Wellness Yoga

Yoga was a big draw in the Sun Valley Wellness Festival’s Movement Tent.

People came out in droves to attend the Sun Valley Wellness Festival July 10-13, enjoying speakers, workshops, meditation and more.

At times, it was the first weekend this year that has felt like summer. Cotton floated in the air, shimmering in the sunshine. Seasonal tourists populated the town, mountain bikers and dads in baseball caps. Wedding parties swaggered in the streets. A toddler cried as his mom tried to get him to pose for a photo on the big chair outside the Cellar Pub.

Free to the public, the Festival’s Experience Park spread across the Festival Meadows by Our Lady of the Snows Church. The flowers on the trees were plump with life.

There, the Movement Tent hosted “Hip Hop Yoga” and “Dance Church". Vendors offered soul-readings, handcrafted wooden magic wands, essential oils and much more. People got massages out in the open air. At one booth, people sat back with blindfolds and headphones. Festival-goers wandered in and out of tents. Some people just laid off in the grass, soaking up the sun. Preteens played with their phones on fold-out chairs.

Dawne Olsen was there selling authentic crafted seed-to-skin products. In 2018, her company won a hemp product industry award for its Women’s Moon Balm, an antispasmodic for menstrual cramps made only on the full moon. Nearby, Autumn Teneyl was there selling her “mountain-chic” clothing line.

“I think I started athleisure before that was a word, 22 years ago,” Teneyl said.

All her clothing comes from recycled fabrics.

“It made sense to me to try to have a positive impact instead of adding to the biggest polluter in the world,” she said. “It’s pretty easy when there’s so many other people wasting textiles that I can scoop up and make something new and different.”

She hopes her clothing empowers.

“My clothes just lend to people who are seeking and wanting to transform and be better versions of themselves,” Teneyl said.

“One more minute!” Hillary Anderson called out to her workshop. They were in pairs, manifesting their dreams three years into the future.

It’s hard to be a wallflower at the Wellness Festival, some would say impossible. It demands participation. Anderson had dimmed the lights for “Welcome Home: Feng Shui & Tradition.” White shawls were draped over chairs. Anderson had placed props in the room with a purpose. The arrangement was in service of the space’s feng shui—an ancient Chinese traditional practice of harmonizing energies with your surroundings.

“They are reminders that you can create any new life that you want,” Anderson said. “Feng shui is one of the tools to do that.”

Anderson kept steady eye contact, and spoke in a soothing, deliberate voice.

“I am confident each and every one of these people are going to live better lives as a result of this,” she said.

Born in the Wood River Valley, she has been involved in the Wellness Festival for years.

“It’s important to me,” Anderson said. “It’s one of the most important things our area does. It transforms lives. It gives people hope, opportunity, tools, growth and change.”

The alarm on her phone went off.

“Everybody fall silent! Now memorize the feeling! Trade places! Did you guys physically switch?”

During her workshop, Austyn Wells wore a flowing orange dress and medallions. She implored the audience to close their eyes, expand their soul space and envision their fathers.

“Take a deep breath ... and exhale,” she repeated.

Finian Makepeace of Kiss the Ground had the most grounded speaking engagement with his talk, “Regenerative Agriculture.” He discussed the health of our soil—or lack thereof—and its effects on climate chaos.

“We are killing our farmland,” Makepeace said. “We are already too far gone ... We are in a dust bowl era.”

Using science demonstrations to prove his point, he rejected the idea of sustainability and offered solutions for regeneration. The foodies of Ketchum perked up when he talked about how soil affects the taste of produce. Commanding and articulate, he told the crowd how they can get involved. He got choked up discussing how our future generations will survive.

Keynote speaker Rick Doblin discussed the therapeutic benefits of using MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress disorder.

“There’s a fundamental human right to explore their own human consciousness,” Doblin said.

Over his career, he has gotten testimonies from monks and rabbis. Through veteran support, he has gotten bipartisan backing. Through black and white photos, he explained the realities of trying to legalize a drug. Navigating the bureaucracy of the FDA has been a lifelong battle. At one point critics called MDMA use playing “Russian roulette with your brain.” It turned out they based their information on a study that gave primates methamphetamines instead of MDMA.

Now, some publications are claiming that his research is one of the biggest breakthroughs in modern science.

Of course, science means different things to different people.

“Scientists have a tough time meditating,” Astrologer David Pond said at one point during his address, “Astrology for the Year(s) Ahead.”

Pond talked about many things. He talked about interspecies communication on his contemplation porch. He talked about the differences between the head chakra and heart chakra. He presented the Natal Chart of America (from July 4, 1776), talking about how the moon has affected the woes of the country in the past century: the military industrial complex, mass shootings, global warming, financial collapse, Big Pharma, 9/11.

“The moon is in Capricorn, that’s the sign of the patriarchy,” Pond said. “Here’s a totally non-Sagittarius thing to say, it’s going to get darker.”

He presented Vladimir Putin’s natal chart, discussing his “insatiable appetite.” Then he showed the natal chart of Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the charismatic Aquarius. When he pointed out that they have Plutos on each other’s Saturns, there were audible gasps in the theater.

A few astrology jokes landed.

“Any Aries out there willing to admit it?” Pond said.

Once upon a time—earlier last week—I was cynical of crystals and astrology. That was until a good friend said, “If it makes people happy, why would I possibly care?”

We’re all just trying to find our own peace. Everyone has felt lost, misplaced in the world. Whether it’s lotions made from breast milk, Our Lady of the Snows, or a barstool at Lefty’s, we’re all just trying to make it through the week.

Back at the Experience Park, I spoke with Claudia Nanino, board member of the Wellness Festival. As she stood outside her booth for Amarsi: the Healing Power of Crystals, she squinted in the sunlight, black curls blowing in the wind, a Virgin Mary tattoo on her arm.

This year, she led a breath-work class. She got into the craft a few years back.

“It’s a part of a deep healing journey,” Nanino said. At the time, she was saying yes to everything—every modality, every teacher, every book, every podcast, yoga, meditation, therapy, all the things.

“From the first time, [breath-work] was one of the most profound experiences I’ve had,” Nanino said. “It helped tie everything else together and bring it to the body.”

She sources her crystals ethically and environmentally consciously.

“There’s so much you can learn and dive into, but the best thing is to just see what draws your attention—nine times out of 10, it’s exactly what you need,” Nanino said. “There’s a lot of interesting measurable properties, then a lot of it isn’t measurable either. It’s just trusting ... Even if you don’t believe in the energy of crystals, it’s just a visual reminder of something you’re trying to manifest in your life.”

She acknowledged that at times the wellness community can be overwhelming.

“It’s just finding some things you can rely on and use to feel good—self-care, self-love,” Nanino said.

In the corner of the Experience Park, there was a labyrinth painted on concrete. A woman pushed a stroller along the puzzle as a friend filmed on her iPhone. The difference between a labyrinth and a maze is that a labyrinth doesn’t have any dead ends. So, you’ll never take a wrong turn. You just keep circling, searching for the center, taking step after step, breath after breath, and letting yourself exhale. 

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