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Tips for ski season injury prevention (for the Los Angeles Times)

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By Dana Sullivan Kilroy

February 16, 2013

Nothing ruins a skiing or snowboarding weekend like having to hitchhike down the hill in a ski patroller’s sled — or in an ambulance. Fortunately, the overall rate of skiing injuries has declined by 50% since the 1970s, according to the National Ski Areas Assn., a trade organization. (Snowboarding injuries are a different story: They’ve nearly doubled in the last decade — partly because the sport itself is relatively new.)

“We see fewer injuries among skiers because of significant improvements in the equipment,” says James Gladstone, an orthopedic surgeon and co-chief of sports medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. Skis are shorter and hourglass shaped, he explains, making them more responsive and easier to turn. And, more important, ski bindings release more easily than those of a generation ago, reducing the risk of fractures in the lower legs.

A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2009 found that skiers who are injured have a few things in common: They are male and have a “high readiness for risk.” In this study, that meant they were eager to try jumps and moguls. But no matter what your age, gender or proclivity for thrill-seeking, skiing and snowboarding are inherently dangerous.

So what can you do to reduce the risk of injury?

“First, start thinking about conditioning long before ski season arrives,” says Gladstone, who was a collegiate ski racer at Dartmouth College and has worked as a ski instructor. Skiing and snowboarding both demand a lot from the muscles in the quads and lower back, and from the knees. “I make my kids start climbing the 10 flights of stairs to our apartment well before winter starts,” he says.

It may be too late for preseason conditioning, but these tips will also help keep you and your family safe on the hill:

• Make sure your — and your kids’ — equipment fits. Borrowing equipment from well-meaning friends is never a good idea. “Using equipment that is right for your size and skiing or snowboarding ability is essential,” says John Monson, a spokesman for Sugar Bowl Resort in Norden, Calif., near Lake Tahoe. Wearing gear that is too big is especially dangerous; if your feet “slop” around in ski or snowboarding boots, you have less control. And skis or a snowboard that are too long are difficult to maneuver.

• Make sure your equipment functions. If you own your ski gear, have the bindings examined by a ski shop technician at the beginning of each season. “The technician will make sure the bindings release properly, based on your boot size, weight and height and skiing ability,” says Monson. A binding that releases too easily, or doesn’t release when it should, can lead to injury. Skiers and snowboarders should also have their boards tuned, which typically includes waxing the bottom surface and having the edges sharpened.

• Don’t go out cold. Before you slide onto the chairlift, do some dynamic movement exercises to warm up your muscles. “Do windmills with your arms, swing your legs back and forth and do abdominal twists so you’re not so stiff when you start,” says Gladstone.

• Stay forward. “Your instinct, when you get going too fast, is to lean back,” says Gladstone. “This only makes you go faster. Really work on keeping your weight forward on your skis and your snowboard.”

• When you start to fall, just go with it. The more rigid you are, the more likely you’ll be hurt when you fall, Gladstone says.

• Wear a helmet. Helmets do not decrease the risk of skiing- or snowboarding-related head injuries, but they do reduce the severity, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Finally, take lessons. At Sugar Bowl, two-hour group lessons for skiers and riders of all levels — from never-evers to advanced — are included in the price of a lift ticket. “No one is ever too good for instruction,” Monson says.

How to Pack for 10 Days in a Carry On

I wrote this article for Away.

With most airlines charging $20-plus per piece of checked luggage, packing everything into a carry-on is one small thing you can do to keep travel expenses under control. It’s also the only way to ensure that your bag doesn’t become one of the estimated two million bags lost worldwide each year by the major airlines. While it can be tempting to approach packing with a “just in case” attitude, don’t do it. “It’s really satisfying to not load yourself down with a bunch of stuff you don’t need,” says Kim Lemaire, who was a flight attendant for ten years and is now a professional photographer based in Carmel, California. Use these tips to pack light for your next trip. Your wallet, and your back, will thank you.

Picking the bag
What qualifies as a carry-on on a Boeing 737 might be too big to stow on a 44-seat CRJ-440, but the maximum size of a carry-on bag for most domestic air travel is 45 linear inches (the height plus width plus depth of the bag), or a bag that is about 22 inches tall by 14 inches across and 9 inches deep. Carry-on bags cannot weigh more than 40 pounds. And remember that some airlines have different carry-on allowances for domestic and international flights. “If you want a guarantee that your bag will meet the restrictions, always check airline websites,” advises Stasia Raines, public relations manager at Eagle Creek, a luggage manufacturer based in Carlsbad, California. Be especially vigilant if you’re flying internationally. Though checked baggage is usually gratis on international flights, weight and size restrictions vary widely for carry-ons, especially for regional flights internationally. “The ‘international’ carry-on limit is 21 inches tall, but in Asia it’s 19 inches,” says Raines.

If you don’t already own a carry-on bag that you love, or if it’s time to invest in a new piece of luggage, remember that there is really just one essential feature to consider: carrying capacity. That swiveling handle and those indestructible skateboard wheels might be cool, but what really matters is how much stuff the bag can hold. Some people love hard-sided luggage but, for carry-on, soft is better because it generally weighs less and can more easily conform to—or be crammed into—an overhead storage space.

A bag that is rectilinear in shape—with straight sides and 90-degree corners—also generally provides more cubic inches of storage space than a bag with rounded corners. “A rectilinear duffle has more than 27 percent more space than its rounded counterpart, even if the bags have identical length, width, and height,” notes Doug Dyment, founder of OneBag.com, a website that’s devoted to traveling light.

Once you’ve found the perfect bag, it’s time to decide what to put in it. Choosing what you’re bringing will ultimately decide whether all the stuff you want fits, or whether you’re forced to wear six coats through security on the way back. Lay out your clothes before packing, and keep these tips in mind:

  • Knits (cotton or wool) resist wrinkles. “You might love that silk or starched shirt, but once it’s wrinkled, it’s done,” says Lemaire. Also consider wrinkle-free clothing or linen, which looks fine even with a few folds.
  • Choose a color scheme. A mix of clothing in complementary colors lets you mix and match, stretching your wardrobe. For women, accessorizing with colorful jewelry can keep you looking sharp without the extra outfits. Here, black is always the new black.
  • Look for clothing that does double-duty. T-shirts and tank tops, for instance, can be worn alone during the day and under a sweater in the evening. For women, a wrap dress is casual when paired with flip-flops but can be dressed up with a sweater, evening sandals, and jewelry.
  • Sorry, Imelda: four pairs of shoes—max!Shoes are space hogs. One pair of loafers, sturdy sandals, or boots (which you wear on the plane); one pair of athletic shoes; and one pair of evening shoes/dressy sandals cover most scenarios (and guys can typically get away with less). Place the shoes you’re not wearing on the plane in one-gallon-size sealable plastic bags to keep street grime off of your clothing. Don’t forget to stuff your shoes with socks before you pack them.
  • Layer up for the trip. Save space in your suitcase by wearing your bulky garments—jeans and a sweater with your heavier shoes or boots—on the plane.

Sample packing list for a ten-day trip
“I try to plan ahead, day by day, what I will wear,” says frequent flier Lemaire. “I know I might change my mind once I’m at my destination, but it helps me be efficient.” Here’s what she packs as a general rule:

  • 6–7 T-shirts or tanks tops
  • 5 pairs of jeans/slacks (guys can get away with less)
  • 2–3 lightweight sweaters (guys can get away with less)
  • For women: 1 wrap dress or skirt for evening
  • For men: 1 tailored jacket, worn on the plane
  • 2 sets of exercise clothing (hand wash so you can wear more than once)
  • Exercise/walking shoes or boots
  • Dress shoes
  • 1–2 nightgowns/pajamas
  • 5 pairs of socks (hand wash so you can wear twice)
  • 5 undergarments (hand wash so you can wear twice)
  • Swimsuit and sarong
  • Compact accessories such as jewelry and scarves
  • Toiletries (see carry-on restrictions below)

Seasonal extras
Where you are going, and the season, might require a few extras, such as the ones on this list. Using the bundle-wrap or rolling method (for details, see “Don’t Fold …” below) should leave you with plenty of space:

  • Small clutch handbag
  • Flip-flops
  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • Gloves/hat
  • Rain jacket
  • Umbrella

Standard carry-on restrictions for liquids in the U.S.: Remember 3-1-1
The rules about how much and what kinds of liquids, gels, and pastes passengers can pack in carry-on luggage might seem to change with the weather, but as of December 2010, the Transportation Security Administration allows passengers to carry 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or smaller bottles of liquids that fit into one quart-size clear plastic zippered bag; each passenger is allowed just one such bag. Medications, baby formula/food, and breast milk are allowed in “reasonable” quantities that exceed 3.4 ounces, but passengers must declare these items at the security checkpoint. International restrictions may not match, but none will be more stringent than those of the TSA.

Don’t fold: Bundle up … or roll away
“Individually folding and then stacking clothing is the worst thing you can do from a packing perspective,” says traveling-light guru Dyment. Not only is it inefficient, it causes wrinkles and creases in clothing, he says. Two better options are bundling or rolling.

Bundle wrapping
To bundle wrap, start by taking a core object such as a nylon organizer pouch that measures about 11 inches by 16 inches (SeeEagle Creek’s) filled with soft items such as socks, underwear, a swimsuit, etc. The pouch becomes a pillow of sorts, around which all the other clothing is wrapped. In general, the larger and more tailored garments—the ones most likely to wrinkle—form the outside of the bundle.

Button all your clothing. Lay out your clothes in a specific sequence, starting with items most likely to wrinkle: formalwear, skirts and dresses, long-sleeved shirts, short-sleeved shirts, slacks, sweaters, and shorts. Start with the formalwear and lay an item face down on your bed. Now add the remaining items, all face up but alternating direction to keep the bundle even. For example, the collar of the first item faces left, the collar of the second faces right. Alternate pants the same way to keep the stack relatively even. When all the items are layered, place the “core” item—your pillow—on the stack, right in the middle. Now work your way back to the bottom, folding the top item over the core item. Wrap the final item around the core and bundle. Place it in the center of the suitcase, and stuff shoes along the sides.

Rolling
“As part of the flight-attendant training program, we were actually taught how to pack our small bag efficiently by rolling our clothing,” says Lemaire. It’s as easy as it sounds, though not quite as wrinkle-reducing as bundling. To roll, just lay the garment out and roll from one end to the other, making the roll as tight as possible. Pants are easy; for shirts, fold the sleeves in first, then roll. Place shoes along the edge of your bag and then put the heavier items—jeans and pants—in along the bottom. Add lighter-weight clothing on next, and finish with the lightest garments and accessories.

5 Questions: Yoga Instructor Sara Ivanhoe

This story is in today’s Los Angeles Times. 

By Dana Sullivan Kilroy

Sara Ivanhoe has always been a bit ahead of her time. The 41-year-old yoga instructor has been practicing yoga since she was in high school. At first, she had no choice: In the small Marin County town of Mill Valley where she grew up, yoga was part of her school’s curriculum. Like a typical teenager, she rebelled against most things that were associated with school, but yoga was different. More than 25 years and 4.3 million yoga-videos-sold later, Ivanhoe is still at it. When she isn’t teaching at YogaWorks in Santa Monica, she’s at Loyola Marymount University, working toward a master’s degree in yoga philosophy. Here, Ivanhoe shares some of her yoga wisdom:

You started practicing yoga when you were 14. What brought you to yoga when most girls are distracted by makeup and … boys?

Well I was distracted by makeup and boys — actually, sometimes I still am! And like anything else at school, I thought yoga was a drag, but I continued to practice because I had to. Years later, when life started to catch up with me, as it does for many people post-college, I needed to find some peace and balance. I realized that yoga had been with me all along.

Yoga has evolved in this country during the last two decades. Which changes do you think are positive and which concern you?

First, the bad: I am very concerned about the trend of what I see as aggressive and acrobatic styles of yoga. I see people who are new to yoga trying to do things with their bodies that they simply should not. Some of them are dangerous. Too many teachers are telling students to “conquer their fears” and to try things like handstands in the middle of a room without wall support. For many people this is totally unreasonable. The result is that people are falling, hurting themselves, spraining joints and causing injuries that will last a lifetime. Not all fears should be conquered! Some fears are intelligent and they keep us from harm. Now the good: I am so gratified by the popularization of yoga. Even if people start the practice for purely physical purposes, there is something about yoga that will sink in and lead to further study. I have faith that, underneath, we all have the same intention: to be loved and accepted for who we truly are.

What is your favorite place to practice if you can’t be in a studio — and what do you like about this particular space?

I mostly practice in my living room. I know that’s not very glamorous, but I find that I feel most comfortable to fail, to be imperfect, when I am alone. Many people love practicing outside, and while I am a huge fan of nature, I find that often nature stimulates my senses and can cause my attention to waver. If I had to choose a place outside of my home, I would choose Bhakti Fest. It is a yoga and kirtan festival out in Joshua Tree that is focused on the practice of Bhakti. At Bhakti Fest, I get the biggest high out of anywhere I’ve ever been (and there is no alcohol served!).

What is your go-to asana or breathing exercise? The one thing we would all be better off for if we did it every day?

That’s easy: ujjayi breath. Even people who don’t do yoga naturally take deep breaths as a way to relax. Studies have shown that a huge percentage of the perceived relaxation of smoking is that the smoker is taking deep breaths. Ujjayi comes from the Sanskrit root “jai” which means “victory.” It is a breath that makes you feel victorious! It’s not difficult to do. Just close your mouth and breath both in and out through the nose creating a soft hollow sound. This is the sound your body makes when it is sleeping so it already knows how to do it (http://vimeo.com/52474755). Just a few moments of this breath, even just doing three long smooth ujjayi breaths will make you feel better instantly and put a smile on your face.

Who is your favorite Los Angeles-based teacher?

Easy: Erich Schiffmann. Actually, I think he’s the best teacher in the world. What makes Erich different from everyone else is the way he teaches, not what he teaches. What I mean by that is this that [most] teachers, no matter their style of yoga, no matter the subject of the class, use a “one-way” directive method of teaching. The teacher “says” and the student “does.” Erich’s way is to ask a question and then the students, through investigation of their own, learn what they don’t already know. Let me give an example. Say you are in warrior 2. I might say something like, “Lift your chest. Drop your shoulders.” I’m telling you what to do, and you are following me, as best you can. Erich would say something like “Be aware of the pose, and investigate. What parts of the body can you relax without collapsing?” At this point, the student tries to answer the question and in doing so, he/she will relax different parts of the body. Can the chest relax? No, the chest needs to stay lifted. Can the legs relax? No, they need to stay active. Can the shoulders relax? Yes! I don’t need to waste tension there. And so on. Asking brings us into the present moment because we don’t know the answer.

Taking the fright out of Halloween candy

by Dana Sullivan Kilroy

From today’s Los Angeles Times

These days Halloween candy crowds the aisles of store shelves within minutes of the final back-to-school sale. And while it might seem like a good idea to stock up during the early-bird sales, too often “the candy is gone by the time it’s actually Halloween, so you have to go for a second batch,” says Melinda Johnson, a dietitian and director of the didactic program in dietetics at Arizona State University in Tempe.

Not only do you end up spending more, there’s a good chance you end up sampling more. (By the same token, don’t stray into the after-holiday clearance sales.)

“This is an ideal time of year, leading into the major holidays, to add structure to family meals and make treats scheduled so they’re not available all day,” says Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Halloween alone won’t make kids fat or instill a lifetime of poor eating habits,” she adds, “but it can be a great time to implement some healthier habits.”

Here are some tips from Johnson and the academy to help your family avoid a Halloween candy hangover:

• Stock up at the last minute. As Johnson noted, the longer the candy is in your house, the more likely it is that everyone will sample it before the big day.

• Buy candy you don’t like. You’re trying to set a good example for your children, but no matter how much willpower you possess, it can be hard to resist the siren call of the mini Snickers or Butterfinger. You might easily be able to take a pass on PixieSticks, however. To avoid temptation, buy candies that you won’t want to sample. Chances are a few of your favorites will show up in your kids’ bags and you can treat yourself then.

• When they return from trick-or-treating, have your kids separate their candy into two piles: Like and Don’t Like. “Immediately pack up the candy in the ‘don’t like’ pile and give it away,” says Johnson. This will not only reduce the amount of sugar in the house, it will remind kids that when they indulge in sweet treats, they should be ones that they really like rather than ones that are just there for mindless snacking.

• Consider a candy buyback. “I know of lots of dentists who buy Halloween candy from their patients,” says Johnson. Some dentists offer cash or coupons, toothbrushes or other services, she says. The candy is sent to troops overseas. You can find information about the program, and share it with your family dentist, at http://www.halloweencandybuyback.com.

• Send sweets yourself to the troops. Individuals who would like to ship Halloween candy to military personnel overseas can find information about how to do so at http://www.operationgratitude.com.

Patrick Dempsey: Doing Well and Doing Good

Note: An edited version of this story appeared in the Los Angeles Times

5 Questions: Patrick Dempsey on acting, racing cars and raising money for his cancer charity

Patrick Dempsey, the actor also known as “McDreamy,” just committed to two more seasons on the hospital drama “Grey’s Anatomy.” But it’s when the camera isn’t rolling that Dempsey, 46, is really busy. What’s he up to when he’s not at work? He’s riding bikes and parenting three children with his wife Jillian, raising money for a cancer charity that he helped found to honor his mother, and racing cars on various professional circuits.  (And in a case of art imitating life, Dempsey expects to start shooting the film adaptation of the best-selling book “The Art of Racing in the Rain” soon. He’ll play race-car driver Denny Swift.)

Still, Dempsey found a few minutes in his schedule to answer 5 questions for us:

1). How do you make time for exercise given the demands of your car-racing team, your family and, oh yeah, acting? Trying to dedicate enough time to each is a big challenge. I keep a spinning bike on the set of Grey’s but it’s still hard to be consistent. I never know what my schedule is going to be and the days can be a long haul. My goal is to ride my bike 20 miles four or five times a week. It’s a priority because exercise keeps me strong in front of the camera and in the car. The other challenge with my schedule is eating right. If I start to eat ‘bad’ food all the exercise in the world doesn’t matter. I try really hard to stay away from the donuts and sugar, which I think is at the root of so many health problems, including cancer. I eat a lot of almonds!

2). How did you get into car racing and do you have any races coming up? My wife is the one who got me into racing.  She gave me a three-day Skip Barber racing course as a gift about 8 years ago, and I was hooked immediately. I went to another school after that and it’s all just sort of grown from there. Now Dempsey Racing employs 61 people and we race 5 cars. This year we raced in the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am circuit.  There’s a race every other weekend and I try to go to as many as I can. I fly a lot of red-eyes. We’ve stepped it up and will go to the Le Mans Circuit [in Europe] in 2013. 2-1/2). Does Jillian ever regret that gift? [Laughs]. She looked at me just the other day and said, “How much longer are you going to be doing this?” I didn’t have an answer.

3. A lot of people are intimidated by cycling — what would you say to anyone who thinks, “I’d love to cycle for fitness but I don’t want to wear ‘those’ clothes?”  First of all, you don’t have to wear the spandex!  My wife complains that cycling shorts aren’t made to fit women, but I happen to find her very sexy in them. Second, make sure you get a bike that fits, and one that fits what you want to do. My favorite shop is Cynergy Cycles in Santa Monica, because they are so knowledgeable. Before you go shopping for a bike, think about your goals. Are you going to ride for fitness? Do you want to cruise around your neighborhood or along the beach. Are you interested in doing a long charity ride like the Dempsey Challenge? I’m really happy that Jillian has gotten into cycling with me. Our rides are like dates. We’re alone, no distractions, no phones, and we have time to talk. Cycling has really helped our relationship. We ride on PCH, all over Malibu, and on Mulholland Drive. I also love to ride in Maine, of course.

4. Speaking of Maine, you helped found the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing in your hometown of Lewiston. What inspired you?  My mom Amanda is a seven-time ovarian-cancer survivor. One of the times she was going through treatment I realized that I had my sister Mary, who is a nurse, available to explain to me what was going on with our mother. Lots of people don’t have someone like that. So I decided to try and raise some money to help fund a place where both patients and caregivers could go and get counseling and services like massage, acupuncture, yoga and reiki. I’ve learned how valuable human touch can be in terms of healing. Many of the people who provide the services are volunteers who have had cancer themselves. Each year we’ve had around 3000 people register to fundraise and come to Maine to walk or run or cycle in the Dempsey Challenge. I’m also lucky to have been able to partner with [pharmaceutical company] Amgen. Together we’ve raised more than a million dollars for each of the last three years which means the services at the Center are all free. Another thing I’m proud of is that we are starting to network with other cancer charities so that we can all learn what works and what doesn’t with fundraising. A few years in I realized that a lot of foundations and charities don’t want to share what they know because they’re afraid they will lose funding. I’m trying to change that. [Note: The fourth annual “Dempsey Challenge presented by Amgen” is in October, registration info is at http://www.dempseychallenge.com.

5. Your hair. Does Jillian still cut it and what are your preferred styling products? Absolutely. Jill still cuts my hair. In our backyard, actually. I’m not a big products guy, but I sometimes use L’Oreal.

Probiotics: A gut-check on bacterial health

By Dana Sullivan Kilroy

From The Los Angeles Times on October 6, 2012

A fascinating, if disconcerting, fact: More than 100 trillion so-called good bacteria thrive in or on the human body. A sizable chunk of them maintain residence in the human digestive tract. Probiotics, live microorganisms that benefit their human host, are among these beneficial bacteria.

Probiotics are also found in foods and supplements, and when consumed they change how the immune system responds to “bad” bacteria.

“Probiotics seem to enhance the intestinal flora and promote a healthier gut environment,” says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, a registered dietitian in Sacramento and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Scientists don’t know exactly how probiotics work, but they may also produce anti-microbial substances that destroy harmful microorganisms and stimulate an immune response.

Even though probiotics-infused foods may seem like a modern phenomenon, the idea that consuming living microorganisms could improve health was introduced more than 100 years ago. That’s when Elie Metchnikoff, a Nobel-winning scientist, proposed the idea in his book, “The Prolongation of Life: Optimistic Studies.”

“Certain dairy products, especially yogurt, contain probiotics naturally,” Gazzaniga-Moloo adds, but more recently probiotics have been added to juice, cereal, cookies and more. There are also dozens of probiotic supplements — capsules, tablets and powders — on the market.

Why are food manufacturers adding bacteria to foods that don’t contain them? Some studies suggest that probiotics may help prevent and treat vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections, may prevent eczema in children and may reduce the severity and longevity of colds and flu. Other studies have shown definitively that people who are suffering from antibiotic-associated diarrhea benefit from consuming probiotics. Most recently, an analysis that appeared in the May issue of the Journal of the American Medical Assn. found that people who are suffering from diarrhea because they are taking antibiotic medications may reduce the risk of diarrhea by 42% if they consume probiotics. While some advocates claim that probiotics reduce the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s disease, the evidence doesn’t yet bear this out. Nor has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved any health claims for probiotics.

“I have clients who swear that once they start eating more foods with probiotics they have less bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort, fewer colds and flu,” says Gazzaniga-Maloo.

As we start to stare down cold and flu season, a 2009 study that was published in Pediatrics is worth revisiting. The study, which was funded by a company that makes products with probiotics, compared two groups of kids, 326 total, ages 3 to 5, who drank milk with either Lactobacillus acidophilus or Bifidobacterium animalis or plain milk twice a day. The kids who consumed the probiotics-infused milk ultimately got half as many fevers and fewer runny noses than the kids who drank plain milk. Their symptoms also didn’t last as long, they took fewer prescriptions and missed fewer days of school than the kids who drank the plain milk.

Namaste by Day, Rock the Night Away

 

Note: A shorter version of this story ran in the Los Angeles Times.

On a crisp summer night, beneath a bright half-moon that illuminates the cliffs of Squaw Valley’s dramatic “Tram face,” MC Yogi, a yoga teacher and DJ from San Francisco exhorts a crowd of several thousand to “Take a deep breath and let it all out.” Then, “Say namaste!” he shouts into his microphone. The crowd, which had been doing both all day long, does them again anyway. But this time they also raise a collective glass, and call out with enthusiasm not usually displayed by a bunch of lithe-bodied Lululemon-clad yoginis.

Welcome to the Wanderlust Festival.

This four-day yoga-retreat-by-day, dance-party-by-night is the sort of event that could only happen if a pair of indie rock producers shared office space with an internationally renowned yoga teacher. Which is exactly how Wanderlust was born.

About five years ago, “We realized that there is a crowd that likes to dance and drink, but they are also serious about their yoga,” says co-founder Jeff Krasno, who conceived of the festival with his yoga-instructor wife Schuyler Grant, and college band-mate and business partner Sean Hoess.

That first event, held in Lake Tahoe, featured mostly traditional yoga classes and lectures during the day and music at night. Four years later, Wanderlust is taking on a life of its own, say the founders. “Each year more artists show up — they create temporary art installations around the grounds — and we’ve added some alternative yoga offerings. Classes like slack-line yoga and hoops yoga (a combination of yoga, hula hooping and dancing) are packed. “We throw in things you can’t do at your local studio,” says Hoess. Stand-up paddle board yoga, anyone?

This year’s Wanderlust line-up featured hundreds of yoga classes, lectures on topics such as “Living Truth,” and “Writing for My Life,”  meditation hikes, music workshops, and special events such as river rafting. Many of the instructors are stars of the western yoga world — e.g., Shiva Rae, Seane Corn, Baron Baptiste, and Jonny Kest — who pack as many as 600 people onto mats under huge tents that shield the high-altitude sun. (Most classes have many fewer participants.)

Wanderlust has been more successful than Krasno, Hoess, and Grant could have imagined. Today there are multi-day festivals in Lake Tahoe, Vermont, Colorado and British Columbia, plus one-day events in Santa Monica (September 9), San Francisco and the founders’ hometown, New York City. This year, the four-day Tahoe event saw some 14,000 people attend yoga and meditation classes, listen to music, and wander among the temporary boutiques set up in the ski resort’s village, which is usually very quiet during the summer months.

“Wanderlust brings a super colorful crowd to Tahoe and the event is an eclectic jumble of art, music, food and culture,” says Alex Cox, owner of 22 Bistro, a restaurant at the entrance to the village. Cox says the weekend is his busiest of the entire summer. “Whether you want to party and dance into the wee hours or do yoga at the crack of dawn, it’s all here,” he says.

“Wanderlust is so much more than just yoga,” agrees Patti Battram, a travel agent who traveled from Raleigh, North Carolina to attend. Battram sat soaking in a hot tub, having taken three classes earlier in the day, and told a reporter that she was looking forward to attending a sunset meditation hike, accompanied by composer and bassist Garth Stevenson. Battram also plans to attend Wanderlust Whistler, later this month.

“I like the part of the Wanderlust message that you can practice yoga and still enjoy life,” says Sara Ivanhoe, a first-time Wanderlust instructor who does most of her teaching at YogaWorks’ Santa Monica locations. “In our culture we have lost sight of the fact that the practice of yoga is meant to serve us and make us feel better, spiritually and physically,” she says. “Yoga shouldn’t be punishment, it shouldn’t be about whether you are doing it ‘correctly,’” she says. “I’ll definitely be back next year.”

There are critics of the Wanderlust ethos, but at least one changed his mind after he experienced the event.  “When I first heard about the concept, I was not disappointed that I wasn’t invited to teach,” says Rod Stryker, an Aspen, Colo.-based yoga and meditation instructor. Stryker had reservations because “It was hard to tell what Wanderlust was, and I wondered how much yoga would there really be.”

But when a few friends, and teachers whom he respects told him that he ‘had’ to go, he decided to participate. “I was more than pleasantly surprised,” he says.  Stryker notes that “modern yoga is very hard and at Wanderlust people can work a little less hard and experience something different, something festive.” This was his second time at Wanderlust Lake Tahoe and he also plans to return in 2013.

Plus, Stryker adds, “If we opened yoga to only people with no vices, no one would do yoga.”

During her “Energetic Alignment” class,  instructor, Anne Marie Kramer, who owns Zuda Yoga in Sacramento, reminded the 40 or so practitioners in the class that “Yoga is everything. It’s light and dark; it’s contraction and expansion, it’s strength and softness.”  The last few minutes of another of Kramer’s classes turned into a dance party.

 

After MC Yogi has left the stage, Ziggy Marley walks out with his band and plumes of marijuana smoke rise like steam from one of the nearby hot tubs.  Everyone breathes in, once more, with feeling. Tonight they might let loose, but tomorrow they’ll be lined up before 8:00 a.m., ready for another dose of downward facing dog.

 

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