At the beginning of August, I returned from my very first yoga retreat experience--a long weekend spent in beautiful Whistler, BC at the fourth annual Wanderlust festival. It was an unforgettable weekend packed with yoga, nature, meditation, community and friendship. Having had a bit of time to reflect on my biggest takeaways, I’m realizing the full implications of my weekend on my day to day life. It was a surreal experience to literally leave my normal life behind for five days and instead focus solely on taking care of myself and listening to my body and mind. It was a trip full of inspiration. What follows are five of my takeaway themes which I’m working to bring back into life back in the real world.
1. We Need Humans, Not Statues // Lesson Learned in Yoga For the Modern Woman with Ally Maz.
I attended a particularly meaningful class with Alex Mazerolle entitled Yoga for the Modern Woman. For the first half of class, Alex had us leave our yoga mats and sit together near the front of the room together as a group of women. She talked about her own experience coming to yoga, starting as a dancer and finding yoga when she was burned out on the lifestyle of trying to make a career out of pushing her body to its limits. She had so much wisdom to share, but something specific that really landed with me was that we need to show up as honest and vulnerable human beings in our relationships, romantic and otherwise. This becomes especially important when considering how we impact the next generation of women who are looking to us to figure out how to grow from girls into women themselves. They need to know that they aren’t alone in the struggles of growing into adulthood, that these are struggles which most women have dealt with in their past. No one is perfect, and we are doing noone any favours by hiding our struggles and emotions.
2. Nature Adventures are a Necessary Break From City Living // Lesson Learned in Morning Meditation Hike, Lost Lake Hike, and SUP Yoga Class.
Wanderlust is a perfect opportunity to leave the hectic chaos of living in the heart of a city’s downtown for a chance to commune with the stillness of nature. Whistler is rich with outdoor possibilities, offering you a chance to leave the overstimulation of dance parties, packed yoga classes and strolls through Whistler village crowded with tourists and yogis alike and head for the hills. Living in downtown Vancouver, it’s often much harder than it should be to get out of the downtown and into the beautiful nature we are lucky enough to have a short drive away. British Columbia is home to nature which will take your breath away. I started two of my mornings with meditation hikes, led by Garth Stevenson who would hike in with his upright bass and play us beautiful improvised music for forty minutes as we sat in stillness. I went to a yoga class at the Whistler peak overlooking the mountains (more on this later). I hiked out to Lost Lake with a bunch of strangers, making friends and connections as we hiked up our pants to wade in the cool water. I enjoyed a stand up paddle boarding class out on Alta Lake, a humbling practice in balance set in one of the most picturesque “studios” in which I’ve ever had the pleasure of practicing. It was beautiful nature everywhere I turned.
3. A Regular Practice Takes Practice // Lesson Learned in The Yogi Code with Ryan Leier.
It’s easy for me to let my practice lapse. Sometimes it’s hard to fit in a class after a long day at work, or it’s too hard to wake up early enough to get in a morning meditation. Suddenly missing one day turns into three and before you know it you (and your body) hardly remember what it feels like to practice yoga regularly. That’s why I love situations like Wanderlust, which gives you a chance to jumpstart your regular practice. One thing I loved about Yogi Code was we had opportunity to freestyle flow to live, improvised music. The whole class was listening to their body and doing whatever felt right, giving us great foundational tools to get used to improvising our own practice in the comfort of a group full of fellow yogis doing the same.
4. Go With the Flow; Trust Your Gut // Lesson Learned in a Ride up Whistler’s Peak.
I’m a planner. Growing up a cautious child, the urge to plan and research as a method of placating my fears of the unknown is not simply learned but a true part of my inherent personality. As I grow older, I’ve become more aware of how necessary it can be to push back against this inclination which has led me to discover that I have a real penchant for unplanned, spontaneous adventures. We signed up for our classes months and months in advance; however, I regularly found myself breaking from my plan and tagging along to a friend’s class, choosing to leave the safety of registration for the uncertain excitement of the waitlist. One such adventure took me up in a gondola to the Whistler mountain peak for a yoga class at the lookout, a tented outdoor space overlooking the mountain range. It was such a beyond magical setting for a yoga class, made all the better by my zero expectations having not considered an adventure up the mountain a part of my initial plan for the day.
5. Connection is Everything // Lesson Learned in Yogi Tribe with MC Yogi and DJ Drez.
If I were to distill all of the reasons that Wanderlust is such a transformational, impactful weekend for those who attend, it would come down to feeling loved and accepted wholeheartedly into a community of strangers connected by a passion for a lifestyle which fosters love and support. The energy in the air is palpable. Coming from a city like Vancouver where avoiding eye contact with strangers in public is considered the norm, it was so refreshing to be in a community full of people open to meeting others and making genuine connections with those around them. There’s something incredibly powerful about being in a large room full of yogis who have all come to the mat next to you for their own reasons and are joining you, united in this flow. It literally brought tears to my eyes on multiple occasions. These joyous feelings were brought to a head in my final class of the festival, Yogi Tribe, an all-out love fest of yoga, dancing, rapping and togetherness which had me crying with laughter and silent with reflection. It was the perfect roller coaster ride of emotions on which to end my first (and definitely not last) experience at Wanderlust.
This is a guest post from our girl Mara. To learn more about her, click here.