Texas Yoga Conference a Festival of Art, Music, Dance (and Yes, Yoga)

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This year the Texas Yoga Conference celebrated its fourth anniversary, and its growing popularity allowed it to graduate to a conference space at the George R. Brown Convention Center. The three-day conference (March 1-3) offered local and visiting yogis the opportunity to experience yoga in its various incarnations as well as tap into the creative culture of Houston's yoga scene.

More than just a few days of fancy bending and heavy breathing, the Texas Yoga Conference invited yogis of all levels to delve deeper into their practice while also enjoying a full menu of practice-enhancing arts: music, art, dance and a marketplace where you could scratch your yogi fashion itch with new gear and jewelry.

TYC 2013 was designed to commemorate the growth the conference has experienced since its inception with a wide variety of classes and lectures -- 11 rooms were reserved for Saturday and nine each on Friday and Sunday -- and big names like Leslie Kaminoff, John Salisbury and Dana Flynn, who led a mix of workshops and asana all weekend long.

We looked at the schedule to see where teachers were integrating music and art into the experience. Interested in a mash-up of your practice with dance? Try a Bollywood-infused session with Hemalayaa Behl. Seeking a beat to serve as the backbone of your asana? Sign up for Laura King's "Freedom in the Flow" session featuring DJ Sukha to give your practice a beat. Is your yoga practice getting too serious? Let go and infuse your asana with "booty-shaking" moves with Joy Winkler.

While there was plenty of "straight yoga" to choose from, each day held a variety of lectures and asana that integrated music and dance for those looking to make their practice more fun, or to serve as an entry point for beginning yogis who approach the practice through their own musical or dance-based backgrounds.

In addition to the fusion-based classes, musical and/or spoken-word performance was ongoing in the marketplace throughout the conference, and musical performances were featured in their own special sessions. Performers included David Berkeley, Patrice Pike and Joel Laviolette & Rattletree Marimba. Joel Laviolette & Rattletree Marimba performed with Action Required Now at the Saturday night Concert and Dance Party benefitting Action Required Now, the TYC's charity of choice for 2013.

"Action Required Now's theme is healing through song, and I chose them as this year's charity because they are amazing people and very supportive of our conferences," explained Texas Yoga Conference producer Jenny Buergermeister. "We wanted to invite them to our conference and bring them in to help them raise money for their causes, through their music. Most of us on this planet share a love of music; it may not be the same kind of music, but we have this ability to bond through sound--through these vibrations we experience."

The creativity flowed all weekend as sweaty yogis moved from one 90-minute session to the next. Conversations centered around favorite teachers, local studios or recent sessions. "Where are you coming from? Where are you heading next?" people wanted to know when we paused to reassemble the jumble in our yoga bag or peruse a table in the merchant area. "Did you hear that spoken-word guy on the floor?" one woman asked. "Deep," she confided before moving on to check out some scarves.

The experience of the conference matched the theme, which Buergermeister explained was friendship. "Yoga is so much about bringing people together and sharing not only what we are passionate about, but our space. Building those friendships together in our community, and a deeper sense of empathy -- I felt that was the energy that needed to be channeled through this year's conference."

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