Health & Wellness: Texas Yoga Conference

by Autumn Rhea Carpenter on February 11, 2015 in Houston,

In celebration of its sixth anniversary, this year’s Texas Yoga Festival will be hosted at the new ISKCON temple and culture center in Houston, February 20-22. Learn more about the festival from its founder, Jennifer Buergermeister.

jenniferBSince this is the first year that the conference will be held at the 24,000 square-foot ISKON in Houston, how will that change what’s offered at the conference? 

The temple was completed in 2014 and we are really excited to kick off 2015 as our inaugural year to be at ISKCON! We expect somewhere around 750 participants and visitors to our conference this year.

This year will be the year of absolute customer service and five-star quality attention to participants. Our friends at Yoga Rasa are sponsoring a volunteer committee to oversee every detail of the conference’s overall feel. The Bhakti movement is growing and full of kindness. The ISKCON Temple houses some of the nicest, most giving people in Houston. We are elated to unite with such devotion to community and wellness. For this reason, this year’s theme is the “Tree of Life”: healthy and strong roots encourage the development of beautiful branches. It will feel like we are in India!

How are the workshops chosen?

 We have over 70 presentations. We look at experience, uniqueness of the topic and how it can integrate well into the big picture of wellness. The Texas Yoga Conference is a ton of fun and often life changing. It is great for anyone at any level of experience ready to learn something new, including mala making, Ayurvedic cooking, all things yoga and meditation, neuroscience or even something in how to relate to others.

What are this year’s trends in yoga and meditation?

Popular trends in yoga for 2015 are Acro Yoga, Ariel Yoga and Barre. But most importantly, if you haven’t already noticed, just about every magazine is touching on neuroscience. There is some pretty substantial research emerging about how significant meditation and yogic practices are for the brain’s healthy function. A regular meditation practice shows an increase in gray matter that are associated with feelings of happiness, self-identity and altruism; and areas associated with stress showed decrease in gray matter. This is a huge discovery.

Do these diversions from “true” yoga change yoga’s purpose?

Nothing can alter yoga’s ultimate purpose. The end justifies the means. However, when one starts the journey, it will eventually lead to a truer path. I really believe that many of us are attracted to yoga in the beginning because of the asana practice and the cool body tricks we can learn. Hatha Yoga is actually a practice of working through the physical to get elsewhere. But wisdom from breathing eventually kicks in and an inner force will begin to guide each of us into other areas of yoga interests. Change is inevitable and the one true constant when it comes to our human development on ‘the path.’

What motivated you to start this festival? What has been the most fulfilling aspect of it for you?  

I wanted to spread health and wellness. It’s a very fun event and we bring people together which is truly awesome.

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How long have you practiced yoga? Talk about how you got your start.  

I began experimenting with a practice in 1994, but didn’t really get into it until 2001 when a life-changing event, loss of a loved one, threw me into a tailspin. I found yoga to help me grieve and find myself again after such a loss. The breath-centered practice changed my life and helped me in so many ways I simply feel devoted to its purpose—to enhance lives.

Are there any yoga stereotypes that you would like to see change?

That yoga is just about the poses. It’s just 1/8 true.

Now that yoga is more of a mainstream practice, how does marketing play into it? How are you using the “Finding Om” video that you produced? Can you talk about how you balance the business/practicing of your own studio, JennYoga?  

I actually pulled out of studio ownership and instead manage yoga-based programs by placing teachers into various corporations and organizations. It’s hard to do it all, and after 8 years of studio ownership, I wanted to spread my wings a little differently and fly a bit higher into the big picture.  It helped that the universe, and a particular landlord whose values differed from my own, arranged for that to happen. I wanted more time to do other things and I got it! I teach five college courses, am a mentor for HISD, and now have time to do what I love the most—develop projects, write, read books and teach for-credit courses in health and wellness at the college level, specifically Rice University and Boston Architectural College. Life is good.

My “Finding Om” video was a fun TYC promotion idea with a few friends to show the internal struggle most of us have when we begin yoga and meditation practices. It’s not easy at first to be still and quiet. Honestly, I love film and writing. Often when I watch a movie I try to imagine and get into the mind of the screenwriter(s) and director. It’s like a puzzle to me. There is nothing more beautiful than the creative process.

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Your goal is to make Houston and Texas a ‘mecca’ for yoga. How do you think you’re accomplishing this goal?  

I’ve helped a lot of people over the years accomplish their dreams and goals in yoga, and kick started a huge movement in this city many years ago. I’d say we are now a mecca. I took a position recently at The Sonima Foundation and in great support of HISD Superintendent Terry Grier, we are placing health and wellness into HISD to help kids and teachers cope with stress! Our community leaders have woven various health awareness programs into medical centers, corporations and many organizations, churches and synagogues all over Houston. Austin is a powerhouse in all things green and healthy. Dallas and San Antonio have lovely communities as well. I’ve talked to studio owners and yogis from all over Texas and we simply rock this state for health and wellness, spanning into every domain imaginable including prison systems, women’s centers, public schools and veteran services. My colleagues and I are doing some great work all over. It’s beautiful to see the seeds sprout and grow.

Texas Yoga Conference
February 20-22, 2015
ISKCON Temple – 1320 West 34th Street, Houston, TX 77018

By Autumn Rhea Carpenter