Friday, July 31, 2009

Wanderlust Festival

I spent this week in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe. The trees and mountains were amazing and I was dizzy from the altitude the entire first day. I did volunteer work setting up yoga rooms and dressing rooms in exchange for a free ticket. Since I worked twelve hours the first day and six hours the second, I was totally free for the whole festival. My first yoga class of the festival was Anusara Yoga:Tuning the Hips to an Open Groove with Christy Nones. This was my first experience with Anusara yoga. The class flowed very well and warmed me up for the hip openers. Christy was great with her friendly encouragement and inspiration that pushed my boundaries and self-limitations. After Christy’s two hour class I went to stake out my spot in the huge open air tent for Shiva Rea’s two hour class called “Off the Hook”. Shiva Rea was amazing to watch! She had so much pure energy emanating from her. Her eyes looked directly into me! Her class was all about letting go and flowing with the true energy. She had live musicians and a DJ performing during class. It was incredibly freeing! I love the idea of letting your body move however it wants. Directly after that I went to a two hour class with Doug Swenson called Yin Yoga. I had heard Doug’s name before and didn’t want to miss the opportunity to practice with him. He had a very calm and soothing demeanor and his many years of experience were apparent. In his class he showed how easy the transitions are in Yin Yoga. We did a good part of class with partners which required almost no effort. That was important on hour six of yoga classes! I was so grateful to practice with such masters! I made it back to the giant tent for the end of Jai Uttal’s Kirtan. I loved listening but I wasn’t really able to participate because I didn’t know the words. Jai had a very sweet presence and was great to watch and listen to. The final event, for me, of the night was Yoga Trance Dance with Shiva Rea and MC Yogi. I participated as much as a could but ended up sitting on the side in exhaustion by the end. It was an exhausting and truly magical day! I went back to camp and slept for a long time. Saturday I took the gondola up 2,000 more feet to get to the top of a mountain that overlooked Lake Tahoe at over 8,000 feet above sea level. I walked along a mountain road (breathing very heavily at that elevation) to “high camp”. This was the VIP area where I was able to take a class with John Friend called Flow with Grace. The class was held on a wooden deck and had a tent over the middle. There were so many people that many of them were practicing in the full sun. But the surroundings were phenomenal and John was so friendly and funny! He also had a way of pushing me far past my own limitations. Duncan Wong had taught the class before and stayed to practice with us. It was very awesome to watch someone of his level practice with the rest of us. We also did a lot of partner work and I had a great partner who helped me do my first handstand that wasn’t against a wall! All the teachers and students were into connecting with our surroundings and each other. It was so great to pass by Shiva Rea or Jai Uttal or John Friend through the course of the weekend. And at all times I would look up and see the huge mountains all around me and KNOW that there is something bigger than me. For the rest of the day I alternated between eating out of the cooler in my car, seeking shade, and taking the gondola up the mountain to listen to bands. Sunday seemed to come so fast and I chose one last yoga class. SmartFLOW: yoga to open the hips by Annie Carpenter. I had read that Annie was a dancer so I knew her class would be good for my overly flexible body. She seemed a little harsh in a ballet teacher sort of way but the poses were perfect for me. I was also very proud all weekend to know the poses by their Sanskrit names because that was how the teachers referred to them. I felt like a real yogini in these classes and was able to keep up. This was nothing like the Yoga Journal Conference I had been to in January. It had a completely different vibe but I have also come so far since January! The whole experience was so positive and amazing. It has also really opened me up to experiencing other yoga styles, teachers, and studios.