In our glorious networked age you can learn from some of the greatest wellness experts from the comfort of your own bedroom. Previously this would only be possible if you attended a conference, which would require a lot of time and funds, and wouldn’t include learning from your cozy bed. My dreams of learning from the best of the best have been hampered by time constraints and the responsibilities of my day-to-day life. But now, digital conferences have opened doors to those of us who might not be able to attend the real thing.
I recently attended two digital conferences (both free for a limited period of time) to get the scoop on the latest frontiers of information-sharing in the yoga and wellness communities. Both the Yoga International Fall Digital Conference and the Ayurveda Summit were only online, rather than happening live and online simultaneously.
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I set out on this mission to explore two main questions: What do online conferences offer, and do I (and by extension you!) in fact have time to attend them? Below, my findings.
As far as name recognition goes, Yoga International’s conference is definitely the top contender. This conference brought together the biggest names in contemporary yoga to talk about the hottest topics. Many speakers gave a talk and also led a practice that was thematically linked to their topic. For example, Dianne Bondy spoke about yoga accessibility and the relationship between yoga and social justice, then led “A Vinyasa Practice for Everyone” that was inspiring and easy to follow.
Although there were a variety of topics, the themes focused on therapeutics and inclusivity. I appreciated that most talks were paired with asana practice and pose suggestions that stressed the practical applications of what were sometimes headier topics.
Sessions went “live” on specific days according to a daily schedule, but were then available for the duration of the conference. Buying an all-access pass gave you unrestricted, permanent access to the conference offerings and the program.
The Great: I enjoyed hearing some of my favorite teachers speak about their passions, and I learned a lot that I’ll be taking back to my own practice and teaching. The conference also came with an in-depth .pdf program that included practice breakdowns, meditations, and helpful summary notes and overviews.
I appreciated the navigability of the conference offerings. There was a lot on the schedule, and Yoga International did a great job of organizing things in an intuitive way.
The Not-As-Great: The scope of this conference was a little overwhelming. Luckily, the fact that the conference was online (and is still available for pass holders) means that I had time to work through a lot of it. The conference guide contained a great deal of fantastic information, but was hard to navigate and could have used a table of contents.
I’m fairly new to the complex system called ayurveda, and this conference was a perfect way to jump in. Hosts Cate Stillman and Dr. Eric Grasser, MD, CAy interviewed experts in the field on everything from digestion to yoga practice. While ayurveda provided the foundation for every talk, the talks were impressive in the breadth of subtopics they explored. I personally had a very limited idea of what ayurveda was before this (something to do with doshas?) but after watching these videos I have a clearer understanding of it as well as ideas about how to connect it to my own life.
Organization was a strength of this conference. Every day, I received an e-mail with the schedule for the day and brief descriptions of each talk (four per day). The talks expired after 24 hours if you weren’t a pass holder. You could watch the talks in any order on that day. Because I had limited time, I often had to choose one or two to listen to, but I was happy to have options! The Summit also extended the time to watch videos and had an encore day for the most popular presentations. A Facebook page also alerted viewers to each day’s schedule.
The Great: I loved the focus of this conference, and it was fantastic to hear from some of the biggest names in ayurveda. I appreciated the more specific topic and never felt overwhelmed by the conference offerings. I also felt like all talks were accessible to everyone, even those with little or no prior knowledge of ayurveda. Daily e-mail provided motivation to watch as many talks as possible.
The Not-As-Great: For whatever reason, I had some technology issues with this conference. I would rather have just listened to streaming audio of the talks, as videos were sometimes slow to load and often included images that seemed like filler. Audio quality in some of the talks was not as great because people were phoning.
Final verdict? Digital wellness conferences are great, but it can be hard to devote the time and energy necessary to keep up with them. When you attend a conference, it means you’ve set aside time to fully immerse yourself in the offerings. Attending conferences in person also increases your chances of networking and meeting like-minded people in person. However, conferences can also be cost-prohibitive and impossible with our busy schedules. Paying for full access for a digital conference is more economical than actually going to a conference, so if you can budget for this, it’s definitely the way to make the most of these wonderful opportunities. These conferences often have early discounts for full access that will save you a good bit of money (up to $100!). If you can’t afford to pay, then take advantage of the free access and schedule time to deepen your own knowledge. You won’t regret it!
There’s a real opportunity for these conferences to take even fuller advantage of social media. The Ayurveda Summit had an Event page on Facebook, but besides postings about the daily offerings there was (very) minimal activity there. Yoga International has a Facebook page, but I couldn’t find a page specific to the conference. I didn’t even think about checking whether there were Facebook pages during the conferences themselves, which indicates to me that other people also weren’t thinking about this! Social media outlets could be great venues to do some of the networking and discussion that does take place at live, in-person conferences.
Have you attended a yoga conference, either in person or online? Tell us about it!