On January 13-16, hundreds of yogis from around the country journeyed to San Francisco’s Financial District for Yoga Journal’s third annual conference. The event was a coveted chance to practice with some of yoga’s most respected teachers over the course of a single weekend, all under one roof. Ashtanga, Kundalini, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Anusara, Jivamukti, Forrest, therapy, meditation – how to choose? Strengthen the core, or find ease in the hips? Tackle arm balance phobia or break open those backbends? Test the body’s outer limits or slow down and tune into that inner voice? Every participant could conjure up their own recipe and have a transformative experience.
Participants ranged from curious beginners to advanced practitioners to seasoned teachers. But far stronger than the differences in experience was the enthusiastic dedication to yoga. This united everyone in highly focused practice sessions and plenty of casual conversation.
As a first-time participant, I can report that choosing from the menu of masters was close to impossible. Miraculously, I let go of my quest for the perfect schedule and the ultimate experience, and tuned into my body, into myself, and asked what I needed right then. From that perspective, I had not a moment’s hesitation. Sure, it would be a blast to do an intense Vinyasa class or a high-flying arm balance session, but my heart felt a little tight, and I wanted some fresh insights about accessing the abdominals. I was drawn to powerful women, each of whom embody beauty, power and grace in very different ways. Angela Farmer, Ana Forrest, Judith Hanson Lasater, Shiva Rea, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Sharon Gannon and Cyndi Lee all provided incredible insight and inspiration for yoga practice and the even greater practice of living.
Around the convention hotel, many other teachers led asana practice and meditation, demonstrated therapeutics, taught Thai yoga massage and the eight limbs of yoga, demystified Ayurveda and the Bhagavad Gita, and generally lit the closely-packed yogis on fire. Unable to clone myself and attend every session, I eagerly questioned fellow participants about Baron Baptiste’s “Take Root and Fly,” Roger Cole’s twists, David Swenson’s hands-on adjustments, Rodney Yee’s home practice tips and more.
In between classes, there were provocative panel discussions on green yoga, the business of yoga, and living the yamas and niyamas. Dr. Manoj Chalam gave a lively talk about the symbolism of various Hindu deities. Early risers started the day with 4:30am sadhana and/or 7am meditation, and yogis with unlimited stamina came back on Saturday night for the Yoga Trance Dance with Shiva Rea and DJ Dragonfly. There’s no doubt that when the doors closed on Monday evening, everyone was thoroughly exhilarated and exhausted!
Numerous Bay Area teachers taught classes or led practice, including Baxter Bell, Scott Blossom, Jason Crandell, Ann Dyer, Manouso Manos, Maritza, Richard Rosen, Sianna Sherman and Rusty Wells. Southern California sent Shiva Rea, Ana Forest, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Seane Corn, Roger Cole, and many others. It was a feast to be savored.
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