How the Accessible Yoga Conference Took ‘Oms’ Online

Author: Casey Gale       

Accessible Yoga Conference

Accessible Yoga moved its October conference online, providing more than 100 hours of lectures, panels, workshops, and guided yoga practices. (Carmen Segovia illustration)

There’s a yoga pose for every body. Launched in 2015, Accessible Yoga is a nonprofit organization that aims to bring the benefits of yoga to all people, regardless of ability, body shape or size, race, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, economic class, or lived experience, according to Brina Lord, general manager of Accessible Yoga.

Since its inception, Accessible Yoga has held twice-yearly conferences providing continuing education credits for attendees — yoga instructors and studio owners, therapists, researchers, and others involved in the practice of yoga.

“Our passion is networking and education at our in-person events and online,” Lord said. So when the COVID-19 crisis forced their October 9-11 conference online, organizers took the opportunity to create more education than ever before the 641 registered attendees. The number of sessions tripled online from what is typically offered in person, with more than 100 hours of lectures, panels, workshops, and guided yoga practices that attendees were able to watch through the end of 2020.Speakers included Dianne Bondy, founder of YogaForEveryone.tv, and author of Yoga Where You Are; Susanna Barkataki, author of Honor Yoga’s Roots; and Matthew Sanford, founder of Mind Body Solutions, and author of Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence.

Namaste

While Lord noted that organizers and participants missed the chance to share meals and yoga practices together, she felt the online event was “able to recreate some of this magic and connection.”

Interactive community networking sessions were grouped by points of interest, such as Yoga for Larger Bodies and Yoga for Neurological Conditions, and a moderator helped guide each discussion. Additionally, acknowledging that 2020 was a difficult year for many yoga instructors who had to close studios and cancel classes, the online conference kicked off on a high note, with an opening night celebration, complete with a comedy routine and DJ dance party.

Despite the connections made during the event, Lord said online events are not the cure-all for accessibility. Hosting the event online broke down barriers for those who couldn’t attend the in-person event for physical or financial reasons in the past, but there are still people who might not have attended due to a lack of computer or internet connection, their personal method of learning, or neurodiversity.

“We learned that while many people are fortunate to connect online in this moment,” Lord said, “total accessibility comes in many forms.”

Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.

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