Let me enlighten you with some good news: September is National Yoga Month and Akron is poised to celebrate it. The awareness month, which was dedicated by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2008, will be recognized by the city’s yogics with a conference running from Sept. 25 through 27.
The Akron Yoga Summit will take place in the University of Akron’s Student Union ballroom on Sept. 25 and at Summit Art Space on Sept. 26 and 27. It’s the first of what will hopefully be an annual gathering of the area’s yoga instructors, meditation leaders, lecturers and (hopefully) some newbies.
“It really is the community coming together,” says Zach Friedhof, a local musician and yoga enthusiast who helped organize the event.
“If folks are interested in the yoga and meditation scene in the area, this is the perfect place to get pieces of what everybody is doing and meet a lot of instructors from a lot of different studios.”
Akron’s thriving yoga community
Here’s another slice of enlightenment: it turns out that Akron does have a yoga community and it seems to be thriving.
“I know so many people who live here and do yoga,” says Sara Syed, a yoga instructor for Holistic Leaders and Mindful Meditation, a student organization at the University of Akron.
The group offers free yoga and meditation sessions on campus for anyone interested. “A lot of yoga that is accessible in Akron is free and donation based,” says Syed.
“Yoga is no longer reserved for the affluent suburban set, and the emerging Akron yoga community can be the vehicle for a happier and healthier place to live and work,” says Nancy Holland, local yoga teacher and the founder and director of Free Akron Yoga and Blue Hen Yoga.
Kelly McHood is another local instructor who offers free yoga sessions around the city and helped start up the Yoga Summit event. She offers classes in chair yoga (for people with limited mobility) and gentle yoga (for people wanting less physically demanding poses) at community centers in Ellet, Joy Park, Kenmore, Summit Lake and more.
“There are a lot of barriers being broken down in the yoga world right now, and I think it’s gaining popularity everywhere,” says McHood.
McHood stresses her belief in the accessibility of yoga and hopes to draw some beginners to the Yoga Summit at the end of the month.
“Everyone’s welcome. You don’t even have to have heard of the word ‘yoga’ to come to this.”
Some established yoga studios from around the area will also be represented at the conference.
Activities include a lecture by Tim Huth, a founder of One Love Yoga in Kent, an Ashtanga workshop with Marque Garaux of Yoga Lounge in Hudson and instruction in pranayama and mahamrityunjaya with Nancy Holland and Tracy Rhinehart of Yoga Bliss in Fairlawn.
The event’s staff is also collaborating on a book that will feature short articles by the community’s studio owners, practitioners and instructors that are attending and presenting at the Yoga Summit.
“The idea behind the book is to be a symbol of inspiration to the community,” says Kevin Karas, the co-founder of the Holistic Leaders and Mindful Meditation group. Karas helped formulate the idea for the book in hopes that long-time members of the local yoga scene could share some tidbits of guidance. The group plans to create a Kickstarter page to help fund the book.
“Imagine if your favorite teacher had written in this book and you read what they wrote and then flipped to another chapter because a topic caught your eye. Then you can find someone else,” Karas says. “We see it as a great way to network and hear more about what else is happening.”
The Akron Yoga Summit will kick off at 5 p.m. in the University of Akron’s Student Union Ballroom on Friday Sept. 25. Tickets for the event are available online at www.eventbrite.com/e/akron-yoga-summit-tickets-17958930645.
Consider yourself enlightened.