Yoga has become increasingly popular in the Western world as a means of exercise. It has been proven to increase flexibility, strength, stamina and help with a variety of ailments like joint pain and carpal tunnel. But yoga can be more than a physical experience. The practice originated in ancient India as one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy — all said to be ways of looking at the “Truth.” Yoga is spiritual in the traditional Hindu practice, which is what drew in a young Marisa Weppner. “Yoga wasn’t as popular obviously as it is now,” she explains, “so when I heard about it, it was in a really mystical context.”
Weppner reminisced in nostalgic retrospect about her first experience with LSD — the psychedelic drug also known as acid. LSD is said to produce intense spiritual experiences, which is what Weppner experienced at the young age of 15. “I didn’t really know what I was getting into when that happened, so then my spiritual path started coming out of that — trying to make sense of what had just happened.”
Weppner went on to get a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a masters in transpersonal psychology — also called “spiritual psychology,” a “‘school’ of psychology that integrates the spiritual and transcendent aspects of the human experience with the framework of modern psychology,” according to Weppner. She explains that her career path was “kind of all motivated out of that initial experience when I was 15. Trying to understand the self and the nature of reality was my main motivating force. Then when I found yoga, I saw how it was psychological discipline to connect to the mind, body, soul … and how connected it can be through that process.”
Weppner continued her path to the truth she was looking for, which landed her in Costa Rica for yoga instructor training, and eventually teaching at the Mencari Yoga Institute. Since then, Weppner has opened a yoga studio in rural Montana, and later a studio in her current hometown of Boise, Idaho, called Sage Yoga & Wellness. There, she utilizes her degrees in both psychology and transpersonal psychology in her yogic practice — a “real-world mix of Eastern and Western spirituality and psychology” for “self-empowerment and transformation.”
Weppner seems to be a firm believer in letting life take the wheel: “I like to kind of say yes to things as they show up in my life,” she told us, which has resulted in her being able to combine the spiritual experience people feel when listening to music with the enlightenment garnered from practicing traditional yoga. Through her work as a DJ at community radio station Radio Boise, she became friends with the founders of Treefort Music Fest — a large five-day festival in the city of Boise. She pitched the idea of a yoga class during the festival, and they gave her the opportunity to start what is now called Yogafort.
Yogafort is a three-day mini-festival within Treefort Music Fest itself. Weppner and her friend Celeste Bolin — aka The Dance Commander — curate a lineup of yoga and dance classes featuring talented instructors from around the world to teach while live musicians play during the class. The marriage of yoga and music makes for an experience as unique as the small town that puts this festival on. Weppner is now asked to teach at festivals like What The Festival, Wanderlust, Symbiosis, Burning Man, and even Udaya, located in Bulgaria.
Through her spiritual path, Weppner has become a conduit for others to find their own. As a teacher, community organizer, business owner, mother and DJ, she dominates spaces in radio and music that are often overwhelmingly male and shatters the misconception that yoga isn’t physically challenging. Weppner’s journey is a testament to the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit — “polishing my heart and mind through the gateway of attuning to my body,” as she puts it.