By Amy Green,
To me, the inaugural Hauora Yoga Conference felt like an important step in this country’s yoga evolution.
The welcoming ceremony set the stage for a different kind of gathering than had ever been done in the NZ yoga community. Here were numerous teachers, speakers, presenters and enthusiasts, brought together to learn and share with one another. It was a gateway for an in-depth, more academic study of our beloved practice. It felt special, intimate…almost like something magical was about to happen.
At this point in my yoga journey, I was feeling a bit disillusioned by my (asana) practice.
For the past 18 years I had been practicing and teaching what I thought was the ‘safest’ way to practice. Always encouraging modifications and touting sustainability to my students so that we could all continue to enjoy our physical practice over a lifetime. Yet I personally was plagued by chronic niggles, injuries and pain.
Through trainings and teachings I’d done over the last couple of years and my own personal experimentation and study, my lens of “safe alignment” had drastically started to change. However, whenever I went to classes, I heard what I wanted to hear, but was taught in an incongruent way.
Hearing teachers talk about skeletal variation and asymmetry but still being taught via the same old alignment-based model (with some modern, safety-conscious cues and hashtag-worthy buzzwords thrown into the script) was SO #$*@!^& FRUSTRATING… which is why my conference experience was thoroughly refreshing!!
I was initially reluctant to participate until I saw the line-up: Donna Farhi, J. Brown and others that had a serious investment in Yoga as a profession as well as a way of life.
The first session, Gentle is the New Advanced with J. Brown was fantastic. He spoke openly and vulnerably about some of the same feelings I’d had about the achievement and validation of doing yoga (asana) “well”. A lot of what he said really resonated for me–more than I had anticipated. He talked about the anxiety or fear (as a student) of ‘what will this class be like?’ when showing up for a power class–and of feeling relieved when you know you had pushed through the hard part. (Somehow, we’ve conditioned ourselves into thinking we’re more spiritual for smashing our bodies in a yoga studio vs. a CrossFit gym. [Insert eyeroll]) This class was different. Being able to adapt, vary and layer each pose is what I’m all about these days and he led us through it beautifully. I would gladly join in one of his classes again.
The panel discussion on Yoga Therapy wasn’t as insightful or productive as I’d hoped, although I’m not a certified “Yoga Therapist”. Kylie Rook’s concurrent session about how yoga can improve vagal tone is very good (I had the opportunity to participate at the workshop she ran at my studio in September–so even though I wasn’t at this session, I can attest to the quality of her presentation and class!).
The session Yoga by Yourself with Sam Loe gave us a good framework for carving out practice time and dealing with distractions and excuses–as well as a helpful handout that I’ve referred back to since the conference.
The last session of Day 1, Hau Ora – Yoga & Mindfulness from a Maori Perspective with Jase Te Patu really topped it off. He talked with such raw passion about the concept of “hau ora”–the four walls or pillars of our health/wellbeing and the work that he’s doing with kids in schools which stemmed from a heartbreaking story about his niece. This session was full of meaningful interaction, connection to the land and people and connection to ourselves and something greater. (Jase went on to win the ‘Mind/Body Instructor of the Year’ at the Exercise NZ Awards that weekend as well, and it’s clearly well-deserved. Congratulations Jase!)
A rainy Saturday morning brought the Fit Ex Conference and the Hauora Yoga Conference attendees together for the Keynote Speech with the esteemed International Teacher/Researcher, Donna Farhi, which was amazing.
I LOVED her talk about Interoception, took copious notes and had so many YESSSSSS moments. The story she told of healing her broken pelvis through her own interception/body awareness (and her vast knowledge) was pretty mind-blowing (the x-rays really proved her point!). Her presentation was about how we as teachers (or movement facilitators/PT’s/Group Fitness Instructors) get people to FEEL the difference between productive and unproductive sensations, and how we need to switch from the audiovisual model of teaching to a kinesthetic one.
Unfortunately, some people started to leave the auditorium before Donna’s presentation had finished. At the time I thought this was a sign of how ‘yoga’ is viewed by some health & fitness professionals, however, I later found out this wasn’t the case. Donna’s presentation had started to go over time and people were leaving so that they wouldn’t be late for their next session. While this was unfortunate, it was clear that Donna smashed it out of the park, and the fact that Exercise NZ saw the value and importance in Farhi’s (and our) work in yoga is a big step.
Kara-Leah‘s How to Live Your Yoga and Rock Your Business was spot on for me–again so much of it was what I needed, and I’ve signed up for one of her courses because of it.
I had to leave halfway through so that I could teach my own session, a Yin/Yang flow based on who you are beyond the “confines” of your labels/roles. It was a very individual-based, mindful movement session (after my initial talk and technology issues!); finding and feeling into the yang aspects in a more yin-like practice. It felt really good and I was buzzing afterwards. (Thanks for having me Persephone!)
Overall, I was really encouraged in the direction of first yoga conference for NZ, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing where it goes next year.
Amy L. Green, MA, E-RYT 500, YACEP, STOTT PILATES Reformer & Foundation Training Instructor.
Amy is the Founder of Mind Body Movement Yoga & Pilates Studio in Whakatane, NZ, and has studied, practiced, and taught for 18 years. She was named the 2017 ‘Mind Body Instructor of the Year’ by the Exercise Association of NZ.
Amy’s main objective in each class is to teach yoga asana in a way that is accessible, sustainable and mindful; supporting students to get out of the head, into the body and even beyond the body. Her teaching style holds space for students to tune into a subtle ‘felt experience’ of abundant gratitude as they practice. Though Amy’s teaching style is less traditional and more exercise science-based, it is all about the dynamic balance of stihra and sukha, of yin and yang, of movement and stillness; building greater mind/body awareness. Amy’s classes have an element of play, fun and laughter—because she believes if it’s not fun, why bother? Life is a play and yoga is a dance.
Amy is an avid learner and is frequently training to keep on top of research and developments in the field. She endeavours to make all participants feel safe, supported and welcome in her classes. Amy believes that our health is our wealth and when we aren’t healthy, we can’t enjoy the things we love in life. Her classes and private sessions are taught with that simple philosophy in mind. Find out more atwww.mindbodymvmnt.com