By Jennifer Buergermeister and Chiza Alba
Author of The Healing Path of Yoga, Nischala Joy Devi, said, “With humility, we embrace the sacredness through the study of Yoga.” An open mind and heart will follow.
“Yoga” is a derivative of a Sanskrit word meaning “unity.” Many yoga practitioners will define yoga as a series of stretching and strengthening postures, known as asana, used in combination with meditation and breathing techniques. What they describe is actually Hatha Yoga, the yoga of postures. This popular form is only one branch of the yogic tradition. There are many branches on the yogic tree, much like the tree of life. But they share in a complete sense that yoga is about unification.
A student of yoga strives to unify his or her body, mind and spirit with that of the entire universe. Yoga practitioners seek to expand the concept of self to achieve a higher, more transcendent reality, and promote unity consciousness.
People in Houston, the fourth largest city in the USA, are learning how yoga can enrich their lives and improve their health. Texas created a Free Day of Yoga in 1999, originating in Austin and grew to Dallas and Houston. The event is held annually.
In 2009, nearly 150 Houstonians gathered on the stage of Discovery Green to practice yoga with teachers from Jennyoga and YogaOne. Luke’s Locker and the Yoga Teachers Association of Houston (YTAH) sponsored the Free Day of Yoga event which is doubling in size each year.
This is a phenomenon occurring across the United States. Recent studies have indicated that Americans are spending nearly double the amount of money on yoga classes and yoga related products than they did five years ago. Nearly half of all 16 million Americans studying yoga are doing so because they are aware of its health benefits, spending $5.7 billion a year on yoga classes and products.
These people need a unified, respectable body of knowledge to turn to for guidance. The more that the yoga studios and associations of Houston work together, the stronger the cause will grow here in our city. Just as the word namaste’ infers – to be the change, we must live the change and become one – just as yoga intended 5000 years ago.
The yoga movement has been active in Houston for at least 30 years brought in by talented yogis such as Robert Boustany, David and Doug Swenson, John Friend, Billie Gollnick and others. Today, there are studios opening up everywhere. Each studio has its own unique style of teaching and interacting with their students, and each is wonderful in its own right, but for a beginning student of yoga, differences can be somewhat daunting. Which style is the “right” style? Which studio is the “right” studio? Far from having a unifying effect, the diversity can have the effect of deterring a yoga student. That deterrence can and should be avoided by making every student aware that the yoga entities in Houston are working together for the common cause of bringing yoga into the world by embracing creative differences.
Jennifer Buergermeister, owner of Jennyoga Studio in the River Oaks area and president of the Houston Yoga Teachers Association, inspired the founding of the Texas Yoga Association and the Texas Yoga Conference in 2009. In May of 2009, Ms. Buergermeister from Jennyoga requested to meet with the owners or representatives from Joy Yoga, YogaOne, Yoga West, the Jewish Community Center, Yoga Ananda, Yoga for Peace, Nia Moves, and Yoga Rasa came together to discuss the collaboration of the Houston yoga studios for an annual event and came up the Texas Yoga Conference.
The First Annual Texas Yoga Conference was hosted by Unity Church on February 19-20, 2010. The funding studios participating in the yearly conference were
The conference talent came from all over Houston and other cities in Texas such as Robert Boustany, Ricky Tran, Ann Hyde, Raye Lynn Rath, and Dr. Hansa Medley. Several special guests joined the conference from California and other states in support of our conference’s launch including filmmaker Arthur Klein premiering his movie Y YOGA, Gopala Amir Yaffe from the Rainbow Kids, Sean Johnson Kirtan, and Etan Boritzer, author of the children’s book series What is God?. For more information about the Texas Conference, please go to www.texasyogaconference.com.
Collaboration of these four Houston yoga studios brought the conference to life. The mission of TYC is to promote awareness of the spiritual tradition of yoga and to inspire the general public to learn more about yoga in its many forms. Experienced yoga practitioners and those new to yoga will come to experience differing styles of yoga and attend presentations by speakers from all over Texas and beyond. The people involved in the TYC understand that in order for yoga to make a difference in this world, it must be shared rather than held close by only a few elitists who wish to hoard its mysteries. Only when yoga is shared can the ideal of unification become a reality. Houston is a meritocracy of international people and a lovely representation of a city that understands, “We are one.”
Today there are approximately 30 yoga studios existing in the Houston area. The YTAH Membership is at nearly 150 teachers. There are probably twice as many teachers in Houston.
The Yoga Teachers Association of Houston, other organizations such as the founders of the Texas Yoga Conference and Breathecure, and local yoga studios envision bringing together a network of associations, yoga teachers, therapists and caregivers to promote well-being and unity consciousness. Some of the Texas Yoga Conference owners have recently signed with New York City’s leading yoga talent agency YAMA, owned by Texas born Yogini Ava Taylor, to take the talent of Texas on the road in a Texas Two-Stepping with Yoga Across America Tour to be launched in late summer of 2010.