by Lynne Staropoli Boucher
What a difference two years can make. In May of 2012, only two months after I finished my yoga teacher training, I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural Yoga Service Conference at Omega Institute. Fairly new to the practice of yoga and not knowing a soul at the conference, I seized every opportunity I could to meet people, learn new techniques and listen for the deep lessons that were embedded in every lecture, workshop and table conversation. As I headed home – inspired but alone – I hoped that the seeds that had been planted within me would bear fruit in my home community.
I had no idea at that time that a “yoga revolution” was about to hit the college campus where I work. I couldn’t possibly have envisioned that popular demand would increase weekly class offerings from two classes a week to six, that the number of people practicing yoga regularly would sky rocket from forty to well over two hundred, or that yoga would become a featured highlight in many of our campus publications. Most of all, I wouldn’t have dared imagine that the college’s mission and passion for service and social justice would become so beautifully and seamlessly infused into the myriad yoga programs that were sponsored by our campus Center for Spirituality. Who would have guessed that several student leaders would earn a grant to attend the Clinton Global Initiatives University for their new “Yoga Empowerment Partnerships” initiative, that representatives from our college yoga community would begin volunteering at a weekly yoga club at an inner city high school, or that yoga student leaders would be asked to present their yoga service programs to the Board of Trustees?
Flash forward to May 2014 and imagine my excitement as I drove in a campus van with a very energetic group of three yoga teachers and five student leaders, fulfilling my self-made promise to return to the Yoga Service Conference with a team of representatives from Nazareth College. As we traveled from upstate to downstate New York, my fellow yoga teachers and I sparked conversation with the students about many of the complex issues related to yoga service that we knew were pressing, both in the national conversation and in our own recent service experiences. Several hours later, we were all amazed and thrilled as we sat side by side in one of the first large group sessions of the conference and listened intently as the panelists led a very direct, moving and provocative conversation about power, privilege, race, and gender. It was the first of many insightful conversations that challenged and changed how we think about yoga, how we understand the inherent benefits and complications, and how we would move forward in our yoga service endeavors back home.
Throughout the action-packed weekend, members of our Nazareth yoga team spent time together and separately, learning as much as we could from the people, programs, and processes that were incorporated into the conference. We took notes, wrote poems, and talked deeply about the many layers of yoga that affected us as individuals and as a campus community. In one unforgettable yoga session on the shore of the lake, the Nazareth team gathered our yoga mats, our bodies and our hearts in an intimate circle and shared a moving meditation which brought us all to grateful tears for all we had learned and shared.
We all knew that the five hour car ride home, filled with insights, challenges, plans and dreams, was just the beginning of our sharing of all that we were so blessed to experience at the Yoga Service Conference. We had been transformed and commissioned to return to our yoga kula at Nazareth and share the good news. The ideas and insights that were born on the sacred grounds of Omega were absolutely priceless. We were each acutely aware that this experience we shared would affect hundreds, if not thousands, of people back home as we deepened our respective and collective commitment to sharing the spirit and practice of yoga far beyond the boundaries of our campus.
~Lynne Staropoli Boucher
Nazareth College, Rochester NY
For more information about the 2015 Yoga Service Conference, May 14-17, 2015, at the Omega Institute, Click Here.