Frank Zappa once said: “without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” This was the case for Melissa Hagedorn, the Northwest Yoga Conference (NwYC) director. Life shook the ground beneath her, but without this unexpected deviation she most likely wouldn’t have founded the conference. Today, in its fourth year since its creation, the NwYC attracts many yoga practitioners and teachers to share this three day event.

“Northwest Yoga Conference aims to celebrate and promote the benefits of yoga while cultivating a unified yoga community through learning, sharing, and growing together. We strive to offer an affordable, inspiring and educational experience that welcomes everyone.” ~ NwYC mission statement

To learn more about what inspired Hagedorn to create the NwYC, the struggles she has faced, and her vision for the conference, we asked her a few questions.

SYN: What inspired you to start the NWYogaConference?

Hagedorn: As a dedicated yogi, I had a strong desire to immerse myself in a weekend of yoga after my husband was laid off from his job. This was in January and the only opportunities I could find were trips to Mexico or Hawaii that required an investment of several thousand dollars. I decided to create a day-long retreat, that I could plan and then attend for free, and it evolved into a multi-day, international yoga event. It is a classic story of creating what you need because it doesn’t exist.

SYN: Please tell us about your vision and future goals.

Hagedorn: My vision has evolved and grown with the event. Right now, I want to provide an opportunity for the yoga community to come together in a big way and immerse ourselves in the practice of yoga in a supportive and non-competitive environment. The future holds the possibility of expanding to offer additional events and gatherings throughout the year.

SYN: In its fourth year, the NWYC is a success; but looking back, what has been the biggest challenge?

Hagedorn: I am extremely passionate about my work. I work extremely hard at what I do.There is always a new idea to explore, another marketing opportunity to set-up and no shortage of e-mails to answer. I have to remind myself not to work to the point of exhaustion and take care of myself. Also, when you pour your heart and soul into a labor of love, it is not always easy to deal with negativity that is directed your way. I think that many of us working in the yoga “industry” experience this on some level. Over the years, I have progressed in my ability to deal with the infrequent, yet hurtful, negativity. I take the valid points into consideration and remind myself that the person is often projecting their own issues my way and find compassion for them.

SYN: There is a lot of work put into organizing the NWYC. What makes it all worth it?

Hagedorn: Haha! That is a great question and one that I ask myself on a regular basis. I think it is healthy and natural to ask this question in regards to anything you direct your energy towards. For me, there are many things that make it worthwhile. I am blessed to work with an amazing team of volunteers. These women impress me with their passion and ability to live life to the fullest. The feedback I hear from conference participants about how deeply meaningful the conference is to them brings me joy. I started the conference because I didn’t have the financial means to travel to an out-of-area yoga event or retreat. Knowing that I am providing a local event that is more financially accessible means a lot to me. Showcasing our local yoga teaching treasures to the country and supporting small businesses – presenters, vendors, yoga studios – gives me pride. And I cannot even begin to describe the growth I have experienced – as a human-being, leader, friend and wife.

SYN: Where do you see the NWYC in five years?

Hagedorn: I foresee the conference expanding beyond a single, four day event and creating a variety of yoga events that occur throughout the year and serve to bring the community together in a supportive and non-competitive format.

SYN: If the yoga community doesn’t know one thing about you, what would that be?

Most yogis don’t know that I am a full-time RV’er! My husband started an outdoor guiding business after he was laid off from the government and the only workable living situation was an RV. We typically “boondock” which means we have no running water and use our solar panels for electricity. We have satellite internet which allows me to continue planning the conference from the road.

We spend spring and fall exploring the enchanting slot canyons of Southern Utah, summer climbing the majestic mountains of Washington and winter exploring a new location. This year, we watched the burning of a wood sculpted Paleo-Bison in Bluff, UT on winter solstice, learned about the US and Mexico immigration challenges firsthand in southern Arizona and saw a wild coyote on the Sea of Cortez’s seashell-abundant beaches.

SYN: What is your latest favorite thing about humanity?

Hagedorn: That is really hard to choose. I was close to having a psychology degree in school and am fascinated by human behavior. How different we are yet at the same time very similar. At this time in my life, with seven young nieces and nephews, I am really enjoying spending time with children. It is an incredible world and even more so when you view it through the eyes of a child.

One piece of advice Hagedorn will give you is to: “Pursue what you believe in.” For her “this event is labor of love. My heart and soul is in it.”

(Melissa Hagedorn founded the Northwest Yoga Conference in response to her own need for a local and affordable immersion into yoga after her husband was laid off from his job. Since founding the conference, she has taken many leaps of faith and embraced the adventure that life presents. She is a believer in saying yes to opportunity. Melissa enjoys exploring and sharing nature from her RV (full-timer!), often as an outdoor guide for her husband’s business, Get In The Wild Adventures. In addition to yoga and hiking, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, running, and teaching yoga in places where no yoga studios exist.)

[Photo by Abhimanyu – CC BY]

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