Winnipeg’s First Fire and Ice Yoga Festival

When I arrived at Fort Whyte Alive and saw that everybody else had a yoga mat, I worried I should have brought mine. But after half an hour of yoga on the snow-covered face of a frozen lake, the mats were freezing and turned into icy slip and slides. It turned out I was better off downward dogging in the snow.

Fire and Ice Yoga Festival in Winnipeg

Fire and Ice Yoga Festival in Winnipeg. Photo by Travel Manitoba.

Winnipeg is an underrated city in the middle of Canada. It’s often overshadowed by more glamourous cities like Vancouver and Montreal. But on my recent trip in wintry February, I found many intriguing things going on. Such as 110 people doing yoga together on a frozen lake.

Fire and Ice Yoga Winnipeg

Doing yoga on a cold, unstable surface

This was the first year of what I hope becomes an annual event, the Fire and Ice Yoga Festival. The event included a one-hour class led by a Lululemon ambassador, pop-up market with local vendors, wildcrafted herbal tea, a fire pit with s’more fixings and a crafting station where people could make peppermint, lemongrass or lavender sugar scrubs. The venue is a nature preserve that offers outdoor activities year-round.

Snow Yoga

Winnipeg yoga snow

Helping each other out for balance. Photo by Travel Manitoba.

So, how does snow change your yoga practice? First of all, you have to dress for it. While it was unseasonably warm for Winnipeg, at 21 degrees, in Portland we don’t call that bikini weather. So I wore a turtle neck, a base layer, a zip-up fleece, running tights under ski pants, the most giant snow boots I’ve ever seen, a parka that weighed about ten pounds, mittens as big as potholders with hand warmers inside, a scarf and a hat, which fell off every time I did a standing forward bend. Wearing all those clothes changed my practice a lot. Jumping forward from down dog to utanasana? Not happening. Boat pose? The boots were so heavy they threatened to rupture a disk in my low back. Crow? Snow pants slid right off the parka. It was a practice that reminded me that bodies don’t always do what you want them to, but that’s not an excuse for skipping yoga or movement or life in general. Being outside in the snow with 109 other people, trying to contort our bodies while in winter gear was funny. So was my urge to ask the teacher to turn up her microphone, once I realized my parka hood was making me deaf. And lying right on the snow for savasana, making snow angels, was heavenly.

Sugar Scrubs

Fire and Ice Yoga Winnipeg sugar scrubs

Making sugar scrubs after yoga

The yoga festival also taught me to make sugar scrubs, and to realize how simple and inexpensive the ingredients are. I might start making my own at home. Here’s the recipe:

1.5 cups sugar

.75 cup grapeseed oil

10 drops essential oil

Stir ingredients in a bowl. Transfer to jar.  Super easy. See what I mean?

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