An Inspiring Interview With Ananda, Before We Head To Bhakti Fest This September
By Jennifer Goodman
Bhakti Fest is a heart-centered, devotional Kirtan and Yoga festival that has become known as the Spiritual Woodstock of the decade. It is the largest Kirtan festival in the US! Their mission is to provide a platform where people gather together as a heart-centric community focused on love, devotion, and conscious living.
Going on its 11th year, the festival is moving to a new location (the Roadrunner Dunes in Twentynine Palms) and to a later date (September 25-30, 2019). As someone that likes to break free of routines, I am excited to see what this new location brings to my favorite festival.
This will be my seventh year attending Bhakti Fest. It is by far my favorite yoga festival, and each year I look forward to all that the festival has to offer and that special feeling that this extraordinary festival brings. This feeling or "bhav" is what Bhakti Yoga is all about. Everyone attending or presenting at the festival is there to experience and/or deliver this deep devotional, heart-opening yogic path. The festival continues to grow, from the number of attendees to the abundance of health-conscious vendors, world-renowned teachers, musicians, healers, and leaders in personal growth. Some of my favorites I look forward to each year are Deepak Chopra, Krishna Das, Dharma Mittra, Shiva Rea, Radhanath Swami, MC Yogi, DJ Drez, Kia Miller, Govind Das and Radha, Saul David Raye, Michael Brian Baker, and Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda.
Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda are two amazing beings that I especially look forward to attending classes with at Bhakti Fest. They play music with other teachers throughout the festival, they teach Kundalini Yoga, they perform a beautiful Kirtan concert each year…and then there is their Kirtronica ecstatic dance, which I absolutely love! This year, Ananda came out with a solo album, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him. Here is what he had to say:
How many years have you presenting at Bhakti Fest?
My first year was 2011. That was my first collaboration with Jaya Lakshmi at Bhakti Fest, and I have been to every Bhakti and Shakti Fest since.
How did your collaboration with Jaya Lakshmi begin?
Haha, the great union of Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda. We met in Eugene, Oregon and it was just a local collaboration at first. We began performing local Kirtans together, but she had already been doing small tours, so I jumped on board with some of those. As things continued to develop and we began playing together more, we began to connect on a deeper level, so we began collaborating and creating a life together with our different offerings. I was primarily a Kundalini practitioner and teacher, and Lakshmi was a Bhakti devotee doing a lot of Anusara Yoga at that time. So, we just kind of fused it together. It was a smorgasbord! But we were really open to it. We were open to all the love that was there and saw it as a blessing. We saw it as an opportunity to open ourselves up to more devotion, as well as an opportunity to embrace another level of our wholeness and soulful connection. We felt that this was what was being presented by the divine, so we saw it as a gift rather than a challenge.
What brought you to Kundalini Yoga?
I started because a high school friend of mine told me I should try this yoga thing out. At the time, the University of Oregon happened to have the largest mind-body art program in the country, and I randomly picked Kundalini Yoga to try and became hooked. The first day, I remember walking into this class and I felt like I was being taught by a man that looked and sounded like Santa Claus with a turban on. The beauty of it was that it was very well-thought-out. There was even a syllabus; it was a ten week course with two classes per week, and by the end of the course I was sold. I could feel myself deepening my relaxation, I was so much less stressed out, and I felt so much more focused and blissed. After a year of practicing Kundalini Yoga, I was excited to attend the Summer Solstice gathering in New Mexico, which is a nine day intensive of deep Kundalini practices. It was a big cleansing and alignment to a whole other level of dharma. I went nine years straight after that, and I just attended my tenth one this year.
What keeps you coming back to Bhakti Fest?
Bhakti Fest is the West celebration of the devotion of the deities (gods & goddesses). It really has the full range! It has been beautiful to see it evolve and to see the people that keep coming evolve, grow, and mature as well. It is a beautiful offering. For those that are new, it is like a total flood of celebration and devotion, of teachings and community. It is profound. And for those who are consistently going, I think the more we can apply ourselves and open ourselves to receive more and more, the blessings just keep pouring in. It is another level of motivation to keep chanting and keep doing the yoga practices because…what else is there? This is a path towards liberation.
Can you tell me about your new album that just came out?
It is called “Flower of life” and is more of a solo album for me. It is almost a borderline singer/songwriter type of album with more English lyrics. I brought in more artists to collaborate with. It is also a showcase of some of the favorites that people have been listening to for many years, along with some new tracks. You can download the album here. You can find out more about Ananda at: anandayogiji.com.
We hope you want to join us this September at Bhakti Fest! You can learn more and get your tickets at: bhaktifest.com.