Energizing Yoga Festival Draws 1,500 To The North Shore

On the breezy, waterfront lawn at Turtle Bay Resort an air of calm gives way to growing excitement.

It’s the first day of the Wanderlust Festival (Feb. 28), a nationally touring wonderland for yoga enthusiasts, and the first time the four-day festival has come to Hawaii.


Image 1 of 3

Rob Lenfestey does yoga on a slackline Feb. 28 at the Wanderlust Festival at Turtle Bay. See more yoga photos on Page 11. Photo by Nathalie Walker, nwalker@midweek.com.

Young women equipped with yoga mats and outfitted in workout gear are pouring into the hotel lobby.

Signs direct attendees to the check-in desk and to various ballrooms and resort areas where the respective classes are in progress.

One room already is dark, with dozens of bodies bent forward on the floor in the child’s pose, a pose or asana, meant to wash all external troubles away as you delve into your meditative mindset.

Just outside, meanwhile, men and women of all ages and body types (this isn’t just for chiseled yoga experts) sit on the lawn listening as 30-year veteran yoga practicer Dorian Wright guides them through breathing exercises.

A few yards away a large group has gathered, everyone holding up shimmering hula hoops as reputed instructor Shakti Sunfire teaches them flowing, dance-like moves that incorporate the hoop.

“This is so much fun and it has none of the stress of yoga,” said a radiant Zehna Gilliam, who flew in from San Diego for the festival.

Palms sway and white-peaked waves tumble by in the background, as a flurry of action takes over the food tents that feature wholesome fair from LYFE Kitchen and Haleiwa’s Beet Box Cafe.

Bins for recycling and compost are set up here and there on the lawn. A marketplace draws another crowd with its hip yoga clothes and intricately chiseled wooden earrings from Bali. Men with tools and ladders are putting finishing touches on a giant stage, which is where all the action will take place in the evenings, with concerts headlined by musician and global activist Michael Franti, and a lineup that includes our own John Cruz.

Folks excitedly greet each other and gather in groups chatting about the special evening introductory program, the world-class instructors on the premises, the classes they plan to take, the gorgeous setting.

More than 1,500 locals and visitors have signed up for the event, which is staffed primarily by Oahu residents. Local instructors featured prominently at the gathering include surfing legends Gerry Lopez and Rochelle Ballard.

“It’s so nice to have an event like this right here on Oahu. I didn’t have to go far,” said an enthusiastic Nalani Leonard, who drove in from Kailua to take classes.

A few yards away, Kauai slackline-yoga expert Rob Lenfestey is balancing on the line a foot above the ground in a graceful lunge pose – one leg stretched back, the other bent forward, his arms reaching up, hands folded above his head. The feat is transfixing, especially if you’ve ever tried walking even one step on the bouncing tether of a slackline that always seems to be doing its best to toss you on the ground.

“It’s all about stillness,” noted Lenfestey, who began slacklining more than 10 years ago, then took up yoga, and is part of Kauai’s rock-climbing community.

“It’s peaceful, artistic, creative. It becomes like a dance, and suddenly it’s not a struggle anymore.”

Some attendees flock to the meditative nature walk while others head out to learn stand up paddleboard yoga. Clusters of activities for every interest and talent level keep the yoga revelers occupied from 7:30 a.m. to well past sunset each day. The festival lives up to the website’s description, even surpasses it, as a “oneof-a-kind festival bringing together the world’s leading yoga teachers, top musical acts and DJs, renowned speakers, top chefs and winemakers, and much, much more – all in a setting of breathtaking natural beauty.”