International Yoga Festival – Day 4 & 5
On the 4th Day of International Yoga Festival, the morning began with Ashtanga Series of yoga taught by yoga-teacher to the celebrities Deepika Mehta from Mumbai; Movement, Flow & Transformation with Roberto Milletti of Italy, Ci plus meditation with Maa Gyan Suveera, Lila Sun Salutations by Erica Kaufman, and Sukshma Yoga taught by Swami Yogananda.
Deepika guided the students to: “Keep the heart lifted and radiant, yet at the same time drop the tailbone to balance the flow of prana and aparna. The essence of ashtanga vinyasa is to find the sushamna nadi (central axis) in every asana of the practice through the alignment, keeping our dhristi (gaze), ujjayi breath and vinyasa (movement & breath connection) with awareness in the bandhas.”
The morning intensives included Devi Sadhana with Laura Plumb from USA which included a practice of asanas, pranayama and meditation dedicated to the Mother Goddess in all Her forms, Power of Yoga with Sherri Baptiste of USA, Kundalini Yoga with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa and Iyengar Yoga with H.S. Arun of Bangalore.
The spiritual lecture series included discourses by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati on “A Divine Balance — from Stress Management to Self Management” and ”Rewire your Consciousness with Mantra & meditation: A Talk & Guided Mantra Meditation” by Chandresh Bhardwaj founder of the Break the Norms movement.
Sadhviji explained that “The problems in our lives are caused by the artificial borders we erect between different aspects of our lives — this is my spiritual time, this is my work time, this is my family time. Then we try to ‘balance’ those aspects and it leads us into stress management classes or onto anti-anxiety medicine. When we realize, instead, that everything is our spiritual life — whatever we do, wherever we go, whomever we’re with — it’s all part of the sadhana of seeing the Divine in everything, it’s all a sadhana in love, peace, presence and true, divine union, then the stress disappears, the depression disappears and the Self appears.”
After lunch, highlights of the afternoon included: Chandanni Miglino taught Submerged Yoga, Hikaru Hashimoto taught Shinto Yoga, Anandra George led a beautiful chanting of the Sanskrit alphabet, Yuva Dayalan & TS Krishnan led Yuva Yoga, Gabriela Bozic led a Bhakti filled Jivamukti class, Akira Watamoto & Roberto Milletti led a joint hatha class on posture and movement, and Radhanath Swamiji shared a discourse on his personal experience with Himalayan yogis, much to the delight of all the participants.
Akira Watamoto, a renowned yogi from Japan who frequently appears on TV shows and in print media, shared: “Sometimes we get stuck in our asana due to the stubbornness of the mind and old patterns. Let’s experience, through the liquid movement and fluidity of asana, a pure expression of the body’s intelligence. Just observe one’s breathing and harmonize the movement with the breath. We will then be able to experience the working of sacred Nature inside our own skin.”
After the evening sacred Ganga Aarti, the participants had a special dance performance given by Arushi Nishank, on Ganga, followed by the special experience of dancing to the matchless percussionist Sivamani who played the drums with such joy and prowess that it had all participants dancing. Sivamani, truly IS music, not only a musician and he brought the gift and experience of music to the heart, mind and every cell of the participants!
On the 5th day of the world famous annual International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan, where nearly 600 participants from 50 countries have come to take part in courses and classes given by more than 50 world renowned yoga experts, the morning began with developing navel intelligence by using the uddiyana bhandana a kundalini kriya class by Kia Miller, who is a devoted scholar, practitioner and teacher of Kundalini yoga from Los Angeles, a special class on Zen Meditation led by Akira Watamoto, renowned yoga teacher from Japan as well as Yuvaa Yoga by TA Krishnan, who has been awarded the Yoga Ratna by the President of India, and his disciple Yuva Dayalan, who teaches all over Asia and runs his own Yuva school of Yoga in Hong Kong.
Kia Miller explained that: “Creating intelligence in the body leads to an intelligent approach to life. This class will take you on an exploration into your own innate power to create. Our work with the breath through pranayama helps us to dissolve the veil that covers our True self. Therefore, in the end, you will see that we are only uncovering that which is already there. That is the true state of Yoga.”
Then the morning intense asana classes took place with Gabriela Bozic teaching Jivamukti Yoga, Deepika Mehta of Mumbai, famed yoga teacher to the celebrities, teaching the ashtanga class with focus on alignments, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa of California, USA teaching Kundalini yoga, and Bharat Shetty leading an INDEA Vinayasa flow class. There was the special presence of famous drummer Sivamani in Gurmukh’s Kundalini class so the students had the wonderful blessing of doing their yoga to the rythmic sound of Sivamani’s drumming.
In Gabriela’s class on backbends she explained: “On a psychokinetic level, backbending moves us into the future. We are applying yogic principles to back bending which allow us to safely, fearlessly and confidently move into the future with a sense of adventure. Backbends help us address the fear of going into the unknown territories, of doing something new and how to move past that fear in order to live the truest expression of ourselves. Through consistent yoga practice we learn to perceive things more accurately, to be in the present moment, and thus choose the right action which will help reduce or avoid future suffering.”
These intense classes were followed by an inspiring satsang with Shri Radhanath Swamiji, originally from America and now heading the ISKCON Temple in Mumbai, and the renowned author of “The Journey Home.”
His satsang was focused on the theme of “Through Giving We Receive.” He shared stories of the lives of the saints, the devotees and the rishis, which filled the audience with awe and devotion.
The discourse was followed by a discourse by Pujya Swami Madhavpriyadasji head of the Swaminarayan Gurukul Parivar Ahmedebad. Pujya Swami Madhavpriyadasji explained that “Yoga means union. So that which unites us is yoga. There is no greater unifier than love (prem). So love is the greatest yoga. The greatest obstacle on our spiritual path is the ego, and the answer to that is also love. Where there is love, there can be no ego. Just as nothing can stick in the everflowing waters of Mother Ganga, so no trace of ego, jealousy, anger or greed can stick in the everflowing river of true universal love in our hearts.”
After enjoying their lunch sitting on tables in the sunshine and dining tents, some highlights of the afternoon included Somatics Flow with Brian Siddharth and Gayatri, a special workshop on Vedic and Devotional Chanting with Anandra George, and the benefits of Indian spices with Dr. Anjana Bhagat, and a lecture by Dr. Himanshu Aeron, Director of Seema Dental College, on ‘The mouth is the mirror of our body.’
There was also a special lecture on ‘Svadhyaya: The psychology of Yoga,’ led by Jeffrey Armstrong also known as Kavindra Rishi, a renowned scholar of the Vedas and Jyotish from Vancouver, Canada. He explained, ” Yoga invites us to deeply feel our hunger and choose the emotion that we want to experience with the Source of Everything, and to hold onto it no matter what is going on outside of us in the rest of the world. Yoga says, every one of you is eligible to have the most intimate relationship possible with the Source of Everything. Yoga explains that the longing in our hearts that has driven us crazy – behind that is this hunger for love and intimacy that we know is possible, and that we can direct that love toward the source of our existence. Otherwise we will chase after it in the temporary, material world, or leap into the emptiness, and detach from this possibility of a direct relationship with the Source of Everything. We can offer it right back to the Source, and the Source will offer it right back to us!”
In the evening, all participants took part in the sacred and divine world famous Ganga Aarti ceremony at Parmarth Niketan followed by a beautiful discourse on the “Yoga of the Awakened Heart: Meditation and Mindfulness” by Jack Kornfield, who had spent many years as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, India and Burma, is the founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Centerin California, and is a renowned author whose books on Buddhism, meditation and psychology have sold over 1 million copies, and Trudy Goodman, founder and guiding teacher of InsightLA, a non-profit organization for vipassana meditation training in Los Angeles, USA.
Quotations from participants:
Tiia Tamminen- age 30, Helsinki, Finland: “The teachings are so deep, the atmosphere is beautifully light and the people are so open. The International Yoga Festival is more than I can ask for from any yoga event.”
Elisabeth Andripoulou -29, Amaliada, Greece: “The interesting blend of Indian and Western approaches to yoga is so refreshing. The International Yoga Festival is both serious and fun simultaneously.”
Shulamit Salem- 48, Tel Aviv, Israel: “I knew the yoga would be great, but the great satsangs are such a nice bonus.”
Alice Beik 40, Hamburg, Germany: “I have come here 6 times and it’s different every year. What I really appreciate is the that I can drop into the Indian crowd or the German crowd or any crowd I like.”
Sasch Franchinia- age 40, from Bergamo: “I come to Parmarth Niketan to International Yoga Festival every year to recharge my batteries and to find my center again.”
Chisako Kurihara-age 31, from Tokyo: “I decided I wanted to be a yoga instructor so I quit my job and came to the International Yoga Festival to dive in to the deep end and learn the best yoga.”
Amilee Myson – 23, from Sydney: “I came to the International Yoga Festival to meet the yogis of the world and to validate my life choice to be a yogi by being around others who have made the same decision. My favorite part so far is the encounters with nameless yogis! Serendipity and anonymity combine at IYF for incredibly authentic experiences.”