In the litany of my life’s awkward moments, this ranks right up there with when I was a teenager lurking with Bernie Pedrotti in the dark fringes of the gymnasium during high school dances, fantasizing that Mia Forsythe might actually want to dance with me.
Here, at Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu, I’m back on the edges, this time surrounded by a crowd of contortionist yogis during a high-octane session that’s part yoga, part hip hop, led by California yoga celebrity Shiva Rea and musician Michael Franti of Spearhead, who strides along the stage like some sort of messiah. I move robotically, as flexible as a 5’10” chunk of rebar. Luckily, my inhibitions are eventually trumped by the inclusive good vibe and the beauty of the surroundings—that includes both the astonishing display of Lululemon-clad humanity and the physical setting on the North Shore.
I’m here to experience Wanderlust, a festival focused on yoga, but offering so much more. It’s as much downward dog as you can muster in four days, wrapped in a package of culture, music and enough positivity to make you forget about dreary news headlines and life’s inescapable pressures.
In 2009, American music producer Jeff Krasno and his yoga-teaching wife, Schuyler Grant, teamed with fellow music industry vet Sean Hoess and conjured up the idea of a tribal event combining yoga classes with great beats, eats and culture in beautiful locations. Wanderlust was born. “We started Wanderlust based on the idea of creating a platform for the things that are important to us, like yoga, music and healthy food, with the hopes that people would have a really good time and a transformative experience,” says Hoess.
Mission accomplished. And growing. Since Wanderlust’s launch in Squaw Valley, on the shores of Lake Tahoe, it has blossomed like a lotus flower, with annual festivals now in British Columbia, Quebec, Vermont, Texas, Colorado, Chile and Oahu. Last year was the first time Wanderlust landed at Turtle Bay Resort, which occupies a stunning North Shore headland, flanked by a surf break and a reef-protected beach, and is consistently caressed by dreamy Hawaiian Islands trade winds. Sub-tropical idyll comes to mind, and it easily meets the Wanderlust criteria for jaw-dropping scenery.
I arrived at the festival a skeptic, slightly wary and perhaps even intimidated by a mass gathering of super-optimistic yogis. I left three days later, seduced as always by the sun, surf and sand of the Hawaiian Islands, but also impressed by the inspiring and inclusive blend of music, culture and yoga that defines Wanderlust.
Meet a couple of the luminaries who have helped bring Wanderlust festivals to life.
You can’t get much more West Coast than Eoin Finn. A longtime Vancouver resident, surfer, yoga instructor and one of the first Lululemon ambassadors, Finn is the purveyor of “blissology,” his catchy moniker for the art of happiness. A regular Wanderlust headliner, Finn’s yoga workshops, complete with live musical accompaniment, support his globetrotting lifestyle, and he can work a crowd into a rapturous frenzy.
“Wanderlust is awesome. It inspires an intimate relationship with nature and a connection to community and inner self,” says Finn.
If personal transformation is the Wanderlust mantra, then Jennifer Lynn embodies the ideal. When she was in her 20s, Lynn worked as a Silicon Valley software engineer before becoming weary of the long hours. A 180-degree life change saw her open an organic farm and vegetarian café in Santa Cruz, Calif., which happened to be next to an ashram. She soon discovered that yoga tapped an inner desire to live a life full of passion and positivity. Today, Lynn is a yoga instructor based on Maui, and she counts surfing legend Laird Hamilton among her students.
“There’s a sense of ease and joy, of people coming together,” Lynn says of Wanderlust. “When you have a festival like this in such a beautiful setting, you create a wave that you can’t help but catch.”