International Yoga Festival 2013
International Yoga Festival ran from the 1-7 March at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh. There were more than 475 official participants from 41 countries; however, taking into consideration those who came just for a few classes or programs, the total number of participants was nearly 800 people from 50 countries! Parmarth Niketan has been hosting International Yoga Festival since 1999, first in cooperation with Uttar Pradesh Tourism and then in cooperation with Uttarakhand Tourism.
The number of participants, the diversity of the countries from which they come and the array of yogacharyas has increased significantly year by year. This year there were more than 30 yogacharyas from a wide variety of countries.
The yogacharyas and speakers included: Padmashri Bharat Bhushan, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Andrew Cohen, Mooji, Swami Yogananda, Swami Tattvarupananda, Sadhvi Abha Saraswati, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, H.S. Arun, Deepika Mehta, Janet Attwood, Gurushabd Khalsa, Brian Siddharth, Bhava Ram, Laura Plumb, Gabriela Bozic, Brahmachari Vishwapal Jayant, Maa Gyan Suveera, Mohan Bhandari, Mohan Raj, Dr. Ranjit Bhogal, Satya Kalra, Yogi Krishnan, Yuva Dayal, Bhavini Kalan, Sindu Ma, Yogacharini Maitreyi.
Yoga offerings included Kundalini Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Sukshma Yoga, Jivamukti Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Yoga Nidra, Kriya Yoga, Somatics Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, Bharat Yoga, Arkaya Yoga, Tulasidalam Yoga, Kalari Yoga, Yuuva Yoga, Iyoga, Yogi Yoga, Deep Yoga, Ganga Yoga, and Kaivalayadham Yoga as well as variations on the theme of yoga including Reiki, Acupressure, Ayurveda, etc.
The more than 30 yogacharyas came from a variety of cities and countries around the world including USA, China, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Germany and Australia.
There were also divine, inspiring and uplifting spiritual discourses given by Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswatiji, Andrew Cohen of USA, Shri Mooji of Jamaica, Padmashri Bharat Bhushan, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, and Bhava Ram of USA.
There was also a special drumming performance given by Sivamani, the world famous drummer and other cultural song and dance programs.
The concluding ceremony was graced by the presence of the Honourable Governor of Uttarakhand, the Hon’ble Minister of Finance, Smt. Indira Hridayeshji, Respected Imam Umer Ahmed Iliyasiji, the President of the All India Imam Association and many others. Many of the female participants donned sarees excitedly for the first time. The concluding program included a pledge from all the participants to work to keep the rivers of the world clean. Gabriela Bozic of Germany led the pledge to work for Mother Ganga and all rivers wherever people live. Laura Plumb from California, USA, spoke about the founding of the Ganga Yoga Foundation by the inspiration and blessing of Pujya Swami Chidanandji. Deepika Mehta of Mumbai, the yoga teacher to the Bollywood celebrities shared her feelings of being so blessed to come and teach at the Yoga Festival. Andrew Cohen of USA and Shri Mooji of Jamaica also shared their words of feeling so blessed and happy to be part of the Festival.
Highlights of the week included:
1. Awakening the Kundalini with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa to the sacred sound of the gong and chants from every religious tradition, including Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Jewish.
2. Satsang and Question-Answer session with Pujya Swami Chidanandji in which the participants opened their hearts and asked questions about their lives, spiritual philosophy, yoga and much more. Pujya Swamiji answered questions about many aspects of spirituality, yoga and everyday life.
3. Discourse on the true meaning of Yoga with Pujya Swami Dayanandaji.
4. Plenary on Messages of the Kumbh Mela: There was a beautiful program led by Pujya Swami Chidanandji titled “Messages of the Kumbh Mela.” Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati shared the story of the Kumbh with the audience, stopping along the way to give messages of the various aspects. Pujya Swamiji inspired and uplifted everyone by explaining to them how to have a real Kumbh in their lives, wherever they live. He said, “In Kumbh mostly we are camping, you leave behind the comforts, convenience and possessions of your home. But without all of these things, people find true peace. That is because Kumbh teaches us that life is not about having more, but rather life is about beingmore! In the Kumbh we learn to BE more.” Sadhvi Bhagawati explained that the sacred nectar of immortality for which people flock, is not something that prevents the body from dying, but rather she explained that “Through the grace of Mother Ganga, the grace of the revered saints and gurus, we are given a glimpse, a taste, of connection with that part within ourselves that is divine and immortal. When we attain awareness, experiential awareness of that union with the divine, that is the nectar of immortality.” Pujya Swamiji also beautifully explained about Bhagawan Shiva drinking the poison that emerged during the churning of the ocean, and then coming to the Himalayas, to this area and meditating at what is now Neelkanth Mahadev temple. He said, “Most of us just keep spitting our poison out on everyone around us. But through this story, Bhagawan Shiva teaches us that the answer is not to spit poison on those around us, but to meditate instead so that the poison dissolves.”
5. EnlightenNext – a Foundation for Spiritual Evolution Lecture with Andrew Cohen,Andrew Cohen, the founder of EnlightenNext of USA, UK and many other countries, gave a beautiful talk on the movement from awareness and consciousness to awakening. He emphasized how important the practices of yoga and meditation are to create the vessel for spiritual awakening. After spending a week studying intense yoga it was a wonderful inspiration for the participants to hear the message of the importance of these practices as a vessel for containing one’s spiritual practice, pursuits and awareness.
6. Satsang on Advaita by Mooji of Jamaica in which he addressed the depths of the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy by coaxing the audience to go deeply within themselves and question “Who is the one asking this question? Who is the one with the problem? Whose problem is it?” He explained to the listeners that “I am not so interested in the question as in the questioner. Something very deep has brought you to this holy land of Rishikesh and it is that depth of experience that we want to make sure you receive, not only things you could read in books.” He concluded his inspiring discourse with a meditation of going into the state of emptiness which ultimately leads to the elusive state of constant and continuous inner peace.
7. Living Yoga for Joy and Health by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati of USA and Dr. Ranjit Bhogal of Kaivalyadham, Pune. In the discourses, the participants learned how to bring yoga into their daily lives and truly “live” yoga. They also learned about how the practice of yoga changes the way they think and feel and therefore affects not only their minds and emotions but also their physical health.
8. Deep Yoga Lecture by Bhava Ram Bhava Ram from USA gave a beautiful lecture on deep yoga and healing. Bhava had been an international war journalist until he severely injured himself and also developed cancer. Through yoga, he healed his back and also his cancer. He taught the participants the power of the mind to heal.
The divine evening Ganga Aarti was also, as every year, a highlight for all the participants of every country, culture, religion and language. Of course, the evening dancing on the banks of Mother Ganga, under the sacred Himalayas, at the feet of Shankar Bhagawan on Parmarth Niketan’s ghat, to the divine sound of drumming by Sivamani was an unforgettable experience and an absolute highlight.