The 29th annual, world-famous International Yoga Festival began today at Parmarth Niketan​, welcoming this year more than 1500 participants from 92 nations.

The first day of the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan began at 4:00 am with Kundalini Sadhana led by Gurushabd Singh Khalsa from California, USA, followed by pre-breakfast classes including: Vinyasa Yoga with Akira Watamoto of Japan, Vinyasa Strength with Krishnamurthy Mohan Raj of China, and Kundalini Yoga with Gloria Latham of Canada.

After breakfast, the morning intense asana classes took place with Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, founder of Golden Bridge Yoga in California, USA teaching Kundalini yoga, Deborah Langely of Australia teaching Lotus Flow Vinyasa, H.S. Arun of Bangalore, teaching Iyengar Yoga, as well as Mert Guler of Turkey leading a beautiful Sufi Meditation. Joanna Faso of USA taught a Sanskrit Mantra Workshop focusing on the Maha Mrtyunjaya mantra.

At 11am, the Spiritual Discourse Series commenced with a highly-motivational address by HH Pujya Sri Shankaracharya Swami Divyanand Teerthji and renowned biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton, who uplifted and inspired the audience with a talks on the influence of our thoughts on our cells and the importance of spiritual practice.

After enjoying lunch in the sunshine, highlights of the afternoon included a talk on the role of yoga to make a healthy world by Dr. Ishwar Basavaraddi, a Bhakti Yoga session with Daphne Tse of USA, a Cosmic Intelligence Plus Meditation with Maa Gyaan Suveera, Maharishi Meditation with Laura Plumb of California, and Raga Sound Healing with Tilak Vishvas.

The later afternoon classes included Kundalini Yoga classes with Tommy Rosen and Kia Miller of California, Yin Yoga with Yujia of China, Lila Yoga with Eric Kaufman of Pennslyvania, USA, Yogi Yoga with Mohan Bhandari, originally of Rishikesh and now of China, as well as a beginner’s introduction class to meditation and asana with Katie B Happy of California. On the Sacred Sound Stage, Cheryl Friedman of USA led a session on “Vocal Bliss: Finding Your Soul Voice.”

After the afternoon classes, we had a special advance Holi Celebration with Eco-Friendly colors along the banks of Ganga, filled with music and dancing. The full celebration will be tomorrow but the participants had a special “preview” of Holi today, followed the sacred Ganga Aarti, followed by the burning of the Holika Effigy.

During Ganga aarti, Sadhvi Bhagawatiji explained to all the participants about the deeper meaning of Holi and the story of the devotee Prahlad with what Holika represents. The participants who come from every religion and culture were so touched to learn the deep and universal significance of this holiday and they joined together in lighting the Holika effigy, expressing their enthusiasm to play Holi with colors more tomorrow.

After dinner, participants were thrilled to have the special occasion of a concert by world famous percussionist Sivamani – a true ecstatic experience of drums, music and rhythm, soul, and dance — alongside renowned violinist and composer Balabhaskar. Sivamani’s style is deeply profound and mysterious at one moment; tantalizing and exuberant at the next. However, augmenting the brute power, are his rhythmic style and harmony, which surrounds the discerning listener with warmth, joy and bliss.

Quotes from Presenters

Kia Miller, California, USA: “Attending the IYF in Rishikesh is a must for all serious practitioners who want an authentic India experience and introduction to the holistic approach of yoga. We practice on the banks of Ganga, listen to satsangs with living Saints and Master teachers, and commune with like-minded people.”

Katie B Happy: “The IYF is a place where I come back to home to my heart. I feel a deep sense of peace sitting at the banks of Ma Ganga. I always feel her calling me from America. It feels like OM.”

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