Yoga will take over Whistler this weekend 

Teachers and students from across the nation gather at second Whistler Yoga Conference


A conundrum has circled Pique headquarters in where to place a story about the Whistler Yoga Conference. Is it an arts story? Sports? Culture? News?

In truth, yoga fits all of these categories - it's a skillful physical activity that requires a supple arrangement of the human body that can only be defined as artistic. It's an ancient discipline that now pervades every city and town in the West Coast and well beyond.

"It's something that's really developing in Whistler and growing exponentially as kind of a side culture that's going on," says Tanya Di Valentino, local yoga instructor and co-founder of the Whistler Yoga Conference.

Now in it's second year, the conference include a series of workshops between Friday, May 6 and Sunday, May 8, focusing on a deepening of understanding for the more experienced practitioners.

But this is hardly a yogis-only club. People of all skill levels will find value in the $349 three-day conference pass.

"This is for everyone who wants to step up and really experience some really neat new practices in the innovative and traditional modes," Di Valentino says.

The conference schedule includes 7 a.m. meditation session each morning followed by all-day workshops that will take aspects of the yoga practice - sun salutations, breathing techniques, chanting, etc. - and dive into them individually for a couple of hours at a time. The deeper understanding of each aspect of the practice will allow for a deeper understanding of the practice.

Di Valentino and local yoga instructor Glenn Iles conceived the conference as a way for locals to learn from and share with the pool of top-tier yoga teachers that now reside here. The idea grew to include teachers from other areas that can collaborate with the local teachers in order to create a cross-continental yoga community network.

Over 200 people attended last year's conference from as far away as Ontario, North Carolina and Texas. It held something for everybody, Di Valentino says - those with less experience were exposed to various avenues and traditions, while the teachers' too shared and learned techniques that they could incorporate into their own practices and classes.

"It's more of a collaboration - we're all taking our intense, beautiful and wild experience of yoga to the table and sharing it," Di Valentino says. "A lot of the teachers that are coming are innovative - they're creating their own styles from their experience. From that, another teacher will experience that and go, 'Huh, I can incorporate that into my class.' It sort of perpetuates really."

Yoga, like most health and well-being fads, has met its share of skepticism but its physical benefits, never mind emotional and spiritual, have earned it a spot in cities and towns across Canada as an integrated cultural and social practice. It's not just for the New Age any more as middle-aged men with chronic back problems take to the matt.

"(Yoga) sort of spills into all areas of our lives in some way, shape or form and I think people are really realizing and experiencing directly those benefit," says Di Valentino.

Everyone is welcome to the conference, although some experience with yoga is encouraged. Individual day passes are $129; all day intensive six-hour passes are $119; and individual two-hour classes are $40.



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