How to maximize your Zen

Courtesy of Ali Kaukas

Tina James is a paramedic for the Whistler Mountain Ski Patrol, owner of Loka Yoga in Whistler, British Columbia, and a former conditioning coach for the Under-21 Manchester United football team. She also works with current and former professional skiers and snowboarders to help them increase career longevity, prevent injuries and recover from surgery, and is a featured teacher at the second annual Wanderlust Whistler yoga and music festival, August 1-4 in Whistler Village.

Like its sister festivals in Stratton Mountain, Vermont, Copper Mountain, Colo., and Squaw Valley, Calif., the festival attracts yogis, as well as music and nature enthusiasts from around North America. It offers four days of yoga classes, concerts, lectures, nature hikes, stand-up paddleboarding, mountain biking and guided river-rafting trips.

Yoga retreats and festivals like Wanderlust are becoming more popular with women who enjoy spending their downtime in downward dog and traveling with a group of likeminded friends. But before you sign up for a multiday festival like Wanderlust, James has a few tips for maximizing your Zen.

Don't let the price tag guide your practice

"People sign up for way too many classes because they want to justify spending a lot of money. But they have to think about their level. If you are new to yoga, find people who are teaching alignment, or holding basic, beginner-style classes. And don't sign up for more than two asana [movement or 'position'] classes a day. New students should sign up for an asana, a lecture and music session."

Push yourself

"Vinyasa classes are quite fast and are perfect for athletes who want to build stamina and put their minds in a good space. Vinyasa is really for those athletes who are practiced in yoga and fit."

Know your limits

"But even if you're a practiced yogi, don't go for an overload of classes. You can take two fairly advanced classes -- I suggest one in the morning and one at night -- but I wouldn't recommend people going for three or four classes a day. If you pull or overwork your muscles, you won't enjoy the rest of the festival."

Enjoy the moment

"One of the things I've seen with festivals is that people go away completely burnt out on yoga and they don't enjoy the experience because they're rushing from class to class. Take the time to appreciate where you are and talk to your teachers before and after class."

Quiet your mind

"Everyone should do at least one meditation class. It's so good for the mind. It's not always the class we want to sign up for, but it's the class we all need the most. What better way to get into the habit of meditating than to do it for four days surrounded by a group of inspiring people?"

Honor your injuries

"You can still participate in a yoga festival if you have a current injury, but I recommend taking beginner classes, and always inform the teacher about your injury. If you try to push yourself, you will only injure yourself more. Use this downtime to attend lectures, which allow you to ask the kinds of questions you can't ask at a busy yoga studio."

Pick the right pack

"Think about the friends you will be traveling to the festival with. If you are more advanced, be compassionate and think about your newer friends. A more advanced practitioner can go to a lovely beginner alignment class and get a lot out of it. But don't force new yogis to take a class that is too severe. Groups of women have to be compassionate and look after one another."