I had the privilege and pleasure of attending this years Yoga Service Conference (YSC) at Omega in Rhinebeck May 13-15. This was my first chance to attend since I’ve taken the past few years off traveling to be home with my young children. It wasn’t a smooth journey getting there. For starters, after leaving home before daybreak and before our children woke, I had that first-time-leaving-the-kids guilt/hole in the heart feeling. On my early morning drive to LAX I had the fleeting thought that missing my flight wouldn’t be so bad. I missed my flight, as did most everyone else that morning due to some mystery TSA glitch, but was able to hop on the next one. Upon arrival in New York, none of our flights bags arrived with us. I was told mine may or may not make it to rural Rhinebeck before my Sunday return. Being in the yoga service mindset allowed me to see it all as part of the living practice and work with it, much like we work with our minds in meditation. The yoga service path is not always layed out clean and smooth. We make the road by walking.
Once I arrived at Omega, I was greeted with the powerful energy of a nature drenched land center populated by people living their purpose to serve others through yoga. Walking solo up the long path to my cabin that night, under the stars, felt like an initiation back into my work in the world.
For those unable to attend, here are my top 3 takeaways.
Get Attached Yogi’s are well-versed and familiar with the fundamental practice of non-attachment (vairagya, Sanskrit). We are taught to let go of actions and thoughts that cloud the true self. In subtle linguistic irony, a theme attendees found helpful at the conference was the mandate to pursue attachment. In her presentation, Dr. Melody Moore, therapist and founder of Embody Love Movement, made a strong case for the vital importance of yoga teachers healing early childhood attachment wounds. Of course, this is a very different kind of attachment, one that creates a critical foundation for lifelong health, trust and emotional safety. Attachment is defined as a deep and enduring emotional bond that connects one person to another across time and space (Ainsworth, 1973; Bowlby, 1969). Having studied early childhood educational theory, this was not a new concept to me personally, yet it was the first time I have heard the topic explicitly addressed in the context of yoga service. In short, Melody threw light upon the possibility of healing attachment trauma, through therapy, as crucial personal development work for yoga service providers. Dr. Moore’s presence at YSC represents a positive trend of mental health practitioners teaming up with yoga teachers to develop our understanding of fundamental aspects of psychological health. For a visual of attachment theory, see The Strange Situation.
I See You During the final panel discussion on the future of YSC, an attendee asked the panel to speak further on the topic of conscious relationships, a core concept of yoga service. Nikki Myers, founder of The Yoga of 12 Step Recovery, took on the task. Nikki kept it absolutely simple. She borrowed the iconic line from James Cameron’s film, Avatar; “I see you.” In a pristine teaching moment, Nikki crystallized the meaning of this phrase by letting the words ring outward into silent space while she made a conscious connection with the person who posed the question. Rather than cluttering her answer with many words, Nikki revealed her answer by modeling it. She took the concept out of the heady intellectual space and into the heart center from which we can relate more clearly with our students. I’ll admit that at first I wanted her to say more, yet over time, her response has become one of the powerful moments of the conference. Say less, see more.
Go Deeper My final takeaway came from the same panel discussion. Rob Schware, executive director of Give Back Yoga Foundation, was asked for final words of wisdom as he retired his role as President of the Yoga Service Council. Like Nikki, Rob used pith instruction to cut to the heart of the matter. “Go deeper,” he said. Go deeper into practice, inquiry, service, feeling, basically every aspect of our teaching and living yoga. I find this directive especially relevant to our field of kids and youth yoga. It is easy to become entranced by the whimsical, fun, magical techniques of play in yoga. Nothing wrong there, yet there is so much more. Going deeper means understanding why and how play based learning serves child development. Going deeper means we consistently connect our modified, developmentally appropriate teaching methods back to the essence of yoga.
Being in community with a group of several hundred people doing related work was empowering and uplifting. In fact, one of my favorite sessions of the conference focused on building local Yoga Service Networks. The purpose of the networks is to support conscious relationships among yoga teachers, practitioners and other community members. To learn more about creating or joining a Yoga Service Network, enjoy this free downloadable resource written by the incomparable Carol Horton, PhD, entitled Creating a Local Yoga Service Network.
To support and join Yoga Service Council, please consider becoming a member. For as little as $25/year, you can enjoy being part of building and sustaining a vital community of support and learning in the field of yoga service. Shanti Generation is a proud Organizing Member. Join us!