“Yoga is the answer. Who cares what the question is?”
The quote on the South Dakota Yoga Conference’s Facebook page sums up the spirit behind the feel-good conference this weekend. The event brings together yoga enthusiasts and 40 instructors and experts in an immersive experience to benefit minds and bodies.
The fourth annual South Dakota Yoga Conference will be at The Lodge at Deadwood. It’s open to anyone — from beginners to experienced yoga students — who want to try something new or expand their knowledge of it. There’s even a session especially for teens and kids.
“It’s good for people who’ve been practicing a long time to dive deeper, and it’s good for people that are really totally new because maybe they’re able to find something that’s a good fit for them,” said Jillian Anawaty of Rapid City, who is a co-organizer of the conference along with Cheri Isaacson and Scottie Bruch of Sturgis.
All three are yoga instructors who collectively have more than two decades of experience teaching yoga.
The conference organizers describe the weekend as a smorgasbord of yoga. Some sessions also will incorporate practices that complement yoga — drawing, dancing, barre and Pilates exercises, journaling, living with intention, strengthening intuition and more.
“Yoga is pretty all-inclusive for things that connect mind, body and spirit,” Anawaty said.
Often, Anawaty said, people try yoga to combat one situation — such as back pain or anxiety — and discover that it benefits other parts of their lives.
“When it comes to self-reflection, self-awareness and health, I feel like everything falls under that umbrella (of yoga). All those other practices really point back to a person being connected in the wholeness of their being. The word yoga translates to mean a yoking, a unifying, a oneness.”
A healing sound shower will open the conference on Friday, followed by yoga and a welcome social with food and live music. Saturday classes run from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., capped off with a “High Vibe Hangout” that night where participants can give Yoga Twister a try. Sunday sessions start at 5 a.m. and continue until noon, ending with meditation.
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Some of the conference’s most unique sessions include taking yoga into classrooms and combining yoga with faith.
Ann Herrmann of Spearfish will teach yoga and mindfulness for teachers or others who want to take those practices into the classroom, Anawaty said. Herrmann has practiced yoga for 26 years and has a masters degree in counseling. She has created workshops for teachers and therapists centered around yoga calm techniques.
“I think kids have the most stressful job of all anymore, and they get pulled in so many directions. Yoga for kids helps them stay connected with their essence and not to get so fried from everything going on. Yoga is so good for your nervous system,” Anawaty said.
Breast cancer survivor Lynn Brown of Rapid City will lead a session about holy yoga. Brown began practicing yoga in her early 50s and believes that yoga, strong Christian faith and a whole foods diet are building blocks to healthy aging.
Yoga often has New Age connotations. Including a session that incorporates Christianity is another way conference organizers hope to make yoga more inviting for everyone.
“(It’s) about relevance and accessibility,” Anawaty said. “Holy yoga can give people that opportunity to have an experience … they are comfortable with. The benefits of making those connections of mind and body and spirit appeals to people that might want to identify with spirit (as Christianity). We did feel it was important to include something like that in order to help people feel welcome.”
The organizers emphasize that while the South Dakota Yoga Conference is a time to learn, it’s also a time to refresh and rejuvenate.
“That’s part of the vision of the conference. It’s intended as an immersion for people to have that removal from the day-to-day pace and get into a space of clarity and intention and healing and inspiration,” Anawaty said.