This week marked my first experience with the Wanderlust Festival.
If you’re not familiar with Wanderlust, it’s all about yoga. There are speakers, there is music, but mostly there are yoga classes taught by famous (and not so famous) yoga teachers. This was the first year that Wanderlust was held at Copper Mountain Ski Resort and I worked as a volunteer.
I’m leaving the festival with many memories and many new friends. Here is my list of the ten best things, in no particular order:
- The teachers. Wanderlust draws many famous teachers: Shiva Rea, Janet Stone, Seane Corn, and Rod Stryker were some of the big names there. It was a once in the lifetime opportunity to take classes, along with hundreds of other students, with the yoga celebrities I had previously only read about. Along with this, I was exposed to some new teachers and different approaches that I wouldn’t normally get in my little studio at home. The beauty of it is that each student resonates with each teacher in a unique way; it’s a little like dating and falling in love. Although I danced with Shiva, learned from Rod, and was mesmerized by Seane, I fell head over heels in love after singing and chanting with Janet Stone.
- The freebies. Wanderlust also draws an amazing array of vendors, all geared towards pleasing the discerning yogi. Many of the booths enticed us with free samples or prizes throughout the festival. The free Luna Bars kept me nourished between classes, although I will be happy to take a long break from their yummy wholesomeness for a little while. I came home with half a dozen tote bags, a Seane Corne DVD, magazines, mat spray, hair products, a Core Power tank top, various food and drink products, and a free pair of Lucy pants (more on that later). A heartfelt thank you to all the wonderful vendors who contributed by giving me (and others) free swag. And the real shopping was also great!
- People watching. If you like people watching, Wanderlust was a succulent buffet. From skinny dread-locked lads, gypsy hula hoopers, Lululemon yoga Barbies with too much makeup to your garden variety hippie, not to mention some fine scantily clad men and women rocking their perfect long legs and six-packs, there was plenty to satisfy the urge to gawk. And if that’s too much for you, there were plenty of “normal folk” walking around, too. Sadly, 98 percent of the crowd was white, as far as I could tell, and I hope that part changes some day!
- Music. I must admit that I did not participate much in the evening festivities, as I was worn out from mucho yoga most days and more than ready for bed. But I did come out for Ziggy Marley, who rocked the house with reggae, and I enjoyed the bands at the smaller Rue Boheme stage a few evenings, too. Aside from the music, there were displays of acro-yoga, amazing Cirque du Soleil style dance from Quixotic, and talented Djs like DJ Drez and MC Yogi spinning their tunes. The crowd was just as entertaining as the talent: hoops with neon lights spinning, a guy with rollerskates and glowing balls (rubber balls hanging from his belt, what did you think I meant?) as well as the usual crazy dancers and drunkards gyrating to the sounds. I could hear the bass from the Lucy tent throbbing in the condo while I slept until 2 AM, so apparently much fun was had in the wee hours!
- Speakers. I did not, of course, see all of the wonderful speakers, sponsored by Hay House Publishing. I saw the wonderful poet Nancy Levin, Manoj Chalam telling the stories behind the deities depicted by the archetypical statues, and Deepak Chopra who was, of course, amazing. But the speaker who brought me to my knees was Aron Ralston, author of “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” which was made into the movie “127 Hours” starring James Franco. Ralston is an amazing natural speaker who infuses his poignant and dramatic true story with humor (otherwise I would have been destroyed.) If you haven’t read his book or seen the movie, do it. His message is that no man is an island, and we need each other to survive. “It was not the will to live that pulled me through; it was the will to love.”
- The natural beauty. How can I neglect to mention that Wanderlust Copper Mountain was set in the wonderful mountain scenery of, well, Copper Mountain! A ski resort by winter, it is a splendiferous magnificent retreat in the summer. Well, yeah, it did rain, but with the recent wildfire rampage, that was a blessing. The ski lift to the top of the ski mountain gave the yogis who practiced at Solitude an awe-inspiring view of the summer slopes, trees, bubbling streams and wildflowers, all with the majestic mountains as a backdrop for it all.
- The synchronicity of events. There’s no way I can make this not aboutme, and unless you have experienced these types of events yourself, you may not understand. I’ll be brief. 1.) I worked at the Lucy yoga booth giveaway for a contest in which you find a matching number (there are two of each), come together to the booth and win a cool prize. I never win these things, but I stopped by to check on my new Lucy friends and a lady happened to come in with my same number at that exact time. We both won beautiful yoga pants! 2.) I stayed with a Couchsurfing host, a half hour away, and he introduced me to a girl he had just met who was at the festival. She had space in her condo, so for the last two nights, my friend and I shared her space, righton the premises, which was very handy the day I had to be there at 7 AM for my volunteer shift! Thanks, Lucia! 3.) Speaking of volunteer shifts, I had one scheduled for Solitude (see #6) and was switched for checking in a Janet Stone class (see #1), which I also got to join. When things like this happen, some might take them for granted, but I see a larger hand moving the scenery just so, and I feel stunned and grateful.
- Making new friends. I met many wonderful people, and connected with some wonderful teachers, through this experience. Some, I have no doubt, will remain with me long after the thrill of the festival has worn off.
- New styles of yoga. When you enter a yoga class, you don’t always know what to expect. I was open to it all, and in the process learned some dance, chanted with a huge group (which can be transformational), did a yoga sculpt class with weights, and even practiced acro-yoga! Believe me, I had no idea what I was walking into, but I stayed, learned, and enjoyed.
- The volunteer experience. Volunteering for something like this was a first for me, but the organizers made it smooth, easy, and pleasant. The people I met were amazing and open. The work that goes into a festival like this, seen from behind the scenes, makes you appreciate it all the more. Oh, and I also got a cool t-shirt.
OK, that is my ten. Oh, were you waiting for the one thing I didn’t like? Are you ready? I don’t like the fact that it is over!
See you next year!
Alexa Maxwell is a writer, teacher, traveler and student of yoga. She is a huge fan of elephant journal and is honored to be part of the herd. She recently earned her 200 hour RYT certificate and is starting to teach, in her own off-beat way. You can read more at her blog here (www.catnipkiss.wordpress.com), follow her on Twitter @catnipkiss, or wait for her upcoming travel memoir which is a work in progress.
Editor: Ryan Pinkard