An insider’s guide to … Wanderlust

Combining healthy eating with yoga and meditation, this Taupo retreat is the perfect place to connect with Mother Earth.
Wanderlust yoga

Mere minutes after arriving at Wanderlust, the four-day yoga, meditation and mindfulness festival held at the Wairakei Thermal resort in Taupo over Waitangi weekend, I’m feeling remarkably zen.

It might be the sulphur in the air or the fact that I’m wearing incredibly comfortable pants.

Life is good.

With origins in the US, the festival celebrates healthy living, yoga, good music and good food, and brings together some of the world’s leading yoga teachers, musical acts, speakers and performers.

Now, I haven’t mastered a handstand in yoga and I can’t seem to meditate without being distracted by thoughts of dinner, but the great thing about the festival is that you can pick and choose what you do and when.

There are classes for all levels, as well as a variety of yoga styles and venues, from intimate indoor classes to large outdoor canopies and grassy nooks.

And when you’ve had your fill, there are outdoor adventures, hikes and inspirational workshops, or you can kick back with a glass of wine and some delicious food from one of the food trucks on site, and enjoy the musical acts.

How to be a part of the yin crowd at the festival.

Over the duration of the festival, I combined meditation and relaxing yin classes with exhilarating, sweaty vinyasa yoga – I even hung upside down suspended in the air in aerial yoga, which aside from leaving me with a bit of a headache, was 60 minutes of child-like fun.

In one amazing class, held by Kiwi yoga instructor Nikki Ralston and Jase Te Patu, called Call of the Wild: Find Your Tribe, I unleashed my “inner wild thing“ as instructed and bounded around a room with hundreds of others while howling like a wolf.

As bizarre as it sounds, it was fun and liberating.

Nikki’s philosophy is that you should hug at least eight people a day – so that’s exactly what we, a room full of sweaty strangers, did.

And just to step out of my comfort zone even further, I also tried blindfolded yoga (exactly as challenging as it sounds).

I even joined an impromptu massage train, which became that much more intimate the moment we had to form a circle and perch on each other’s laps.

By the final day, I was sufficiently yoga’d out and close to losing all concept of personal space, but chose to head out for an outdoor yin class at The Commons, a grassy area lined with pear trees and tall pines.

Warmed by the morning sun, it was the perfect way to end four amazing days surrounded by positive, happy people and a heck of a lot of Lycra.

Yoga isn’t always grounding!

Insider’s guide to… Wanderlust

Where to stay: Book early and get a room at Wairakei Resort. You can also camp at the resort or book accommodation off-site in Taupo.

Not to be missed: Stand-up paddle-boarding on Lake Taupo and aerial yoga.

What to eat: Grass-fed, cold-pressed, small-batch, gluten-free … if it’s got a hyphen and is good to eat, you’ll find it here. Wanderlust offers healthy fare throughout the festival, whether it’s a quick bite from the hand-picked vendors in their Food Co-op or sitting down at the Farm to Table Dinner, a chef-crafted meal sourced from the freshest local ingredients. For those with a wee bit of thirst, there is also Wanderlust Uncorked, small gatherings featuring the best craft wine and beer.

How to book: Next year’s dates for Wanderlust are February 2-5, 2017. Tickets aren’t on sale yet, but keep an eye out on the website.

Words: Ellen Dorset

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