As many of you know, last week-end the Toronto Yoga Show and Conference took place. This is one of my favourite annual events – for a variety of reasons. I have been a member of the yoga teaching community for about 17 years now (wow, does that reveal my age!). The yoga world is very different from when I took my first yoga class.
When I decided I needed some yoga to improve my posture I looked for classes. I found, what was typical at the time, a group practicing out of a church basement. Then I found a class above an organic produce shop on Adelaide St which I chose as it was close to home. One or two yoga studios were just opening their doors at the time. As luck (or destiny) prevailed, the instructor I chose was fantastic with a class size of 2-6 on average. Stiff as I was, she made me feel welcome, engaged my body and mind and freely shared her vast knowledge. This was the start of many changes to come and the catalyst for being where I am today – loving and being extremely grateful for what I do.
The first yoga show and conference took place in 2003 – here is an ad for it. Yes, I was part of that show also (am I an antique?) Today there are a reported 700 yoga studios in the GTA, thousands of people attending yoga classes and the Yoga Conference and Show is where many of them come together.
For me personally, it is a time to challenge myself by seeking new workshop topics. Where initially many students were just being exposed to yoga and my goal was to leave them with an understanding of how yoga would benefit their body, help them overcome injury while reducing risk of future injury. Today most participants are practicing some form of yoga and my approach has changed.
My workshops this year focused on specific parts of the body (knees; feet & ankles; core; glutes). We examined the anatomy of related joints and muscles, isolated and worked to wake them up but the ultimate goal is to bring this awareness into a yoga sequence. For example, in this photo Cindy is working to keep the knee tracked over the ankle, foot grounded, minimizing lateral movement while consciously contracting the internal quadriceps (vastus medialis). Imbalances become very evident when the work is targeted and isolated to one movement.
The true benefit is integrating this work into your yoga practice. In this particular case, note that we want the same actions in our lunge as in the isolation exercise, namely, foot grounded, knee over ankle and inner quad engaged. If all participants leave with even just one little nugget of knowledge that they bring back to their practice then my work has been a success.
Without doubt teaching is the most rewarding part of the conference for me. Seeing students that attend my conference workshops year after year confirms that I am on the right track. Receiving feedback on how something changed in their practice; their lower back hurt less; they ran a race and felt good after; they struggled with balance poses but it improved by focusing on what I taught them – just a few of the comments I heard. Cindy & Cindy are long time students that come in from Niagara/St. Catharines to attend the show every year. I am always so tickled to see them in the class.
It wouldn’t be a show with a walk through the expo where I always manage to find something I ‘need’! For me this year it was particularly delightful to meet the woman that owns Sunflower Kitchen. It is my absolute favourite brand of hummus because it is made locally but having met the lovely woman and family behind it makes it even more meaningful.
And running into old friends and acquaintances are the best! Here I am am with JP Tamblyn, who I met several years ago when he first came onto the yoga scene. He was a natural yogi and soon became a favourite amongst students and teachers. He now owns a successful yoga studio, Ahimsa Yoga.