I wasn’t sure what to expect from Winnipeg’s Fire and Ice Yoga Festival. And when I arrived at Fort Whyte Alive and saw that everybody else had brought a yoga mat, I instantly regretted leaving mine at my hotel. But after half an hour of yoga on the snow-covered face of a frozen lake, the mats were freezing and had turned into icy slip and slides. It seemed I was better off downward dogging in the snow.

Winnipeg is an underrated city in the middle of Canada. It’s often overshadowed by more glamorous 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.

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 fire and ice yoga festival

Photo: Snowvasana in Winnipeg. (c) Teresa Bergen. FWT Magazine.

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 turtleneck, 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 lower 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

Winnipeg sugar scrubs fire and ice yoga

Photo: Making sugar scrubs at the Fire and Ice Yoga Festival in Winnipeg. (c) Teresa Bergen. FWT Magazine.

In addition to yoga, the festival featured a bonfire for making s’mores, mugs of wild-crafted tea, and a craft room where participants learned to make sugar scrubs. I’d had no idea it was so easy to make this skincare product.

Sugar Scrub Recipe

Here’s the recipe:

1.5 cups sugar

.75 cup grapeseed oil

10 drops essential oil

Stir ingredients in a bowl. Transfer to jar.  See what I mean? Easy enough to make at home.