SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. — On a crisp summer night, beneath a bright half-moon that illuminates the cliffs of Squaw Valley's dramatic Tram Face, MC Yogi, a yoga teacher and DJ from San Francisco, exhorts a crowd of several thousand: "Take a deep breath and let it all out." Then, "Say
" The crowd, which had been doing both all day long, does them again. But this time they also raise a collective glass and call out with enthusiasm not usually displayed by a bunch of lithe-bodied Lululemon-clad yoginis.
Welcome to the Wanderlust Festival.
This four-day yoga retreat by day, dance party by night is the sort of event that could only happen if a pair of indie rock producers shared office space with an internationally renowned yoga teacher. Which is exactly how Wanderlust, which comes to Santa Monica in abbreviated form in September, was born.
"We realized that there is a crowd that likes to dance and drink, but they are also serious about their yoga," says co-founder Jeff Krasno, who conceived of the festival with his yoga-instructor wife, Schuyler Grant, and college band mate and business partner, Sean Hoess.
That first event, held at Lake Tahoe, featured mostly traditional yoga classes and lectures during the day and music at night. Four years later, Wanderlust is taking on a life of its own, say the founders. "Each year more artists show up — they create temporary art installations around the grounds — and we've added some alternative yoga offerings." Classes like slack-line yoga and hoops yoga (a combination of yoga, hula hooping and dancing) are packed.
This year's Tahoe Wanderlust featured hundreds of yoga classes, lectures, meditation hikes and music workshops. Many of the instructors are stars of the Western yoga world — Shiva Rae, Seane Corn, Baron Baptiste and Jonny Kest — who pack as many as 600 people onto mats under huge tents. (Most classes have many fewer participants.)
Today there are multi-day festivals in Lake Tahoe, Vermont, Colorado and British Columbia. This year, the four-day Tahoe event saw about 15,600 people in the ski resort's village, which is usually very quiet during the summer.
One-day free versions of Wanderlust — called Yoga in the City — are held in several cities across the country; the Santa Monica event is Sept. 9 on the Santa Monica Pier. It will feature an afternoon of classes taught by local instructors, including Katie Brauer, Derek Beres, Brock and Kirsta Cahill and Ally Hamilton and Kumudini. The organizers planned the event in partnership with YogaAid and hope to raise $1 million through donations and sponsorships for charities.
"I like the part of the Wanderlust message that you can practice yoga and still enjoy life," says Sara Ivanhoe, a first-time Wanderlust instructor who does most of her teaching at YogaWorks' Santa Monica locations. (She has another commitment and won't be at the Sept. 9 event.) "In our culture we have lost sight of the fact that the practice of yoga is meant to serve us and make us feel better, spiritually and physically," she says. "Yoga shouldn't be punishment; it shouldn't be about whether you are doing it 'correctly.'"