by Jonathan Spindel
We’re getting limber in anticipation of the Texas Yoga Conference this weekend in Houston, and we can hardly wait for the exciting events ahead of us. We caught up with Jennifer Buergermeister, the founder of the conference and an accomplished yogi in her own right. She’s a champion ambassador of yoga and keen entrepreneur, and we’re blessed to be able to share some of her insightful comments from her personal experiences.
This is the sixth year of the Texas Yoga Conference, and what really stands out this year is that they are kicking off the inauguration of the ISKCON temple that was built in Houston last year. A majestic structure built with stones imported from India, the ISKCON temple is a truly impressive sight to behold, and it will serve as the yoga conference’s home from now on. “What I feel is most special about this year is that we have a new home, we have been invited to make [ISKCON] our home,” Buergermeister says. The yoga community at large has been very supportive of the temple, so there is a strong foundation of goodwill between the yoga community and ISKCON. “It’s so breathtaking and beautiful,” Buergermeister says, “There’s so much love, so much community, so much devotion.”
The conference was previously held at a range of spiritual centers and universities in Houston, but now it’s time to settle down. “Planting roots is really important,” Buergermeister says, “Therefore this year’s theme for the conference is: strengthening your roots and developing branches.” The festival will start with a Tree of Life ceremony, in the spirit of Indian traditions, in the center of the temple campus. The tree will be bedecked with art and activities, such as Mala bead making, and will function as a central focus point during the weekend.
“There’s an essence of India that’s coming to the conference that never really was there before,” Buergermeister says. In fact the conference, and yoga in general, is steeped in spiritual traditions — traditions that are welcoming, inclusive, and full of compassionate energy. “If you look at the roots of most spiritual practices… the interesting thing for me is they all tends to gravitate toward the same message… the essence of universality where everything is connected,” Buergermeister says. “We’ve brought a lot of different traditions, from the Tibetan yoga perspective, to the traditional Indian Hatha yoga, to the Buddhist perspective, and also elements of the Christian mystical perspective… they’re all saying the same thing: we’re all in this together, we’re all here to be happy, we’re all here to love and have our families and be connected in some way. That’s really the mission and the essence of what I’m trying to build every year.”
The Texas Yoga Conference invites all people who are interested in yoga to come and learn more about the methods, as well as the history and philosophy of the practice. Although the conference features myriad experts in an array of fields within yoga, newcomers have a lot to gain, too. Buergermeister shared her thoughts about when she first discovered yoga: “In the beginning, with any kind of new discovery or thing that we’re interested in, we’re not quite sure. What are we doing? This is so foreign… Is this even who I am? Who am I? Maybe I don’t know myself, maybe this can help me find me.”
Buergermeister got interested in the philosophical and psychological fundamentals of yoga during her time in college, which prompted her to started trying out yoga practice at home using instructional videos. But it didn’t really “click” until she had a life-changing experience. While embarking on graduate studies, her husband passed away. “I was completely lost,” she says. Losing someone so close is intensely jarring, she says, “because so much of a part of you had been a part of that person as well.” She was in deep grief, intense sadness. She lost the strength to continue her studies. She wasn’t eating. But one day she suddenly felt compelled to jump back into yoga.
This time she attended a class in person after she found a local studio in the yellow pages. Back then, there were only a few yoga studios in the city. “I thought, this looks kind of interesting, it looked different, looked kinda weird, so I decided to give it a try.” The first session was so intense it nearly overcame her, physically and emotionally. “But the next day I felt something shift.” Her teacher encouraged her to keep coming back, so even though it was challenging, she decided to return. “I believe that the breath, and just sweating and stretching and all of that, it was doing something for my soul. It felt like I was finding “me” again.” She found herself going three or four times a week. Shortly thereafter, she got her appetite back, and started experiencing more and more joy. “So I really stuck with it and I became very passionate about supporting not only yoga but the promotion of yoga. It did such wonderful things for me during the most difficult time of my life.”
She hastens to add — not everyone needs to come from that kind of background to fall in love with yoga, that’s just her particular story. “However you get there is part of the journey,” she says. “We all start in different places with different reasons with different expectations, different senses of need or connection. However you get there, the end result is usually very positive. People change, people feel better, people become happier.” Whether you are dabbling in it, intrigued by it, or learning about it from afar, the benefits of yoga are plentiful and easily accessible, if you’re willing to put forth some personal dedication.
So Buergermeister opened a yoga studio in 2007, and started the conference in 2009. Around the same time, she founded the Texas Yoga Association to promote and protect yoga in the state of Texas. Ultimately, Buergermeister lives to share yoga with the world. It’s because she truly believes in its power to bring people together and help them make the most of their lives. “There’s something about the energy of it, it’s huge, and you can’t always quite explain it. There’s something majestic about it, it’s the spirit alluring you to find yourself.” So come on down to Houston this weekend, take the first step of the rest of your life. Onward, toward an ever-brighter future! As Jenny says, “Your health is so important, you have this life to make the most of it. Enjoy it, do whatever you can to make it the best life ever!”
Passes to the conference are available online. For more information, please visit www.texasyogaconference.com Hope to see you there!