A few years ago, I decided to drive myself up to Turtle Bay so I could experience what many people traveled here for. I was a new parent and exhausted so the idea of silence seemed like pure bliss. I wrote an essay about what it was like and thought it might help those of you out there who are considering next year’s Oahu Wanderlust festival. Hope you enjoy it! 

Photo via VisualHunt

I drove up to Oahu’s Turtle Bay Resort from my home an hour away. I could taste it before I felt it-rainwater and salt water melding into one fragrance. I wanted to shake off the scent and escape it like I did the overpowering mist of department store perfume spritzers. I expected a beachy-sensibility. All I felt was the oppressive humidity. People came from all over the globe to be at the Wanderlust festival. Some booked multi-day passes. But I was here for just 1-day and I was intent on making most of my experience.

I heard them before I saw the herds of people camped in the lobby. Barefoot, braided, and Lululemon-clad yogis spilled out of hallways, sprawled out on couches, and flooded the floor. This venture was both a recommendation from my yoga teacher and a commitment to myself. But it felt like a huge sacrifice. As I self-consciously pat down my uncombed hair and picked at my piling yoga pants, I felt an unexpected draw to be home amongst the dirty dishes and my crying baby.

But I found that guilt over the money spent and the time invested, could buy courage as I walked toward the far end of the hotel and entered the giant ballroom that held “Life Surfing: Vinyasa Yoga and Life’s Greatest Questions.”

The ballroom’s picturesque panoramic windows were poised perfectly for viewing the stormy weather outside. The massive waves added to the gray clouds and ominous weather. I was temporarily relaxed by the music piped in from the white fabric draped altar housing the class DJ. But when the teacher made his appearance, I scanned the exit still unsure. My relationship with yoga was long, but superficial. As I glanced around the room between poses, young bodies were quick, agile and perfect. I wasn’t sure I belonged here. But a surprising thing happened as I shifted from triangle to downward dog, I felt both full of breath and breathless just as I felt alone and yet part of a whole.

As we released into our final pose, my body surrendered to the mat. With one down, there was just another class left and based on the description, I knew this one would be easy. “Aloha Yin,” was being taught by iconic surfer Gerry Lopez. With white curtains draped on the ceiling, lights mimicking twinkling stars and guitar playing soft sounds in the background, I felt myself finally relax. This isn’t what I hoped Wanderlust would be. This is what I didn’t know I needed it to be.

Where the prior class broke me open, this one lulled me into a soft stillness. The juxtaposition of intense, loud and chaotic vinyasa and this soft, oozing, melting yin, is where I felt opened, healed and regenerated.

And then it was over. The beginning didn’t start fast enough and the end came too soon. I lingered in the lobby sipping cold lychee cucumber water, while noticing the serene beach outside the lobby windows for the first time. I thought about the woman I had met in my first class who said Wanderlust had “blissed her out.” The superficialities that intimidated me when I first came to Wanderlust, the clothes, the close friendships, the young healthy bodies, were distractions. But I now knew what she meant. This experience was different from the soulless yoga taught at gym classes. Wanderlust wasn’t about getting toned abs or learning fancy yoga moves. It was both holding a pose and surrendering to it. The first teacher said, “We don’t have to pursue happiness, we just have to slow down enough for it to catch up with us.” It’s the lesson my body learned and my mind finally understood-to let go of the constraints that dictated everything I did and thought, and simply be. Like the yoga classes, we were all moving together albeit on different paths, toward the same desires for love, acceptance and healing.

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