British Wheel of Yoga Congress 2012 – review

Cat on a bean bag
Alternative cat stretch - I don't have any pictures from Congress so here's one of my cat instead!

I attended my second British Wheel of Yoga (BWY) congress this year, held at Warwick University campus near Coventry, England. The congress is like a conference, only there’s yoga sessions instead of lectures (although some of the sessions do feature lectures). As a relatively new yoga teacher I have found both congresses that I have attended to be a great way of experiencing a range of different yoga teachers and different yoga styles all in one place. And it’s also a chance to meet fellow yogis from your region, or make new yoga  friends.

This year the theme was ‘yoga, endeavour and achievement’ and I believe there were just over 400 people attending. How great to all be in one lecture hall discussing yoga! I found the online booking really easy and useful – I could see at a glance if there were spaces left in the sessions I wanted and if they’re weren’t I could easily select a second choice. I booked early and was lucky to get all my first choices, although some of the sessions were already filling up at that point.

For me Congress got off to an excellent start with Andrea Kwiatkowski‘s Jivamukti class on the theme of ‘yoga detox’ which emphasised twists. Having had almost 2 weeks of laziness and little yoga, quite a bit of chocolate and wine, it was just what I needed! Andrea fired up the packed class for the weekend.

If we take the physical yoga of asanas as necessary to prepare us for sitting meditation and self-realistation (which is generally taken as the real ‘goal’ of yoga), then it seems sensible to also explore the sitting bit so that we can sit comfortably. One of Jonathan Monks’s sessions that I attended led us through various sitting positions using one technique to reach the ultimate sitting position. I didn’t find the magical position of ease for the back that he was describing, but maybe it’s one to work on.

I enjoyed the session with Helen Barker based on optimising mobility and strength. Helen teachers from a structural yoga therapy approach using the teachings of Mukunda Stiles. I found the sequences interesting and useful and have begun to practise one myself at home.

I ended the congress with another Andrea Kwiatkowski session, this time ‘creating stability’ which was again another dynamic lively Jivamukti class, this time focusing on balances. There was definitely lots of endeavour and achievement from the full class!

As well as six chosen sessions, I also attended the optional early morning yoga (7-8am) both mornings – one with Kari Knight and one with Carol Price. They were both good sessions to help wake us up and start the day. I believe that these optional sessions are taught by some Regional Officers and regional committee members who have to get up even earlier than the students! Thank you!

There was also the BWY AGM, and the plenary speaker. Mark Singleton was the plenary speaker this year, and having read his book ‘Yoga Body’ (see blog post here) I was keen to hear more on the topic and how the debate is moving forward. However, I personally think he perhaps spent a bit too much time countering criticism of his book and trying to dispel myths about what he didn’t say in the book. From speaking with other people afterwards those who had been on workshops with him had found him illuminating in those sessions.

We were lucky to have a dry and sunny weekend and although it was cool/cold (especially early in the mornings or after the last session at night) the rooms were all lovely and warm. The food and accommodation at Warwick was also of a good standard, and I felt the vegan food options had improved much on my first visit in 2010. I restrained myself in the market place (the advantage of travelling by train!) and bought only a couple of smaller items. I also had a henna tattoo (mehndi) on my hand and arm by yoga teacher Catherine Hinton who was offering this for a donation towards the BWY. So lovely!

So, all in all, a good Congress. With 22 different tutors teaching sessions during the weekend it really is a good way to see if you like a teacher, try something new, and also go back to those you really love for an extra dose!

What was your experience?

(NB I didn’t take a camera but the BWY website will have an official gallery available soon.)

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