The Wanderlust Festival at Squaw Valley brought four days of teachings on physical, mental and emotional betterment for happy, healthy lives | SierraSun.com

The Wanderlust Festival at Squaw Valley brought four days of teachings on physical, mental and emotional betterment for happy, healthy lives

The teachings of yoga span way deeper than simply getting people to become more flexible and able to touch their toes, for example.

The teachings of yoga empower people to be the best version of themselves, spreading positivity and light to others, and understanding that compassion toward others is the highest form of enlightenment.

For four days each year, the Wanderlust Festival takes place at Squaw Valley's mountain, bringing teachings in physical and mental betterment to yogis in practice, keynote speaker seminars, and interactive stations and sessions revolving around leading happy, healthy lives.

"Wanderlust always exceeds our expectations in ways we simply couldn't imagine when we are in the planning stages," said director of publicity Kim Small.

"The majestic backdrop of the Sierra mountains and the pure exhilaration and enthusiasm of our festival attendees combine to create an extraordinary atmosphere unlike any other, where muscles are stretched, new connections are made, and we are revived."

People of all yoga and meditation ability levels joined classes scheduled throughout the days at various locations around the mountain. Sunny areas like the top of the parking garage were converted into temporary yoga studio spaces using large tents and signage notating each particular location's new name like, "The Greatest Place" or "The Mothership".

Recommended Stories For You

People strolled the walkways throughout Squaw Valley's village, shopping all kinds of vendor products from healthy food and drink to handmade jewelry and yoga mat straps.

B Yoga is a high-performance yoga company from Montreal that was at the festival for the first time, and has plans to return.

"The response here has been unreal, we had modest expectations and they were totally exceeded," said marketing manager, Arin Takeuchi.

The atmosphere of Wanderlust was positive and supportive, a display of human courtesy and decency toward one another.

"It's magical, it's the nicest place on earth," said Brittany Kutchera, a yoga teacher from San Antonio, Texas, who had planned the trip to Tahoe as a festival attendee since March, along with five other teammates from their roaming-studio, Mobile Om.

"All of these people are coming together for something they love, for yoga, there are no mean people here. We are taught in yoga to carry our practice in our daily life, I just hope people remember when they leave here, to continue living in a loving manner," she said.

Throughout the weekend students could be heard explaining to each other the experiences they'd had, the new techniques they'd learned and said things like, "I didn't expect to cry, but I got completely emotional," even after a class called Beyonce: Formation Flow.

During the class, hundreds of women and a few men laid their yoga mats a few inches apart, covering the floor from all four corners of the Olympic Village Lodge.

Everyone was given a set of headphones to tune into the class with songs spinning live by DJ Drez.

The silent disco turned yoga class was led by world-class instructor Janet Stone.

Stone instructed all of the women to take down their pinned up hair, let it fly freely, and embrace everything about themselves.

Throughout the class there was a lot of booty shaking to the joke-mantra, "Unleash your booty, unleash your mind", laughter and serious exercise that left nearly everyone out of breath, but with the biggest smiles on their faces.

Stone spoke about sisterhood and empowering one another, about the importance of self-love and allowing yourself the time to recover from each day's demands, and gave each of those women such a freeing experience that class lasted an extra half an hour because no one wanted to leave.

That was just one of several instances of community and love that was displayed during Wanderlust at Squaw Valley this year.

Even instructors had transformative interactions that reaffirmed why they choose to help people lead their best lives.

"This is just super fun," said Molly O'Neill, who taught eight classes in the vinyasa flow and self-bodywork at the event.

"Everyone gets this opportunity to make friends, to find community and to find quiet in nature. We get to dance and laugh. I taught self-bodywork classes here and the students are all so grateful, they feel good and they really appreciate it," she said.

Artist Day Schildkret constructed a beautiful piece using natural, reclaimed items found around the mountain, which he foraged for on hikes prior to the festival.

As the days went on, he added to the intricate altar setup in the heart of the festival on the grass, in an area where people were welcome to relax and appreciate its beauty.

"One significant moment was when a group of young girls, all about 10 years old ,approached the Morning Altar and just stood there silently for about a minute," Schildkret said.

"I looked up from working on the piece and one of them whispered just loud enough that I could hear, 'This is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen,' and all her friends just nodded in agreement. That really touched my soul," he said.

Schildkret said thousands of people visited the Morning Altar, hundreds of children asked questions about it, a midnight tea ceremony with meditations and songs were held around it, and one couple even got engaged in front of the altar.

"What made this year's festival so memorable was the energy! Everyone who I interacted with was so kind, generous and interested in authentic connections. It definitely makes me want to bring more Morning Altars back to Wanderlust," he said.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.