A few weeks ago, I attended the Yoga Journal Live! conference at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego as a student representative from Naropa. This conference had special significance for me since Yoga Journal was my introduction into yoga in 2001 (my spiritual path), and where I first saw an ad for Naropa in 2004.
Naropa has been co-sponsoring a national speaker series with Yoga Journal called “Life in the Balance,” and the San Diego event was entitled “Healing Heroes: How Yoga is Serving Our Veterans”. Since I’m a veteran, I was even more excited to attend the event seeing that the entire weekend had classes geared towards Veterans, trauma, and the like.
I started attending hatha yoga and yoga meditation classes in 2002 and 2004. In 2002, I was in the Armed Forces School of Music where I experienced my first hatha yoga class, and afterward I felt the best I had in a long time. After returning from my first deployment in Iraq, I then began yoga meditation in 2004 (well, technically I first experimented with meditation in 2003 after reading the Autobiography of a Yogi during my deployment), and I then began practicing yoga asanas and meditation over my 10 years of service in the Army before coming to Naropa in 2012.
Connecting with the panelists was a definite highlight of that Friday. The evening’s talk touched upon the scientific evidence that supports yoga and mindfulness as a method of healing trauma, and each of the panelists gave moving stories to illustrate that fact. I connected deeply with a few of the panelists, like fellow combat veteran Dan Nevins, and also had a deeply engaging conversation with former NFL professional linebacker-turned-yogi Keith Mitchell.
Some highlighted notes from Saturday’s workshops/classes:
Kino MacGregor: The magic is in the Journey of the pose, not the pose. Breath, Focus, Spine (my translated notes for personal understanding of the Astanga Yoga asana practice).
Seane Corn: Class was on Trauma and Social Justice. Main thing I highlighted was inner work first. It was a great class from a yogic perspective.
Gopi Kallayil: Yoga in the Corporate World… 79th organ=Cell Phone. Talked about how Google employees are offered weekly yoga classes by him or someone filling in for him.
Amy Ippoliti: Be Creative. It was a hip grounding and gratitude class, where I was able to sit (briefly) in full lotus for the first time ever!
Yoga Market: Visited the Yoga Market often where I was able to experience the Yoga Journal Cover Photo Booth (and fool friends into thinking I was actually on the cover!), and checkout the various yoga vendors and demonstrations hosted in the yoga market ballroom.
Yoga Alliance: Gave a talk about how they started, and how the yoga industry has developed within their time as an organization, fighting for freedom of government regulation within the yoga community.
Beryl Birch: Was glad to experience her Yoga for Warriors class and hear her introduction to how she became involved in founding the Give Back Yoga Foundation and authoring the book Yoga for Warriors. Any veteran and active service member can receive a free copy of Yoga for Warriors and material from the Give Back Yoga Foundation. Great class.
Amy Ippoliti: Her Sunday class was great to help with “Tech Neck”, working on a few yoga exercises for the wrists and shoulders.
Warriors for Healing: This inaugural event truly sealed the deal for my weekend at Yoga Journal Live. Bhava Ram was a war correspondent and yoga literally saved his life. Since it did so much for him he developed the Warriors for Healing initiative to give yoga to veterans with trauma. What sealed it was that I connected, yet again, with fellow veterans and yogis (a combination I rarely see), and we were all gathered to celebrate and honor the healing process that yoga has brought to us. Plus, we had a wonderful yoga session together (videos are on his Deep Yoga youtube channel).
Robert Sturman: Was especially happy to take Robert’s workshop on Mastering the Art of Yoga Photography. Seeing how genuine he was about his work was perfect, and my partner in the class is a fellow veteran and we had a blast and a newly formed friendship resulted.
Thank you to Naropa for giving me one of my top two yoga events of my life (easily one of my top two period)! Top two for deeply satisfying all levels of my being.