Wanderlust Yoga Festival- Tahoe

It’s going to sound like hippy yogic nonsense, but my first Wanderlust experience was magical! I found what I was looking for, my true north. Which is the major theme of all the Wanderlust festivals as they travel the U.S., #FindYourTrueNorth. I won’t dive into mushy, gushy, details but my compass, I found, points to Louie, my husband. He’s my center. I’ll scamper off this topic for now, and move on to share the fun festival details with you.

 

All over the festival grounds signs point the way.
A few days before leaving to Wanderlust I signed up and paid for my yoga teacher training! Yippee!
DAY  1- THURSDAY
 
Tahoe is far. Embarrassingly I admit, when my friend Maria mentioned Wanderlust and driving to Tahoe I was thinking, sure, that’s like just past Mammoth right?!? Yeah, about 4 hours past Mammoth!
After 9 hours of driving, LA traffic, missing a few turns, gas stops, coffee and food, we arrived just before 4pm. First stop, the Compass, for check in and wrist bands. Gifted a Silver and Sage bracelet, and our lodging bands for High Camp we headed to the vendor village. FREEBIES!!! Maria and I pretty much ate and drank our way through snacks and lunch from the participating vendors. Entire 16oz drinks and vegan/vegetarian edibles as samples.
Squaw Valley in Tahoe runs the tram up to High Camp through the summer, but Wanderlust guests can access the tram late into the night with our super special wrist bands.
Wanderlust in Squaw Valley.
After mapping out the best spots to pick up free food, and buying our first round of yoga goodies we went to the opening concert. The Wanderlust Spectacular, held at the main stage, was fantastic. The musicians were more of a funky ensemble of performers and friends. From bongo drummers to rhythmic modern dancers. “This may be the Wanderlust spectacular, but look around. There are no spectators here!” That was the DJ Tasha Blank, and the dancers, her friends, The Get Down Crew.
So we danced, like there was no one watching, and we danced until our calves and thighs ached. The crowd fully engaged in the experience, while volunteers mingled through the masses of arms and legs to paint us with glitter. Also performing was the talented Claudine and Honza Lafond. Arco yoga performers who are expecting their first child soon. A unicorn hooded woman pranced across the stage blowing gold glitter into the crowd. I was exhausted having been up since 4:30am, but as I saw the air born glitter float past the pink and purple stage lights I heard my grandfather’s voice, “I can sleep when I’m dead,” he used to say. I knew then, this was going to be a long and spectacular trip!
Claudine reaching high as she balances and stands on her husband Honza’s legs. Her baby belly thrusted out!

 

The Get Down Crew.
DAY 2- FRIDAY
Let the yoga games begin! Maria and I launched off into cosmetic yoga space with Jeremy Falk at the helm of my first Rocket Yoga experience. In short, Ashtanga yoga is very strict and rigid at its roots. The order and form you practice in is very linear. Rocket Yoga allows you to explore other dimensions, expanding your personal practice. The creator Larry Schultz toured with the Grateful Dead as Bob Weir’s personal instructor. He modified the traditional practice to suit, and Bob commented that it gets you there faster. And Rocket Yoga was born. The practice moves quickly through Ashtanga primary series, and intermediate, focusing more on seated, standing, arm balances, and inversion asanas (poses).
Our first of four Friday classes was Rocket I, with Jeremy instructing from the big stage for his first time ever. During warrior I pose he said we were all warriors in life, and asked what we warrior for? I thought of Louie and my marriage, my main focus in life is to be a good person and good wife to this amazing man.
Rocking the socks in the cool Squaw morning.

 

“To know yoga is to struggle less!”
Onward to class number two.  Handstands Inversions and balancing with Dough Swenson. Basically, a room filled with 200+ people, for one big playtime session. Doug was very instructional, and even more so with helping us to support others moving into tricky poses. Inversions, where your head sinks below your heart, can be nerve wracking. Doug did a great job working out those fears, helping us to feel secure and stay safe.

 

Squeezing in as many yogis as we can!

 

Yogis everywhere!

 

Supported headstand.

 

Flying her eagle!

 

Forearm balance. Pincha mayurasana. Feathered Peacock. Personal goal was to keep my elbows in, and open my shoulders up to keep my back straighter.

 

Getting funky with my peacock.
Open up and say Ahhh! – Literally the name of the backbend and chest opening workshop we did as our third class with Daniel Scott and Kadri. A tasty mix of acro, yoga, and laughs. Another partner class, we used each other to bend our backs over, opening up all the nooks and crannies of tightness. Spotting was a key element to the class, as well as stopping and remembering to say AHHH!!! We also picked up a few backpacks.
Come fly with me.

 

Trying to put a bow on it.

 

Like a human massage chair.
Relaaax!

 

Backpack Maria.

 

Backpack Valarie.
Our final and fourth class of the day was AIReal yoga, “because it’s in the air, and it’s real yoga,” says founder Carmen Curtis who taught. I’m very glad that this session was filled with so many restorative poses. Maybe it was the altitude, maybe it was the Rocket, but laying around in the breezy afternoon, swaying in a hammock… doesn’t get much better than that folks!

 

 

 

 

Savasanaaahhh!

 

At night we sing and we dance! DJ Sol Rising and Beats Antique. Move like the jelly fish! Volunteers danced about with these designer clothes draped over poles. A lamp hung from the inside and illuminated the concert landscape. After a very long day we rode the 4 minute tram up to High Camp and our tent.

 

DAY 3 SATURDAY
First, is my love for climbing, second is my passion for yoga, and third to run is to be free! I took the class ChiRunning: Injury Free Running, first thing on Saturday. Sally Mitchell spent years beating her body up into injury by running a variety of race lengths and from extreme training. I recently irritated my hamstring from a mix of over and under stretching and strengthening the front and back of my left leg. Basically, it’s a hot mess.
Well, it was. I’m taking a long step back from running, and trying new ideas, including using yoga to strengthen and rehabilitate my leg. This clinic did not feel forceful with it’s ‘new to me’ technique. ChiRunning emerged from a combination of yoga and t’ai chi, with focus on alignment, posture, and core strength. The best way I can describe it is to use Sally’s metaphor. It’s like when you’re a kid running through the playground, leaning forward so far you feel as if you might face plant. It only feels like you are going to end up eating grass, you won’t actually fall because you’re a grown adult with better balance. You let gravity do most of the work, pulling you forward, and you eliminate the hard impact of a more upright, front leg extended stride. If you want more info check her website out, and book a running/yoga retreat in the Sonoma area where she is based.
Sally Mitchell, on the left in the white hat, describing her running injuries, and how ChiRunning keeps her injury free now.
After practicing the technique the group took a 3 mile, out and back, run along the Squaw Valley golf course. A creek runs through the course, and this wood dock winds it way through for the golf carts.

 

Always making time for a quick running selfie.

 

Follow Sally Mitchell on Instagram as BodyFlows.

 

Our group of dedicated runners, from near and far, all hoping to find injury free running.

 

Sally was very personable and approachable. She took the time to answer everyone’s questions and stayed after to talk to anyone who wanted to speak more with her.
I rendezvoused with Maria at the Mothership for Balance with Annie Carpenter. All I can say is, my legs!!! The class was all about grounding your feet to find your balance. We worked on identifying and activating our feet, ankle, calf, and thigh muscles/ligaments/tendons. Rooting down through our legs supports many asanas, especially the tricky ones like the warriors, half moon, and standing splits. Although my feet were tired afterward I really enjoyed this class. I began seeing a pattern throughout the festival for the sessions I had chosen. Most of them were more instructional than practice. I was learning so much, meeting skilled people, and absorbing all that I could incorporate into my own practice and my teaching.

 

A down dog view.

 

Rooting down through our spine, stacking the legs over the hips, and lifting the pelvic.
Thank goodness the last practice of the day was restorative. I needed to let go and flow… said every yogi ever! Maria was especially excited for Radical Relaxation because the famous Shiva Rea would be teaching. The wind was kicking up something fierce at High Camp, and the organizers moved the event from one of the tents to the main lookout deck. We had a near 360 view of Squaw Valley as we breathed and flowed into relaxation. The speaker kept breaking up, but somehow we all found our flow. It was a long and relaxing savasana.

 

 

Mountains, snow, and wind.

 

People were packed in on the deck, to enjoy the view and Shiva Rea.

 

I know this doesn’t look relaxing, but plow pose helps relieve stress and fatigue while calming the brain.

 

The great Shiva Rea offering Maria therapeutic oils just before savasana.
Aaand… welcome to savasana ladies and gentlemen…

 

A sneaky ninja photo…
Views for days!
On our last night of concerts the best was saved for last. Magic Giant played their Pop Indie Folk music to accompany our vegan burrito eating dinner. Oh, I have to brag about the food for a moment. It’s a vegan/vegetarians paradise! Too many delicious options. Back to the party… Son Little warmed up the main stage with their smooth R&B. Very dramatic with melancholy lyrics. Stephen Marley closed out the evening for us, with his classical reggae jams. The jelly fish made another appearance, and we danced on as long as we could keep our legs going.
Son Little.
DAY 4 SUNDAY
 
My first class on my last day of Wanderlust was by far the practice I was looking forward to the most. I battle with anxiety and even a little depression. It helps to speak with a therapist, but my goal this year was to leave my meds behind. I wanted to expand my meditation practice as a stronger tool for defeating my anxiety and to center my inner crazy. Jeremy Falk taught Beginners Guide to Meditation: Styles, Tips, and tricks. Without going too deep with the hippy yogie talk he shared 6 possible different ways to meditate. In short: lengthening your exhale, repeating a mantra, kapal bhati (a pranayama, breathing technique, with very quick breathes), humming, visualization, and laughing. Jeremy does a great job of making information accessible without alienating any one person with too much sanskrit or spiritual jargon. My favorite techniques were the humming and the visualization. On your lengthened exhale you simply hum. After a few minutes of this your body vibrates. It’s very soothing. During visualization (which I use when I am projecting a climb) I imagined a very special place my husband and I found together. I was there for about 5 minutes sitting on the edge of a wide open space, looking down at the stream wiggling below. I didn’t want to leave the retreat, but our last practice was a laughing meditation. A delightful experience.
Meditative practice time.

 

 

 

 

 

It was only 2 minutes, but I was crying by the end.
Putting some of my new techniques to use, during a short break between classes.

 

The pose that made me fall in love with yoga. Pincha Mayurasana, forearm balance.

 

Losing some of my handstand strength as I focus on other aspects of yoga, and of course dedicating more time to climbing.

 

I struggle hard core with warrior I, keeping those hips even and facing forward.
Yoga for Athletes was just a straight flow class, with little tutorial. Sherry McConkey is a local to Tahoe, and teaches specifically to athletes because of all the years of experience she has with many sports and the adverse affects of them on her body. While I enjoyed the session (fell asleep during savasana) I had to come up with my own ideas in my mind for why particular asanas were important to an athlete specific practice. Just basic, open your hip flexors that’s good for running, open your shoulders that’s good for climbing, etc.
Technically you can only sign up for 3 classes a day, but both Maria and I really wanted to try Rocket Yoga III. We got worked, but crashing a good party is always fun! We figured, last day, why not take 4 classes including one of the hardest of the weekend!

 

 

 

 

Are we done yet? I need a child’s pose after this…
The last yoga practice of the festival was a real treat! There is this fantastic artist by the name of MC Yogi. He raps about yoga! I know what you’re thinking… ummm yoga and rap? Check his music out, it’s fun and engaging. We danced and sang our way through our last practice of the festival. I was sad to see the end of this awakening journey.

 

Dance, dance, and then dance some more.

 

 

It sounds hysterical but we rolled over each other. This is the kind of close you get after 4 days of Wanderlust.

 

 

We wrote out prayers on these little white cards, and placed them in an oil drum prayer wheel. The drum travels to all the Wanderlust festivals and they hope to collect 10,000 prayers.

 

Down dogging it one last time…
One last stop before this show hit the road!

 

 

 

 

 

A few last details about my Wanderlust experience. I hope those that desire to take a festival adventure get the chance to go! I gained so much to add to my practice and personal growth. There are volunteer opportunities to reduce the cost, and you can also attend for one to fours days. There is even a day festival in Santa Monica. Yoga on my friends, yoga on!
The tram to high camp takes about 4 minutes, and could sometimes be slowed down from long lines and crowds. Try not to book your classes back to back if one of them is at High Camp. Especially over the weekend.

 

A field of tents with a beautiful view. Very windy, and sandy. Bring ear plugs for night time, and secure your tent very well or it will blow away. The amenities are glamorous, with a legitimate locker room and showers.

 

Shiny tattoos all over the place. Maria and I kept it simple.

 

A quiet tram ride, a rarity.

 

We didn’t have time to attend any of the pool parties, but we also felt like it was a bit of a college drinking scene.

 

There’s climbing in them hills!

 

A variety of portraits through out the festival, to text home to my husband.
Sun, wind, and sand.
One last adventure on the way home. We stopped half way and stayed over night in Bishop. The next morning we climbed for a few warm hours at the Sad Boulders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Stay Adventurers,
Valarie Tes
 

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