While most yoga conferences feature luxury accommodations at destination locations, there’s one event taking the so-called “yoga vacation” experience one step further. While you’ll definitely get your fare share of sunshine, inspiration, and asana at this year’s Caribbean Yoga Conference, you’ll also find an unprecedented effort to support local in-need communities in Jamaica.
Described as “a celebration of sun, seva, and sangha,” the second-annual gathering is happening the week of January 31 through February 3, 2013, in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Seva roughly translates to “selfless service,” and is often described the highest form of karma yoga. While yoga practitioners are widely known to be progressive, service-minded folks, usually a yoga conference is the last place you’d expect to find meaningful opportunities to give.
But Kim Moon, founder of the Caribbean Yoga Conference, hopes to change that. Kim hosted the first CYC last year after visiting Jamaica and falling in love with the community there. “There were some amazing teachers and students,” Kim said, “but the industry is in such infancy… I wanted to do something to help it grow.” Thus, the Caribbean Yoga Conference was born. One of the most important components of the CYC is the scholarship and sustainability program, which is geared towards Jamaica’s youth workers. The goal of the program is to “spread the reach of yoga related tools to the marginalized children of Jamaica.”
Kim’s passion for building sangha, or community, is evident in the programs offered at this year’s conference. There are opportunities to participate in both on and off-site service activities, including Karma Korner – an interactive station where participants can send a letter to a wounded soldier or donate unused hotel toiletries and yoga mats. Attendees can also stay for a post conference Karma Retreat that allows them to dive head-first into the Jamaican community to participate in outreach projects that support many different social and environmental issues.
There’s no doubt that the community spirit will be palpable at the CYC. As anyone who has been to a large community gathering — be it a yoga festival, concert, or other event — knows, these events can be personally revitalizing and collectively transformative. But the real power comes when when the group energy raised at the event is directed toward a larger mission or goal. That’s when there’s a chance to create something stronger and more impactful than any one individual could have achieved by themselves.
Consider the light of a solitary candle in a dark room compared to that of 500 candles. One person can only do so much, but when you bring together hundreds of people with a collective intention to give back — there’s an opportunity to amplify small actions exponentially.
Instead of the regular routine of rolling out the mat, doing a few down-dogs, and going on with the day, this immersion hopes to give yogis the opportunity to take their practice to another level. It’s a conference with lofty goals of inspiring yogis to grown not only in their personal practice, but also their relationship with the world around them.
Some might argue that the very opportunity to attend a seva-oriented yoga conference in the Caribbean is a luxury out of reach to the vast majority of practitioners. But CYC also offered a program this year that provides scholarships to those who couldn’t afford to attend. They partnered with Karma Krew, a non-profit organization focused on mobilizing “the collective energy of the yoga community to expand the practice beyond the walls of the studios and into the hearts of our communities,” to give yogis under financial strain a chance to get inspired and plug-in.
And for those more interested in the “typical” yoga conference experience, CYC has an impressive lineup of faculty and presenters — including Intent favorites Elena Brower, Kia Miller, Tommy Rosen, MC Yogi & Amanda Giacomini, and Waylon Lewis. The weekend’s program includes morning meditations, yoga workshops, celebratory events, and numerous opportunities to connect with an extended yoga community.