An outdoor festival with dozens of great yoga classes during the day and equally impressive music at night is such a natural combination that it’s hard to believe that it hasn’t been done many times over before. Speaking to Jeff Krasno, founder of Wanderlust, the bicoastal festival that’s taking place in its West Coast incarnation at Squaw Valley beginning on Thursday, July 28, I feel as though the time is right for this thoughtful, innovative, and abundantly blessed event. Whether you are a hardcore yogini looking to connect with such luminaries of the yoga scene as Shiva Rea, Jonny Kest, and Rod Stryker, a practicing yoga teacher looking to take your sequencing to the next level, or just a curious soul willing to take a chance on the self-transformative potential of classes with titles like “Yoga and Trail Running” or “Bhakti Thai Fly Jam,” you will likely find something that will change your perspective and possibly your life.
The following is an interview I conducted last week with Krasno from his home in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Why does Wanderlust take place in the mountains?
The location is so important to what we offer. I really believe in creating a situation where you can park once and stow away the car keys for the entire weekend. This gets people open, and it puts them in the way of having a potentially transformative experience. That’s what we are aiming for—to get people feeling that they have the opportunity to change their lives.
What’s special about having the festival at Squaw Valley?
The ski resort model has been fantastic for us. It has all the convenience of a venue that’s built to handle this many people, so that we don’t have to bring in a lot of portapotties, but the facilities are organized around these amazing outdoor spaces, rather than around the ballrooms and conference rooms of a conventional hotel/resort. This allows us to create multiple stages and environments for our classes and concerts, and to spread them out all over the mountain.
How much activity do you have scheduled over the four days?
There will be twelve concurrent yoga spaces, each with full production, and five separate areas for music. Squaw Valley is particularly good for this because of the way that the areas higher up on the mountain have been developed. We will be able to have a poolside DJ and dance party in the afternoon and early evening that’s halfway up the mountain.
When did you get started with festivals?
I started thinking about festivals as a young man hanging out in the parking lots of Grateful Dead shows. As a professional in the music industry, I’ve been involved with a number of the big music festivals in one capacity or another, and I’ve been attending them for many years.
How did you decide to combine music festivals with yoga?
The decision to create Wanderlust came about as a way to combine my expertise in business development and marketing with a desire for more mindful living that came about in part through my wife’s experience starting and running a successful yoga studio in New York. After attending a series of yoga retreats in Costa Rica where we felt really close to the community being created, we decided that it was time to put it all together—the progressive politics, the ethic of taking care of yourself, and the ethic of taking care of the planet—and start fashioning events here in the United States designed so that when people leave they feel better about themselves and the world than when they arrived.
What’s the main thing that people should know about Wanderlust that makes it different?
Wanderlust is participatory. The attendees become the event. It’s not just yoga classes and concerts—people can be in a neo-burlesque workshop in the afternoon and take part in a theatrical performance that evening. Whether it’s someone who does this and discovers his or her ability to perform, or someone else who does a handstand for the first time, or better than ever before, we want everyone to have that experience of going beyond existing self expectations. And then they can go home and take that new sense of possibility with them. That’s the goal.
I notice that many of the names you have listed for teaching the yoga classes are quite well known. How did you round up such a high profile group?
As far as producing the yoga piece, we walked into a white space on that, so it did not take long before the top teachers were approaching us. When you teach yoga all the time, and you hear about a situation where there are up to 600 people in a class, and they are all having a great time and loving it and telling their friends, then who doesn’t want that?
There is a ticketing system that allows people to register online for classes in advance. Does that mean that people who don’t do so will be shut out?
The ticketing system is part of the process so that people can choose a schedule, but it’s not like you won’t be able to practice if you haven’t signed up in advance. Some classes will fill, but there are generally no-shows—people get tired, or they find something else they’d rather do. It’s best for everyone if people do register in advance, but it’s not required.
How does the music fit in with all the asana and meditation?
One thing that the tremendous response we have received to the yoga program has allowed us to do is to keep the music piece of Wanderlust affordable. If all you want to do is come out and hear Michael Franti or dance to Girl Talk, you can get a ticket for that for something like $34. And we encourage attendance by people who don’t want to spend the money for the yoga, because that way they see what’s happening, they get a feeling for what they might like, and who knows? The next year they may come back for the whole weekend.
Can you give an example of something Wanderlust is doing that combines music and yoga in an original way?
On Friday afternoon Michael Franti and Seane Corn will combine for an asana class that is designed to take you “off the mat and into the world,” and to enhance the ideal of “seva,” or service in our lives. There’s live music, there’s asana practice, and there’s plenty of wisdom and love coming from these two charismatic leaders. It’s the epitome of Wanderlust, and it’s at 5:30pm on Friday, July 29
Wanderlust at Squaw Valley will run from Thursday, July 28 through Sunday, July 31. For tickets and information, visit squaw.wanderlustfestival.com.