For four days in the middle of the summer, hundreds of yogis descend upon Squaw Valley for a festival unlike any other — Wanderlust. Combining yoga and music against the surreal mountain backdrop of the place we call home, this festival strikes a balance between two movements that greatly complement each other. The result has been a success. Wanderlust is coming back to Squaw Valley for the third year this summer and they’ve also expanded to hosting another full-blown festival in Vermont as well as a handful of other smaller events in cities and venues across the nation.

Moonshine Ink emailed Sean Hoess, cofounder of Wanderlust along with Jeff Krasno and his wife, Schuyler Grant, to ask his thoughts on Wanderlust and yoga’s explosion — locally and nationally.

 

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Moonshine Ink: Why did Wanderlust come to Tahoe first?
Sean Hoess:
We came to Tahoe because it’s one of the most beautiful spots on Earth! I’ve had the pleasure of skiing at Squaw long before the idea for Wanderlust was born, so when we started considering potential sites it was on the top of the list. Wanderlust needs an unusual combination of elements to reach its potential: stunning natural beauty, a village for people to gather in, lots and lots of hotel beds, proximity to a city where yoga is popular, and a number of large event spaces to hold yoga classes in. For that reason, our initial focus was on ski areas in California, Colorado, and the Northeast — but when you look at ski areas, Squaw Valley USA is about as good as it gets. It wasn’t a hard choice.

MI: What was your first impression of yoga in Tahoe? And how did the local community react to Wanderlust?
SH:
Tahoe has a very strong yoga community, and I think there was a lot of excitement in there from the get-go — but it definitely took some time for us to get it right. We’ve always had local teachers at the event and have a great relationship with Tahoe Wellness and other area studios, so the word spread quickly. The main struggle is keeping ticket prices reasonable; unfortunately, it’s not cheap to do business in the valley or bring in all those musicians and yogis. We launched a day yoga+music ticket in ’10, and that helped bring in a lot more local practitioners, both because it fit their schedule and was affordable. We also expanded our volunteer program to over 200 people, so that helped bring in even more locals. We’ll keep working on it. 

MI: From your point of view, what impact has Wanderlust had on Tahoe’s yoga scene?
SH: Yoga was popular in Tahoe long before we came along, so we don’t presume to do anything more than encourage its growth and development. We’re honored to host some of the top yoga teachers in the world, representing a wide variety of schools and styles, so hopefully there’s an afterglow from their light and learning when the festival wraps up.  At the very least, I hope that local practitioners leave Wanderlust with new insights and ideas — and maybe we’ve even converted some non-practitioners into yogis who now practice at their local studios during the other 361 days in the year.  

MI: When and how did you get the idea to combine a yoga and music festival? Can you speak to the surge in yoga’s popularity on a larger, national level?
SH:
The idea first came while Jeff was in Costa Rica with his wife Schuyler Grant, who has been leading yoga retreats there for 10 years.  As an attendee on many of these trips, he became aware of the growing community of young adults passionately engaged in the process of trying to live a mindful life — a life that is simultaneously better for them, the people around them, and the Earth. We were inspired to combine the production, design, and marketing savvy of our music careers with the values of the yoga community to create Wanderlust.

As a relatively accomplished musician and a student of yoga, I find similarities in the practice of both. For you to really be flowing, you need to be in the moment. When you are pushing too hard things don’t fall into place. You need to open up and soften to excel at either. I think yoga and music can help you find those moments of selflessness. There are times when your breath, your heartbeat, and the pulse of the music become aligned and your body begins to lose its weight. You are floating and completely enveloped in the moment. That’s quite a nice place to be.

As for yoga’s national surge, I think yoga is part of a trend towards increased awareness on a number of fronts — what we sometimes dub the “mindful life.” People are spending more time thinking about what it really means to be “well.’ Wellness is a physical, mental, and spiritual place, and yoga addresses all three. 

MI: What does the yoga industry look like today? Can you speak to the business aspect of yoga? What’s the direction of the industry?
SH:
I’ve polished up my crystal ball … it’s cloudy … no wait, it’s clearing … I see yoga on the White House lawn, the declaration of National Yoga Day, and yoga being practiced in outer space.  Actually, all three of these things have already happened, which is a good sign that yoga is here to stay. The good news is that yoga continues to be a “mom and pop” affair, with tens of thousands of studios representing numerous styles servicing millions of practitioners. I expect that a few larger companies will continue to prosper during this current wave of yoga growth — Lululemon, Gaiam, Manduka, and Core Power all are doing a great job servicing the yoga community, and maybe Wanderlust will someday be listed in their ranks. Whatever happens, yoga will remain a diverse, grass-roots movement, and yogis will continue to demand authenticity and respect from companies who work in the yoga business. That’s what we aim for.

MI: Wanderlust is expanding this year to host more festivals at more locations. Will your roots stay in Tahoe? What’s the future of Wanderlust?
SH: We can’t leave the East Coasters out just because their ski areas aren’t quite as epic! Just kidding — we are thrilled to be bringing Wanderlust to Stratton Mountain in Vermont, which is another stunningly beautiful ski area in an equally beautiful (and progressive) state. Tahoe is our first home, though, and we’ll stay as long as Squaw Valley USA will have us.

Info: http://squaw.wanderlustfestival.com/home

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