Five years ago, the first Wanderlust Yoga Festival came to Stratton Mountain, a resort better known for skiing and winter recreation.
It was the first time that Wanderlust had tried a new location other than its first venue, Squaw Valley in California. And it was a hit.
The festival returns this weekend. Thousands of yoga lovers are expected to visit the resort community, providing a needed boost to the local economy.
Jeff Krasno, one of the co-founders of the Wanderlust festivals, says the event has grown far beyond one that involves basic yoga practices and instruction, even while that remains the core of the festival. "Now it's just really blown out into so many more activities, much more about the yoga lifestyle and not as much just about doing yoga,” he says.
Yoga has been around for nearly 4,000 years, but it’s undergoing a recent surge of popularity both in Vermont and internationally. Part of the appeal is that people can take what they need from it, whether it’s spiritual enhancement or physical challenges. Lu French is a yoga instructor in Manchester who is planning to attend the Stratton Wanderlust festival for a third time. "I think it's a whole sensory experience, where you just go and kind of immerse yourself,” she says.
In addition to posing, stretching and classes such as "opening to the flow" and the "tantra of meditation," many other activities will take place at the festival. A speaker series includes Vermont-based climate activist Bill McKibben. Other activities are planned, such as the increasingly popular yoga on paddleboards.
Lisa Kelly, an employee of Stratton, will be leading hiking groups throughout the weekend. “The longest hike is a three-hour hike, which is a loop, that we'll be going into Stratton Pond and up over the backside of Stratton to the fire tower and down the front,” she describes.
The festival will be going on through Sunday, with more than 340 events on the schedule.
Andrew McKeever is editor of the Manchester Journal.