HOW WE LEARNED THE TRUE MEANING OF YOGA AT WANDERLUST

I admit I was apprehensive about the Wanderlust Festival. To start, despite being the editor of a magazine that counts a festival guide as its biggest issue of the year, I’m not a very extroverted person. I don’t dig festival scenes, big groups. The stink of patchouli. Everyone noodle dancing as one. The crush of crowds. Um, no thanks. Give me a little tent way up in the alpine with my wife every time over all those people I don’t know and their personal odors in my personal space.

I was especially worried about Wanerlust because I was cynical about a yoga festival on many levels. First, I need to explain how I started practicing yoga. My wife was my first teacher. Her name is Radha, which comes from Sanskrit and she indeed grew up with yoga. Her parents were some of the first students of Satchadananda, a teacher who came to the U.S. from India in the 1960s, one of the first to bring Eastern philosophies to North America along with Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi and Tibetan lama Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I saw yoga as a form of mindfulness. For me, it was a natural extension of what I had already learned in meditation, in martial arts and, yes, in my love of outdoor sports like skiing, climbing and mountain biking, which I try to approach as practices, as forms of being mindful as well as having fun and connecting to the larger world.

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Photo by Amy Hart, courtesy Wanderlust.

Over the past few years, I have been practicing yoga intensely at studios and with talented teachers here in Boulder. I have approached it with the same attitude I bring to skiing, as an art, that no matter how good I get at it, there is always an ocean of deeper, of more refinement. Wanderlust? It seemed like Yoga Inc., yoga marketing, a created happy lifestyle, not part of a practice that is dirty, deep and difficult.

But I decided to at least check it out, and I can confidently say that Wanderlust won me over. It started out a bit rocky, when I realized I had no place to stay in Squaw Valley where the festival takes place every year (it’s been here at Copper and now Snowmass in Colorado, too). Rooms were stupidly expensive, meaning I would have to find a forest service campground. Of course, the first one I checked out was full. I didn’t have much hope for the second either—then there it was, an “open” sign at one site. Mine. Possibly the last camp site in California—definitely, in proximity to Wanderlust.

As I was paying for the spot, I saw a car drive in and a woman, looking around just as I had been moments before. I watched her driving back out… and stopped her. Yep, she was going to the festival and had no place to stay, too. I told her, hey, if you need a place to camp, you can share this spot with me. That was easy enough and seemed, well, karmically right.

By the next night, we had another campmate. Her name was “Mounain Mama,” a.k.a. Bethany Sagsveen, and the Wanderlust festival was a pit stop for her as she was hiking the 2,663-mile Pacific Crest Trail (and she went to Wanderlust wearing a set of camo onesie pajamas). Something was happening here. Campsite community?

The festival itself began for me with a hug—from another dude. I took a class with surfer/yogi/Bliss-master Eoin Finn, who is trying to save coral reefs as well as teach yoga. This was his first instruction: hug the people around you. A big dude with a shaved head turned to me and embraced me. It felt ok. More than that, as I turned to hug others around me, it felt as if this misanthrope might like these people. Sure, the bendy-stretchy yoga was great the whole time I was at Wanderlust, but it was those hugs that carried through the four days. This was not just yoga marketed. It was a real community, the kind of thing that seems so absent from much of how we live in isolation.

It feels a little funny to write this all now, but the festival made me realize that Elevation Outdoors is a community, too. That we, those of us who make this magazine and you, our readers, have this bond when it comes to skiing, biking, climbing, hiking, even yoga and just being outdoors that goes beyond all the marketing and hype. I’ll share my campsite with you any time.