A Ride to Telluride: Sinking Into the Bliss of the Yoga Festival

Writing & Illustration by Tony Bacigalupo; Photo by Amy Segreti

IMG_7660

There’s no bad way to get to Telluride, Colorado.

Cradled in the San Juan mountain range of southwestern Colorado, far from the major highways, this pristine town is an ideal place to spend a few days camping and deepening one’s practice.

Once you’re in the nest, you’d have to try hard not to feel captivated by the confluence of images and energies swirling around you. Waterfalls burst forth from the sides of the mountains from impossible heights. Gondolas take you to high ridges that offer explosive sunsets. Daily bouts of heavy but momentary rain remind you that you’re not just in an exquisitely constructed man-made town, but very much embedded in the earth.

Elk roam freely. Chipmunks scurry through every nook and cranny. And at night, the light show begins as soon as the dark rises, featuring a beyond high-definition view of countless stars and constellations.

A crumbling structure at the side of the main road into town acts as a historic sign post—a rare remnant of a time before the high-end condos that dominate the rest of the space were built.

It provided a perfect venue for the Telluride Yoga Festival, which Amy (Twine’s editor-in-chief) and I attended this year. Since the festival is spread across Telluride and Mountain Village, we had the opportunity to visit some of the town’s more interesting and nourishing spaces.

For most of the classes we attended, we visited an arts education space called the Ah-Haa School for the Arts. The simple ground floor studio space was adorned with dozens of pieces of art on every wall. Acoustic panels formed winding shapes on the ceiling. Doors on either side provided windows to the mountains surrounding the town, deepening the feeling that one is in a loving nest.

Our first visit to the Ah Haa School took us to Lovers’ Yoga, a yoga workshop for two partners working together. Instructors Darrin and Daisy Zeer set the tone with a loving, gentle, friendly session that was at once relaxing, fun and challenging. Feet were rubbed with hands, backs were rubbed with feet. Couples fought gravity together, suspending themselves and each other in the air with grace (and anxiety, perhaps, but Darrin and Daisy were quick to help show us that we were strong enough to support our partners).

telluride-illustration-retouched-bw

In another session, host Will Duprey offered an in-depth lecture into the chakras and their associated mantras, which led to expert demonstrations and the opportunity to incorporate sound into a basic vinyasa practice.

Vinyasa isn’t the same for me now, having associated each outward breath with an audible mantra that ties to each of the chakras.

A ride up a free, municipally maintained gondola took us to a DJ-led yogic dance party. We stuck around for the spectacular sunset.

Finally, a Kirtan sonic sound bath provided the perfect closing performance with singing bowls that took us to another world. Lying down, eyes closed, the pulsing sounds vibrated through our brains and hearts, activating spaces that have been laying dormant for years. I had a hard time distinguishing between whether I’d fallen asleep or simply vacated my body for a while.

We attended several other gatherings as well, but with 134 different lectures, workshops, and activities, we couldn’t help but feel like we’d only scratched the surface of what the festival had to offer.

Each day started and ended in the sublime simplicity of our tent, set up in a baseball field about 10 minutes outside of the center of town, where Yoga Festival attendees merged with attendees of The Ride Festival, a music festival happening at the same time. Perpetual jam band music wafting through the air and musically inclined neighbors provided another dimension of character to the experience.

While we ate most of our meals at our impromptu folding chair and cardboard-box-for-a-table dining room outside our tent, we managed to venture into town and find some spectacular dining.

Far and away our favorite experience was on our trip to there…, a Manattan-style hole in the wall where tables are hard to come by and the food is all crafted as if The New York Times Magazine might walk in any minute to do a feature.

We discovered there… by accident, navigating a detour through town and noticing an enormous Jenga set on a small table outside the restaurant and a glowing bustling scene bursting out from within. As we entered we were welcomed with a free bag of freshly popped (non-GMO) popcorn, seasoned with nutritional yeast and amino acids (tamari), the first popcorn we’d seen in a while that actually wasn’t unhealthy.

The popcorn set the stage for what was to come: expertly crafted cocktails, creatively arranged dishes, an extremely fun and slightly wacky decor and professionally friendly and entertaining service.

We enjoyed our Saturday night dinner there (heh) so much that we couldn’t help but return for Sunday brunch, making sure to arrive right when they opened lest we fail to secure a table.

I’ve had the good fortune of witnessing the breathtaking beauty of Switzerland once before, but I’d just as soon skip the trip across the ocean and visit Telluride instead. And what better time to do it than on a weekend when you can immerse yourself in a deep and fulfilling learning and practicing experience through the Yoga Festival?