This year’s Yoga Journal LIVE Conference was again hosted on the busy backdrop of Midtown New York City. I had the unbeatable opportunity to be present in the city, participating in the Work Exchange Program. With a jam-packed schedule that was made even more replete by my own agenda, I left myself barely a moment to breathe. My head was spinning by the end of the week – whirled upside-down through inversions, filled with more names of new friends than I could process, and blinded by the city’s flashing lights. I walked on air away from the conference, utterly exhausted yet energized to blaze trails of yoga teaching with a reignited, fiery passion. Here are my highlights from my week of yoga in the sky-high city.
Tuesday’s Vegan Vibes at Jivamuktea Café
What better way to replenish hours of a bumpy bus ride from Boston than with plant-based nourishment? Jivamuktea Café has been on my radar for years because of its ability to connect our plate to the mat. The restaurant was founded by Sharon Gannon, an accomplished yoga teacher and advocate of ahimsa (non-violence and compassion). The café sits inside of her studio, Jivamukti Yoga, which she co-founded with her partner, David Life. Together, the two have been change-makers in the wellness scene, credited for “making yoga hip”. They are undoubtedly big names in yoga with even bigger hearts and a mean ability to make brilliant faux-cheesy vegan quesadillas, among other treats.
Wednesday Night Blues at Laughing Lotus
After a long first day of stuffing goodie bags to the brim with swag, I unwound with a crazy cool class at a studio recommended by a fellow Anne Patrick, a fellow Boston yoga teacher (check her out if you’re in the city!). In contrast to alignment-based, anatomy-specific teachings that tend to be lauded as “truth” in yoga, Laughing Lotus tosses meticulous details aside and instead makes room for us to flow freely. This studio’s mission is to amplify our practice by highlighting individuality, uplift, and soul. The Wednesday Night Blues class that I stumbled into was no exception to this rule. Our packed-like-sardines class shimmied, shook, and flowed into sunset to the tunes of a live jazz band. We got down in our dogs, sang along to bluesy Beatles beats, and shed a few tears of profound release in savasana.
Thursday Spring Spa Day w/ Larissa Hall Carlson
My first day at the conference kicked off with an all-day intensive day of blissing out in a detoxifying spring spa with Larissa Hall Carlson. Think deep twists, belly breathing, face mask-making, spring seasonal eating tips, essential oil self-massage, and more ayurvedic swag. It was utter indulgence spiced with lots of learning lessons on finding balance in life.
Friday’s Twist, Twist, & Untwist w/ the Yee’s
As if Thursday wasn’t enough detox, more awaited me at Friday’s “Twist, Twist, & Untwist” Workshop with Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee. I had the golden fortune of being assigned not once, but TWICE as check-in girl for the Yee’s during the week. A fellow yogini at the conference described Rodney as “The Richard Simmons of yoga”, and The New York Times named Colleen as "First Lady of Yoga". Despite their social status, the charismatic couple is refreshingly down-to-earth. Their sense of divine chill shone through as Rodney encouraged us to move with the big-band jazz that blared on the floor above our classroom rather than being angry with the noisy interruption (…while a few other yogis grew visibly aggravated with the tunes). Together with electric chemistry, the Yee’s gave cues with precision, making connection through eye contact and assists with nearly all in the filled-to-capacity room.
Other Friday highlights: “Flying High: Inversions” w/ Natasha Rizopoulos, “There is No App for Happiness” Keynote Lecture w/ Max Strom,“Reclaiming the Body: #MeToo and the Yoga of Resilience” Panel Discussion
Saturday’s Mystic Flow w/ Seane Corn + Ian Manuel
I love Seane Corn’s teaching style because she delivers each word with divine meaning and electric energy as big as her brilliant, buoyant curls. Her Mystic Flow class was no exception to her ebullient reputation. In this class, she came equipped with a surprise guest: Ian Manuel, a.k.a. “The Diamond in the Dirt”. Ian recounted with passion his story of being convicted of a crime at the age of 13, being sentenced to life in an adult prison, surviving the injustice of his juvenile sentence, and finally recently being released in his thirties to rebuild his life as a budding poet and creative mind. After surviving the worst of humanity, little in life can touch. His sole terror is being unequipped to find true love after all the years in isolation, expressed to us in his poem, “Am I Romantic Enough”. As Ian read his rhymes, Seane instructed our “body poetry”, and the room flowed with enlivened grace.
Sunday's Yoga in Central Park
After a packed week of making shapes on the mat, my mind was a sponge soaked to the brim with new insight on teaching. The perfect way to unwind was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Central Park. Earlier in the conference, during my work at the registration table, I checked in a man with a strong French accent. Opportunities to flex my French tongue are rare in the states so of course, I replied to him, “Ah, moi je parle français aussi !” This man happened to be Lionel Piovesan, the Président of Yoga Journal France Media, who just happened to need a model for his re-cap article at the event. So as I soaked up the Sunday sun, Lionel snapped shots of me meditating on rocks with the skyline in the bright background (PHOTOS COMING SOON!).
The outcome of it all: 6 filled days of yoga that were unbeatably fulfilling. YJ LIVE was an incredible opportunity to play amidst the vibrant pulse of the city. Life never pauses for us to practice yoga, especially in the busy buzz of NYC. But as YJ LIVE teaches us, we can make space by catching gratitude for each precious moment as it flies by in yellow taxi cabs before our wide eyes.