The Hon’ble Governor of Uttarakhand Lt Gen (Retd) offers a keynote address on Day 2 of The International Yoga Festival (IYF) at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, Luke Coutinho Gives Inspiring Plenary on Wellness, Followed by Spectacular Performance by Internationally Acclaimed Recording Artist MC YOGI

IYF is organised by Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh with the support of Incredible India, Ministry of Tourism, in association with Ministry of Culture and Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India and was officially inaugurated by the Hon’ble Governor of Uttarakhand Lt Gen (Retd)  and will have the visit of other Hon’ble Ministers, Diplomats and Dignitaries throughout the week (please see more below).

The Hon’ble Governor of Uttarakhand Lt Gen (Retd) blessed the International Yoga Festival today at the inaugural session. Luke Coutinho, The Wellness Champion at the forefront of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Fit India Movement, gave an inspiring plenary session on Wellness. As the moon rose over the banks of Ma Ganga, internationally renowned recording artist MC YOGI gave Festival participants a special treat as his beats sent people into ecstatic dance.

RISHIKESH: After a vibrant first day of 36th International Yoga festival at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh, which saw approximately 1400 participants from nearly 75 countries, 65 yoga teachers from 25 countries dive into the teaching, touch and transformation of yoga as well as an ecstatic celebration of Shivatri, and special late evening kirtan concert by world-renowned world famous musicians Gurnimit Singh, Day 2 of the International Yoga Festival began today, March 9, with equal vigor and enthusiasm.

“Today we are so fortunate,” said The Hon’ble Governor of Uttarakhand Lt Gen (Retd) Gurmit Singh. “This place itself is so blessed. To be on the banks of Ma Ganga. If you look behind, we have the Himalayas. We are in the lap of the Himalayas. What better moment can be than this. If you look at this word, ‘Parmarth’, where you are sitting, it literally means ‘the deepest meaning.’ If you want to understand the deepest meaning of life, then this is the place where you can have the deepest meaning of being, the deepest meaning of the cosmos.”

“This place is the union of Shivji and Ganga Ma. You can feel the vibrations of the divinity, spirituality, and cosmic depth,” The Hon’ble Governor continued. “The deepest meaning of the word ‘yoga’, the path you have chosen, it is a union of body, mind, and the soul. It’s a union of your own consciousness with the cosmic consciousness. In fact, the path that you have taken, if you evaluate yourself now and re-evaluate yourself after seven days, you’ll find a world of difference because of the divine vibrations, spiritual vibrations. I can assure you of one thing: after seven days, you’ll be the best friend with your own inside.”

“These moments are to celebrate the art form of yoga,” he continued. “This artform has been taken by India to the world. And these times of COVID pandemic that we went through. 70 lakh people, those members of our family, they had to depart. So therefore, it becomes the responsibility of everyone in this world to ensure that we are healthy and are immune to these challenges. Uttarakhand is known as a divine land.”

“Yoga isn’t what we do; it’s who we are,” said Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati Ji. “It’s what we practice not only on the mat, but off the mat. It’s what we practice every day of life. We are in the world capital of yoga, where we were all given keys freely, with no copyrights. Take the keys wherever you are and use them to open the locks so that light may shine onto millions and millions on earth. Yoga is union. That starts with you. You are the key, you must look into yourself.”

“Today the world is suffering,” Swami Ji continued. “Eleven-year olds are stressed and depressed. At eleven years old? Yoga gives the answer. War is not the way. Peace is the way. Russia and Ukraine, there is fighting there, but we have participants from Russia and Ukraine and they are not fighting here. You want to be in peace, then you choose peace. Our world doesn’t have a shortage of land, or water, or food. We have a shortage of consciousness. So we give great gratitude to that the saints and rishis and sages of Rishikesh who gave mantras to this entire world. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. That is India’s message to the world. The World is one family.”

“Yoga is that which is the answer to everything that ails our planet today,” said Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati Ji. “Every day in the news is another opportunity to pick sides. We have conflicts based on race, skin color, political party, sexual orientation, gender. As the climate worsens, we realize every one of our problems is caused by one fundamental issue–the myth of separation. If I feel separate other people, from the planet, I bring suffering to others and the earth. When we remember we are connected, the problems start to ease. Yoga isn’t the union of the nose to the knees. It’s the union of the self to the divine, and the divine in all. As we look to what’s happening in Russia and Ukraine, Israel and Palestine, Myanmar, so many places, we remember yoga is the answer.”

“Yoga has much to do with the mind,” said Dr. Hansaji Yogendra Ji, a globally acclaimed Spiritual Yoga Guru and the Director of The Yoga Institute. “Know yourself. Know your type of body, know your mind, know the types of thoughts you have. Slowly, according to your age, your lifestyle, your level of consciousness, yoga helps you experience each side of you so that you can live more happily.”

“Coming home to Parmarth means coming home to collective and community,” said Seane Corn, an internationally celebrated yoga teacher from the United States. “And what this world needs more than anything is exactly this. So many hundreds of yars ago, saints and sages from this land shared their practices, orally for many, many years. We are so lucky we got these insights and we get to be here where the magic erupted. Parmarth’s IYF emphasizes all of the creative force that has expressed itself in myriad forms of yoga. We need to heal and to do whatever we need to do to remember who we truly are, so we can show up for our families, and for our communities.”

Some of the brightest minds on the mind-body connection gathered for an insightful plenary on “Total Wellness,” which featured Luke Coutinho, the Wellness Champion at the forefront of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Fit India Movement, Vaidya Dr. Ramkumar, a lifelong student of Ayurveda and other traditional Indian knowledge systems, and Dr. N. Ganesh Rao, the founder of ACT Yoga who, holding a Ph.D. in Philosophy as well as multiple diplomas in Naturopathy and Yoga Education, and is a Yoga Chikatsa Acharya, moderated by Ira Trivedi, the best-selling author and yoga expert who founded Namami Yoga.

“I think the teaching that I would like to share at a point in this world where there is so much awareness but yet a lack of action,” Coutinho said, “is that a change in human behavior is required for better health spiritually, mentally, and physically. My message would be of the importance of bringing mindfulness and awareness to action and human behavior for better health.”

“Wellness is dynamic,” Dr. Roa said. “It is rooted in individual choice, we are able to make choices, for example, to practice yoga, and by pursuing healthful choices wellness is able to improve over time. The goal is always to move towards holistic health. If you practice yoga everyday you don’t fall sick. Yoga is therapeutic. Yoga does human service, it heals. If a person has lost a near and dear one and is suffering, you can’t get back the person who passed away. You can’t get that person back, but you can heal. Healing means emotional empowerment. Yoga can help people find their purpose in life, and this is where healing can begin.”

“Any autoimmune problem is the immune system behaving erratically, attacking you. It’s not a disease. It’s an attack. There is no cure. What are the triggers? Number one is stress. Two is sleep deprivation. Three is leaky gut syndrome. We need to come back to our baseline. You take medicine as a crutch. But we need find out what the trigger is and work with that. That’s what it takes to put it into remission. Absolutely it can be genetics. But don’t become a victim of genetics. Medicine isn’t the answer. We must take a holistic look at the whole person.”

“Those of us in big cities have a difficult time finding high quality dairy,” Trivedi said. “I’ve spent a lot of time going to local dairies and checking on the cows. A lot of times, they aren’t happy. It’s important to pay attention to the quality of what we are taking in.”

“We really are our best doctors,” Trivedi continued. “Your gut will tell you. The main reason to do the yoga, do the meditation, is that our body will give us all of the answers. We just need to learn to listen.”

“The Wellness talk was the highlight of my day!” said participant Veronica Vedth of Norway. “Luke was so clear and inspiring.” When asked what teaching she took from the plenary, she added, “Ballance. Balance in everything you do. That is the teaching I hope all who missed it get to hear.”

Day 2 Schedule Highlights

Participants gathered early morning at Brahma Muhurta at 4am for the Morning Kundalini Sadhana class with Gurushabd Singh Khalsa of USA; followed by Kundalini Activation: Follow Your Bliss! with Recovery 2.0 Founder Tommy Rosen, Full Mind/Body Rejuvenation by world renowned Yoga Teacher Kia Miller, originally from England and now based in Los Angeles.

Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, the disciple of Yogi Bhajan who founded Yogi Bhajan’s first yoga center in the United States, led an ecstatic kundalini class after sunrise themed, The Thunder Power Of Love ~ Courage, Commitment, Tenacity.

“How much thunder you have in you, how much power you have in you, comes from the heart,” Gurmukh Ji said. “The only way I’ve found to heal yourself and to heal the world is through love. Love has become overused in the West. Love isn’t always sweet. Sometimes it’s tough love. Sometimes you have to speak your truth. This comes from the navel, then it goes to your heart. Don’t be too quick to say, ‘love you, love you.’ Pause and ask yourself, ‘do I mean it, can I feel love in my soul?’ If you do, that is the thunder power of love.”

“It is so inspiring to receive directly from Gurmukhji,” said participant Marouf Triad Mahmoud, from Qatar. “She is a living legend. Being in her presence, she can inspire us towards being full of love.”

Following brunch, Dr. Eden Goldman, Director of the Yoga and Healing Sciences Program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA, demonstrated how to meditate like the sages. Ira Trivedi,  best-selling author, yoga expert, and founder of Namami Yoga helped participants dive deep within during her Chakra Yoga and Sound Bath immersion. In addition, internationally celebrated yoga teacher Seane Corn showed students how to access freedom in asana in The Body and Beyond.

After a short break for tea, around 5.30pm, the participants gathered on the banks of Ganga at the Parmarth Niketan ghat for the official inauguration of International Yoga Festival 2024 graced by the Hon’ble Governor of Uttarakhand Lt Gen (Retd) Gurmit Singhji, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati ji, Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati ji, and renowned yogacharyas from across the world.

After the Aarti, participants danced late into the evening beneath the new moon to the vibrant and ecstatic beats of MC YOGI, internationally renowned recording artist. His first three records were all #1 on the iTunes world music charts and his fifth album, Ritual Mystical, reached #1 on apple electronic music.


When asked what he is most looking forward to at IYF, Luke Coutinho, the Wellness Champion at the forefront of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Fit India Movement, shared, “I’m looking to see how different cultures are coming together to absorb spirituality, yoga, and integrate it into their lives with the outcome being less hatred, more peace, and better health.”

Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, the disciple of Yogi Bhajan who founded Yogi Bhajan’s first yoga center in the United States, joined IYF for the 24th year this year. When reflecting on what’s changed, she said, “The International Yoga Festival has grown and grown into becoming the most fantastic yoga festival in the world. The schedule never ends. I don’t know how you choose what to go to.”

Presenter Stewart Gilchrist, Senior Registered Yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance Professional UK who has trained over 400 teachers at 200hr, 500 hr and advanced level, when asked what teaching he’d most like to share with the world at this critical time, said “It’s like Pujya Swamiji, Guruji, said last night: it’s all about Peace and Love. We have Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, and Pakistan all here. Country doesn’t matter. The heart of yoga is ahimsa, non-violence. That’s why I became a yogi.”

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