Wanderlust Yoga Festival Returns to Stratton

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STRATTON >> Several thousand yoga practicioners, instructors, support staff and the just plain curious are anticipated to converge on the Stratton Mountain ski resort this weekend to take part in the fifth Wanderlust Festival.

More than 300 events and activities are planned for the four days of the festival, which starts Thursday, June 18 and runs through Sunday, June 21.

The first Wanderlust Festival was held at Squaw Valley, Calif. in 2009, and Stratton was the first venue the organizers expanded to after that. Since then dozens of new locations have been added and new festivals held — six, including the one at Stratton, are scheduled for this summer.

"I feel like we kind of came of age here,"Jeff Krasno, one of the co-founders of the festival, said, referring to the Stratton Wanderlust. "Once we got the four legs under the stool we've gotten a lot more creative with some of the adventure programming."

At Stratton this weekend, there will be no shortage of classes and instruction on meditating and mindful living, as well as the stretching and posing that's commonly associated with yoga. But there will also be ample opportunities for other activities like hiking, kayaking, getting exposed to farm to table food produce, music, dancing and entertainment.

A speaker's series will continue, and will offer Vermont environmentalist Bill McKibben giving a talk on the climate and global warming issues, as well as Kevin Pearce, the snowboarder who was Burr and Burton Academy's commencement speaker last year, who will give a talk on "Loving Your Brain."

Another speaker will discuss how she lived for a year in New York City without consuming any plastic, Krasno said.

"It will leave people with tips about how you can minimize your consumption and limit your carbon footprint — stuff that is actionable that you can take away and apply to your own life," he said.

"Mindful living meets friendly frolic" is how one heading on Wanderlust's website describes the event, which is intended to blend spiritual and physical renewal with fun and entertainment.

Lisa Kelly, a former teacher at Burr and Burton who now works at Stratton will be leading groups on hikes around the mountain.

"They contacted me and asked if I was interested in leading some groups of hikes, so we scoped out the area," she said. "There's a team of three of us up there who will be leading groups, along with a crew from Wanderlust."

Each group numbers about 30, and by this week all were fully subscribed, and Wanderlust was trying to add more, she said.

The intent is to try to diversify the experience to give everyone something to do, even if booking a day full of other activities like "liquid yoga," "shoulder strength and alignment," and practicing yoga on a paddleboard form the core of the weekend.

Yoga is widely believed to have evolved from Indian origins and celebrates a union of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. The practice became more popular in Western circles during the 20th century and appears on another upswing today, both at fitness and fashion centers. There are several different approaches or schools of yoga, which emphasize different aspects of the broader tradition.

Lu French became a local certified "Kripalu" yoga instructor after exploring several other schools of the practice. She has been involved with yoga for more than 20 years and is planning her third trip to Wanderlust at Stratton as a participant to take in the experience, she said.

The benefits vary from person to person, depending on what they are looking for, she said; some are active and others are looking to calm down.

"It's really fabulous to have a venue like (Wanderlust) that's come to the area," she said. "It's great for the economy for the summer. When i go there everybody is happy to be there and excited we have this here."

Jo Kirsch is another local yoga instructor and co-owner of Heart of the Village Yoga, a studio located in Manchester Village. She served as an instructor on meditation one year previously at an earlier Wanderlust and plans on attending a few classes this year, but will be spending most of the weekend at her own studio, she said.

She got introduced to yoga by her chiropractor in 1991 to help her recover from a back injury and kept on going, she said.

"I first came to yoga for physical reasons and found that I relaxed and was more peaceful and balanced when I practiced it," she said. "Our society is so go-go-go active and it's almost like we're made to feel guilty if we're not achieving something or going all the time. Practicing yoga gives people a chance to just be an enjoy the present moment."

The festival will continue on through Sunday afternoon with classes and entertainment options. Or, it's a chance to simply 'unplug" without the guilt, Jeff Krasno said.

His observation has been that being in yoga is one of the rare times when it's acceptable and understood why someone doesn't answer email, texts or phone calls less than immediately, he said.

"This ability to use yoga to unplug from the digital onslaught is something that most people are really craving," he said.


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