International Yoga Festival, March 1-7, 2020, Day 1
The 31st Annual International Yoga Festival began on March 1 at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, with more than 900 participants from 56 nations. The festival revolved around the theme – Vision 2020 – which emphatically emphasised on the ideas of Union, Unity and Love during these troubled times. The repertoire of the offerings were highly illustrious and included 150 classes, workshops, demonstrations, lectures, discourses and interactive sessions on topics ranging from Yoga Asanas, Sound Healing, Ayurveda, Reiki, Meditation, Eastern Philosophy, Medicine and Homeopathy to Ancient Indian Philosophy and Vedanta, Human Empowerment and Motivation, Dance and Musical instruction, Trauma Release and Detoxification as well as Self- Realization.
Globally-acclaimed exponents like Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Rujuta Diwaker, Smita Naram, Kia Miller, Janet Attwood, Stewart Gilchrest, Anand Mehrotra, Anandra George, Joanna Faso, Sianna Sherman, and Katie B. Happyy – graced the occasions and engaged in deeply meaningful sessions. Moreover a delectable cultural mélange of song, dance and musical performances upholding the essence of the culture and heritage of India held on the festival’s Sacred Sound Stage – added the much appreciated fun element for participants.
Hon’ble Minister of Tourism, Government of India, Shri Prahlad Singhji together with Shri Harak Singh Rawatji, Hon’ble Minister of AYUSH for Uttarakhand, Shri Prem Chand Aggarwal, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly set the ball rolling by officially inaugurating the festival. The dignitaries were joined by HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji and a host of world-renowned presenters, expert teachers and practitioners from twenty-five countries around the world. Delegates from 56 nations were present at the inaugural event and participated in the week-long festival that pirouetted on enlightenment, upliftment and connection to self, to each other and to the creation at large.
In his welcome address, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, defined Yoga as ‘the way of life for all right from the United Nations to the united creations on the banks of Mother Ganga.’
Calling Rishikesh, the World Capital of Yoga, where the sages, saints and rishis have come for thousands of years to attain enlightenment, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Director of the International Yoga Festival, said yoga is who we are and what we need today. “Yoga is love, yoga is peace, yoga is togetherness and the answer to all that ails us from terrorism and war to environmental destruction and internal depression. Through yoga may we become vehicles of peace, love and union for the world!” she enthused.
Hon’ble Minister of Tourism and Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, Shri Prahlad Singh Patelji, thanked Pujya Swamiji for making it possible for people from across the country and around the world to create a platform where they could connect at a deeper level, while hon’ble Shri Prem Chand Agarwalji, Speaker of the Uttarakhand Legislative Assembly, appreciated Prahlad Singh Patelji’s efforts and support in creating this yearly opportunity to meet and greet people from different countries, as well as for his contributions in serious social endeavours like saving water resource, promoting education and environmental initiatives.
The first day of festival witnessed a flurry of activities. The morning asana classes began with Vinyasa – Align Up with Your Highest Self Workshop: Clarity in Your Calling with Katie B. Happyy and Paula Tapia’s Therapeutic Yoga Flow, along with Sukshma Yoga with Ganga Nandini and Kia Miller’s amazing ‘Awakening the Higher Qualities of the Heart’ practice. In addition, Anandra George led a Sunrise Nada Yoga class, with musical vibrations that elevated those on the ghat and anyone in hearing distance with their brilliant tones.
George shared the philosophy of her beautiful practice: “Sound is the yoga of the subtle bodies, Katie B. Happyy of the B Inspired, a self-empowerment company, deliberated on the inner meanings of inhale and exhale. “The Latin root of the word inhale is to ‘inspira’ – to inspire. We inhale (inspire) and exhale (expire) hundreds of thousands of mtimes a day and rarely think about this automated biological response,” enunciated George. On the other hand, Janet Attwood beautifully encouraged her students to undo their limiting beliefs, while Tommy Rosen offered mpaths for a breakthrough to the real selves. Dr. Indu Sharma, a dedicated teacher and practitioner at Parmarth mfor over ten years, led a traditional Hatha Yogasana, while Stewart Gilchrist offered remedies to remove the mobstacles to yoga in our lifetimes and Dana Flynn conducted a vibrant and dynamic Soul Sweat class that left participants deeply soul-filled!
The day also witnessed the Spiritual Lecture Series which included highly-motivational addresses by Dr. Bruce Lipton, Bharat Mitra, Prince Ea and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati who explored the universal truth that “We Are One!” Addressing the audience on Yoga and Union, Lipton said what happens here is the harmony of love, consciousness and community. “Yoga creates a union of consciousness and when we all come together in harmony we wield more power. We are seeds of evolution getting our strength from Yoga. Parmarth Niketan becomes a centre stage of evolution and the energy immensely strong and replete with good vibes,” enumerated Lipton.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji who has spent a quarter-century of her life experiencing and sharing the divine principle of Vasudeva Kutumbakam, spoke at length on illusion of separation all of us were raised into from early childhood, assuming you were raised by humans.
“Those who raised us were humans interacting with their own karma and programming. Everything we encounter reinforces that separation. We always reward that which is of the body, of the action, and of the illusion and end up with this belief that we are what we do, what we look like and how we behave. The fastest, easiest way and most powerful to plug yourself in, to connect, to end the separation and to counteract the programming is love – just love,” elucidated Saraswatiji.
Illumination and enlightenment continued through multiple classes taken by the stalwarts of respective domains. Dr. Alejandro Junger spoke on The Importance of Detoxification in the Modern World, Rujuta Diwekar on Food Rules for a Sattvic Life, while Maa Gyan Suveera offered insights into Cosmic Intelligence Plus (CI+) Meditation and Anand Mehrotra shared his wisdom about Cosmic Prana and Cosmic Self. In another interesting session, Joseph Schmidlin bathed attendees with his beautiful Therapeutic Sound Bath.
Finally, after the official inauguration, with hearts full and minds opened, participants joined Anandra and Sacred Sound Stage for jam sessions on ecstatic chants and Kirtan with the participating musicians and Kirtaniyas, while the serene waters of Ganga played a divine acoustic. The opening day culminated with a promise for more meaningful engagements on the following six days.