Until this summer I had never been to a Yoga festival. Big crowds make me feel uncomfortable and jittery which makes putting myself out there even more challenging. So when a friend invited me to attend Wanderlust Squaw Valley my initial reaction was to say ‘no’. But as a recent transplant to San Francisco who’s been teaching and training nonstop, I realized I hadn’t made room for anything else. So despite my unease, I said yes. And this is what happened…
- I rocked it out in the great outdoors. I’ve always practiced Yoga inside a studio. This was my first time in Tahoe and wow! The landscape was simply beautiful, peaceful and despite the throngs of people, somehow quiet. I took a class at The Lookout, which offers panoramic views into the valley; I felt the wind and the sun against my skin, a few drops of rain and at 8,000ft, I was paying attention to my breath like never before. Being allowed to practice in such an expansive space, at one with nature, was a gift in itself.
- I explored the unknown. I love alignment-based Yoga classes and my idea of a good time is reading anatomy books. So I signed up for classes that challenged my preferences. My very first class was a Bhakti Flow that started and ended with a heavy dose of humming, chanting and drums. Not only did the singing and music allow me to drop into my practice within minutes, it was fun not to pay attention to the positioning of my hands, feet and pelvis and instead just move and feel more freely with the breath as my guide – it was liberating! Then came Noah Maze’s back bending class, which was intense to say the least. This class was largely focused on big heart opening poses where we got up close and personal with Sirsasana (Headstand) variations, an endless amount of Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow Pose) and Dwi PadaViparita Dandansana (Upward Facing Two Foot Staff Pose). Noah’s class, aptly titled Courage, gave me the confidence and guts – albeit with some grimacing – to push forward into poses I’d never done before and to back off when I became too resistant.
- I got used to feeling awkward: When I put my schedule together I made sure to book classes where there would be no more than 50 people. But after hearing my friend rave about a couple of jam-packed classes that she took and the energy she drew from them, I waived my ‘50 or less people’ rule and signed up for Seeds of Change with Seane Corne, Anand Mehotra, Kerri Kelly, Shiva Rea, Suzanne Sterling and Gurmukh. Over 300 people attended. In my mind, the entire setting was chaotic and overstimulating – too many bodies, too much music, too much talking… Sitting in Utkatasana, distracted, I heard Kerri Kelly’s say:
“If you want to be big; if you want to shine you’d better get comfortable with awkwardness… Yoga is confrontational, it asks big questions”
- With just a few words she changed how I approached the rest of the class. By labeling my fear, she had made it official, allowing me to just be and confront it. Feeling awkward became a small price to pay for the freedom of practicing in good company.
Now back home, I’ve taken a few nuggets of information from the teachers and people I met at Wanderlust and I’m trying to make sense of them in my life. In the coming weeks and months I will check out a class with Kerri Kelly as well as other teachers I may not be familiar with;
there’s always something to take away, a little seed to plant in my own practice.
But the biggest lesson I’m taking away from this weekend away is that while the process of making room, chipping away at resistance and rigidity, takes commitment and discipline, every once in a while, having a damn good time, no strings attached, is just as powerful.
About Emilie Mikulla
Having contracted a major case of wanderlust at a young age, Emilie has lugged her suitcases around the world, working as a travel journalist, and recently moved to San Francisco from Dubai.
Emilie is a Pilates and RYT200. She is currently completing her 500-hour advanced training at Yoga Tree. When Emilie’s not on her mat (or on a Reformer) or putting pen to paper, she can be found sharing her passion for movement, and chocolate, with her three-year-old son Max. Learn more about Emilie at www.emspen.com and on Facebook.