First of all, the conference was just too short.
When I was in junior high, I went to sleep-away camp in New Hampshire during the summers. It always felt a little weird and overwhelming when I first got there, but then by the end—it had gone by too fast and I didn’t want to leave.
Yoga Journal Conference is sleep-away camp for grownup yogis.
What I learned this time around:
1. It’s a good idea to pack more than 10 minutes before you need to leave. Otherwise you will end up with all pants and two shirts. And no underwear. It’s also good to know how to get to the train station. And if you miss the first train, don’t get so deep into conversation with Jenn Cusano that you almost miss the second one.
2. If you go with Waylon to hear Deepak Chopra and Congressman Tim Ryan speak and then head to the afterparty, you had better be pretty outgoing. Way knows everyone everywhere and doesn’t stand still for long at all. (Luckily for me, I will talk to anyone, anywhere, about anything). Also, he will probably try to eat your salad when you aren’t looking.
3. If you decide to go out after that with some friends to a champagne bar with incredibly random music and giant phallic-looking straws, you probably shouldn’t try to edit anything when you get back to your hotel room at 2:45 in the morning. (Not that I would ever do that. Just saying. Hypothetically speaking).
4. Leslie Kaminoff rocks (and he knows it). I chose his class called “The Most Powerful Breath You’ll Ever Take ” because as a bodyworker and science nerd, I liked the idea of taking something in the yoga anatomy realm. This didn’t disappoint. What fascinated me more than the discussion about the physiology of pranayama (some of which was familiar territory; some of which was new), was that he allowed for the spiritual and “non-science” in the midst of the science.
We used a beautiful chant on pranayama, not what one might expect to be paired with anatomy and physiology, yet a perfect fit for science within the yoga world. Despite one particular participant’s desperate attempts to pin Leslie down to one type of breathing that was always correct for everyone at all times, he kept focused on the fact that after that initial powerful breath at birth, there is a wide range of what is “correct” breathing.
5. Ray Crist’s class, on the other hand, was the opposite experience. Here the spiritual made room for science. When I saw the title, “Yoga and Shamanism in the Modern World,” I was half-curious and half-skeptical. As it turns out, that was the perfect blend for this class. What fascinated me most was Crist’s ability to make a topic which could have been esoteric or new agey completely relevant to everyday life.
With more and more fascination with Shamanism within the yoga community, and a large focus on the Mayan culture, it will be interesting to see if American yogis shift from a focus on Indian spirituality towards the South American traditions. Ray shared stories of Peru and experiences with ayahuasca, but he constantly tied the issues of removing blockages and “veils” to modern day first world problems. I could definitely see myself doing continuing education with Ray to add to my massage practice.
7. But while we’re on that topic, I’ve noticed a large anti-popular yoga teacher sentiment lately on elephant and bashing of “American yoga.” Well, I am practicing in America, so I need to work with what I’ve got. It seems just as ridiculous to exclude or dislike a teacher on the basis of popularity as it does to choose a teacher because she is popular. I’m the first one to say that the idea of celebrity is a bit silly. Fame is great when it allows someone to be of benefit to a greater extent. I can’t discuss all “popular” teachers, but I found all of the teachers I practiced with at the conference to be passionate, knowledgable and genuinely caring
8. There are as many ways to practice as there are yogis:
9. Henna is awesome, NYC is the best place to eat gluten free and vegan and having lots of elephant writers and editors running around the city is super fun. And, FYI: Bryant Park has wifi—who knew? (Also FYI: I have zero sense of direction and took a twenty block sojourn to get somewhere that was only four blocks from where I started).
10. Just like with summer camp, good things come to an end sooner than you want. We made the train (after finding yummy vegan Thai food at Grand Central), and headed back to Connecticut, planning and scheming the next yoga slumber party: Wanderlust!