<b>YOUR HEALTH | </b>By Katie Murdoch Herald writer
LYNNWOOD — Those who practice and teach yoga can talk endlessly about the physical and mental health benefits it offers, such as melting stress and stretching stiff muscles.
But when it comes to attending yoga conferences and retreats, even the devoted yoga enthusiasts say it’s neither convenient nor cheap.
Snohomish County resident Melissa Hagedorn, who’s been practicing for a decade, is doing something about that.
More than a year ago, Hagedorn began buckling under financial pressures and emotionally checking out of her job. Attending a yoga retreat was a reliable remedy to help control stress. However, retreats were offered in faraway places like Mexico and Hawaii; it was hard to justify the expense in a sour economy.
So why not plan a yoga retreat in Snohomish County? From there, and with help from her friends in the yoga community, Hagedorn’s plan grew into a two-day conference.
“I kept thinking, ‘This should be bigger,’” she said.
Her hard work paid off.
The first annual Northwest Yoga Conference is scheduled for Feb. 18-19 at the Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW.
“It (the Convention Center) is the perfect size and everybody feels part of the community,” she said.
The conference will feature instructors, events and vendors. More than 300 yoga instructors and students are expected to attend, organizers said.
Dawn Torres, owner of Laughing Buddha, a yoga studio in Mill Creek, will teach classes and host a booth. A local venue will make things more inclusive, she said.
First people feel the physical affects of yoga and then the emotional, Torres said. Yoga sharpens clarity and focus, and people have told her their body feels better and they are less stressed sitting in traffic.
“There’s some type of yoga to benefit each body,” Torres said.
The conference also will include a keynote speech by yoga master Aadil Palkhivala along with a panel discussion with local yoga instructors talking about the definition of “community” and how to create a supportive one.
While visiting yoga studios and festivals to get ideas and spread the word about the conference, Hagedorn realized the yoga community is accepting and inclusive. She hopes that spirit carries into the conference.
“My dream is to see toddlers there with their parents and seniors and teenagers doing yoga,” she said.
Her friend, Darcey Miller, joined her in her research. Miller started yoga in college to try something new.
“It completely relaxed me during a stressful time in my life,” Miller said.
Yoga classes for all ages, including a “Chair Yoga” workshop for seniors, will be offered. There also will be a yoga marketplace and a place for meditation.
Hagedorn began practicing yoga to include in her running regime. She found its effects grounding and calming.
“I learned the philosophy of yoga,” she said. “If you open up to it, you can change your perspective and the way you view things.”
Serving as conference director involved taking a voluntary layoff from her job as a wetland biologist for the state. The decision was difficult and scary, and Hagedorn admits it doesn’t make sense. But it was necessary, she thought.
“I felt a calling; this is what you need to do,” she said. “It will all work out.”
Northwest Yoga Conference
For more information and to register, visit www.nwyogaconference.com or call 425-299-2794. Attendees may choose from two-day, one-day or single workshop passes.