The Power of Women and Divine Shakti Takes Center Stage at Day 3 of the International Yoga Festival
IYF participants hear from Dr. Vandana Shiva, Indigenous Elders, Renowned Yogacharyas and others
RISHIKESH- Highlights from Day 3 of the International Yoga Festival included:
Our Spiritual Lecture Series “Shakti, Power of the Divine Feminine in A Yogic Life” with Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, Seane Corn, Laura Plumb, Abuela Tonalmitl, Cheryl Angel and Martina Mamani, was held in the Yoga Ghat from 11- 12:30 pm today. Participants heard from this inspiring panel of women leaders, who shared their take on the power of Shakti, their challenges as women in the Yogic world, and how women can use their gifts as tools to embody and channel the uniquely feminine energy or Shakti.
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Director of the International Yoga Festival, when asked how we can empower yoga students to use Shakti in their daily lives, said: “The challenge isn’t the external pressure to be all. It’s the internal pressure to be enough, to be whole, to be complete. The energy of the divine feminine, which is Shakti, is the energy of expansion and connection…both men and women can embody that energy, it is there for both. Mother Ganga invites us to flow from our authentic source, letting go of the false identities and letting in the divine grace that says: I am Shakti.”
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, renowned Kundalini Yoga Master from USA said: “As a woman, you are the first teacher on this earth for your children. Think about how you become that presence that can change the energy of any situation with the Shakti within you. Meditate to find that Shakti- that energy. Once you roll up your mat and put it in the corner, ask, “How can I serve today?”
Seane Corn, Founder, Off the Mat Into the World when asked about her story in relation to Shakti, shared a personal anecdote: “The first time I was ever photographed for something related to Yoga, when I saw the photograph, I thought ‘Oh my god, I look remarkable!’ and the reason was because it wasn’t my neck, it wasn’t my breasts, and it wasn’t my thighs and it wasn’t my butt. I had been so airbrushed that I was not recognizable as myself. I thought, this is how it’s done, to disempower women, this is how it’s done to continually divide and make us feel like we’re never enough. I’m in this photograph and I can’t even identify myself. I made a point going forward, that if any organization ever wanted to work with me, I could never be airbrushed. That they could never take away any part of my body and that I had to be able to age as I am publically. My challenges were internal, how can I benefit from and support this? And use my platform in a way that could incite change.”
Before moderator Laura Plumb addressed Dr. Vandana Shiva, she shared: “When I first heard Dr. Vandana Shiva speak, I felt I was hearing the words of my heart”.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, Founder of Navdanya, shared, “We must stop the roots of violence. I see all violence rooted in the deep fear of anything that is alive and free. I think the roots of violence is not intrinsic to a male culture but to a militarised patriarchy and that is what we need to stop so that we may unleash the divine feminine – the Shakti that connects all of us- men and women.”
She added, “Mahatma Gandhi said a daily prayer, ‘make me more feminine’- in terms of cultivating the caring, the sharing, the giving and the loving that the feminine embodies. The enlargement of potential is the divine feminine and to me is most visible in the seed. There are no things in the world there is only potential and expression of this oneness, this potential, is diversity.”
Dr. Shiva’s words of empowerment resonated deeply and incited a standing ovation from a cheering and tearful audience.
Laura Plumb then invited Saul David Raye to speak to his connection with Shakti and what it means in the Yogic life. Saul David said: “Listen to our own breath and experience and listen to Shakti, she is the first teacher. We recognize Shakti as the force that is animating everything. Yoga celebrates that. Yoga is the celebration of life, of death.”
Laura welcomed Cheryl Angel, an indigenous Sioux Dakota leader, to speak on this Shakti energy.
Cheryl Angel, an indigenous Sioux Dakota leader, said: “My intent when I meet someone is to look directly at them, to let them know that I see them. I love everyone and I know that unity is the answer. I know that forgiveness is part of the journey to peace. I choose happiness and so can each and every one of you. I have come from a place where the history is bloody, but I choose peace.”
“Men, you carry the seed of life. Women, in your bodies, we nurture that seed within our womb, so how can there be any separation between us?”
Finally, Martina Mamani spoke: “First of all I come to represent the community from Peru, from the Quechuas. In our tradition, to take care of our territory, which is our body, first we need to feel the vibration of mother earth to connect with her and to feel her. If we don’t know how to concentrate, then we don’t know how to feel”.
Vibrating with the power of Shakti, the series ended with words from Abuela Tonalmitl, a 91-year old Elder from a tribe in Mexico, who said: “To wake up as warriors of Mother Earth, we should never be separated. We must feel the love and procreate, and work together”. With a voice of pure energy that erupted from her body, Abuela led the audience in a unifying song about the strength of women.
The panel members joined together in community and communion to offer Dr Vandana Shiva and the indigenous elders a sacred rudraksh saplings, the signature green offering of Parmarth Niketan. Together they performed a water blessing ceremony, held each other’s hands and pledged to work together to be guardians of the divine feminine- of the sacred creation amidst divine chanting of vedic mantras by Yogacharya from Hawaii specialising in Sacred Sound and Naad Yoga, Anandra George.
Cleansed from another early morning sweat in the Temescal sweat lodges, participants of the International greeted the third day of the International Yoga Festival.
At 5:30 am, teacher and practitioner Paramaguru Sharath Jois of Shri K. Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute in Mysore led a traditional Ashtanga class on the Yoga Ghat. Participants were also welcomed to try Taoist Yoga with Yujia of China, Traditional Hatha Yogasana with Sadhvi Abha Saraswati, or “SUNNIAI Deep Listening” with renowned yogi Kia Miller—all before breakfast!
An array of exciting classes followed breakfast: “Art of Asana Alignment” with Mohan Bhandari, co-founder of China’s leading yoga center, Tommy Rosen’s motivational talk “The Three Jewels.”
Giving an awe-inspiring and energetic class entitled “Soul Sweat,” renowned Yogacharya Dana Flynn from New York shared, “Yoga is a simple programme for complicated people. Keeping it simple, we need to just remember three things: 1. Get out of bed. 2. Do your Sadhana. 3. Breathe out and breathe in.” She added, “Yoga is the festival at the International Yoga Festival.”
In a profound and deeply touching Anahata Flow class along the flowing banks of Maa Ganga, highly acclaimed Yogacharya Seane Corne shared, “Know your unconscious impulses, so that in conflict and crisis you remain more integrated because you can’t change what you can’t see. So, how deep will you go? How big will you love? Remember who you are. Your authentic Self- that is what is needed to heal this world.”
After-lunch classes were comprised of three different types of yoga: Inbound Yoga with Srila B.A. Paramadvaii, Restorative Yoga and Mediation with Paula Tapia, and Cosmic Intelligence Mediation with Maa Gyaan Suveera, all taking place in the Yoga Hall.
A highlight of the afternoon was “Ancient Wisdom of the Original Nations as an Offering to the United Nations of the Spirit”, a discourse for which over five of the festival’s world-renowned teachers collaborated. The day proceeded with classes ranging from Anand Mehrota’s “Awakening Kudalini” to Mert Güler’s “Rumi Love Mediation” and Anandra George’s “Tantric Sanskrit: Embody the Primal Sounds”.
After tea and snacks in the garden, participants returned to the ghat by the River Ganges for Divine Aarti, where singing and chanting reached its full capacity as we said goodbye to the sun for another night. After dinner ended, the Indigenous Elders graced us with music that instilled peace, harmony, and an inviting look into their culture.