Health July 2, 2019

Define Your Own Well-Being

The 2019 Sun Valley Wellness Festival and Conference

The Wood River community is no stranger to some of the core tenants of wellness: getting outside on a regular basis, exercising, eating well, and living a balanced life. In fact, living in an area surrounded by mountains implicitly connects us to nature in a way that living in an urban city does not. But what about the many other areas of wellness? Enter The Sun Valley Wellness Festival and Conference (SVWFC).

Sasha Heinz

The SVWFC is a local event that takes place each summer, this year from June 28 through July 1. The event offers an immersive and educational experience to those who want to explore their relationship with mind, body, spirit, and environmental wellbeing in new and innovative ways.

When considering the possibility of attending a wellness event, it brings to mind the question of wellness itself. Who defines what it looks like, and why? Is it eating a vegan diet or a keto diet? Is it doing high-intensity workouts every morning at 5 a.m., or mediating every morning at 5 a.m.? Is it sleeping in, or watching the sunrise?

“I believe if 100 people were asked for the definition of wellness 100 different answers would be received,” said SVWFC President and local gallery owner Andria Friesen. “While personal wellness routines and priorities matter greatly—so does exposing oneself to new information and methods, new science, and new ideas.”

Sean Sherman

It can often be easy to continue doing what you have done for years as a wellness practice, without stretching beyond your comfort zone. The act of exposing oneself to new paradigms and modalities is where events such as the SVWFC become helpful.

Bringing world-class thought leaders to share these new ways of thinking to Sun Valley has been the SVWFC’s calling card for 22 years. Previously, speakers have included Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Gilbert, Rich Roll, Michael Bernard Beckwith, Arianna Huffington, and Diana Nyad, just to name a few.

“The audience will leave with a new awareness of purpose, opportunity, and optimism to be a force of change,” said one of this year’s speakers, Dr. Zach Bush. Bush is a triple board-certified physician focused on applying the rigor of science, the strength of humanity, and the intelligence of nature to transform the world. He has recently been working to educate the public and the agricultural community on the impact that popular farming processes are having on the human microbiome and the connection to many common illnesses.

Speaking of the gut, New York Times best-selling author Dr. Steven Gundry will also lead a talk about the roles that lectins, polyphenols, and bacteria play in the human diet. His philosophy is a radical break from the traditional dietary “wisdom,” which has failed so many Americans over the past few decades.

Dr. Zach Bush


Dr. Joe Dispenza

Dr. Joe Dispenza, an expert on the brain, mind and human potential and best-selling author of “Becoming Supernatural: How Common People are Doing the Uncommon,” will discuss how people can rewire their brains and recondition their bodies to make lasting changes.

Also regarding nutrition, Sean Sherman, an Oglala Sioux, founder of catering company The Sioux Chef, and James Beard medal winner, who has become internationally renowned in the culinary movement of indigenous foods, will discuss the health benefits of an indigenous diet and his work to educate and make these foods more accessible to the public.

The full list of speakers can be found on the SVWFC website (, however, other speakers and workshop presenters include Dr. Jason West, Integrative Medical Physician; Dr. Suzanne Anderson, psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author; Dr. Sasha Heinz, developmental psychologist, and behavioral change expert; Barbara Coombs Lee, President of Compassion & Choices, author, and activist; David Pond, astrologer, author, and speaker; Dr. Judson Wall, a biological dentist; and Dana Stovern, a Somatic money coach.

This year, the SVWFC will move its hub for daytime events to the beautiful Sun Valley Community School.

Roshi Joan Halifax

But in addition to the thought-provoking lineup of speakers, the event features interactive spaces at the Experience Hall and Movement Studio. The Movement Studio, for instance, offers a variety of ongoing movement, meditation and yoga classes.

In the Experience Hall, attendees can shop for the latest in innovative wellness products, and sample services, including massage, reflexology, and intuitive readings. New this year, the Experience Hall will also feature an Insight Stage offering short, free presentations on a variety of wellness topics throughout the day. The Experience Hall is free and open to the public all weekend. There will also be live music and a film screening of “The Last Dalai Lama” with the filmmaker Mickey Lemie. After the day events are over at the Sun Valley Community School, nighttime events will move to the new Argyros Performing Arts Center on Main Street in Ketchum.

Overall, the event can expose attendees to new ways of thinking and expand their relationship to personal wellbeing across the board. Who knows, you may even walk away with a new comfort zone to step through next year.

This article appears in the Summer 2019 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.