Wanderlust Festival, 2011: The Best from the Bay + the Rest

by Kara Murphy on August 9, 2011

It definitely wasn’t my imagination when I felt that some of the lines for the most sought-after yoga courses were excessively long or the crowds that flocked to the stage for the live musical performances were exceedingly large; as it turns out, this year’s Wanderlust Yoga + Music Festival in Squaw Valley saw some 14,000 attendees solely for yoga.

Despite the 65% increase in attendance from last year, there was still a unique intimacy, not to mention sense of spiritual community, that enriched the entire experience. Yogis and musicians from the Bay Area were there to represent and impart their talents in full force. Thus, I present the best from our area plus the rest that made my trip a truly transcendent experience.

The Best from the Bay

Acro Yoga is intimidating on many levels for the amount of coordination, strength, flexibility, and balance it requires from you and your partner(s) to properly practice. Needless to say, I’ve always been in awe of people who make some of the more acrobatic positions look effortless. I thought I’d try it out at a beginner’s level and there were no two better people than┬áJason Nemer & Jenny Sauer-Klein of Berkeley’s AcroYoga workshop to help me get started. By the end of the course, I was able to confidently practice the “Flyer” pose – which says a lot.

Yoga and music definitely combine. From the Rock & Roll Vinyasa Flow course (I’ll cover that later) to MC Yogi, who co-founded Yoga Toes studio in Point Reyes Station with wife Amanda, the right music definitely enhances the experience. I saw Yogi perform for the very first time and was impressed by how he deftly combined back beats from the likes of House of Pain to Cypress Hill (remember “Insane in the Brain?”) with holistic, uplifting lyrics such as “we are full of sunshine” and “I am the champion.”

The accompanying horn section created a Rastafarian melded with ska stylings that really gave the music a unique vibration. MC Yogi dedicated the final song in his set to YogaAid which had a strong presence at the festival.

Michael Franti took to the stage later that evening and was his usual self – brimming with joy and energy. Watch this video below to get an idea of how the crowd responded:

Oddly enough, earlier that day, I was chilling in the Om Shan Tea tent and met Michael’s son, Cappy. The 20-year-old is an aspiring emcee, himself, and couldn’t help but reveal that it was true that his famous father really hasn’t worn shoes in over 20 years. Which brings me to…

Om Shan Tea house is one of my favorite San Francisco retreats. It’s the most peaceful place to unwind to forget the hustle and bustle of everyday city life. I was thrilled to discover that the baristas and Oshan, its ubiquitous owner, take their service on the road and serve at many similarly-themed festivals. While the tea bar service is no longer available in the San Francisco location, Ecstatic Dance hosts it every Wednesday night.

The Best of the Rest

When it comes to the rest, I have to start off with the one man who really brought the party – none other than Girl Talk. The master of the mashup consisting of every type of sample you could ever imagine (sorry Super Mash Bros., you just can’t compete) gave his usual energetic performance which was completely reminiscent of his inaugural appearance at Wanderlust in 2009. I had to wonder, once again, where he gets his stamina because about a bit over halfway through dancing on stage with him, I was exhausted (might have also been the three yoga classes I took earlier in the day too).

Here’s my perspective of what it’s like to party with Girl Talk in front of a crowd of thousands:

Earlier on in the evening, a friend insisted we check out the Marchfourth Marching Band whose style is very much akin to the infamous and beloved Bay Area-based Extra Action Marching Band. The highlight of the whole performance was the stiltwalkers; their death-defying acrobatics were a wonder to behold.

Of all the yoga courses I took over the four-day period, the three that stood out the most came from instructors based in the Los Angeles area. Seane Corn travels the world imparting her gospel of wisdom and acceptance while her students practice. I’ve personally endured some challenging times this past year with people who posses less than ideal morals and values but found comfort in her message to forgive, even praise them as they need it the most. It was definitely a cathartic experience I will not soon forget.

John Friend hails from Venice Beach, CA and definitely possesses the bohemian vibe that also characterizes the area where he usually teaches. We suffered through an hour-and-a-half of Vinyasa Flow but not in silence (I apologize in advance for that banal pun). Tunes from Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and other luminaries from the era of late 60’s to early 70’s rock and roll gave the class much-needed endurance to finish.

My all-time favorite instructor, however, was Kathryn Budig. Baksana, in my opinion, is the most challenging form of yoga and I’ll be pleasantly surprised if I ever do manage to master the “Crow” pose. Kathryn made the class grueling but a lot of fun in the same instance with her cute, playful personality that reflected her close friendships with circus performers.

Wanderlust was truly an amazing experience. The organizers managed to successfully attract some of the best instructors, performers, musicians, and artists in the world and bring them together for a fun-filled, relaxing getaway in Squaw Valley. I definitely can’t wait for next year’s event. If you’re eager to experience the magic this year, head to Las Vegas this September – you certainly won’t regret doing so.

My entire set of photos from the event can be found on my Flickr account here.

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