The first day of the 15th annual world famous International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan ashram started from 4:00 am until 9:30 pm with more than 50 yogacharyas, presenters and experts from more than 15 countries around the world. Kundalini Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bharat Yoga, Deep Yoga, Shintoh Yoga and Somatics Yoga are just a few of the more than 60 different offerings throughout the week. There are also classes in meditation, mudras, reiki, Indian spices and much more. Further, spiritual discourses are being held by revered spiritual leaders from India and abroad. There are also cultural dance/music performances highlighting the culture of this Himalayan Garhwal region as well as Odissi and South India style.

Today, the first day, the morning began early at 6:30 am with Kriya yoga by Sadhvi Abha Saraswati, Lila Yoga Sun Salutations with Erica Kaufmann, Power Pranayama by Yogiraj, Sukshma Yoga with Swami Yogananda and CI plus meditation by Maa Gyaan Suveera. After breakfast the intense asana classes started with Kundalini Yoga by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa from Hollywood, USA, Flow Vinyasa with Bharath Shetty from Mysore, Iyengar Yoga by Sri H.S. Arun from Bangalore, Bharat Yoga with Padmashri Bharat Bhushan and Hanuman Namaskar series with Laura Plumb of California, USA.

While teaching Hanuman Namaskar, Laura Plumb explained: “As the Son of Vayu, Hanuman represents the power of prana, and the power of a mind turned inward to the light of the heart. Focus your mind on that light within, and breathe into that power. Feel your divine self alive and true.”

The lecture series began with Yogi Cameron, a world-famous supermodel turned ayurvedic expert and yogi, from Iran, who is the author of best-selling books and has been featured in numerous international publications. He spoke about the importance of integrating Ayurveda into one’s daily sadhana for full health of body, mind and spirit. Yogi Cameron explained: “Without a strong and healthy body our spiritual practice will be disturbed and ungrounded. An Ayurvedic based diet and lifestyle is the essential backbone to our practice so our mind can be focused while our body has the endurance and health necessary to sustain our Sadhana.”

Following his talk there was ecstatic bhakti yoga and kirtan led by Vaiyasaki Das of USA and Kishori of Mexico. Highlights of the afternoon included Sacred Mudras for Health and Wholeness with Siddhi from Germany, The Sacred Space of Santosha: A life beyond craving (Movement Vinyasa & Kundalini Yoga) with Tommy Rosen from USA, a discourse on yoga by Shri R.S. Bhogal of Kaivalyadham and a beautiful discourse and kirtan with Shantimayi on the topic of “A New World Emerging – Inspiration for the Visionary.”

Tommy Rosen explained in his class on the “Sacred Space of Santosha” that “We have to actually practice being content. It does not just come to us. Like body builders, we yogis can flex the muscle of contentment and become better at it. You do not need a drug or a person or sex or shopping or drama or anything. It is all within you and once you learn to control your inner environment you will gain dominion over the outer world.”

Shantimayi, in her beautiful discourse, explained that: “Love is The Only Resolution. Spiritual wisdom is the absolute treasure of this life. An open heart and open mind is spiritual wisdom.”

In the evening there was a special “Welcoming/Inauguration Ceremony” for all the delegates. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati gave the official welcome and there were beautiful remarks by Deepika Mehta of Mumbai, Gabriela Bozic of Germany, Yogi Cameron, Laura Plumb all of whom shared what a great gift and blessing it is to come “home” to Parmarth Niketan and take part in this special one-of-a-kind festival. The inauguration ceremony also had an impressive, breath-stopping yoga demonstration by the rishikumars of the Parmarth Gurukul and special blessings by Pujya Sri Shankaracharyaji Swami Divyanand Teerthji, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Shri Mooji and Shantimayi.

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji explained to the crowd of nearly 1000 participants, “Yoga is union. It is not just union of our heads to our knees or our hands to the floor. It is union of the self to the Divine. Here during this week, don’t focus only on making your bodies strong and flexible, but focus on making your inner self strong and flexible.” He further emphasized that, “Uttarakhand is the birth place of yoga and you are all the chosen ones to be back here to imbibe the divine science.”

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, in her welcome address, told all the participants: “You have all been called here to India, to Uttarakhand, to the holy banks of Mother Ganga for a special reason. This is not like a yoga conference in London or Paris or New York or Sydney. In this sacred land of Rishikesh, you not only receive teachings but you also receive the divine touch and divine transformation. The sage Patanjali described eight limbs of yoga, beginning with the yamas and niyamas and ending with samadhi or divine ecstasy. Here at this unique festival, we aim to provide classes and programs that give you teachings and experiences of the first seven limbs. The eighth, samadhi, happens by the grace of Mother Ganga.”

Participants are so enthusiastic and ecstatic to be in such a beautiful and sacred place and to have the opportunity to study with such revered masters.

Peter Marinic, age 34, from Ljubania, Slovenia: “As a new yoga teacher it’s amazing to listen and learn from so many great teachers, and especially in such a divine location.”

Monica Monatanaro, age 40, from Palermo, Italy: “I absolutely love the structure, the setting and the energy. I feel safe and comfortable. It is exactly what I wanted for my first solo trip to India.”

Jenny Flynn, age 32, Brighton, UK: “I am opening my mind in the foothills of the Himalayas with so many great people, in such a beautiful place. It’s wonderful.”

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