Pranafest Review: A Sunshine Coast Wellness Festival For Everyone
We’ve just come back from our very first Pranfest – a wellness festival in the Sunshine Coast. As our first ever alcohol-free hippie festival, we were a little apprehensive before visiting. Would we fit in? And would we feel a bit out of our depth?
So, we’ll break down the experience and let you know what to expect if you’re thinking of visiting. If you’ve never heard of this festival, keep reading as it’s really an Australian festival everyone should visit, and it will certainly make you leave there as a better person.
Pranafest is a wellness retreat style experience festival with expansive and deepening activities run by the Sunshine Coasts’ inspiring community leaders and creative community. This three day totally immersive camping event situated in the beautiful Imbil Forest, has a back-to-back schedule starting from 6am until 10pm each day.
Expect breathwork, sound healing, ice baths, yoga, meditation, music, poetry and so much more to activate, rejuvenate and celebrate life, surrounded by a creative community of like-minded people.
There’s even a schedule full of kids activities at this family friendly festival.
With four stages to go between, this is the type of festival many people come to alone because you’re never actually alone at all.
In fact, I hardly saw Steve because even though we went to the festival together, we actually spent most of our time at different workshops. We were so busy, we found it hard to take a break for a good cup of chai and some vegan food in between sessions.
A hippie festival for everyone?
OK, so I wasn’t quite expecting so many hippies at Pranafest but it actually didn’t matter. You’ll see a mixture of people ranging from families to friends, and hippies to active-wearing Instagrammers and people all in between from all over Australia.
And while you’ll see some people who will totally be on another planet to you, just know that, that’s OK. On day 1, we were both super overwhelmed and it literally took us a whole day to get into the vibe of the festival. After speaking to a few other people, they felt the same too.
Wondering if it might be a little too hippie for us, we quickly realised that everyone is there for a similar reason and that those initial thoughts we had were just insecurities of our own to overcome. As time went on, we embraced the festival and loved every minute of it.
What the festival is actually like
To give you a run down, this is an example what the final day looked like for me:
6am 1 hour meditation
Followed by a 1 hour yoga session
Onto a 1h30m breathwork session
Then a 2 hour panel discussion about health & wellness
A 2 hour sound healing bath
Ending with a 1 hour mantra chanting workshop.
The entire festival basically looked pretty similar to this day, but add in an ice bath at around 6am and a live music event in the evening.
Each session I went to was full on, but not in the sense of having to do a lot. The room was filled with so much energy, I found it overwhelming at times in these 1-2 hour sessions. The breathwork sessions became intense for many people which I found quite emotional and because I was running from session to session, I didn’t give myself time to actually process what had happened.
If you’ve not been to a breathwork session before, the power of the breath technique can activate any trauma or pain you’ve been through, and can help you release it. To hear a room full of people releasing that energy was very powerful and overwhelming to say the least.
By the end of the festival I was ready to leave, not because I was over it, but because I needed to process everything.
I found the entire experience similar to a meditation retreat; a rollercoaster of a time, where one minute I was absolutely loving it, and the next I wanted to leave. And, how do I feel about it now?
Having been home for a couple of hours, I’m thinking back to the experience, really with one question, wondering; ‘what has just happened?’
I feel like I’ve been away for ages, and I’ve come back as a different person, but for the better. Having just walked into a supermarket and back into reality, I even felt my energy beaming around the other shoppers. This for me is something I haven’t seen within myself for a while now.
There were moments in this festival that will stay with me forever, moments where I’ve never seen a room full of people who were all feeling immense joy as we all did. And yes, of course I’ve been to festivals where everyone was having a good time, but here at an alcohol-free event, seeing people get up and dance together in a moment of absolute pure happiness singing mantras, was something pretty special.
A couple of things to know before you go
There are a few things I wish I knew before I went to Pranafest, so I just wanted to let you know in case you might have similar questions.
1. Bring cash & no phone reception
I’m glad I followed the Pranafest Instagram page because they posted the day before to say to bring cash. Like most people, we don’t ever carry cash and there’s no or very little phone reception to pay via your phone or by card. When I say ‘little phone reception’, you might get some messages or emails through, but you most likely won’t be able to make phone calls (I couldn’t anyway).
Wondering how much cash to bring? We took $300 each and it was more than enough for three days. In fact I think we came back with at least $50 each and we spent $100 each on a massage as well, so $200 was more than enough each. Plus, most people cooked their own food, and I did see some public BBQs around.
2. Book in for Zen Thai Shiatsu massage
Zen Thai Shiatsu massage is amazing and I’m so glad we somehow managed to book in with them before they were booked out for the entire festival.
A few people said they heard the year before how good they are and yet they missed out on booking a massage with them. At the time of visiting, it cost $100 for 1 hour massage. It is totally worth it and not like any massage you will have ever had. The only way I can describe this massage is like they do yoga on you but in an amazing way that will make you feel on cloud 9 afterwards.
3. Don’t do back-to-back sessions
I met someone who went last year and she said she did the same as me and tried to see as much as possible. This time around, she just picked a couple of experiences and kept it like that so she could process the intense sessions. Looking back on it, I wish I did this, but I wish they had more talks & discussions and made meditation more of a focus as it was a bit heavy on the breathwork and sound healing sessions for me.
4. Bring your swimmers & yoga mat
As I said, there are ice baths in the morning with Spirit Breathwork and you’ll end up in the river afterwards like we did which was a beautiful experience. It must have been around 5C when we did the ice baths which was actually a super memorable experience.
The river is beautiful here at Pranafest with plenty of gorgeous spots for swimming. Just an FYI – but in case you were wondering, there are also good showers facilities at Pranafest as well.
I nearly forgot my yoga mat, but it’s definitely something you’ll need, plus a blanket. I actually had my beach chair I bought from Hanga in the back of my car and it was one of the things I ended up using the most. The back support helps a lot when you’re constantly sitting on the floor a lot. And don’t forget to being wellies (gumboots) with you. I didn’t bring mine because it wasn’t supposed to rain, and guess what happened?
5. There’s only vegan food to choose from
We were wondering how much food would be available, but you’ll get a good selection, with Govinda’s curries, vegan tacos, pizzas and falafels, I kept gravitating back to New Earth cafe. The food here is exceptional – think cakes, curries, buddha bowls etc.
What did I get out of the festival?
Pranafest is designed to bring a community of like-minded people together to activate rejuvenate and celebrate life in a very special way. It’s a festival that creates a safe environment for people to heal through a transformational experience.
The evolutionary journey that many people go through in this event is a self discovery like no other.
And while I had my rollercoaster of a time here, it really did help me realise to let go of the past and move forward with new opportunities I haven’t experienced before.
It can be a confronting festival whereby you are constantly asked to step into different situations you wouldn’t normally do. Think about when was the last time you sat in front of a stranger and really looked them in the eyes for a long period of time? And so I embraced it all. And the more I embraced the experience, the more I got out of it.
Things I loved about the festival
I loved that it was an alcohol-free event which was so nice to know that I wasn’t going to be around unpredictable people. I could leave my belongings anywhere and no one would pinch them. We lay down on the grass in the middle of the main music event when the incredible Xavier Rudd was about to perform, and I thought if this was a drinking festival we would have probably been peed on by now considering how close we were to the stage.
I also loved how no one got their phones out until the very end of the festival. There was no Instagramming which was such a nice surprise – I even filmed a couple of things and felt very guilty for getting my phone out, but I did it more for having those memories to look back on. Heck, I hadn’t even planned to write this article until now.
It was even more nice to see kids playing, just like how I used to when I was a kid. Kids were on bikes, making up games, and just being free without any devices nearby. That is something I’ve not seen in a long time.
And so, I’ve come away realising that self development and connection is such a big part of all of our lives and is needed more than ever. The expansive and deepening activities didn’t only force me out of my comfort zone, it made me want to be a better person, not only for myself, but for others.
In this journey of self development and self-discovery, I feel like I have much more to unpack yet, but this is just my journey.
I feel like I’ve been given a glimpse into a world of people who are embracing their lives, people who aren’t living in denial and people who truly want to feel happy and free. And there’s something rather addictive about this.
Luckily for us, we have just been given an insight into the creative community that lives in Sunshine Coast. With inspiring community leaders, meditation experts in the yoga, music, art community, we’re excited to join more of the local events and classes.
With new meditation teachers, yoga teachers and breathwork teachers now for us to follow, I certainly know how we’ll be spending our free time as we integrate into this beautiful spiritual community in the Sunshine Coast.
If you’re looking to find more peace in your life, take time out or simply grow in a way that is truly a transformational experience, I highly recommend coming to Pranafest next year. In the meantime, check out my guide about what it was like at a 10 Day Silent Vipassana Meditation Retreat in The Blue Mountains if you’re interested more in this space.