Full of life

"Beautiful" participants at Texas Yoga Conference leave with lots of peaceful easy feelings

"Beautiful" participants at Texas Yoga Conference leave with lots of peaceful easy feelings

News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012
Yogis heat it up with a twisting lunge at the Texas Yoga Conference.
 
Courtesy of Soulshine Photography
News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012
YogaOne co-owner and Texas Yoga Conference co-founder Roger Rippy leads yogis in a soothing "om" chant. Courtesy of Soulshine Photography
News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012
In the lobby after class, yogis sore to new heights using partner poses. Courtesy of Soulshine Photography
News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012
A Yoga Conference participant sinks deeper into pigeon pose. Courtesy of Soulshine Photography
News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012
Sean Johnson kicks off the Texas Yoga Conference by wowing audiences on Friday night. Courtesy of Soulshine Photography
News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012
News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012
News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012
News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012
News_Sarah Beth Seifert_Texas Yoga Conference_February 2012

A low and steady croon hovered over the packed gym, the collective humming of students at last weekend’s Texas Yoga Conference. Les Leventhal, one of San Francisco’s most sought after teachers, guided me and the other 100 or so participants in his Saturday mid-morning class through a 10-minute “buzzing” meditation on a body area of choice where we experience pain (I chose my lower back).

Our mats neatly arranged in tight rows, gym bags, rain boots and flip flops shoved to the walls, Leventhal wove among us as we sunk into our spaces and fixed our minds on the exercise. Having just finished a two-hour 8 a.m. vinyasa class, every area of my body spent and sore, this meditative introduction was for me a renewing moment—one of many shared over the weekend with my fellow 800 yogis attending the conference.

 The third annual Texas Yoga Conference, held at University of Houston’s Recreation and Wellness Center, served up the perfect blend of yoga classes, lectures and musical festivities. 

 The third annual Texas Yoga Conference, held at University of Houston’s Recreation and Wellness Center, served up the perfect blend of yoga classes, lectures and musical festivities.

A “Bhakti Bash” kicked off the weekend on Friday night. According to conference co-founder Jennifer Buergermeister, the music of David Newman and Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus Band “spoke to our hearts and souls,” and Tyagaraja Welch’s opening drum set stupefied the audience. 

Despite the late and spirited Friday night, a swell of eager students and energetic volunteers clad in bright red shirts were up bright and early at 7:45 on Saturday morning. Around 20 percent of the participants came from outside of Houston. By noontime Saturday, the entire Rec Center lobby was teeming with students, presenters and vendors promoting yoga related businesses and offering everything from feathered crafts to herb-infused coffee to “Namaste”-stamped doormats.

“The energy in here is really great,” said one volunteer, “very healing.” Buergermeister agreed, “This is by far my favorite venue. I love how open the space is.” The conference outgrew its previous venues, Unity Church and the University of St. Thomas.

Keynote speaker Michelle Hébert, author of The Tenth Door, a spiritual memoir that explores the history of yoga, spoke to the conference Saturday afternoon. In Hébert’s talk, entitled “Journeying through the Jungles of Enlightenment,” she introduced tools to help us stay centered and wade through mental and external obstacles (“jungles”).

Every presenter I spoke with praised the conference. “Absolutely incredible,” said Moses Love, who travels the country in an old Florida prison bus powered by vegetable oil and teaches a variety of yoga styles, including meditation, acro yoga, Kundalini and Kirtan. “The conference has been very present to the intention of bringing together the community. This is a great space for us to connect, learn and share.”

Eric Shaw, whose Sunday class called Prasana Yoga: Alignment in Vinyasa focused on what happens “between the stops” in vinyasa yoga,  had a blast too. “There’s all kinds of trouble to get into here,” he confessed to me.

On Sunday, I wound down my conference experience with Nashville studio owner Gillian St. Clair’s class, Steadfast and True Vinyasa Yoga. Over a break I wandered around and found students dancing freestyle in the simultaneously scheduled Soul Flow class, and others sweating, stretching, twisting and laughing upstairs in Dana Flynn’s Gospel Flow session. 

I arrived in time to hear Flynn ask her yogis toward the end of class, “Do you know how beautiful you are?”  As I walked out of the Rec Center on Sunday, I smiled and thought to myself, That’s what the organizers of this conference want us to consider – that we’re beautiful individually, and when we share our yoga practice as a community, we become even more full of life.