When I signed up for the Being Yoga Conference at Omega, I knew that I would study and practice with some of the best yoga teachers.
I expected to move my physical body. However, what I didn’t expect was to have my heart moved as well.
It all began with deciding which classes to pick. I wanted to attend every single one, but alas, being in multiple places at the same time is a siddhi, or accomplishment, I have not yet attained. I consoled myself by saying regardless of whichever classes I chose, I would learn and benefit from them.
(Side note: I changed one class once before I left for the weekend and twice when I got there. I have a hard time making decisions and often second-guess myself. First heart opener).
The weekend began on Friday evening with a program called “Yoga Stories.” Teachers such as Carrie Owerko and Reverend Jaganath Carrera shared personal stories of their yoga path. When Darren Rhodes revealed that he suffers from anxiety before teaching yoga, my heart skipped a beat.
I began teaching yoga last fall and often feel very nervous before teaching.
I have never heard a teacher, much less such an experienced one, speak so openly and honestly about his feelings toward teaching. If Darren felt this way, then perhaps it was normal for me to feel those same emotions, the sweaty palms and the rapid heartbeat. Darren spoke of how yoga often brings, right in front of our face, experiences that expose our weakness. I loved this interpretation.
My first class the next morning was with Beryl Bender Birch. It was titled “Detox for Mindy & Body—The Combined Cleansing of Sweat, Breath and Attention.” In this class, I learned that I have not tamed my chitta vritti, my “monkey mind.” Remaining in the present moment is critical to yoga practice or you are just doing exercise, according to Beryl.
Throughout class she reminded us to pay attention, pay attention, pay attention with a great sense of humor. While I have heard this message before, I felt as if I was hearing it for the very first time. I took my first yoga class over a decade ago, yet I felt I was practicing for the very first time.
My next class, “Yoga For A Broken Heart,” was with Seane Corn. I came prepared with tissues. I lost my mom over 11 years ago and at times it feels as if she just passed yesterday. Seane talked about the loss of her father and how his loss brought many blessings in her life. She also spoke about how each loss is layered upon one another and how important it is for us to acknowledge and feel these losses. She held the space while others shared their losses. The asana flow that followed helped all of us move through pain and release some of the sadness through tears and sweat.
Another class, “Stepping Into The Flow of Grace: Backbends and Arm Balances,” was led by Desiree Rumbaugh. With Desiree’s guidance I opened my heart through asana in a way that was much more than I had expected. By the time I got to my fourth class of the day, which was a two hour class no less (most classes were 90 minutes), “The Wild Child of Yoga,” led by Sharon Gannon and David Life, I didn’t think I could manage yet another Sun Salutation.
Sharon and David led a traditional Jivamukti class. It was physically rigorous (David assisted me in an asana that I have never done before in my life), yet spiritually grounding.
At one point, Sharon had us laying on our belly against the floor. She instructed us to breathe like a newborn breathing against their mother’s chest. I had never heard such instructions.
Tears escaped from my eyes. I would give anything to lay against my mother’s chest one last time.
Despite six and a half hours of asana and heart opening practice, I still made it to Saturday night’s event: Mantras Merge with Rock, Funk & World Grooves, featuring Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band. The evening began with movement led by Hemalayaa. She instructed us to open up our hearts by moving our chest forward with outstretched arms. Then we gave ourselves a hug, reminding ourselves that we were safe. I imagined my mom giving me a hug.
When Sean Johnson and The Wild Lotus Band came on for Kirtan, I wasn’t expecting to chant to Kali, the Hindu goddess often associated with death and drastic transformation. Sean told us that Kali represents the feeling of fierce love, like a mother protecting her child. As a mother, I could relate to this feeling. I’m sure my mother felt the same way about me.
The closing event on Sunday continued to bring home the theme of loss and transformation. Desiree Rumbaugh spoke of her divorce and the horrific and never solved murder of her son that left her devastated for years. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room. Sharon Salzburg guided us in a meditation, opening up our hearts and thanking everyone who led us to this weekend.
Singer Ambika Cooper, who is Sharon Salzburg’s assistant, led us in a Kirtan. Instead of chanting Sanskrit, we chanted a lovingkindness meditation:
May we be happy and peaceful.
May we be healthy and strong.
May we be safe and protected.
May we live with ease.
It was a perfect ending to a heart-opening weekend.
Photos courtesy of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Rhinebeck, NY.
Judie Hurtado has been practicing various styles of yoga for over 13 years, but has always been particularly drawn to vinyasa. She is a Yoga Alliance Certified Yoga Teacher and a Certified Kids Yoga Teacher. She is also a Reiki Master Practitioner and a Health and Wellness writer. She can be reached at [email protected]. Judie blogs about her health and spiritual adventures at www.judiesjuice.wordpress.com.
Editor: Brianna Bemel