First time participant, long time yogi Mandy Dominguez and Mike Blais from Victoria, BC demonstrating partner yoga.
Wanderlust, the world’s largest and fastest growing yoga and music festival that began in 2009 returned to Whistler, BC from August 1-4 for a four-day retreat filled with yoga, music, outdoor adventures and epicurean, organic selections. Three to four thousand yogis, music lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts invaded the scenic Whistler resort in their colourful yoga tights or shorts learning yoga from world-renowned yoga teachers such as Sianna Sherman, Shiva Rea, Seane Corn, Schuyler Grand and more in a variety of classes. This year’s popular classes included Acro Yoga, yoga on a paddleboard, as well as yoga on tight ropes outdoor.
Our crew of three arrived at 8am Thursday morning. After checking in at the Whistler Conference Centre, we immediately jumped in the gondola to attend Shiva Rea and Demetri Verlisarius’ "The Danda and Lotus – Making Love as Creative Union" yoga class, only to find that due to slight rain, her class was cancelled. Instead, we took Mike Nichol’s "The Fire of Transformation" yoga workshop. Mike is a beautiful six-foot-two blonde man with perfectly symmetrical features and kind eyes, and a deep wealth of yoga wisdom. He seemed to be in his forties, but his healthy energy could easily give people the impression that he was no older than twenty-nine years old. It was a two-hour class that had stretched the limits of our experience, but for many yogis in that mountaintop room, they were doing very advance positions with full handstands. We were surprised by Mike's opening speech about quantum physics, how space takes up the most room in an atom, so when we do yoga or meditate, it's also to make room in our mind and body to allow source energy to connect with us. At the end of class, he gave out a gift of organic kale seeds in a little yellow envelope along with his contact info. This class was held at the highest peak of Whistler mountain, accompanied by a musical genius playing live electrical guitar. The music was like sounds from the heavens, soothing and easing all our hyper bodies into the calm, preparing us to receive the lesson we needed from Mike Nichol’s teachings. Later that night, this long haired blonde musician rocked the stage at the Wanderlust Spectacular.
The entertainment that whole weekend was out of this world, with Quixotic’s intoxicating live electronic violin, and an elegant and breathtaking dance/circus performance. It's old world meets new world, highbrow and low brow all mixed into one with the professionalism and craftsmanship of true artists. We also experienced the crowd-pleasing rap from MC Yogi with the support of the top notch versatile DJ Drez, warming up the crowd for eye opening sexy display of Acro Yoga from Cameron Shayne, YogaSlackers, and Shakti Sunfire. It made you wonder where do these beautiful and perfectly sculpted human beings come from!
Over the weekend, we also got a taste of the spectacular circus performance of Elvolutionaries as they interacted and performed for the crowd and children at the Gazebo. They did pole dancing, silk, aerial, and stilt walking wearing elf like costumes. We found out they are a traveling circus based on Vancouver Island. Their youngest member is only two years old, and she has been doing circus acts since she was in her mother’s belly. The whole troupe seemed like grown children laughing and playing all day, with their extremely flexible and agile bodies spinning upside down and around all the props.
Whistler was the perfect setting for a yoga festival with many of the classes and activities held outdoors, including explorative hikes, river rafting, mountain biking and hoola-hoop classes on the grass in front of the big outdoor stage.
No festival is complete without its educational component. Both at the Speakeasy and at the d’Om, the attendees were treated to many insightful and humorous talks by today’s most mindful and spiritual thought leaders, Moby, Shiva Rea, Rod Stryker and many more. Soulful films like “I Am” directed by Tom Shadyac were also shown at the Speakeasy.
The first educational workshop was Shiva Rea’s talk on Our Rhythmic Nature at the Speakeasy on Thursday from 1-2pm. Shiva took a "big picture" approach to talk about rhythm and beat with everything, from a cosmic level, to music, language, rivers, and even our heart beat. She said that yoga helps us get more in tune with the universe’s global beat so we can tune in better, and when we are tuned in, everything flows.We attended Rod Stryker’s talk Yoga and Ayurveda: The Vital Essences at the d’Om on Saturday from 2-3:30pm, where he gave a brief introduction to the three doshas, and then launched into Ayurveda principles, where he suggested the different diet and lifestyles that are more suitable for each dosha body type. He was witty and used storytelling to highlight his point. His large audience seemed very content in learning, despite having to sit on their yoga mats on concrete.
We were honoured to squeeze in Moby’s talk Metta Meditation: Loving Kindness (A Meditation & Talk) on Saturday at 4-5pm at the Speakeasy. He is a very funny fellow whose speech was dripping in sarcasm; at one point he commented “I must have been really bad, for Jesus took away all my hair”. His whole mantra about meditation is that there are many traditions and methods, but keep in mind that the purpose of meditation is to bring you to a better place, so if you’re in pain or getting more agitated from meditation, then go play outside in the sun with your dog and eat an ice cream. He also cautioned the danger of spiritual snobbery, thinking that if one survives a gruelling long meditation, somehow he's superior to his friends who did not last as long, or hating someone who can meditate better. Moby commented how polite Canadians are and how much he loves Canada, and apologized for everything America has done to the world. He facilitated a meditation after his talk, before taking questions from the audience. He did not accept any interviews at this festival as he is preparing for a new album release in October of this year.
Moby the mediation leader and Moby the party DJ and Moby the acoustic musician seem very different from one another. The meditation leader Moby is super chilled and sarcastic; the party DJ Moby is all hype and loud music with fantastic large visuals changing at breakneck speeds to pump up the crowd to oblivion; and the acoustic musician Moby is fun and sociable, cracking jokes with the crowd, playing music that could be categorized between gypsy jazz and folk music.
The Whistler Conference Centre was completely transformed into a temple for the yogis to congregate and party with big puffy stars and heart shaped fabric lighting devices hanging sporadically above between the wooden beams. Some Hindu art and décor were present, such as pictures of Krishna with his consort hanging around the centre, as well as yoga teachers framed by giant lotus flower metal frames. It seemed, by looking at the speakeasy program, the décor and language, that Buddhism, Vedic and other religious teachers were present and welcomed at Wanderlust.
One of our most blissful experiences was the energy balancing sound mediation class taught by Danielle Mika Nagel at the Quiet Place, a tent set up in the forest, next to a running stream, decorated with Tibetan colour flags. Danielle taught us to balance our energy, and activate our chakras, and blended mediation with some gentle mantra chanting. Perhaps it was the fresh air at 8am, or the dew on the grass beneath our mat, or the loving faces we were surrounded by, but nature certainly showed up and nurtured us with her beautiful spirit and renewed our body and mind.
One thrilling aspect of covering this event was the ability to talk to all the celebrity yogis and spiritual teachers. We conducted many interviews and will be presenting them in video format shortly to share with all of you, thanks to the generous sponsorship from Dylan from Gear Camera Rentals! There were so many conscious minded people who are fully committed to their spiritual journey that we have met along the way, be it yoga teachers, entertainers, or participants we have interacted with. One thing for sure is that yoga is a movement and it is bringing a healthy dose of self-empowerment to people, be it for their body, mind or soul through music, its philosophy or physical exercise. The people we have met are kind, generous and wear a big smile on their face, and they know how to have fun.
Another perk of being part of the media at this festival, was that we were gifted a day pass at the Scandinave Spa, a jewel among the mountain slopes, about 15 minutes away from Whistler Village. A state of the art modern sanctuary, built on a Finnish tradition of hydrotherapy which promotes alternating between hot and cold. So at this soothing and silent spa, we begin our relaxation with an eucalyptus steam bath, followed by jumping into a small pool with Nordic waterfall, repeat, then moving to a Finnish wooden sauna, jumping into an even colder pool, then chilling on one of the many wooden lawn chairs, while soaking up the rays and enjoying the gorgeous mountain skyline and fresh air.
In case you’re wondering how Wanderlust Festival came about, it was founded in 2009 as a joint venture between Velour Music Group, an artist management company and event producer based in New York City, C3 Presents and Starr Hill Presents, event producers responsible for the top music festival brands in the country, including Austin City Limits Festival, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo and Outside Lands. Its first launch was in California of that year.
Twenty-three talented young pianists performed at the Tom Lee Concert Hall on the night of June 14th to raise money for BC Children’s Hospital. They ranged from as young as five years of age to seventeen of age, with a variety of costumes and repertoire.
Some part of the evening was a bit chaotic. Most of the performers were little children; and as the audience consisted of parents, grandparents and more children, there were some horsing around and general noise. When it came to the actual performance, the children's maturity, professionalism and mastery of piano playing was way beyond their tender young age.
The evening was emceed by the beautiful Mimi Meng, and President of the Vancouver Young Pianist Club, Louis Wei, both very accomplished pianists in their own right. Mimi performed “Sonata in C Major 1st Mvt” by J. Haydn, and Louis performed “Mephisto Waltz” by Liszt in the second half of the evening. Louis seemed very considerate in his leadership role in helping many of the club’s younger pianists get ready for performances by setting up the piano and adjusting the microphone.
We were charmed by Ryan Wang and Ray Zhang who are not related, but could be mistaken as twins as they wore the same cute golden vest. They later made a costume change into a dragon suit which made them very handsome. The two boys played in sync incredibly well to “Sight Singing” by Bach. Another talented young girl was the five year old Selina Liu who performed with Maxwell Chen “Hot Popcorn” by M. Bober. Her performance was lively and fun. The most exciting and emotional performance of the night was by Richard Wang, who recently won second place in the Canadian Music Competition National Final for the age ten category. He played “Moonlight” Sonata 3rd Mvt: Presto Agitato by Beethoven. It was a very complex and sophisticated piece of music, which this young man played beautifully using not only his fingers, but also his heart.
A lady from Children’s Hospital came to thank everyone for their contribution, and showed a picture slideshow of her playing guitar and other musical instruments while cheering up the sick kids at BC Children’s Hospital. Everyone enjoyed a small bite to eat after the event.
This event raised over three thousand dollars for the music therapy program! For more info, visit the Vancouver Young Pianist Club.