I'm a firm believer in pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone. While it's often difficult, scary and at times anxiety-inducing, it's also incredibly rewarding to check something off your list that you never imagined the former version of yourself doing. For me, this was teaching at my very-first yoga festival, Yoga on the Mountain in Snowmass, CO.
I applied to teach at the festival on a whim, thanks to the encouragement of a long-lost friend who happened to be involved with this new festival making it's way to Colorado. While it felt like a long shot (considering I am not a full-time traveling yoga teacher and have really only been teaching consistently this last year and half), but I knew that this was one of those moments that did I not apply, might not present itself again. And to my extreme surprise, approx. a month after applying I was asked by the wonderful team at YOTM to teach two classes during their second-annual fest held at stunning Snowmass Mountain, just outside of Aspen.
The weekend finally arrived, and while I had been anxiety-ridden the week prior, once we were up in the fresh mountain air, I immediately felt more relaxed and more open (the mountains really have a way of doing that, no matter the circumstance). The festival's motto is "Elevate Yourself," and considering it takes place all across Snowmass Village which sits 8,209 ft in the air, those words stay with you throughout the entire festival experience. With classes and activities happening at the top and base of the gondola, and everywhere in-between, you're constantly being greeted with stunning mountain vistas no matter what festival activity you choose. There are jewelry and clothing vendors, group hikes, meditation meetings and more, and everywhere you go you are greeted by yogis, travelers and nature-enthusiasts soaking up the experience to it's fullest.
I taught my first class on Friday afternoon in a picturesque, quaint grassy area with views of the mountain range in front and a small trickling creek behind. The space held about 15-20 people comfortably, and my intimate group of students hustled & flowed with me to the likes of a musical playlist featuring Cardi, OutKast, The Fugees and Drake (I had to offer the opportunity to Shiggy it up at a Yoga Fest, as I was pretty sure that would be social-media worthy). The rest of the day was spent soaking up all the yumminess of a yin practice lead by Diana Vitantonio, beers in Snowmass Village surrounded by family and pups, and a reunion with an old college friend turned Carbondale resident that has now become somewhat of a yearly tradition.
Saturday had then arrived, and the day absolutely flew by. More yoga, coffee, gondola rides and an attempted group hike that turned into an indoor yoga nidra practice due to lightning, and before I knew it, I was just a few hours out from teaching my final class of the fest, Vino & Vinyasa. It was originally scheduled to be held in the same space as my class the day before, then 2 1/2 hours before class began I was informed by festival staff that my class was being moved to the main stage, because 60 people had signed up! That would mean teaching on a platform, wearing a mic, the whole shebang. Let me be clear, I’ve never taught to that many people in that kind of an environment in my years as a teacher thus far, so nerves were in high gear. Thankfully, I was scheduled to take Gina Caputo's incredible Hips & the Blues class featuring Sound Off Colorado headphones on the main stage prior to my class, which was EXACTLY what I needed to calm my nerves. Nothing like some juicy hip openers and Stevie Ray Vaughan in your ears to make everything feel right (not to mention Gina's incredible teaching style featuring stellar alignment cues and her signature sense of humor).
Then low and behold, as I had wrapped my brain around the sudden change and began to set up on stage, a storm with gale force winds rolled through with a fury. Cue everyone - students, festival staff, my family - grabbing everything they could and running into the abandoned lift ticket building where we impromptu decided to re-locate the class for a 3rd time. Given the slight chaos and intense mountain storm that suddenly appeared, it’s needless to say that not all 60 students made it to class, but at that point it didn’t matter. It was in those moments that I was reminded that the true practice of yoga is about being flexible, not just on your mat but in all aspects of life. Life doesn’t always go as planned, and you can either resist and get frustrated and simmer in disappointment, or you can learn to approach each moment with ease and gratitude, which is a hell of a lot easier and way more enjoyable. I left the class feel inspired, grateful and reminded that yoga isn't about epic scenery and large crowds. It's about our relationships to ourselves, our community and our breath...which can happen anywhere, at any time. We ended the night with some much deserved margaritas and a dip in the most splendid hot tub I've ever encountered.
Our final day began just past sunrise at Maroon Bells, the literal most photographed place in Colorado. Nothing like massive mountains and some of the most stunning natural landscape known to man the remind you that you're just one tiny piece of a huge, ever evolving story, and your stressors and anxiety are pretty minuscule in comparison. And after a few more hours soaking up as much magic on the mountain we could, we left feeling like the weekend had flown by in a matter of minutes.
And here I am, a full week later, still reveling in the risk I took, that one year ago I would have never even thought possible. Because life really is just made up of moments, and if you don't set yourself up to step outside your comfort zone and create moments that stand out from the norm, you're not experiencing the possibility that exists around every corner. And that, to me, is the true definition of elevating yourself. I can't wait to see what adventures and surprises next year's festival brings.