“been” yoga: a weekend at the omega institute

Courtesy of Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Rhinebeck, NY. eOmega.org

The Omega Institute‘s Being Yoga conference/retreat has wrapped up and I am sitting in my unofficial office (the Omega Cafe), integrating two days of practice, community and nature.

At the Friday night opening event, I set the intention to approach the weekend with an “adventurous and inquisitive spirit.” I wanted to get uncomfortable. I wanted to break down some preconceptions about my own practice and yoga culture in general. I wanted to get out of my “blogging bubble,” to stop analyzing and critiquing and observing, and just be.

My unofficial office for the weekend conference/retreat.

There were moments of just being, and too many moments of observing and analyzing. But I definitely got uncomfortable and put myself in some new yoga situations. For me, being adventurous means cultivating courage in a Kundalini session (and feeling the reverberations of the gong for hours afterwards). Connecting with my occipital bone in yoga nidra. Bollywood dancing to a New Orleans kirtan band. Introducing myself to a teacher I’ve butted heads with online and telling her I honestly enjoyed her class (but I won’t stop critiquing her marketing approach, if necessary).

I’m still not sure what “being yoga” means, although I asked the question of many people (and three teachers – stay tuned for interview posts) over the weekend. I’m pretty sure that getting uncomfortable and asking questions (then wishing I’d asked harder questions) are part of how I “be” yoga.

Omega wildlife, just being.

On the spectrum of large-scale yoga gatherings, Being Yoga falls somewhere between the urban hotel

conference and the outdoor party-all-night festival scene. It has the structure and containment of traditional conference, and the sense of removal from everyday life that events like Wanderlust seem to promise.

Yet, with 210 people in attendance – the approximate number you’d find in the average workshop at a Yoga Journal conference – there was a feeling of intimacy and familiarity throughout the Omega grounds and in the sessions. It wasn’t unusual to see faculty (high profile yoga teachers) walking around sans entourage, hanging out in the garden or casually eating together at one of the large dining room tables.

What I appreciated most about Being Yoga is how it wasn’t trying to be anything it’s not. In a yoga world that’s becoming increasingly glamourized, hybridized and party-fied, this gathering was refreshingly uncool. It didn’t even try to be cool. It just was.

I can see how there would be the temptation to invite the hottest yoga-DJ-tight-jeans-hipsters and offer wine + yoga workshops to feel relevant and draw in a bigger, sexier crowd. Instead, there was a grounded and humble lack of pretension.

It will be interesting to see how Being Yoga (now in its fourth year hosted at the Omega Institute, following a number of years alternating between New York City and Florida) will evolve in the years ahead. And of course, it will be even more interesting to see how long the corporate sponsored/ski resort party yoga scene can sustain itself.

In the meantime, the rest of us will just keep practicing yoga and trying to understand what being means.

  1. Wow! Only 210 people?! If I’d known Omega’s “Being Yoga” was of such human scale, I might have actually attended!

    Oh, well, maybe next year!

  2. I am looking forward to your interviews. Your discussion of this has made me want to mark it on my list. Last year, my husband and I went to the Anusara Grand Circle — the last Anusara event before any of us little guys knew anything that was going on — and found it to be like that. Stratton was still quiet, not everything was under way for Wanderlust. There were “only” 300 people attending, which is small compared to Wanderlust itself. Many of the afternoon break-out classes had only a few more people attending than in your average community class, meaning hands-on time with some very advanced teachers. Most of the teachers did wander around in the evenings. We had impromptu fireside chats with scholars (unforgettable experience) and random song and dance jams in small groups. My husband & I stayed for the first day of Wanderlust and found it to be an entirely different experience. So busy! We decided not to attend future Wanderlust events, but have longed for the way we felt at the Grand Circle… A coming together of community, but still centered around yoga and practice. I hope that this conference will stay true to the description that you pose and that I will have the opportunity to attend sometime.