It is amazing what you can do just by asking. So I discovered during my 15+ years in the music business, and so holds true as Co-Director of the Southeast Yoga Conference (SEYC) formerly the Atlanta Yoga Conference. My background in the music business taught me to ‘look for the overlap’ (in musical style, in tour schedules, in radio format, in booking agency) and to build from there. Growing a Yoga Conference is quite different than growing the career of a band or a producer, but I’m still looking for the overlap, ways that varying personalities and skill sets can come together and create something powerful. And advice from some of our earliest national yoga teachers was important: Sara Ivanhoe said, “Do not plan a Conference according to YOUR interests, read the pulse of your yoga community.” Ah, yes. So just because I want to spend all weekend in a back bend listening to stories about various deities and learning more about breath work does NOT mean I get to Frankenstein a workshop to my ideal. Heavens no!
My Co-Director, Melissa Katz, is a perfect partner in this SEYC endeavor. Melissa is the pragmatist, the accountant, the realist, and she balances my tendency to run full steam at every exciting idea that lights up my grey matter. Together, we attempt to honor the interest demonstrated by our local teachers who continue to invest time and money into their craft. We’ve watched specific teachers grow into guideposts for our community, and we’ve watched longtime students become confident and inspiring teachers. We discuss the ‘trends’ versus the aforementioned ‘pulse.’ We aim to program a weekend with offerings that truly reflect the curiosity and energy of our own backyard.
‘We aim to program a weekend with offerings that truly
reflect the curiosity and energy of our own backyard.’
At the SEYC, you will meet teachers from all over the Southeast region as well as nationally traveling teachers who you may have seen in Yoga magazines or practiced with on YogaGlo, but have not had the opportunity to meet until now. With four workshops to choose from during three sessions a day, you will find Kia Miller from California, and in the next room Sean Johnson from New Orleans, the next room Natasha Rizopolous from Massachusetts, or Rutu Chaudhari from here in Atlanta. We hope the only frustration you experience is the tough choice regarding which workshop(s) to attend.
Check out this beautiful song by Sean Johnson:
My favorite SEYC task is tapping like-minded businesses and artists on the shoulder and asking if they know about our yoga and wellness community, and the SEYC. I love brainstorming ways to work with these businesses to build a vibrant Marketplace with offerings that fit our attendees’ interests, as best we can anticipate. Featuring regional entrepreneurs in the Marketplace is important; all yoga teachers recognize the importance of multiple revenue streams, to put it mildly. Of course not all of the SEYC Sponsors are yoga teachers, but many are, while others are practitioners, studio owners, health professionals, parents, and most certainly, people who decide that their “bottom line” can and must intersect with their larger ideals.
Last year the SEYC added a Friday event called a Symposium. We invited Presenters to speak for 30 minutes each about topics that fall in the territory of yoga but may have eluded most of us during our studies so far, such as Ayurveda, Yoga for Kids, the origins of Sanskrit, and yoga as a tool for dealing with trauma. We didn’t know if anyone would make time for this event or even have an interest in sitting and listening for three hours, but Melissa and I were relieved and thrilled to discover that the Symposium was indeed a vital part of the weekend experience for the attendees. This event also provided a way to incorporate a charity into the SEYC, with last year’s Symposium money benefitting the METAvivor Organization and this year’s Symposium to Lifeline Animal Rescue.
Without help from people like Rad Slough, owner of Urban Body Studio, the SEYC may not have had the opportunity to grow into the larger space at the W Downtown. And without the help and vision of Pablo Henderson, Marketing Manager for the W Downtown Hotel, we would not have the incredible space for the current SEYC, a space seemingly created for such an event; the hallways are large and perfect for a post-workshop pow-wow with a friend, the hotel smells delicious, natural light is plentiful, as is parking, and there is never a line for the bathroom, which is a big deal!
Last year I met two school-teachers from Canada who traveled in for the weekend and when I asked them how they heard about the SEYC their answer was: “We were researching a different conference in Colorado but saw the SEYC site pop up in Google and found that the featured teachers were just as exciting and the cost was far less.” And that is key! We strive to keep the SEYC affordable. Personally, I still can’t afford the larger Yoga Conferences and Festivals that cost several hundred dollars for the workshops alone, so we do our best to provide an incredible and full weekend with options to attend one single workshop, one full day, or the whole weekend. Affordability leads to a more diverse event, and diversity is key to learning. It is our sincere hope that every attendee discovers something new about themselves, about their community, and about this infinite practice of yoga.
For me, I find my life full of blessings that include two healthy, hilarious, and wonderful little girls, a supportive husband, loving family, and friends who inspire me at every glance. The day-to-day truth, however, is that I find myself deeply fearful of this life and the direction that much of our society appears to be leaning. The events that raised my eyebrows and my heart rate just periodically are now closer to a daily occurrence. I find myself shaking my head and keeping a great distance from television to avoid absorbing additional anxiety and images. The practice of yoga reminds me to stay connected to my community, to keep my heart and mind open, to acknowledge my fear without losing my humor. I am fairly certain that most of the people who find their way to this blog are the exact people who have unknowingly given me my greatest support on my toughest days. I can only hope that the SEYC gives back to this community, that the Sponsors and attendees feel a heightened sense of connection from their experience, and that we grow together in an organic and sustainable way.
I recently finished a book called “When Women Were Birds” by Terry Tempest Williams, and I regularly re-read certain passages because I find them so beautiful. One such passage says: “Once upon a time, when women were birds, there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn and to sing at dusk was to heal the world through joy. The birds still remember what we have forgotten, that the world is meant to be celebrated.”
Melissa and I sincerely hope to celebrate with you in October!