This past Saturday I spent the day at the Southeast Yoga Conference. It was hosted here in Atlanta at the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel. I arrived around 9:30am for a day full of yoga and connecting with fellow teachers.
When you register online ahead of time, you design your own schedule. Even though it was a full weekend conference, I could only go Saturday. There were still plenty of enriching offerings. There were 3 time slots – 10am-12pm, 1:30-3:30pm, and 4-6pm. Each section had about 4 different workshops to choose from.
The first workshop I went to was Every Body Is a Yoga Body with Chelsea Roff. When she was 16, she battled an eating disorder that almost took her life. My book, that I’m slowly writing, is about my personal relationship with my body, my issues, and how yoga has helped me. As I have been doing a lot of research to see how others have approached the topic, I thought this would be a great workshop to attend.
The first few minutes were spent introducing ourselves with a 1 sentence explanation on why we chose to sign up for it. It was refreshing to hear from 15 or so different women that they have all had a complicated relationship with their body at some point or another for a variety of reasons. And ultimately, yoga has helped all of us connect to our bodies in a new, healthy way. Chelsea then told us more about her story and how she used yoga to learn that her body is not separate from herself. Personally, I found this first part of the workshop the most potent. The discussions were interesting and powerful. Chelsea talked about when we pick on our physical body, focusing on its “flaws,” it’s usually a projection of something else going on inside ourselves that we might not like. That could be brought on from stress, or situations that happen to us that are outside of our control.
After the discussion, we went on to practice and ended with a brief meditation. Truthfully, and I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but the practice was just okay. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as enriching as the discussion. The description said we would “come away with simple, yoga-based practices for building emotional resilience, self-compassion, and body confidence.” First off, that’s a big claim. But I did come away with a couple different thoughts and approaches. However, diving into alignment based yoga is what I find more valuable to connect with my physical body.
After lunch and some personal quiet time, I went to Unlocking the Heart with Rocky Heron. Rocky was one of the teachers of my 300-hour training. Seeing and practicing under him again was one of the major reasons I signed up for the conference this year so I knew this was going to be amazing. And sure enough, it was. We worked on Urdhva Dhanurasana, one of my favorite backbends that is a gateway into some of the more advanced postures.
The practice took an anatomical approach as we focused on keeping muscles engaged even as they lengthened. We worked with latissimus dorsi, the deep core stabilizers, glutes, medial hamstrings, and more. I always learn a lot of skills and drills from Rocky’s classes, but this one had an added element of seeing how teaching can be adapted based on the setting. In any class, you never really know what kind of students you will get. I have seen Rocky in teacher training and in an advanced class practice. But from my experience, conferences draw in a much wider audience so it was fascinating to see how he adapted. Even just the difference in limited access to props and working with a carpet floor provided lessons. While I’m not there yet, I would love to teach at a conference one day. Besides the amazing backbends and new ways to use props, I, as always, learned a lot about the art of teaching from Rocky.
My last workshop of the day was about Pravritta Janu Sirsasana with Christina Sell. I have also practiced under Christina before in a workshop setting so I knew her style. She is also heavily alignment based, which I love. In case you don’t know, Pravritta Janu Sirsasana is Revolved Head to Knee pose.
I have not had a lot of trouble with this pose in the past, but Christina broke down each piece. We worked on thoracic extension, using glutes to get more external rotation of the hip and ultimately more stretch on the psoas, length of the side bodies, and then some. Like Rocky, Christina had a lot of prop tricks up her sleeves that I am sure to borrow, practice more, and hopefully start adding to my classes in the coming weeks. When we got to the pose itself, we worked on two variations that you can see in Light on Yoga. In both versions, I was amazed at how different the pose felt. It was hard work, but it didn’t feel as intense as usual even though I went significantly deeper. Aside from all of the techniques along the way, even just a new entry into the pose itself made a big difference.
Overall, my experience at the Southeast Yoga Conference was great. It was wonderful to see Rocky again, and have a few chats with other local teachers, including Gina Minyard, a major mentor of mine. Aside from my training over the past year, I don’t often get to take an entire day to practice yoga for myself. But as always, it was exactly what I needed. I learned to try new teachers, experience new approaches, but that it’s okay to come back to what you already know and love. There will always be more there to dive into. And the list of things you can do with a strap just keeps getting longer and longer.
Have you been to a yoga conference before?