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 will be officially inaugurated on 9th March by the Hon’ble Governor of  Uttarakhand Lt Gen (Retd) Gurmit Singhji and will have the visit of other Hon’ble Ministers, Diplomats and Dignitaries throughout the week (please see more below).

A special Maha Shivratri was celebrated today with great enthusiasm and joy by the participants of the annual world famous International Yoga Festival who got a very special experience of India’s sacred festival dedicated to overcoming darkness in the world, filled with messages, dance, songs and inspiring messages.

RISHIKESH: Sweet sacred kirtan vibrated across the holy banks of Ma Ganga as world famous musicians Gurnimit Singh and Sattyananda performed at a sacred Maha Shivratri celebration as 1400 yoga enthusiasts from 75 countries, 64 yoga teachers from 25 countries participated in the 36th annual International Yoga Festival. H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, and Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Director of International Yoga Festival opened the first day of the highly anticipated annual International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh. The Festival is organised with the support of the Incredible India, Ministry of Tourism, in association with the Ministry of Culture and Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India.

In a special wisdom talk on Shivratri, Sacred Energy of Shiva, Pujya Swami Ji said, “If you want to be peaceful on this earth, this is the way: Realize Shiva and Shakti are not two; they are one. Today on Shivaratri and International Women’s Day this is a beautiful way to start the Festival. Yoga is the union of Shiva and Shakti.”

He continued, “People from Ukraine and Russia, Palestine and Israel were in my jyopri last night, but there was no war. Yoga is the way, love is the way, peace is the way. That is why we come to Yoga, come to the banks of Maa Ganga in the lap of the Himalayas. Your practice will first transform yourself, then your communities, countries, and the world.”

Sadhvi Ji introduced the international audience to core Vedic understandings on this auspicious day. “In Vedic tradition we do not believe in original sin but original divinity. That we have not been created by the Divine but OF the Divine. Hinduism is not a polytheistic religion or monotheistic religion but actually There is nothing but the divine. The dilemma is we have ignorance, we forget who we are. We think we are this body, this skin color, this skill, this bank account, and then we suffer. The solution is to come back to the truth of who we are. Everyone wants to know, ‘what’s the purpose of live, what’s my dharma’? You are here to remember.  Shiviratri is the day to remember you are divine. That’s the real you.”

She also explained the significance and meaning of the Mahamritunjaya Mantra – Om Tryambak Yajamahe, Sugandhim Pushtee-Vardhanam, Urvarukmeva Bandhanaan, Mrtyoh-Mrukshiya MaaMmrataat- to the participants from across the world that spirituality is not converting, destroying, annihilating or taking away something valuable but a ripening, a fullness of discovering something so infinitely more valuable from within yourself so that all other bondage just drops.

Schedule Highlights From Day 1

The morning asana class began at the break of dawn with Kundalini Sadhana led by Gurushabd Singh Khalsa from California, USA, followed by pre-breakfast classes including: “The teachings of Yogasana 1. Vinyasa Yogacharya Krishnamacharya’s global legacy” by Stewart Gilchrist, founder of East London School of Yoga, “Freedom In My Foundation – 1st + 2nd Chakra Balancing Vinyasa – Hips + Hamstrings” Katie B Happyy, best-selling author and motivational speaker; and “Enlivening Shakti” with Anand Mehrotra, who developed the Sattva Yoga style, and founded the Sattva Yoga Academy. Participants practiced ancient Himalayan pranayama and kriyas, then danced ecstatically, while Mehrotra encouraged yogis to “Move like you’ve never moved before!”

Tommy Rosen, founder of Recovery 2.0, taught participants how to use yoga to rise above whatever additions hold us back in life.  “Addiction is the place where nothing connects,” Rosen said. “Yoga is the place where everything is connected. Yoga is recovery. Recovery is yoga. You can’t have one without the other.”

Following lunch, participants joined a thought-provoking conversion on “How Ayurveda and Yoga can Heal Addiction” between American yoga teacher and addiction recovery expert Tommy Rosen, founder of Recovery 2.0, and renowned Ayurveda expert Vaidya Dr. Ramkumar.

Meanwhile, on the Sacred Sound Stage that hosts internationally acclaimed musicians throughout the day, Sanj Hall and Sandra Barnes performed a “Cosmic Sound Scape,” where listeners dropped into a dreamy and restorative sound journey.

After a short break for tea, around 5:30 pm, the participants gathered on the banks of Ganga at the Parmarth Niketan ghat for a special Maha Shivaratri lecture, meditation, and chanting session led by H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati ji, Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati ji, and renowned yogacharyas from across the world.

Yoga and flexibility expert Rubber Girl Anvi, a 15-year old down syndrome special child who met PM Modi, performed a remarkable yoga demonstration at tonight’s special Maha Shivratri Ganga Aarti. Pujya Swamiji and Pujya Sadhviji honored Anvi with a mala and scared rudraksha tree, the iconic green gift of Parmarth Niketan, and a blessing that she may continue to uplift girls across the world.

H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati Ji, President of Parmarth Niketan Ashram, said “Today, Anvi can be a special ambassador for all girls on earth. Today, which is both Maha Shivratri and International Women’s Day, let us remember that girls don’t need to be empowered. Girls will empower the world.”

Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, International Director of Parmarth Niketan and Director of IYF, said, “Tonight is auspicious – the great night of Lord Shiva. Shiva is that power that destroys all that which prevents new creation. The perfection of the universe requires each of us to acknowledge the perfection of ourselves, that we are each divine. It is also International Women’s Day. We remember we say ‘Mother Earth,’ ‘Mother Nature.’ In Hindi, the word for nature, prakriti, and the word for creative force, shakti, are feminine. So on this day, we remember to celebrate the feminine throughout our lives, in honoring the women in our lives–our mothers, sisters, aunts, friends–and the creative essence that exists in every tree, every body of water. This is how we honor the feminine in our lives.” Participants raised their hands joyously and pledged to honor the feminine on the banks of Ganga under the moonless night of Shivaratri.

After the Aarti an incredibly ecstatic kirtan session with renowned musicians Gurnimit Singh, 3rd generation lineage holder Kirtan singer from Vancouver Canada, and Sattyanand, accomplished musician and a Nada Yoga practitioner from India, had participants dancing in joy til late at night on the banks of Maa Ganga.


H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan said, “It is a great joy to welcome so many revered saints and respected yogacharyas to the International Yoga Festival.  This week, all of the participants will receive not only the gift of their wonderful teachings, but also the gift of their divine touch, through which all will be transformed.”

Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Director of International Yoga Festival said, “The renowned presenters at IYF bring not only the best of strength and flexibility through asana, but they also bring the depth and breadth of yogic philosophy and spiritual wisdom for true alignment of body, mind, heart, spirit and connection of the self to the Divine.”

Tommy Rosen, internationally renowned yoga teacher, meditation instructor and addiction recovery expert with over 30 years of continuous recovery from addiction, who has been coming to the Festival since as early as 2012 shared, “I’ve been thinking a lot about sanctuary, a safe haven, a place where you can dock your soul, body, and mind to rebalance, renew and remember.  In the same way, the mind can be distracted and then brought back into balance, life’s journey brings us home once again to the magical and mystical Parmarth Niketan on the banks of Ma Ganga.”

Argentinian participant yoga teacher Sandra Barnes, said, “I come every year and I just love it. It’s so important to come home to connect and share.”

Twenty-six year old Marissa Dudek, who is visiting from Michigan in the United States, and serving as a volunteer at IYF (sevak) shared, “It’s my first IYF and I’m so grateful to have the chance to meet so many people coming from different backgrounds and cultures, all here to express their shared love for yoga.”