The Omega Institute's beautiful (but awkwardly named) Long Pond Lake.

Omega's beautiful (but awkwardly named) Long Pond Lake.

Okay, so tomorrow morning I’m getting on a train and taking the long journey from Montréal to Rhinebeck, NY (it’ll be my first time in NY state! and my first train ride in America!) for the 2009 Being Yoga Conference Retreat at the Omega Institute. As I’ve noted before, this will be my first time at a yoga conference as a regular old participant ~ I’ve only previously attended conferences to hawk ascent magazines, and the experience was always a little weird.

This is pretty much the Yoga Establishment here, and most of the teachers are familiar names on the conference circuit: Shiva Rea, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee, Aadil Palkhivala, Seane Corn, Tias Little, Sharon Salzberg, David Swenson, etc. What sets this apart from previous Omega conferences (and the behemoth Yoga Journal conferences) is the location: the 195-acre holistic retreat centre. There’s even a lake! And a sauna!

The official press release for the event states, “By moving the conference, which has been held for several years in large city hotel environments to their rural campus, Omega offers a new approach to large scale gatherings for yoga practitioners and teachers, one that can foster community and provide an inspiring space for learning.”

So these are my intentions for this conference:

  1. Learn some stuff about yoga!
  2. Avoid celebrity teachers and “big” names.
  3. Hang out in the sauna as much as possible.

You can expect live blogging coverage of the whole weekend (though not of the sauna, pervs). But I’m not going to be tweeting about it. And I don’t know how to work a video camera, so there’ll be no multimedia coverage. I will be going into this experience with my notebook and a critical lens. Is this kind of gathering the way of the future? How is this relevant? I’ve noticed a small wave of criticism of “conference culture” within the online yoga community, and I’ve also observed changes in how practitioners gather (such as this year’s Wanderlust Festival and the  Yoga Festival Toronto, both of which are more eclectic or grassroots). So what exactly is it about conferences that garners criticism? I’ll just have to find out!

I’ll be missing the half-day intensives on Friday, but I’ll get to Omega just in time for dinner and the 8pm opening yoga session co-taught by all of the yoga faculty (it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out). While there is a lot more than just yoga going on this weekend (including dance, environmental activism and vegetarian cooking), I’ve signed up for straight-up yoga workshops. Because really, I’m more interested in yoga than anything else.

In an attempt to cover my wide range of yoga interests (scripture, yoga therapy, anatomy, Anusara and activism), here are the people I plan on taking workshops with:

Reverend Jaganath Carrera – kicking it old school with the wise bearded guru from the Integral Yoga tradition, and disciple of Swami Satchidananda.

Kelly McGonigal – my interests are turning towards yoga therapy and pain management, so I’m intrigued by her workshop, “Befriending the Body.” Kelly teaches yoga, meditation, and mind-body psychology at Stanford University and has a deep interest in the mind-body connection and psychology (I guess all yoga teachers do, but seriously check out her long dense bio).

Stephen Weiss – it’s a yoga anatomy workshop! I’m an anatomy nerd, and I’m particularly interested in this guy because he’s a holistic chiropractor. In my experience, I’ve seen a big schism between yogis and chiropractors. However, I’ve also experienced profound healing through chiropractic treatments. So I’m curious to see how this guy, the official Omega chiropractor, bridges these worlds.

Amy Ippiloti – I’ve been immersed in Anusara for the past couple of years, so I’m excited to study with a senior Anusara teacher.

Seane Corn – okay, so I’m breaking my celebrity teacher vow, but I have a lot of respect for this Jersey girl and I’m aligned with her vision of service-oriented yoga. Looking forward to concluding the conference with an upbeat vinyasa class and inspiring talk about saving the world.

Okay, gotta go finish packing. Hopefully next year, I’ll get a chance to attend this awesome yoga conference (courtesy of YogaDawg).