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10 things I learned at my first yoga festival

Wanderlust

(Photo: Ali Kaukas for Wanderlust)

While I love the occasional vinyasa class for mind-clearing and muscle relief, in general, box jumps feel more natural to me than Baddha Konasana. And the last time I wore a flower crown I was probably 10.

So although yoga festivals like Wanderlust and Bhakti Fest have been gaining popularity from Oahu to Aspen, I could never quite picture myself rolling out a mat for four days of asana and meditation.

That changed this June, when I headed to Wanderlust Vermont at gorgeous Stratton Mountain, where I practiced creating a “practice” with star instructors like Seane Corn (inspiring) and Eoin Finn (happy-inducing), danced to yogic beats provided by DJ Drez, and even maintained eye contact with another human being sitting on my mat while reciting a mantra. (I survived, somehow.)

To help other yoga fest virgins gain some insight into whether or not the bendy festival scene is right for them, I put together this list of insights gained from countless chaturangas. Here are 10 things I learned at my first yoga festival, in no particular order:

1. You’re not just going to play in the grass. Classes are mostly inside (buildings or tents), which was a huge surprise and disappointment to me. Although, looking back, I would have been as red as a tomato if I had been allowed to salute the sun during every session. Also, Vermont in June can be cold in the early mornings and evenings, so whichever location you choose, it’s probably better to be protected from the elements.

2. Extreme body fatigue is unavoidable. Day 1: I keep commenting on how classes are so much easier than I thought they’d be. Day 2: Wow, it’s surprisingly difficult to stay in downward dog without muscles shaking. Day 3: You want me to stand up?! I did the calculations and at the end, I had completed nine class hours in a 50-hour period (including sleep time). Not all of those minutes were spent in motion, but the majority were, and that amount adds up quickly. By the end of it all, every chaturanga felt like diving into a face plant (and all my conversations were about soreness). That nearly seven mile all-uphill trail run I signed up for in between yoga sessions? It ended up being one of my favorite moments—but ow, just ow.

3. Acroyoga is everywhere. You will see men spinning women around on their feet, handstands being executed on the hands of other standing yogis, and other acrobatic feats, some of which are completed on slacklines. It’s mesmerizing.

Wanderlust

(Photo: John Suhar for Wanderlust)

4. But you really don’t have to be a handstand pro to go. You don’t need acro skills. In fact, everything was very accessible. Wanderlust clearly labels classes by level, and, in the larger ones, you could theoretically lay on your mat in child’s pose the whole time and no one would even notice.

5. Do pack your studio best. Just like at Coachella, there’s a definite festival fashion scene. It plays out in different ways, from the free-spirits wearing flower crowns, body paint, and flowing skirts to the athletic types decked out in head-to-toe Lululemon to the hipsters in ironic tanks paired with art-print leggings. Find your tribe, or don’t.

8. (Some) yogis drink!  There was a surprising amount of alcohol consumed once the sun went down, despite the presence of the sober dance party set.

9. But they don’t eat enough food. There were a few great food vendors whose stands are open during the day, but not as many as you’d expect, and lines to buy $15 single-serving kale pizzas were always super long. Pack a gluten-free sandwich.

Wanderlust

(Photo: Monica Justesen for Wanderlust)

9. Yoga’s gone corporate. I heard Toyota had an insane corporate set-up at Wanderlust Vermont last year, and while they weren’t offering test-drives this season, the sheer amount of marketing and selling you’re subjected to every second can be overwhelming. You’ll walk past the Lululemon D’Om to get to the Greatest Place by Gaiam, across from which Kashi is plying you with cereal samples while Garnier accosts you with moisturizer. Savasana.

10. Meditation might actually be for me. For all of my skepticism, that eye contact thing I mentioned earlier wasn’t all that bad. It happened in a particularly inspiring LovingKindness class with Southern yogi Michelle Johnson, and I left feeling like I had finally found a type of meditation I could wrap my head around.

Oh, I forgot to mention I’m really good at hula hooping, so I was bound to get sucked in to this yoga festival thing, right? —Lisa Elaine Held

For more information, visit www.wanderlust.com

5 Comments | ADD YOURS

  1. July 9th, 2014 at 11:31 am

    loved reading your perspective. I believe mine would be similar. I will make it to one of these some day soon. Thanks for sharing.

  2. July 9th, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Thanks for sharing! I have been to one yoga festival but it was not very big. I would like to go to a bigger one and I will keep these things in mind.

  3. July 9th, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    The inclusion of alcohol and non-vegetarian food is a major turn off. A festival it is..fun for many. A yoga festival..nope. Sorry but for some of us (many I think who are not inclined to speak up for fear of being labeled “judgey”) the booze and food is akin to bringing bacon into a temple and a pro-choice sign into a church. Sure it can be whatever you like it to be..a festival including yoga..but even the word “lust” is in appropriate if you read the texts. For many the practice is WAY more than the physical..and for those of us who are interested in a true yoga festival,(fun included) this seems like a let down. Remember before you accuse me of judging, that is exactly what you would be doing merely by making the accusation. I never said it was bad or wrong, simply said it might be offensive to those who remain dedicated in a different way.

  4. July 11th, 2014 at 4:53 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed Wanderlust Stratton. However its is quiet pricey… We bought the Friday one day pass $155 so basically paid $50 per class. 2 of the three I really wanted to see so I was happy that I could do it in one day. Our third, yoga hike was great until we lost the group and missed half the hike.
    We were pooped and were staying down the road so we did not come back for the music at night time, was not a big enough draw for us to go back.
    As great as it is to be apart of the festival and classes, its even better to go and be there for free, you will have a very similar experience-minus the teachers/class.

  5. July 21st, 2014 at 8:00 am

    One can be pro-choice and religious.
    One can do a lot of yoga and eat meat, drink,….

    These are choices. You can choose not to partake. That is free will.

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