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Burning Man for Yogis

August 2, 2010

tent.jpgBy far the best descriptor I heard regarding the Wanderlust Yoga and Music Festival which took place at Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe this past weekend was "Burning Man for yogis."

Now in its second year, the weekend long event attracted a couple of thousand or more blissed-out hippies. Their identity could only be told apart from the crowd that flocks to Black Rock City in the Nevada desert each summer by virtue of the fact that they were all carrying yoga mats.

There also seems to be some crossover with Burning Man in terms of the kinds of sideshow-type events and attractions that dotted the Wanderlust compound, though on a much smaller scale. During the day, the Anusara Village, an area of the festival sponsored by the company behind the Anusara yoga style (a type of Hatha-based yoga founded by founded by John Friend in 1997) featured everything from circus arts to hoop dancing to sculptures. There was a lot of dust too, just like in the desert. By the time I was done with my third yoga session of the day, my pink yoga mat was almost grey in color.

At night, when the yoga sessions ended and the music and revelry began, drug-addled teens bopped around to live and DJ'd musical acts by the likes of Moby, Bassnectar and Brazilian Girls while yoga-inspired visuals played on screens behind the artists.

Not that the resemblance between Wanderlust and Burning Man should be overstated. Wanderlust is of course a fraction of the size of Burning Man. And, while Burning Man still attempts to maintain some vestige of non-commericality (even though many old-timers would say that this is a joke at this point), Wanderlust its unabashedly commercial. There were dozens of stands selling everything from high-end Manduka yoga mats to chilled coconuts.

I quite enjoyed the overall experience of the festival, though I think that the music could have generally been better integrated into the yoga. Yoga and music have a great deal in common, not least for their collective focus on channeling sound vibration. Yet, the general divide between the classes and the performances, schedule-wise, made me wonder why the organizers bothered pairing the two concepts in the first place.

For me personally, the highlight was attending a yoga class during which a live Kirtan-influenced rock band played. Having only ever done yoga to recorded music, I have to say that I was captivated by the live sounds. The New Agey music was not the sort of stuff that I would normally choose to listen to. But it very much helped to maintain the flow of the class (which was taught by three different master teachers in turn) and held my interest much more deeply than the music that I normally hear piped out of speakers at the yoga studio or gym.

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