The yogis race around in slung back crocs, their new manduka mats slung across their shoulders as they race into class. Here, in air-conditioned conference rooms with indelicately laid out tape (in crowded spaces, everyone gets their own yoga parking space), the giants of yoga meet with their adoring masses and share their wisdom. These yogic rockstars – Shiva Rea, Dharma Mittra, Seane Corne, Ana Forrest, to name a few – become more accessible in the bland, generic conference rooms. In Yoga Journal or on their dvd’s they are impossibly graceful, superhumanly peaceful, and (surely) enlightened. But there’s something about a dirty Sheraton carpet that puts everything in its humble place.
For those of us outside of major yoga centers (read LA, New York City…), these conferences are a rare opportunity to meet a “teacher’s teacher.” In the medical world, students are taught to “watch it, do it, teach it.” In the yoga world, it’s really not so different. The tools the experts are teaching today will be turned around and taught to our students next week. Although the deeper message of yoga stays steady (awareness, love), the trendiness of asana is ceaselessly adapting. Last year’s asana trend may be now shunned as dangerous or unsafe. Conferences provide a needed source of communicating and relaying new information.
But most importantly, these conferences – as improbable as it feels in a chain hotel in a downtown city – are a source of renewal. The struggling studio owner in Florida (whose husband may not “get it”) is awash with support and affirmation. We struggle and sweat on our mat through Shiva Rea’s 108 mandalas, and love every minute. We bask in the glow of moaning, “I’m sooooo soooooore,” after a marathon eight-hour day of practice. And it’s not just the teachers that are inspiring us, though their inspiration will stay with us too; it’s the unbearably joyous feeling of belonging. Of having a community. Of being part of the huge transformation.
So we pound our bodies through four days of asana and empty our wallets into Yoga Journal’s coffers. We go home sore, exhausted, and delighted by our next step.