Not so long ago yoga was thought of as a practice performed by the highly trained and highly motivated.
But in the last several years it has quietly, but with intention, become part of the everyday life of millions of people from Whistler, to Africa and beyond.
This weekend sees the now annual hosting of the Wanderlust festival in Whistler, which melds old and new in celebrating yoga — and event not just good for the soul of the resort but also the bottom-line. Last year festival organizers report that there were around 1,500 yogis in attendance per day, plus thousands of music fans on top of that, and this year they're expecting at least a 30 per cent growth in those figures.
To those committed to the practice the growth of the love of yoga makes perfect sense in today's world.
"Old school yoga was very esoteric. Ten to 20 years ago it was a serious and demanding practice, which often meant a lot of sacrifices," said Sean Hoess, co-founder of the Wanderlust Festival. "Now it reflects modern life. People still want to have a good time, but lead healthier and longer lives."
The most recent numbers from Statistics Canada (2005) show that 1.4 million Canadians practice yoga — and you can bet the numbers are much higher today. With businesses like Vancouver's Lululemon raking in an impressive $1 billion worldwide in 2012 it's certainly big business. But it is much more than that as well.
"Yoga is the perfect intersecting point," said Hoess. "There's the health and wellness element assisting with physical conditioning, and then there's the calming and spiritual fulfillment aspect."
With Hoess's Wanderlust Festival bending and stretching it's way to Whistler August 1-4 the new schedule reflects these intersecting elements.
"We started out with yoga, meditation and music but we realized there was a demand for more," he said.
"This year we've incorporated dance, hiking, biking, speakers, writers and, of course, some food and wine."
When people visit places like Whistler they don't want to spend all their time in a downward-facing dog, said Hoess. This realization has lead to some innovative events that are already sold out, such as the "Stride With Nature" hike and the stand up paddleboard yoga sessions on the lake. "Wanderlust meets a demand that was already there," said Hoess. "We are simply tapping into it."
The festival has doubled in size each year from when it began in Squaw Valley, California in 2009. That's no surprise to Melanie Koenderman, dean of students at Squamish's Quest University and a registered yoga instructor.
"Our daily lives are hyper-stimulated — our phones, computers and television are inundating us with information," she said.