Today, the 16th annual world famous International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan ashram began. Since 1999, Parmarth Niketan has been hosting this world renowned event which has grown to international acclaim and which grows in size year after year. Yogacharyas, teachers, students and seekers come from every corner of the globe to participate in this program. This year there are approximately 1000 participants from more than 55 countries. There are classes from 4:00 am until 9:30 pm with more than 60 revered saints, yogacharyas, presenters and experts from nearly 20 countries around the world.

Ashtanga Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Vinyasa 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, Sanskrit chanting, reiki, Indian philosophy and much more. Further, spiritual discourses will be held by revered spiritual leaders from India and abroad. There will also be cultural dance/music performances highlighting the culture of this Himalayan Garhwal region as well as Odissi and South India style. The official inauguration took place at 11:00 am and was graced by the presence of Chief Guest Shri Mahesh Sharmaji, Minister for Tourism, Government of India, many revered spiritual leaders, saints and all the yogacharyas and presenters.

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati gave the official welcome and there was an impressive, awe-inspiring yoga demonstration by the rishikumars of the Parmarth Gurukul and a mesmerizing yoga dance by Deepika Mehta of Mumbai, yoga teacher to Bollywood superstars. A group from China also put on a beautiful Chinese yoga dance. There were special blessings by Pujya Sri Shankaracharyaji Swami Divyanand Teerthji, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Pujya Sri Mooji, and Pujya Sri Prem Babaji.

Returning yogacharyas Laura Plumb, Tommy Rosen and Janet Attwood 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. They all deeply appreciated Pujya Swamiji and his mission throughout the world. Janet mentioned that she presents at conferences all over the world, hundreds of conferences and yet coming to Parmarth is truly uniquely divine and it is the only place which really feels like home.

Tommy Rosen said: “Collectively we can all say that we have tried everything from drugs, alcohol, sex and every kind of distraction but now we are all here together in this International Yoga Festival to really reflect on the verse in Patanjali’s yoga sutras that reminds us …’and now Yoga.’ So I encourage everyone to delve deep into this experience and open themselves up to this union — this Yoga.”

Dr. Mahesh Sharmaji, Minister of Tourism for the Government of India, New Delhi said: “I really salute all of who are here and who made this event take place. I salute Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji who made this event happen and has been continuing it for 16 years, and whose thought process is Giving is Living and Sharing is Caring. The word Parmarth means that which has been made for others, not for yourself. This niketan, this ashram, this place has been made for others, and others does not mean a specific person, caste or creed but for the whole humanity around the world, a glimpse of which we have here with people from nearly 60 countries. We are in the right place, where Pujya Swamiji has created and maintained this vision for such a long time. You, yogacharyas, are the ambassadors of Indian culture, Indian mythology, Indian spirituality and Indian divinity to all corners of the world. This is the vision of my 3 ministries – to take what we have been given here in India and to share it with all corners of the world.”

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji explained, “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.”

Tourism Secretary of Uttarakhand, Umakant Panwar said “Being here today with you is truly such a unique and satisfying experience and one that the Government of Uttarakhand, which I represent, has envisioned for all. While Yoga is greatly beneficial in its own way, just being here on the banks of Ganga in Rishikesh to experience the sacred culture of Uttarakhand and India is only possible with the vision and blessing of our great visionaries and revered saints, like Pujya Swamiji.”

Pujya Sri Mooji said: “My path, the path of Advaita to me is ultimate Yoga because Yoga shows us that that which seems separate and different is actually one and indivisible, and not just theoretically but as our own experience. I sincerely hope that this is your experience here at Parmarth Niketan for this International Yoga Festival. It’s truly a great pleasure to be here again this year to see lots of familiar faces and many new faces but all as one family.”

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Director of the International Yoga Festival, 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.

Quotations from participants:

“I think this festival is wonderful, and will be a transformative experience,” – Leland Savage, Los Angeles, USA

“Wow! This experience has been intense, so beautiful, I feel truly blessed to be here. What a wonderful gift” – Elenora Moraas, Sao Paolo, Brazil

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