I remember when I first saw pictures of a Wanderlust festival a couple of years ago. Hundreds and hundreds of yogis gathered on a huge festival field to run, flow and breathe together. Endless rows of colorful yoga mats side by side. People singing, chanting, beating drums, dancing their hearts out. People hugging each other proudly after a sweaty run, or sitting silently opposite each other with closed eyes and locked hands. Happy faces with big smiles on every picture. Laughter. Connectedness. Community.
“Find your true north” is the motto of every Wanderlust event, and it has little to do with locating a place with a compass in your hand. It is a path rather than a destination. On a personal and spiritual level, finding your true north means knowing your value, stepping into your power, taking care of yourself and your inner needs, and living authentically and in alignment with your beliefs. In essence, finding your true north is finding the purpose of your life story.
So this was what all of the people in the pictures were after. And by the looks of it, they found it…
So when I heard that Wanderlust was finally expanding across the big ocean and coming to Europe, and even to a city within my reach, I knew that I wanted to take part in this unique experience.
There are two different types of Wanderlust events:
- Wanderlust festivals are multi-day celebrations that combine yoga, meditation, live music performances, outdoor activities, talks and speeches on mindful living, cooking classes, exhibitions and many more activities. Up until now, these festivals are only held in North America and Australia/New Zealand and have yet to find their way to Europe.
- Wanderlust 108 events are sort of urban day retreats centered around a so-called mindful triathlon that is composed of three “disciplines”: a 5k run, an open-air yoga class with a renowned yoga teacher and a subsequent meditation session accompanied by live music. Wanderlust 108 mindful triathlons are happening in cities around the world and, for the second year in a row, can be attended in Austria, Germany and Switzerland as well.
Munich was on the list for a Wanderlust 108 event, and the lineup sounded great: the event would be moderated by Roger Rekless, one of the city’s most well-known and respected hip hop artists, the running part would be supervised by the local adidas runners team, and the yoga class would be taught by Mady Morrison, Berlin-based yoga teacher and one of YouTube’s rising yogi stars, fitness bloggers and influencers. To complete the team, rapper-turned-meditation coach Michael Kurth (aka Curse) would lead the meditation session, and the brilliant Arli Liberman would accompany him on his electric guitar.
When I arrived at Olympiapark Munich early Sunday morning the area was already buzzing with activity. A big stage had been set up for the DJ-assisted yoga class, little market stalls were arranged around the open square next to the Olympia lake, and a huge dome-shaped tent that looked like a bubble cut in half was reserved for adidas, the main sponsor of the event. Some areas in the middle had been delimited for side activities like aerial yoga, hula-hoop, breakletics training, feet-up yoga or macramee.
People were arriving in groups, happily chatting in anticipation of the event, checking in to collect their bibs and drop off their bags. Some were already queuing at the entrance to the Aveda tent where you could have your hair artfully braided for free. Others had their arms painted with tribals in bright body colors. Dots of vibrant turquoise could be seen everywhere because of the cute little bandanas that were part of the goodie bags.
The whole area seemed like one huge runway for the latest yoga attire. I was surrounded by girls in Lululemon, Alo, Onzie and Spiritual Gangster, all of the “big names”, you name them, and of course in Adidas sportswear who was the main sponsor of the event. A so-called kula market was set up to cater to every yogi’s needs: you could shop clothes in all shapes and sizes, hand-made jewelry, organic tea, boho scarves, glass bottles that would energize your water, and all sorts of fancy food (including the obligatory sweet potato fries with hummus).
Groups of friends were finding each other, and soon enough I spotted the girls from my yoga teacher training who I had arranged to meet there. We had enough time to drop our bags, have a quick bite, and take the obligatory selfie in front of the “1000 buddhas” wall painting before it was time to gather behind the big wooden Wanderlust arc that marked the start and finish line of the 5k run. A member of the Adidas runners team guided the crowd through some warm-up stretches, and on the count of 10 we all were off.
Like for many other participants my greatest worry had been this initial 5k run. As far as I can remember, I had never managed to run more than one kilometer in one stretch. Running and I are just not made for each other. I have always wanted to love it – but ended up hating it whenever I tried. So the prospect of starting this mindfulness triathlon with a 5k run was not exactly inviting from my point of view. However, my worries turned out to be totally unfounded. Plenty of people ran the stretch around the lake and through the park in intervals, some were walking at a resolute pace, others took their time to have their red-faced picture taken at the photo booth that had been set up half-way. Nobody cared about making the course faster than an other, it was far more important to make it together instead of best. When I had the arc in view again I increased my speed a bit in a rush of pride that I had really almost made it. I came in in just over 40 minutes, happily high-five-ing the people who were waiting at the finish line.
After refilling our spent water levels, yoga was next. An amazing group of breakdance artists – Breakletics – gave an intro sessiom before yoga teacher Mady Morrison entered the stage. She greeted the crowd with a cheerful smile and thanked everybody for coming. I’m not one of those people who are prone to freaking out in the presence of a “yoga star” as if they were a boyband. I hadn’t heard of Mady before either, all I was in for was a nice yoga class that would let me move my body in ways I like better than running. But despite her young age and status as ‘social media influencer’ Mady positively surprised me with a creative, well thought-out sequence of vinyasa yoga that was accessible for each and every one of the 1000+ practicioners in front of her. She guided us through some namaskars to get things going, continued with a fluid warrior series and concluded the class with some balancing and stretching asanas. Along the way she offered variations for the poses and encouraged everyone to listen to their body and practice as if no one’s watching. It was amazing to connect with all the people around me in a joint tree pose where every person was standing arm-in-arm with his or her neighbor, opening 1000 hearts to the sky all as one. This, I thought, is what makes group practice so special: getting support from the person next to you, and lending them a hand when they need one.
The guided meditation perfectly completed the three pillars of the triathlon. Blissful silence fell over the open square the except for Arli’s smooth and catchy tunes that reverberated inside everyone. Although some people left to escape the sweltering heat (it had become early afternoon, and the sun was at its highest) or to catch Mady backstage and ask her to sign their yoga mats, the community vibe was still very much tangible. When I opened my eyes after this 30-minute journey in my mind I could literally see the afterglow on all the faces around me.
This is the impression that was still lingering in my head when I left Olympiapark that day. It hadn’t been just a big-group, open-air yoga class. It had been a day full of community, encouragement and mindfulness. A unique experience that makes a wonderful addition to the local yoga scene. Until next year, Wanderlust! I will definitely be back.
© Images: Coco & Lime // Sandra Steh Photography // Wanderlust