Shakti Fest: Join The Incredible Line Up Of Yoga Teachers This May: Kia Miller, Saul David Raye, Govind Das, Shiva Rea And So Many More...
Once again, this May, we will be heading to Shakti Fest. It is one of our favorite festivals as it celebrates the devotional paths of yoga, Kirtan (sacred music), meditation and it places a special emphasis on the Divine Feminine. With everything going on politically right now, it seems to be the perfect time to celebrate the Divine Feminine in all of us.
We are really looking forward to the new location, The Lake at Joshua Tree Campground! And as always, there is an incredible line up of yoga teachers, sacred music artists, workshop leaders, sound healers and so much more! One of the many reasons we love the festival, is that it is a drug and alcohol-free vehicle for evolution of human consciousness through a heart-centered revolution.
What does dancing and music and doing yoga in community do for our collective community as a whole?
I studied dance history. My background in world arts and culture led me to contemplate the archeological records. What were the earliest ways that people came together? What I discovered dates back beyond the modern era. Historically, as long as people gathered around the fire, they were in this process of collective meditation. When someone with no meditation background settles around a fire, they organically begin to come into a natural state of meditation.
When I teach in a mandala, in a circle formation, that can already be radically different than how people experience an everyday yoga class. It’s amazing what happens when we simply face towards the center and what transpires within the collective movement meditation. The reason why yoga is so popular and widespread is that it goes beyond the physical realm. Even if one’s intention is to achieve a challenging physical and wellness-inducing practice, the sacredness of breathing takes the practitioner to a connected, newfound place. So I always just start from that intention of connecting us to the sacredness that can be accessed through our breath.
What is the healing power of community and movement?
There is a lot of diversity. Rhythm syncopates us together. Really, when we look at some of the vinyasas of yoga, like something as simple as cat's breath, it is a basic pattern of African dance which is the expansion and contraction of the heart and the pelvis. I have been to all night funerals when I lived in Ghana and studied this simple movement present in the Ewe culture, all night long. There becomes this way in which music, movement, chanting, and community are a continuation of the oldest ways that humans balanced themselves individually and collectively.
Can you tell us about your first experience with kirtan?
I heard kirtan for the first time when Krishna Das and Bhagavan Das’ albums first came out, and it touched me in the deepest and most ancient part of myself. It just felt right. And what was interesting was that I read the liner notes of the cassette tapes, and they were talking about the same guru, Neem Karoli Baba, that Ram Dass had talked about. There was a connection at this point.
And then Krishna Das did his first tour in California; it was around 1997/98, and I went to his concert at a Yoga studio in Santa Monica. To be a part of a live kirtan, to feel the Shakti, to feel that, again, was another moment in my life where I said, “This is what I want to be doing. I want to be singing to God.” I had always had a love for music; I grew up Jewish, and I never wanted much to do with it, but when the cantor sang at synagogue, my heart would melt – that prayer through music.
Right around that time, I had a dream that Neem Karoli Baba, the guru of all these kirtan singers and teachers, visited me. He was patting my head and I was crying; I had what is called a darshan. I was friendly with one of Neem Karoli Baba's devotees and he said because of this dream, I should put his picture on my alter. In the 20-plus years since then, his photo is still on my altar. I consider him my guru, and even though he’s not living, he is living in my heart, as all gurus do. At that point, I went to India and stayed at his ashram for three months and learned the ways of traditional Bhakti. I bought a harmonium and started studying music, kirtan, came back and dove deeper and deeper into devotional singing.
Saul David Rate
Why do you choose Shakti Fest as one of the festivals to teach at?
I believe in the message of Shakti Fest. Shakti is about honoring the divine feminine which is integral to finding balance and peace on our planet. Shakti Fest holds a special place for me because it stays true to the Vedic and yogic ways. It's all vegetarian (not that I feel you have to adhere to those rules), no alcohol and it's focus is on the Bhakti. It's unique in that it sticks to the culture. It's the closest thing to India I have found.
What is your hope and intention with your teaching?
My intention is always to connect people to their own souls, their own heart. If I can in some way be a conduit or process that helps people make that connection, that is my prayer.
What do you love about teaching at festivals?
I love the receptivity of students at festivals. I think people really go with an open mind to try something new, and I love to turn people on to a practice like Kundalini that they might not have experienced, at least not in the form that I teach it, before. Because people go with an attitude of, “I’ll try something new here,” you connect with them on a different level.
Join us this May 9-13 at Shakti Fest as we practice with the best yoga teachers in the world, dance to sacred music by world-renown Kirtan artists, and take workshops with leaders in the field of personal growth. You can learn more HERE.
Get your tickets to Shakti Fest HERE.