Wanderlust — a strong desire to travel.

I’ve had wanderlust most of my life. From one Canadian coast to another, across the pond to the U.K., over a bigger pond to the South Pacific and so it went for more than a decade.

Going to the Wanderlust yoga festival fostered my physical desire to travel from the North Coast to Whistler, B.C. But the festival itself was more of a metaphysical journey. I got a shot of bliss straight to my heart and a freed-up headspace I haven’t attained since my last meditation retreat in India.

I joined my fellow Zikhara yogis, Tobie, Sam and Karen from our Prince Rupert studio to participate in our first Wanderlust experience. We stayed in the lovely Summit Lodge in the village where homemade sock monsters greeted us on our bed.FullSizeRender 7IMG_3278

Yogis were everywhere.

People walked around the village with their mats. Some wore shimmery golden temporary tattoos. Others still had the glow paint on their bodies from the blacklight room. There were wooden domes with big puffy pillows for lounging outside the Lululemon shop.

The yoga “ambassadors” had their own section nearby. IMG_3272We saw the featured yoga instructors, who are famous to me through the many online classes I’ve taken over the years while living in rural Japan and now living in a remote city in British Columbia. I was a little star struck when I spotted a few of the teachers at Sushi Village on our first night out.

In the main convention centre, aka The Greatest Place, we picked up our three day tickets, a cloth wrist band, along with a lava stone Wanderlust bracelet. Pumped, we walked through some of the vendors selling stretchy leggings, malas and massage rollers.

Day One – beware of festival-itis

The energy was high on that first day and we carried that into Day One of classes on Friday.

There was so much going on. I wanted to do it all. Fear of missing out (FOMO) is an actual problem. The FOMO got the better of me. Although, I laughed in my first class of the festival when Shiva Rea told us to be careful of “festival-itis.”

Shiva’s class started in the Greatest Place Friday morning, where Arli Liberman, an Israeli guitarist played to the flow of her instructions as she moved us through her wave themed prana vinyasa class. I felt the bliss… and I wanted all of it.IMG_3277Wanderlust tries to prevent festival-itis by limiting participants to three 90-minute classes a day. However, we discovered that if you show up for a class — when you’re supposed to be resting and digesting in between your three classes — you can attend if there isn’t a long waitlist.

That’s exactly what all of us did on Day One. We packed in six hours of non-stop of yoga. I went from Shiva Rea’s class right into Kathryn Budig’s arm balance workshop (so worth it though. I love her); I squeezed into a chilled out yin class with the dreadlocked Danielle Hoogenboom; and then I branched off and tried a blacklight classic rocked themed yoga class with Eoin Finn.

By the final class, I was still brimming with energy despite some of Eoin’s oddball comments during the class, including the one on ants and pubic lice. Gross.

We all went out for a classy Italian dinner, sore, worn out, but peppy. Then we soaked in the hotel’s hot tub. After, Karen and I grabbed delicious ice cream and watched Steel Pulse, a Jamaican reggae band, at the outdoor amphitheater.

FOMO struck again when Karen and I overheard a guest at the hotel talk about doing a yoga class at the top of the mountain. “What? This is possible?!” There was so much going on (just look at the schedule) that it’s overwhelming — in a delightful way of course.

Day Two – Beautiful people don’t just happen

Plans changed. We took our first chance to take the gondola up the mountain for a class. The detox class at 9 a.m. still had spaces. It didn’t matter who was teaching we had to experience this.The gondola ride was free for us Wanderlusters. The sun was out. The mountains shone at us with 360-degree views of paradise. At the top of the mountain we posed with the Olympic rings and then ran to stand in line to get into the room.

IMG_3303A beautiful wooden triangular altar stood at the front of the class in front of windows that offered more views of the Rocky Mountains. I was full of caffeine and excitement and nearly exploded when Jonny Kest walked into the room and started yelling spoken poetry to us. I knew the first class of Day Two was going to be unlike anything I’d ever done before.

IMG_3308He made us crawl across the room like worms. That is how it started.

Jonny Kest is a yoga teacher from Detroit. I was there once waiting in the Detroit airport for a transfer flight to Toronto. After living in rural Japan for eight months, it was the one of the biggest reverse-culture shock moments of my life where there were so many loud outside-voices and larger-than-life meals being eaten by the fistfuls. The latter was definitely not a factor here, but the aggressive Michigan voice was — and I loved it.

“Beautiful people don’t just happen. They’re made through suffering!” And so it went.

Jonny took us through an intense flow that felt like a karmic dance. We moved in circles from the front of our mat to the back and onward. After going through the flow with him a few times, he cranked the music and let us flow on our own. At one point, Sam, Karen, Tobie and I all moved as one. It was incredible. Synchronized yogis.IMG_3299I got worried at one point as the sweat dripped off me, my breathing intensified and Johnny kept saying this was part of the “warm up.” I almost collapsed as we all stood in Warrior III on one leg, arms out, holding each other up in one long line as we sang Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline.”

After the longest warm up of my life the class finally ended 90 minutes later. The first class of Day Two was not what I was expecting. But as a yogi, I constantly work on not having expectations, and I was blown away with the energy of this class. I was taxed, and the next three classes were a struggle, but it was one of my favourite classes of the festival.

IMG_3319Later that evening, Karen and I took a Yin and Thai Massage class with Jonny Kest, and it was an entirely different experience, save for his spontaneous off-tune singing. It was a partner-yoga class with deep unwinding poses and stretches, perfectly timed for my lower back that was feeling the “itis” and needed some release.

By 8 p.m. I was starving. There wasn’t much time to eat between the six hours of yoga and it’s never pleasant to do yoga with a belly full of food. I got by with protein shakes, juices and power bars. By dinner I was ready for a serious bison burger at a restaurant near our hotel and then Karen and I met the girls at the amphitheater to soak in some of Jose Gonzalez’s chilled out tunes.IMG_3324IMG_3329We had a couple drinks to celebrate the night after the concert. Sam and I stayed out for a while once I caught my second wind. We checked out the club where the yoga DJ’s were playing, but there was a lengthy line up. No thanks. So we danced to some classic cover band rock music at a bar next door.

Day Three – Yoga until you crash

The “festival-itis” had settled in deep. Our moods were low, at least mine was. I felt everything. Even my ribs hurt. I also think it might have had something to do with all the built-up tension being released from my body and my mind.IMG_3311The first class of Day Three was a repeat of going up the mountain on the gondola. This time it was for Kia Miller’s Kundalini yoga, with pranayama (breath work) and mantra chanting.

Kia’s class was the just right amount of challenging. Mentally, it was the class that freed me. Mantras have that effect on me, and when an entire room full of people joins in unison it’s powerful.FullSizeRender 6

The rest of the day included a Ryan Leier class where I was in awe of the Ashtangi yogis who inverted with grace, beauty and strength like it was no big deal. The final class with Blissology founder Eion Finn was too much rock-star-yogi vibes for me. But as always, I learn from others in various ways.

We were too wiped by the end of our third class to attempt the outdoor class at the amphitheater. I enjoyed listening to the music from our hotel, but that was enough. I crashed hard, along with Tobie.The power nap rejuvenated me for the rest of the day, so I could soak in the final moments of Wanderlust.

I left Whistler feeling lighter and inspired for my own practice. I felt that the pricy ticket and travel costs was well worth my hard earned money. But next time, I’ll be more aware of my FOMO and slow-it-down.

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