The 2018 International Yoga Festival

The 2018 International Yoga Festival

By Brooke Nally

I’m supposed to write a recap of this years International Yoga Festival, which took place at Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh, India and to be completely honest it’s hard for me to put into words. 

I was having a conversation with somebody about vocabulary. Even though I’m a writer, I understand how completely limiting vocabulary can be. How is it possible to describe an experience that changes your body, mind, and soul with mere words on a page? The answer is, you can’t. To put it very lightly though, the International Yoga Festival was amazing. I’ll do my best to highlight some amazing moments, and hopefully from these limiting words, you can tap into the energy if even just a little bit.

The yoga: 

It is the International Yoga festival, right? This is what we came for. Not just physical asana practices, but actual union of the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga, meaning union, does exactly this. It connects us from our physical bodies, into our breath, whether that be in the form of physical asana, meditation, pranayama, chanting, or simply drinking in the breath of the Mother Ganga. 

And with internationally known yoga instructors from around the world, the attendees of the festival were blessed with instructors that have the capabilities to guide a large group of students into the union of body, mind, and spirit. 

There were yoga classes that were more asana based, such as Jules Febre and Sharon Gannon's jivamukti classes. Then there were kundalini classes from Gurmukh, Kia Miller, and Tommy Rosen. Then you have the classes that did not fall under a classic label, such as Anand Mehrotra’s sattva yoga classes, Saul David Raye, Laura Plumb, and so much more. 

The schedule was fully packed, starting with a morning sadhana at 4 AM and the last yoga session ending just before Aarti. After enjoying Aarti while watching the sun set over the horizon, the schedule was back on again with amazing performers such as Kailash Kher and Sivamani

The setting: 

From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it. The feeling of absolute connection to the Divine is an experience that cannot be explained, but only felt, and at this years International Yoga Festival, lucky yogis from across the world got to experience this Divine feeling of union united together at Parmarth Niketan. 

Parmarth Niketan contains the energy of a vortex; a place for quick, transformational change, not limited by time or space. The ashram sits on the banks of holy Mother Ganga in Ram Jhula.  

Step into Parmarth Niketan and you’re immediately swept into a vortex of color, mantra, and the embodiment of the Divine in every form. The picturesque ashram is bursting with natural landscape, from the sacred bodhi trees, to the pink and purple flowers, to the flowing Ma Ganga right outside the ashram door. Even if you’re not here attending yoga classes, you still absorb the essence of yoga from just Being in the ashram. Many times I found myself taking a time-out from bouncing around classes just to go and BE by Ma Ganga. (She might be the greatest guru in the world, after all!) 

Not only does Parmarth Niketan contain the essence of stillness and holiness, but you will also find the ecstatic celebration of Aarti every night. It truly amazed me to see the pure and limitless devotion of H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji and all of their devotees truly dedicated to bringing a pure and loving vibration each and every day in all that they do - including their nightly Aarti celebration. 

The chanting, dancing, and pure bliss that arises in Aarti is undeniably beautiful and promotes instant connection. When speaking to others about their favorite moments of the festival, one of my favorite comments was this: 

“The festival was more than just a spiritual place to go inward. It was a place to also have fun and to experience. For me, my favorite moments were when we were dancing. You don’t think of dancing when you hear ‘yoga’, but when I’m dancing I instantly feel liberated and free, which is what yoga is all about”. — Liv Holm. 

Sadhviji even spoke to this at Aarti one night. “In the dance there should be stillness and in the stillness there should be dance." Recognizing that there is dynamism in everything - that nothing is static, and to embrace the dance of and movement of life. 

The best part about International Yoga Festival, is there is truly something for everyone. You start to realize that being a ‘yogi’ is much, much more than simply practicing physical asanas. Whether you’re a yogi who loves to dance, chant, breathe, do downward facing dog, or just sit by the river — you’re a yogi. At the end of the day, being a yogi is truly about finding connection, within and without.

To learn more about the International Yoga Festival visit: www.internationalyogafestival.org.

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