Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Bringing the Accessible Yoga Conference Online

Toronto Conference 2018: Cherie Hotchkiss, Linda Sparrowe, Dianne Bondy, Jivana Heyman
By Jivana Heyman

In 2013, I had just moved to Santa Barbara, California, from the San Francisco Bay Area, and I was feeling really isolated and lonely. The last thing I wanted to do was to restart my career as a yoga teacher. After teaching for 20 years, the idea of starting from scratch with no contacts and no network felt completely overwhelming. Plus, I didn’t know where to start.

Yoga teachers are often called to be marketing experts, part-time accountants, contract lawyers, and so much more. I had been sharing yoga with people with disabilities and gotten all my work through word of mouth. I had spent years working outside of the mainstream yoga world, and it felt like there were no yoga organizations interested in supporting me and my work.

Then it dawned on me that so many other teachers must feel that same way. I realized I was spoiled because I had so much opportunity for so many years in the Bay Area. So much of that was based on the fact that I had such a strong community network in the Bay Area, and lots of teachers may never have had that.

I realized that I needed a community of peers to support me, who I could share with, learn from, and be inspired by. So I decided to create what I was looking for. That’s what led to the first Accessible Yoga Conference in 2015 here in Santa Barbara. It was such an amazing event. To be surrounded by such a diverse community of people working to share yoga outside of the commercial industry was a dream come true. It was a group of people who were dedicated to the essential teachings of yoga, to empowerment, equity, and real inclusion. In fact, the theme of that first conference was, “Connected, Included, and Empowered.” That pretty much says it all!

Over the last five years, we’ve had eight conferences all over the US, in Canada, and in Europe. These events were so transformational for me personally as well as for our community. We got to know each other, learn together, share our frustrations, and celebrate our accomplishments. We’ve been lucky to have some of the most incredible presenters in the yoga world, and we formed a strong bond.

I’ve seen some amazing connections come out of the conferences, partially because I challenge attendees to make that a priority. At each conference, I give the same assignment at the opening ceremony: Find someone here whose work you can support, and find some way to support them. That might mean sharing about their work, helping them get a job or an opportunity, or starting a project together. Community networking and support is essential for grassroots movements to thrive and grow, and it happens one connection at a time.

This year with coronavirus, we’ve had to cancel both of our planned conferences, the Evolution of Yoga Summit that was scheduled for Los Angeles in March, as well as the Accessible Yoga Conference in Portland, Oregon, that was scheduled for October. But we are going to move our fall conference online. I am so thrilled to announce the Accessible Yoga Conference Online for the first time ever this October 9-11, 2020.

At first, I was so disappointed about canceling the in person events, but as with everyone else I’ve learned to adjust. Now I’m really getting excited about the opportunities that an online conference can offer. Most importantly, I think offering the conference online will make it more accessible to more people. And that’s our mission, to share our love and passion for yoga with anyone who’s interested in learning about these practices, and to remove the barriers that keep people from practicing.

My hope is that the online conference can allow us to connect with our global community from Asia to Europe and everyone in between. We have a number of very special offerings planned. We have some amazing educational opportunities with inspiring presenters, that will include asana classes, workshops, lectures, keynote addresses, panel discussions, and more.

What I’m most excited about is something new that we’re going to be trying –– a series of community networking sessions. These will be live Zoom calls in specific areas of interest where participants will get to share about their work and meet other people working within the same content area from all over the world. Topics will include yoga for kids with disabilities, yoga for incarcerated populations, yoga for trans/queer communities, yoga for the Blind/low vision community, and more.

Through our connection we can share the message that the transformational practices of yoga are available to everyone. By working together we can address the ways that yoga has not been shared equally, and how so many people have been excluded or left out. I’m so looking forward to connecting with you virtually, and supporting your work in sharing yoga with all. For more information please check out ouwebsite, or sign up on our mailing list.

Jivana Heyman, C-IAYT, E-RYT500, is the founder and director of Accessible Yoga, an international non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to the yoga teachings. Accessible Yoga offers Conferences, Community Conversations, a Blog, and an Ambassador program. He’s the creator of the Accessible Yoga Training, and the author of the book, Accessible Yoga: Poses and Practices for Every Body (Shambhala Publications, 2019). Jivana has specialized in teaching yoga to people with disabilities and out of this work, the Accessible Yoga organization was created to support education, training, and advocacy with the mission of shifting the public perception of yoga. More info at

This post was edited by Patrice Priya Wagner, Managing Editor of Accessible Yoga blog and member of the Board of Directors.

° FOLLOW Accessible Yoga on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

° REGISTER here for our next conference.

° DONATE here to help us bring yoga to people who don't have access or have been underserved, such as people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, children with special needs, and anyone who doesn't feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

No comments:

Post a Comment