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Yoga Journal Conference Recap

Posted Jan 21 2011 12:07am

Last time I presented my strong desire to make yoga as my career. Something happened between then and now such that I am now 110% confident that that is the correct path for me: The Yoga Journal Conference, San Francisco 2011.

My oh my, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a place with so many yogis and yoginis congregrated at one place! The atmosphere was exciting, buzzing with devoted practitioners. I felt so at home with all these people around me, those who truly understand and appreciate the beauty behind yoga, and those who have the same passion towards it as I do.

I arrived at San Francisco International Airport at 2pm Friday afternoon, jet-lagged and all. But I immediate had a workshop with David Romanelli called Yoga + Chocolate. Yup you heard that right. While immersing ourselves in a gentle vinyasa sequence, Dave reminded us to slow down and savor every moment in life. Our society today is too full of brushing our teeth in the mornings while checking our emails, mindlessly munching down lunch at our desks, talking on the phone while attending to the baby, etc, that we don’t enjoy our day-to-day life anymore. After savasana, we each got our own plate of chocolates, you know, some sweetness to complete that blissful savasana.

Clockwise from top center: Dark chocolate truffle with balsamic vinegar, milk chocolate truffle with buttermilk banana pudding filling, deep milk chocolate square with hickory-smoked almonds, dark chocolate with wasabi/ginger/black sesame seeds, dark chocolate with cacao nibs, dark chocolate with chile

Pure bliss.

I went home that night with my chocolate tooth fixed and satisfied. The next morning I attended David Swenson’s Ashtanga’s Greatest Hits. It was a class full of fun asanas derived from Ashtanga’s primary, secondary, and the advanced series! Swenson is one of the first American to learn Ashtanga with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois (founder of Ashtanga); he has great humor and a down-to-earth personality. It’s hard not to like him. His tips on how to approach harder poses (i.e., putting your feet behind your head) are the most useful. From this workshop I almost actually got to put one foot behind my head! I had the flexibility all along, I just need to brush it up before it’ll be a piece of cake for me to put both feet behind my head.

David Swenson


Cyndi Lee , founder of Om Yoga , and the teacher of my third workshop that weekend, took us into a meditation journey in Shamatha: Calm Abiding. I have never really taking any courses on meditation and was curious about any tips/tricks to quiet my energizing-bunny mind. Shamatha is a type of Buddhist meditation, and teaches you to focus your attention on your breath either against your abdominal walls, your chest, or through your nostrils. We were told to just let our thoughts be thoughts, don’t think too much about them. Whenever we catch ourselves straying away with a though, bring our awareness back to our breaths.


Morning horizon @ SF

My Saturday came to a close with Seane Corn’s Detox Flow. It is simply a fun class filled with twists and turns, as well as compressions and expansions of the body to, as the title of the workshop says, detox our bodies. Seane’s sequence definitely challenged my body, as I was sweating and feeling my muscles shaking with each balance poses and twists. I happily welcomed savasana at the end of that workshop–a savasana very much needed after a day of yoga.


Detox flow, before class

Sunday morning, bright and early at 8am, I embraced my day with Richard Freeman ‘s Basic of Pranayama. Like David Swenson, Freeman is another great master of Ashtanga yoga. He is very calm, yet witty in his own unique way. Pranayama is basically the practice of controling your “prana,” or life force, through the breath. The integration of breath into our awareness and our control is important in the health of our physical body, our immune system, as well as our mental state.


Morning downtown skyline of SF


Having sat almost stationary for two hours, I welcomed the change as I headed towards Patricia Walden ‘s Backbends: The Experience of Radiant Space. Here, she stepped us through preparatory steps to go into Urdhva Dhanurasana, or more commonly known as the wheel pose. Postures include alot of those that lift the rib cage and extend our entire back. As she stated, “Backbends are back stretches, and not compressions.” Towards the end of the workshop, we practiced standing up from and dropping back into wheel pose. Although I could already do that, it felt different and more relaxed when I actually took my awareness to expanding my back.

Lastly, and perhaps one of my favorite workshops I had attended during the conference was Gary Kraftsow’s Observation, Assessment, and Prescription for Structural Aspects of Yoga. Gary Kraftsow is the founder of the American Viniyoga Institute, which according to the website: “uses the term Viniyoga ™ to refer to an approach to Yoga that adapts the various means and methods of practice to the unique condition, needs and interests of each individual – giving each practitioner the tools to individualize and actualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation.” Simply put, it is a type of yoga therapy in which the therapist derives variations of a yoga posture to suit the needs and unique body structure of his patient. Gary’s concept is that not everyone should be able to perform textbook-copied yoga poses since everyone has different body alignments. In fact, some might even injure themselves if they attempt to copy poses exactly from yoga textbooks. Gary first gave us a crash course on the basic human anatomy, then we moved into some movement workshops, targeting the lower back. We did a variation of cakravasana that stretched our lower backs. Not until then did I realize how tense my lower back was from the Backbends workshop. I guess I was still compressing my back a little, after all.

Other than workshops, the conference was full of yoga vendors, of course featuring the ever-famous Lululemon, Zohba, Lucy, Manduka, and Gaiam brands clothings and yoga accessories, as well as many others. Luna and Larabars were also present, passing out free samples of their newest products. I had already lost count how many of those I had between classes.

Besides vendors, the “Yoga Marketplace” also featured a number of organizations that offer yoga retreats, trainings, workshops, classes, etc. Did you know that you can get a Master’s degree in Ayurveda and Yoga Philosophy? Something worth considering for me…:-D.

What I took away from this conference are not only the workshops I attended, but it also opened my eyes to the bigger world of yoga. All these years, I have been restricted to merely my own practice and occasionally some yoga philosophy. Little did I know, there’s a whole other world of yoga schools and business opportunities. As of now, I am highly considering getting trained at the Viniyoga institute to be certified as a yoga therapist. It will make me a better yoga teacher, knowing how to identify my students’ body types to prevent them from getting injured and help them strengthen their weaker areas.

And of course, who can be in San Francisco and not do some touristy things?

Beautiful SF downtown--fogless!



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