What does a yoga therapy conference look like?




By Laurie Hyland Robertson

The Symposium on Yoga Therapy and Research is coming up in mid-June, so here’s a peek inside yoga therapy’s largest annual international conference.

Some aspects of SYTAR, as the conference is known in the yoga therapy field, could take place at any professional conference—colleagues warmly reuniting after a year apart, lecture halls full of people feverishly taking notes, even a big banquet where awards are given and new friends make plans to stay in touch or collaborate on projects.

Some things, though, are a little different. Many of those lecture attendees, for instance, are sitting cross-legged on the chairs, in bare feet, or they’re stretched out on the floor at the back of the hall, possibly folded in half to write those notes. The conference itself kicks off with a blast from a ceremonial conch shell (it’s a yoga thing), and each day begins with early-morning sessions where you’ll find yoga therapists engaged in their own physical yoga practices, breathing exercises, meditations, or even chanting. (Practicing what they preach is essential to yoga therapists being able to do their jobs.)

This year’s symposium offers sessions on topics you might expect—yoga as therapy for people with stroke, pain physiology, yoga along the continuum of cancer care, teaching back care classes. But the speakers, who include practicing yoga therapists, medical doctors, physical therapists, and others, will also cover some less-expected subjects like ethnic and race-based traumatic stress, cultivating presence, and using Yoga Nidra (a practice similar to guided meditation) as a tool for healing and transformation.

SYTAR grows every year as more people dedicate their professional lives to becoming yoga therapists and begin to participate in research and continuing education. Read about the 2017 conference here.

The International Association of Yoga Therapists, which hosts SYTAR, also holds a research-specific conference each fall; learn about the Symposium on Yoga Research here.

Laurie Hyland Robertson, MS, C-IAYT, is a yoga therapist and editor in chief of Yoga Therapy Today. She owns Whole Yoga & Pilates in the Baltimore-Washington area.