There are lots of things to do in Winnipeg if you look hard enough. For those who have grown up in this city, complaints about the town – whether it’s the winter, the potholes, the mosquitoes, or the driving – is top of mind. But, for a city in the middle of nowhere, there are many great activities found throughout the city. Fort Whyte Alive, an environmental reserve just on the edge of the city (by that I mean you can see Costco from the grounds), is a place that all Winnipeg school-children know of, but most likely have not returned since the third grade. I had even forgotten that this amazing place existed until just over a year ago, but I have quickly fallen in love, taking everyone I know with me.
Marshlands and environmental reserves always seemed to be tucked away in a dusty old desk drawer of peoples minds – brought to the forefront only when their children brought home the field trip slip of paper to sign – until the green era of living came upon us with full force. In came farmers’ markets, composting, farming, and sustainable living kicking up dust and making everything old new again. And, Fort Whyte is where you can find everything that any form of hippie would love. Cabin yoga, a farmers’ market from their own garden, workshops and classes, Treehouse meditation, canoeing and kayaking, Fort Whyte is becoming a haven for those who are looking for a little outdoors while staying within public transportation limits. Their Fire and Ice Yoga Festival kicked off its inception February 11th, 2017, and was a huge success. With nearly 100 people attending, yogis (both new and professional-grade) climbed down the hill and onto the ice, laying out their mats in the snow to get a little exercise, mindfulness, and fun on one of the frozen lakes.
Thinking about doing anything out of doors during the chilliest months of the year can get a lot of people laughing and snuggling deeper into their blanket burritos. However, once you’ve spent a full month of hibernating you tend to get a little…antsy. A beginner yoga flow class (mixed in with some more advanced poses that all are welcome to try) out on a frozen patch of ice is a great way to get outside without having to make too much of an effort. Snow and yoga don’t seem like they would go well together; pictures of master yogis all around the world are usually taken on beaches, cliffs, in the middle of forests, or on docks floating on clear blue waters. This type of picture at the festival (above) is a little different, but somehow, a little more peaceful. The quiet that comes from being surrounded by nature, coupled with a mild day gives a little something extra to a regular yoga practice. People were bundled up, but you could still feel their excitement to be trying something new and getting out and into the open with a fantastic yoga practice. It was chilly, of course, but Winnipeggers know how to deal with the freeze – after the practice you could warm up around a bonfire, sipping on some piping hot tea and roast marshmallows to make s’mores. For those who felt a little drained, but yet very much alive, after the yoga practice (see: me) hightailing it to the crafting station to make delicious smelling body scrubs was a good alternative.
Putting together a day festival dedicated to yoga – in the dead of winter – was a brilliant idea. It may not have been the yoga festival found in Val d’Isere in France (Fort Whyte may be beautiful, but staring out into the French Alps just can’t be beat) where you can actually be warm in the sunshine while still surrounded by snow, but it was a great day filled with activities and an even better kick-off to what One can hope to be an annual thing. The chilly day didn’t stop anyone from coming out (at least, the turn-out gave us that impression) and although some of us stopped to take a sip of our Tim’s in between poses, no one complained. After you’ve felt your hands and feet go numb, there’s no point in complaining, anyways. The yoga practice was finished by lying back in the snow to do a slightly different form of Savasana; yes, we still lay back, staring up into the wonderfully blue sky, but instead of looking inwards we made snow angels, keeping our body temperature just above freezing before we all raced to warm up beside the fire.