact, here it's a ridiculous time to be going out. The sun hasn't even set. The Porteño party crowd don't know what to do with themselves before 11 p.m. at the earliest. But I'm not going on a normal night out. My night out is based on yoga, intriguingly mixed with raving. And my boyfriend has refused to come with me. No booze and a sniff of yoga combined makes him point blank refuse and, like a kid, claim he'd rather stay in and play computer games.
A friend first told me about the "yoga rave" last Friday night as we sipped on Mojitos in a bar (at a more reasonable hour) in Palermo. "It's a party," she said, but "There's no alcohol, no drugs and no smoking."
"No fun?" I said.
I think I want go, even if someone tells me I can't have a drink. I've got to say, I saw it as a test. Could I have a fun night out without a drink in my hand? I'm a pretty healthy person. I do yoga, I eat lots of green things, I don't smoke, but as most British people will attest, I do enjoy a drink and a good party. The pair combined? Yes, I think I want to see this.
"Yoga means union, rave means to shake," Rodrigo Bustos told me, one half of the musical duo So What Project! behind the events. "It's also to catch your attention, and to shock." Says his creative, eyeliner-wearing partner Nicolás Pucci, "People are like, rave? Yoga with electronic music and drugs, what? It worked with me."
The Argentinean pair say they'd had their fill of experimenting with drugs and alcohol after a couple of years. "We were bored of what the clubs were offering. It's all the same." So they started their own DIY parties in friend's houses out in the suburb of Vincente Lopez. This led, with a partnership with the Art of Living Foundation, to the birth of their Yoga Raves a few years ago. "The message is we make the party, the party is inside us, we don't need anything to get to that point."
Nice in theory. How about in practice?
Accompanied by a couple of girly mates (one who's into yoga, one not), all first-time "yoga ravers," we were greeted at the entrance with a free bottle of water and a shot of, er, wheatgrass juice. Picnic blankets were scattered around the open air amphitheater set next to the open water of the Rio De La Plata. Young families drank mate (a traditional tea) next to kissing couples. Even the odd grandparent sat expectantly.
Suddenly a bouncy, ebullient presence of a man (Sergio) jumps on stage. "Raise you hand if you've never been to a yoga rave." Most did. "Don't worry," he encouraged us. "We're going to show you a new way to party, the parties on the inside. Now we're going to do some meditation; it's all about the art of doing nothing." Everyone smiles. Before we have time to think about it, the effervescent ring leader is telling us to embrace the stranger next to us, run around in circles and make stupid noises. I feel like I'm at a drama workshop. I'm loving it.
Next we are pulling Warrior yoga poses, "You are all warriors," Sergio chants, "You're bigger than Buenos Aires, bigger than the world. It's all inside you." I'm starting to feel good. I can achieve anything, I'm thinking to myself. It's like I'm in a U.S.-style self-improvement seminar, but much more spiritual. As I close my eyes, we enter a period of collective meditation where we are encouraged to notice and feel the sensations in our bodies, acknowledge our shopping lists of thoughts, but ultimately to let them go. I can't help but to lift my lids and sneak a peak at the 500-strong crowd (was it just me embracing this?). A chorus of people sitting back to back in absolute peaceful silence, with smiles on their faces. This feels good. So far so tranqui, but this is not a "rave." This thought re-occurs.
Rodrigo and Nico jumped on stage and broke the silence with a deafening electro-rock dance beat and the crowd immediately start moshing. Pretty much maxed out on a full-on setting. The music boomed across the smiling faces as they chucked water at each other and swayed and danced like, well, like they were at a rave. So irresistible were they and their show that my friend developed a bit of a crush on Nico as he rocked out on his three keyboard set up. Rodrigo took care of the live drumming.
They jumped up and down to the beat of what the band calls its "rock mantras." They don't seem to be pushing any one religion, as I picked up on Hari Khrishner and Buddhist elements. Rodrgo explained, "There's not a main source, mantras are all all over the world. Mantra means the vehicle to make the mind come, man is the way, tra means mind. It's the most powerful tool; we are affected by them." The duo aren't without a sense of humor. Just as I was thinking I'd had as much of the Harkrishna chants as I could handle, they're suddenly segued with Erasure's "A Little Respect." Then came Fatboy Slim's, "Right Hear Right Now" and even Michael Jackson's "Thriller" made an entrance. Huge smiles and whistles erupted in the crowd. "We don't feel any limits, we just want to enjoy. If the music makes us move we are sure it will make the people move," they told me.
And it did. We danced non-stop. Sometimes ironically yes, but dance we did. This beats an Xbox any day.
It's hard to be cynical about something with such a positive message and hundreds of smiling faces lapping it up around you. I spotted three teenage girls going mental, trying to outdo each other with their moves. "We don't smoke or drink or take drugs," Julieta Lino, who's 16, told me. "I got into this through a mediation course I did at Art of Living centre and I prefer to have a healthy life, but I like to party too, so this is amazing!" Even the kids seemed to be into it.
"Abrazo communal! abrazo communal!" Or, "Group hug, group hug!" was chanted as everyone ran into the center to create an enormous collective. After four solid hours of raving, yoga style, we were gradually led back into a calming meditation. "The party has a soul and it starts living at the moment you close your eyes and when you end closing your eyes you feel the same." I felt at different moments throughout the night that I was worshipping, raving, in a self help group and in a yoga class. So how do you define Yoga Rave? Rodrigo says, "It's not a party, it's an experience." And it's one they're championing globally. They've packed out Pasha in New York and plan to take it to London, believing, "You can live the same experience with different languages and different cultures all over the world, it's really the same. We are all human. We were all kids and the thing is to start to realize that we are [still] all kids."
I am. And I've got one at home. Even if Yoga Rave isn't his thing.
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