Every February, The Wanderlust Festival comes to O’ahu. I get loads of ads for this event on my Facebook feed, with all the annoying commentary like “Last year was AMAZING!!! (emoji, emoji, emoji).” Some people even write me on my blog asking which events I will be attending at the festival, and are shocked when I tell them I wouldn’t be caught dead at ANY of this event.
To me, Wanderlust is very much like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival (Coachella) of modern music. When Coachella first started, it was a cool idea. All the unknown indie bands were given proper stage time and it brought about a burgeoning hip early 2000s music scene. Once commercial interests got involved it all went to pot. This year’s headliner: Guns n’ Roses. Far from Indie or original or hip.
In very much the same way, the early yoga festivals were more a venue for “indie” yoga teachers to show their craft. In 2000, Shandor Remete who was one of Iyengar’s students and subsequently designed his own style called “Shadow Yoga” was at the Southwest Yoga Conference. One blogger wrote then:
People tend to have a strong reaction to the unconventional teaching style of Shandor Remete. Take last year’s Southwest Yoga Conference. Some of his devotees signed up for every single one of his classes. Many who hadn’t registered tried to sneak in, causing the organizers to post a guard outside his door.
Others took one class with Shandor-who’s been known to have students stand on their tiptoes for as long as 30 minutes in order to cultivate Uddiyana Bandha-and didn’t come back.
Modern festivals lack this sort of essence now. All we see are Yoga groupies who are more into the trappings of the “yoga scene” instead of the actual yoga. It’s all about the selfies from O’ahu’s famous North Shore. The sponsors and promoters are like the “big tobacco” of the Yoga world: Yoga Alliance, Yoga Journal, DoTerra, Lululemon and Wanderlust peddling endless 200 hour teacher trainings to those who have been doing yoga for a month.
With events like “The One, One Arm Handstands and Mono Limb Acrobatics,” I reflect that this has now become circus training, and not so much Yoga. Patanjali is nowhere in the “lineup.” “Kirtronics” is the closest thing to a good old fashioned Kirtan. And of course there are plenty of DJs and rock bands to ensure that no Pratyahara will be had by anyone.
On another note, my hometown of Kailua is where many of these attendees stay in illegally operated bed and breakfasts. Many have little regard for the community and clog the roadways in the beaches. Every time I see a selfie in front of the Mokalua Islands off Kailua Beach, or from the Pillboxes atop Lanikai, I get viscerally ill. Most Lanikai residents can’t get out of their neighborhood because of traffic congestion from these folks.
There was a recent episode of South Park where Kenny’s hometown gets gentrified and rebranded as Sodosopa where annoying out of towners overtake his neighborhood and put up a Whole Foods. That exact phenomenon is happening in Kailua, and with the rest of the Yoga World. So no, I will not be going to Wanderlust!