Yoga festival in Rishikesh

by | Jun 22, 2021 | India | 0 comments

30. International Yoga Festival in Rishikesh, India

I didn’t want to go to the festival at all. I have been practicing yoga for some time now and I love the time when I completely forget about myself and my surroundings, turn my attention inward and just float between asanas, observing  myself, my emotions and thoughts. I thought that the yoga festival would be pretty the opposite – lots of people, mainly from the West, made-up yoginis in designer outfits, sexy teachers with worked-out muscles who magically attract the yoginis looking for enlightenment, acrobatic classes full of handstands and headstands……. this is not what I am looking for. I had no illusions about an international festival. Eventually, though, my friends convinced me to make the trip to Rishikesh with them.

If you want to spend the entire seven days at the festival, you can stay right at the Parmarth Niketan ashram where the whole event takes place. The ashram stands right on the banks of the sacred Ganges River at the foot of the Himalayas.

We arrived two days later and stayed in a hotel right next to the ashram. The festival schedule was pretty busy and the classes overlapped so it was impossible to attend everything we liked. Ashtanga Yoga, Kundalini Sadhana, Voice of Silence, Meditation, Power of the Heart, Rebirth, Life Beyond Desire, Sound Healing, Prana Dance, Mantra Chanting, Reiki, Yoga Nidra……. so many classes and sessions to choose from.  Asanas were not really the most important thing practiced during the festival, rather it was more about inner attunement, a journey to one’s own inner self, opening the heart, feeling a sense of belonging to the others, as well as lectures and discussions on ecology and the environment, vegetarianism, etc.

The whole festival had a very strong spiritual atmosphere. Authentic and charismatic teachers who teach what they live. There were many Americans and Australians, visitors from South America, Mexico, China, Japan, … Czechs were scarce, but in the end, to my great joy, I discovered two Czech boys Lubos and Jirka and a lovely yogini Eva, whom I met several times afterwards.

I don’t know if it was the classes where heart-opening poses were practiced, dancing together or practicing hugs, but the yogis and yoginis were very nice and open, spontaneous and cheerful. On the last day of the festival, all the participants, including the ashram’s Parmath Niketan officials – the ashram’s president and one of India’s spiritual leaders, Pujya Swamiji, and festival director Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati – went to visit the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi ashram, known as “The Beatles Ashram”, where the Beatles found refuge, meditation and peace in the late 1960s and where they composed most of the songs from their famous “White Album”.  After a short meditation, all participants sang mantras and of course a few well-known Beatles songs, and the whole meeting turned into one big dance party full of spontaneity and joy.

We enjoyed the festival to the fullest. We didn’t sleep much, but that didn’t bother us at all. We got the healing power of yoga and the feeling of belonging and oneness with the whole world, the feeling of completeness and the realization that the only thing we really have is “here and now”. What more could we ask for?  That is YOGA!  

This article was published in JógaDnes magazine in June 2019.