Have I been out of the “yoga” scene for so long that I missed when mala beads become a fashion accessory verses their purpose of a meditation tool? I have always disliked that trendy $100 yoga pants are now the norm and worn in public as fashion – this is not fashion, and drives the stylist inside of me insane. However, my rant about yoga pants and camel toe is a whole other blog. This blog is about my wanderlusting experience and amazement at the now very popular yoga festival called Wanderlust.
After heavy persuasion from my girlfriend who had previously attended Wanderlust, I decided to purchase a ticket to the event in Whistler. I signed up for my classes and set the intention that these few days would be my time to journey deeper into myself, to explore my practice, my dream, and to let my imagination flow. This was a huge step for me because for all my socialization skills, my love of friends, clients and great conversation, when it comes to my yoga practice, I am a loner. In this area of my life I am not a joiner. Even when I teach, I share my practice and what I have learned in small intimate groups. After practicing yoga for more than 20 years, my personal belief is that yoga is an ongoing journey. A posture is never complete, there is always a way to go deeper. As practitioners we are always learning. My biggest bitch is the buzzword “yogi!” When someone refers to themself as a yogi I find it so incredibly disrespectful to our Indian yoga heritage and ancestors. How can a person who has been practicing for a few years, wears luluemon, and burns incense, have the balls to classify themself as a yogi? In my opinion there are very few true “yogis” in North America. Just an F.Y.I., here is the definition of a yogi:
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna states a yogi to be:
“Fearlessness, purity of heart, perseverance in acquiring wisdom and in practicing yoga, charity, subjugation of the senses, performance of holy rites, study of the scriptures, self-discipline, straightforwardness; non-injury, truthfulness, freedom from wrath, renunciation, peacefulness, nonslanderousness, compassion for all creatures, absence of greed, gentleness, modesty, lack of restlessness; radiance of character, forgiveness, patience, cleanness, freedom from hate, absence of conceit—these qualities are the wealth of a divinely inclined person, O Descendant of Bharata.”
It can take years – lifetimes even – to become a true yogi. I feel it would honour ourselves and Krishna by simply saying, I practice yoga verses I am a yogi. But it is the buzzword right now, so even with this belief and not being a joiner, I made the decision to try something new. So there I was lining up to receive a neon wristband for my first black light Vinyasa flow class. In my head I thought our yoga ancestors must be rolling over in their graves if they could see what has happened to yoga over the past 10 years in North America. But I took a big inhale and exhale and silently asked them for forgiveness and for myself to accept what I was going to experience in the next few days. My thought was that if I gained anything positive or negative from each class then I would be growing and learning in both my practice and in life. So I set my intention to have no expectations. What ever happened was meant to be.
After my first few classes, I was chillin’ in the sunshine, watching the world go by, and thinking about how much I was enjoying the whole Wanderlust experience. The people-watching was off the charts! Everything and anything goes . . . big, small, tall and short people all in tight yoga pants (I tried to ignore the pants). Then there were the piercings, tattoos, blue hair, pink hair, dreadlocks (lots of dreadlocks), plus there was the whole other spectrum – the perfectly put together, wealthy, polished and Botoxed women in their matching yoga outfits. But putting judgement aside, overall there were lots of beautiful, healthy, happy people. Plus there were some seriously good looking dudes (more than I expected, actually). These were obviously the smart dudes because any guy with a brain in either of their heads would be hanging out at this festival! It’s all about the odds, gentlemen… and you have really, really good odds on a yoga weekend.Later that evening I was sipping wine with some girlfriends (yes, because it seems that most people who do yoga actually drink, and drink a lot). According to our local Whistler liquor store, Wanderlust is the weekend where they sell the most wine and usually sell out of Rose. I find this hilarious! Well my girlfriend seriously needed a glass of wine when she joined us because with exasperation, she explained how she had been traumatized by her last class. She was literally post-panic attack. She signed up for a “classic rock black light” expecting a flow to Led Zeppelin but ended up in the middle of 200 hot, sweaty people with the instructor making sexual comments and asking everyone to “hug your neighbour.” A LOT! Unfortunately for her, this is not her style.
After half a glass of wine, she had the entire table in hysterics as she retold her tale of being trapped in this sweaty, dark yoga class. Finally I asked her, why didn’t you just stay in child’s pose for the entire class? Or leave and collect your mat and bag after the class? She said she felt trapped because she literally could not see as it was totally dark. Plus she feared stepping on other people as she was in the middle of the room. But I pointed out that if she was going to shit her pants, would she have left? She admitted that yes, she would have found a way to leave. So I just tried to lovingly remind her that each yoga class is just someone’s suggestion of how to practice yoga. If there is anything in a class that doesn’t work for her, a posture, situation or suggestion, then she is free to do whatever she feels best for her, child’s pose and savasana are always options, as is leaving. One of our ladies did suggest that maybe she was meant to go through those feelings of being trapped so that next time she experienced something like that she would be able to breathe and calm herself, knowing that the experience and feelings would eventually pass. Yoga just isn’t about the physical posture. Every posture can release lots of emotions. Sometimes these are emotions that have been buried deep inside and we don’t want to deal with them. In my girlfriend’s case, her feeling of being trapped happened in the middle of 200 sweaty, touchy, feely people. Ick and Yikes! But after a few glasses of wine, it was totally hilarious.
Later that evening we got our dance on to some great Reggae music. I watched in awe as a group of groovy hippie dudes with man buns, tattoos and facial jewelry took over the dance floor with their energetic kicks and flips. The sexual energy was going off; the chemistry, flirting, picking up and making out was everywhere. I laughed to myself as I watched a group of ladies doing forward bends and shaking their bootys . . . seems everyone’s kundalini was opening up and fast. I didn’t last long in this scene so I opted to bike home and on my way, appreciated the tranquil alpine glow. I wondered how “in tune” everyone was getting with their inner spirit in a huge crowd of highly sexual people. I realized that Wanderlust wasn’t just about yoga; it was also about sex, self-exploration and a lot of self-expression. This weekend was giving people a place to be challenged, to be free, or weird and unique, but also completely accepted. I chuckled to myself as I thought of Krishna’s definition of a yogi, there was certainly some radiance of character tonight and whole lot of freedom. Maybe Wanderlust was more authentic then I had initially thought.
The next morning I dragged my traumatized yoga girlfriend up Whistler Mountain with the promise of what I hoped to be a better power flow class. We set ourselves up in the back of the class, in case she needed to exit, and we both promised ourselves to just surrender into child’s pose if something did not resonate for us. Plus, if she had to give someone a sweaty hug, she had me. The setting was amazing; we were on top of the world. Sunshine and mountain peaks streamed through the floor-to-ceiling windows and we were surrounded by lots of happy, smiling faces. Ironically, just after we had set up our mats, an assistant teacher asked us to move up to the middle of the room. The panic on my girlfriend’s face was all it took for me to explain to the super-hot instructor that she had been traumatized the night before and it would be best if we stayed in the back. He chuckled, gave me a sexy, memorizing grin and just nodded. The class started and I smiled in gratitude as it was truly an amazing start to my day. The class was hot, sweaty and challenging with lots of flow. The instructor was a little over the top verbally but I was in my zone of breath and flow. Then it shifted! An hour into the class I was expecting to transition onto the floor and start to slow down. Wrong! There I was in plank being instructed to do running sprints (yup, in plank!) to pounding techno music while the instructor screamed at the top of his lungs. My zone of breath and flow instantly vanished and my thought was literally, are you fucking kidding me? This is ridiculous! Then I found my breath and just surrendered. Down into child’s pose I went and as the agro, intense music washed over me . . . I just chanted to myself, and this too shall pass! Well it took longer than I thought as the instructor ran through that sequence three more times, and every time I dropped to child’s pose. Eventually, it did pass. Later in the class, I learned why that sequence was so important and how it can benefit the body. Even though it personally did not work for me, I appreciate that there were many others that it did work for.
The rest of the weekend consisted of some great meditations, yin yoga and arial yoga. What I discovered on the last day was that I had missed an entire section of Wanderlust: the party and get laid component. As I sipped my tea while waiting for my meditation class, I was horrified as I listened to a group of women giggling and discussing their nightly club adventures that lasted until the wee hours of the morning. When I overheard one of the girls, who was wearing a wedding ring, mention hooking up with a guy the night before, I had to bite my tongue until it bled. It’s not my place to judge someone else’s behaviour. I just breathed, trusting that the universe would sort out the karma. Plus, I realized after the meditation class that betrayal of love and vows can and does happen anywhere. I just prayed that this woman had found something in her Wanderlust experience that would help her with the karma she was manifesting and the eventual transformation that would come from it.
What is Wanderlust? Truly it is a festival of self-expression that uses the medium of yoga. Let’s be real here . . . yoga instructors are freakin’ weird. Why? Because they generally walk to their own beat for the most part and I would like to think they are authentic. The reality is that in North America, most people have taken yoga and bent it. Teachers, fitness trainers, musicians, artists, and corporations have all taken the trend of yoga and adapted it to fit their ideals. Is this a good thing? Is this authentic yoga? Maybe it is or isn’t. Maybe it is the universe working in its perfect way… maybe our yogi ancestors knew that our North American mentality would not be ready for the level of yoga they had achieved. Maybe they knew we would have to break it down and “bend it” to fit our culture. Have we lost the principles of yoga through all of this bending and adapting? Actually, I don’t think so… the principles of yoga are still here but you might have to look a little harder to find them at Wanderlust. What is truly awesome about Wanderlust is that it gives people a place and space where self-expression is accepted, respected and honoured. And that, my fellow yogis, is what Krishna wrote about!