There’s something about community-driven, locally-organized yoga events that sets my heart aflutter. The Burlington Yoga Conference is the latest independent yoga event that I’ve had the pleasure of attending, and the homegrown conference could serve as an inspiration for communities around the continent.
Last weekend I made the short trip with a couple of Montréal friends to Burlington, Vermont for the sixth annual BYC (March 8th & 9th, 2014). It featured two days of workshops and a line-up of speakers and presenters from Vermont, other Northeastern states, and Montréal. Located on the shores of Lake Champlain and boasting over a dozen yoga studios and wellness centres (not bad for a city with a population of 42,000), Burlington has recently been voted the healthiest US city in a CNN poll.
My official purpose at the conference was to rep Yoga Festival Montréal, so I spent much of the weekend in the little marketplace at the heart of the event. But I did get a chance to check out a few classes and have a couple of massages, as well as soak up the sweet ambiance and palpable community spirit among the just over 200 attendees. Here are my top five favourite things about BYC:
The conference was held in the Davis Center on the University of Vermont campus, a certified LEED building with a variety of room sizes, natural light and comfortable arm chairs everywhere. The “ballroom” event rooms felt spacious, and the smaller rooms felt intimate and comfortable. The marketplace even had a gas-powered fireplace in the middle of it.
2. A schedule with offerings for all levels & backgrounds
With more than 28 workshops covering everything from meditation to vinyasa to talks on “authenticity” in American yoga, there really was something for everyone at BYC. There was also a kids program and a low-key Saturday night party at a nearby art gallery.
3. Presenters from near & not-so-far
I get a little rush of delight when I look at a yoga event schedule and recognize none of the names (save for the yoga teachers from Montréal). The schedule had a balance of emerging and established Vermont teachers, as well as a few from nearby Northeastern states and, of course, Montréal.
4. A sense of robust community
I talked to several people who had attended every BYC since it began six years ago. You could tell there that many of the attendees and presenters had trained, taught and practiced together. It wasn’t unusual to see presenters taking in other people’s workshops, and hanging around the venue all weekend. The feeling at BYC is that it’s an annual event that the locals look forward to each year. Just by being there, I felt like part of the community even though it was my first contact with it.
5. The Vermont vibe
It’s not an official term, but Vermonters are undeniably laidback, friendly and smiley. While Montréal has its je ne sais quoi, Vermont has an earthy and welcoming vibe. People smile for no reason! They say hi and introduce themselves! This somehow felt fresh and exotic.
If you’re in the Northeastern US or Quebec/Ontario, the BYC is worth checking out. If you’re elsewhere in North America, the BYC is a yoga conference model worth emulating.
Featured image by Erin Dupuis, via BYC Facebook page.