August 14, 2011

Why Wanderlust Festival is like cheerleading camp. ~ Rachel Meyer

 Been to Wanderlust?  No?  Either way, maybe you’ll identify with this witty review of  “Yoga Disneyland” by Wanderlust alum, Rachel Meyer.

— Recovering Yogi co-founder, Vanessa Fiola


With thanks to Recovering Yogi for playing nice and sharing with our readers—this piece originally appeared on that great site on August 12, 2011. ~ ed.

Back in the day, before Facebook, before Twitter, before even, um, cell phones, I went to cheerleading camp.  June 1994, my friends.  Picture it now.

Actually, let me clarify: it was dance camp.  Drill team camp.  We danced, people.  There was no clapping involved; there was no cheering involved.  We were seriously legit high-art dancers.  Who wore cheerleading skirts and tiny tops and carried sparkly pom-poms and did kicklines.  But we were not cheerleaders.  Got that?

So, this being Lincoln, Nebraska, our options for local high school dance line camps were limited.  You could drive to Omaha.  You could get really brave and truck all the way to Denver or Chicago.  You could stay in town and be pathetic.  Or you could load up a big conversion van and haul a few hours south to the bustling metropolis of Emporia, Kansas, where the wise folks at Emporia State University decided to make a few bucks over the summertime by filling their empty dorm rooms with 15-year-old Nebraska cheerleading chicks.

Fast-forward 16 years later, and I was once again packing a bag full of spandex leggings and sports bras for a different stretchy endeavor.

Late July, 2010: I hauled my ass up the mountain for a quick two days at the still relatively unknown Wanderlust Festival near Tahoe, a weekend conflation of yoga, music and nature that took Squaw Valley and turned it into a melee of yoga tops and hippie pants and lots and lots of Kombucha.

I was kind of nervous.  Wasn’t sure it’d be my thing.  I’m a lone ranger at heart, really, usually content to be alone with my book and my mat and maybe a little sun, and the prospect of several days’ worth of obligatory mingling made me shudder.  But I thought I’d give it a shot.  Worst-case scenario, I could always pack up and head out early.

And, you know, it was great.  I dug the yoga, got my sweat on, met a few new folks, had a good time.  And I did leave early, before the weariness from all the New Age-speak and the schmoozing could set in.  But some strange sense of deja vu hung over me that whole weekend, and I couldn’t figure it out.  It was like I’d been there before.

And that’s when I realized.

Wanderlust was cheerleading camp for grown-ups.

So I went back again this year fully prepared for an explosion of ego and stretch. Notebook at my side, pen in hand, I was ready to dive into the yoga, jam out to a few tunes, and ditch the rest.  And, not gonna lie: it was gravy.

My arms got rocked, my hamstrings were happy, and I met a few other nerds who liked to talk about bandhas and sutras and shit.

It’s dangerous, though, you know?  Practicing in the sun for hours, concrete under your mat, knees ripped up and feet filthy, you get so lost in the contrived removal from the Real World, this Yoga Disneyland of sorts.  It’s tempting, a total tease; after all, who wouldn’t want to leave the day-to-day sludge of the work world behind to just hang out half-naked in a perpetual Savasana, listening to music under the stars, punch-drunk on Parivrtta Parsvakonasana?

So I very deliberately lurked in back, on the margins, and kept my cover.  I didn’t tell people I was a teacher.  I slipped into the last row and scanned people’s faces, watched their reactions, checked out their matching lulu gear.

And, in so doing, I found myself right back in Emporia, 1994.  That said, I give you:

15 Reasons Why Wanderlust is Like Cheerleading Camp.

  1. Lots of pretty skinny young people pretending they really like each other but secretly scoping out the competition
  2. Spending four days perpetually hot, sweaty, smelly and sore
  3. Lycra everywhere you look
  4. Folks fighting for the front row where they can show off their dopest backbends and fly into handstands on every vinyasa.  Battle of the egos, Tahoe-style. Vaguely shrouded by assertions of yogic humility.
  5. Countless obligatory mingling events
  6. Vast opportunities for stealing other people’s choreography — er, sequencing
  7. Cliques and packs, usually identified by matching t-shirts  (“Ohh, you’re from Z studio, too?”)
  8. Mostly white, upper middle class.  Lots of privilege.  (Tickets cost $400, folks. Not to mention the expense of getting there, and staying.  Oy.)
  9. Merch around every corner.  (“Buy my stuff and it’ll take your practice through the roof!  Wear this and you’ll be an arm balance ninja!”  Ahem.)
  10. High maintenance diets verging on the disordered.  (Overheard at the Lydia’s raw food tent: “Um, are there Brazil nuts in there?  Because I can eat other nuts but not Brazil nuts because they make my stomach tender and maybe not cashews because they’re not sustainably farmed in [fill in the blank] and I try to avoid dairy because my joints puff up so please no cheese and how about the pesto, is that sustainably and locally made, too, oh, and please don’t cook it, you’ll kill the enzymes!”)
  11. First-world problems.  (“My wireless doesn’t work!  I can’t find my Nalgene!  Somebody stole my Yogitoes!  My implants ruptured!”)
  12. Scantily-clad folks in uniform.  Whereas back in Emporia that meant red and white scrunchies for the same slicked-back, hairsprayed ponytails, at Wanderlust it’s more like matching wash-off tattoos.  (Your fake-inked shoulder tells me you’re from Yoga Branch studio.  Subtle, baby, subtle.)
  13. An abundance of painfully awkward mandatory dance breaks in the middle of asana classes.  Teachers: please stop doing this. Please. Just. Stop.
  14. “After-hours” means “yogis gone wild” up at the pool at High Camp: bikinis (usually) and cocktails and more summertime straw fedoras than you can shake a stick at
  15. Sheer exhaustion in the face of so much pep

About Rachel Meyer

Rachel Meyer is a San Francisco-based yoga teacher and writer with roots in musical theater, theology and the arts. When she’s not jumping around in leggings and chanting in Sanskrit, she loves a good foggy wander up and over Nob Hill in search of cocktails or used books. You can find her bio and teaching schedule at facebook.com/RachelMeyerYoga , and further ramblings on meditation, yoga, the arts and more at her literary practice mat: rawrach.blogspot.com .

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