Me, girl geeking it up! I talk with my hands, apparently. (image via Alexandra Dao)

Last week I had the massive pleasure of talking about “The Yoga of Blogging” for the September Montreal Girl Geek Dinner (since I’m a girl and a yoga geek). I was amazed at the number of people who turned out, most of whom weren’t even my friends. About 50 geeky and yogic girls (and a few boys) showed up in the cozy basement of Brutopia for my talk (and I will never cease to be amused by the fact that I talked to a bar full of people about yoga).

The only way that I can describe the talk is that it was like a blog post come to life. It was even structured like a blog post: I talked for about 30 minutes, and my talk was followed by a Q&A period (just like a comments section). I started off by introducing myself and it’s all yoga, baby, my reasons for starting the blog and how I made the transition from editing a yoga magazine to blogging about yoga (which wasn’t too difficult, actually).

As I was preparing for my talk, I realized that blogging is part of my spiritual practice. My asana practice is a process of self-investigation, fueled by a desire to connect with myself and other people. Blogging, for me, has become an extension of this investigation. It’s also become a place to investigate yoga itself, and its permutations in North American culture. I think that I do this because I have a tendency to view most things in life through a cultural lens (I enjoy doing this, btw, it gives me energy and a sense of purpose).

The greatest rewards of this blog are the conversations and the sense of community. Blogging has been a tool for finding and building community. I’ve discovered an online network of people who are writing and thinking about yoga; they’re questioning and debating, exploring and engaging, and the conversations have pushed my concepts of yoga. These people are also fun, witty and entertaining, and they enrich my life.

To illustrate how conversations and community have appeared on this blog, I discussed the Adidas Yoga trilogy and what has affectionately become known as “Toesoxnudegate.” These are both actually pretty entertaining stories, full of passion and drama and intrigue, and they got a few laughs out of the crowd.

I concluded by saying that what matters in my yoga practice isn’t what happens on my mat; what matters is that I am more compassionate, caring and open-hearted in my everyday life. Similarly, as fun as blogging is, it has to benefit my practice in some way, it has to make me feel more connected, whole and engaged. What happens on the blog is amazing and wonderful, but the greatest gifts have taken place outside of the blogosphere: the email and “real world” relationships that I have developed through this vehicle, and the expansion of what I believe yoga can be.

And like a good blog post, the event wound down with a lively question period and discussion. I was impressed and inspired by the questions the crowd asked. I was expecting questions about the process of blogging, and there were a few about monetization and SEO (of which I know nothing other than it’s supposedly important). But people wanted to talk about yoga! They had observations and concerns about the direction of yoga. They were informed and curious, skeptical and hopeful.

After a good 45 minutes of inspired discussion, I started to close things down and said I’d take one more question. A guy (who had actually talked to his friends through most of the presentation) put up his hand and said, “I don’t mean to be provocative, but isn’t this contributing to the commercialization of yoga? Like, aren’t you commercializing yoga by being here tonight and talking about it?” I started to respond, diplomatically  ~ when a woman who I didn’t even know jumped in and pointed out that it was a free event, I was speaking as a volunteer, and that I wasn’t actually selling anything. I just stood back while they exchanged words (well, argued, actually) and then I declared that this is what I love to see happen on my blog: when readers engage, dialogue with each other (not necessarily argue, but debate is good! Even if it is a little heated).

I wanted the attendees to leave with more than just an evening of entertainment, so I also shared some of the secrets of it’s all yoga, baby‘s success. Here are what I hoped to be the takeaways…

The elements of conversation:

  • There’s no formula, but there is a way to find a balance between strategizing and just doing it ~ find that balance, be authentic, have an opinion but be open to others’ views.
  • Good content generates conversation ~ write thoughtful, easy to read posts, something that touches people and speaks your truth.
  • Align with what you’re good at and interested in.
  • You have to love receiving comments – each comment notification is like a Christmas present to me. I also stream recent comments in the sidebar, as a symbolic gesture of appreciation. (Another super secret: I keep this blog open in a browser tab at all times, and look at it adoringly throughout my day. Sometimes I even blow kisses at it.)

Creating community: niche as neighbourhood. One of the basic tenets of blogging is “know your niche” and how you fit in there. I prefer to think of my niche (yoga, duh) as a neighbourhood, and the ways that I encourage community within this space are pretty similar to how I find community in my offline life. They are:

  • Leave your house – read other blogs, follow them obsessively, pay attention to what’s happening in your ‘hood.
  • Talk to your neighbours – comment on other blogs, offer value, email bloggers that you find inspiring, create a blogroll
  • Get involved – respond to interesting posts from other blogs, pick up the conversation on your blog; get on Twitter, create a FB fanpage (obv).
  • Be nice – pretty basic, but express yourself with respect and intelligence; in my case, I work on being critical but not mean. I avoid personal attacks and aggressive acts – I also don’t accept negative or aggressive comments.
  • Express gratitude – thank readers’ for comments, send private emails or tweets if something touches, give away prizes and stuff.