When I was in junior high, I used to go to sleep-away camp in New Hampshire in the summers.
The first time, I was so nervous! I knew a few people going, but didn’t really know what to expect. Would I like it? What should I bring? What would we do all day? Going to Yoga Journal Conference for the first time last year felt a little bit like that.
So, this time around, I thought I’d get into a few tips for those who have never been.
1. There is something for everyone.
Like with camps—or even colleges—the larger yoga conferences and festivals usually have something for everyone. If you were to go to a more specialized festival, like Bhakti Fest, and were only looking to enhance your asana practice, it probably wouldn’t be a good fit. But at Yoga Journal, there are such a wide variety of classes that whether you are looking to deepen your meditation practice, improve your handstands or learn about shamanism, you will find something that’s right up your alley.
2. Pay attention to the class descriptions and recommendations when you make your choices.
If you are a beginner, don’t take an advanced class. This might sound obvious, but truly, the descriptions are there to help you enjoy the conference. If you know you aren’t a morning person, don’t take a class marked “mostly advanced asana” at 8 a.m. on Saturday. All of the class selections have a detailed description and list of recommended items to bring. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Be prepared.
There is a marketplace at the conference, but it’s worth bringing at least these basics:
>>A yoga mat. I would think this kind of goes without saying. Even if you would like to buy a new mat while at the conference, it’s probably best to bring one you are used to using.
>>Yoga props that you use frequently. Again, there will be blocks, straps and bolsters galore available for purchase, but if you know you use a block most of the time, it’s worth bringing your own. Also, as you choose your classes, you may notice that specific props are mentioned as either recommended or provided and you can making your packing plans accordingly.
>>Water bottle. There are plenty of places to re-fill throughout the conference. Skip the plastic throw away stuff and bring something you can re-use.
>>Yoga clothes and slip-on shoes. This doesn’t have to be a fashion show. There will be people decked out in head to toe Lululemon; there will be people in 10-year-old t-shirts and yoga pants from Target. If you plan to take classes that focus on asana, bringing appropriate clothes is important.
4. Plan your food and lodging.
Since neither are included in the cost of this conference, it’s something you want to plan out ahead of time. The New York Hilton, while expensive, offers a slight break in price for conference goers if booked ahead. The benefit of being on-site might be worth it to you if you want to participate in early morning classes or late night activities like Friday’s dance party. If you have friends in the city that are reasonably close, that’s a great way to cut down your costs, as is booking an AirBnB.
There are often food related vendors in the Yoga Journal Marketplace, but on-site dining is fairly limited. Luckily, you are in New York City! Anything you could possibly want is a short walk or subway ride away.
On a related note, one complaint many people have about yoga festivals is that they are too expensive. While a full ticket for the whole conference is certainly costly, there are also day passes, passes for a few classes and opportunities for volunteering and scholarships. (There are a lot of events at this particular conference that are free and open to all as well.)
Also, depending on the conference, if you write for elephant journal, it is sometimes possible to obtain a press pass to different events. If covering yoga, green or otherwise mindful events, email Write@elephantjournal.com a few months ahead of time to inquire about the possibility of a press pass.
5. Make your plans, but be open to the unexpected.
This year, I am excited about a variety of classes. For strengthening my Ashtanga practice, I’m looking forward to David Swenson’s All Aboard the Ashtanga Train. For my insatiably curious scientific mind, I’m excited about Bo Forbes’ Neuroscience and Yoga. For pure playfulness and enjoyment, I’m taking Jason Nemer’s Acroyoga FUNdamentals. Beryl Bender Birch’s Saturday afternoon yoga nidra class will be a welcome rest and restoration.
I also chose a few that piqued my curiosity but were unfamiliar…it’s good to be open to the unexpected. Even in the classes or with the teachers that seem familiar, who knows where you will be on any given day? You might experience some newfound insights in a class that is mostly focused on asana. You might strike up an interesting conversation and make a new friend in the class that you knew nothing about.
And one last half note: New York in April!
While the first weekend in April is too early for the cherry blossoms in Central Park, early spring in New York City is lovely. It’s warm enough to get out and explore, so definitely take advantage of the downtime in the conference and go out wandering.
And if you are feeling adventurous Saturday afternoon, check out National Pillow Fight Day!