Each Summer, I attend the Devon Yoga Festival, an annual, not-for-profit and non-commercial event that celebrates and embraces the holistic practices of yoga. All proceeds are donated to the charity that I support: the Ganga Prem Hospice (the unique spiritually-oriented cancer hospice) in Rishikesh, India and to the Glacier Trust (developing sustainable practices in Nepalese hill farming communities).
The festival was created in 2011 by Duncan Hulin, founder and director of Devon School of Yoga, In response to the growing popularity of yoga. Duncan wanted to create an event that was purely about yoga, offering teachings from various traditions and styles.
This year, the weekend of 14-16 July saw the fifth annual Devon Yoga Festival take place at the Rill Estate near Buckfastleigh, an idyllic location in the west of England. Participants enjoyed comfortable (but not luxurious) accommodations, amazingly delicious vegetarian food and 3 days of inspiring yoga classes, workshops, talks, music and kirtan.
This was definitely our best year! Although the energy at the Festival is always nice, I found it to be especially joyous this year. The English summer weather was kind to us, allowing attendees to enjoy the outside lawns and woods of the 80 acre Rill Estate.
The Festival itself raised £1,000 for Ganga Prem Hospice. April Pierrot and I ran a small stall selling handmade socks and shawls - all produced by the Kullu Valley women’s collective. This little table received an additional £191 in donations plus unbelievable sales totalling £965. This brought the total amount raised to £2,156 – when it is transferred to India, this will convert to almost 2 lakh rupees (200,000 INR).
On Saturday evening, Duncan spoke about his recent visit to the Hospice in Rishikesh. I gave a talk about the work of the Hospice that I've been involved with for almost 10 years. I reminded people how even a small donation makes so much difference in India. I also suggested to the yoga teachers in the audience that they offer a monthly ‘donation’ class. Or – ‘donate your birthday’ to the Ganga Prem Hospice in place of the unwanted gifts that people tend to receive. We managed to inspire a number of people to connect with GPH on a grass-roots level and hope that will lead to future fundraising.
The Devon Yoga Festival’s ethos of 'small is beautiful', its simplicity, along with its non-commercial and not-for-profit principles make it a unique yoga event. I look forward to attending it again next Summer.
Over the years, the Festival has raised an amazing £6,485 for the Ganga Prem Hospice.
A huge thank you to everyone that took part in the 2017 Devon Yoga Festival – and extra special blessings to the main organisers: Duncan, Jules and James for their incredible dedication!
On Tues, 28th February, 2017 Ganga Prem Hospice opened officially inaugurated its residential facility in Rishikesh. This joyous event is the culmination of a 10 year dream - inspired by Nani Ma and Dr A.K. Dewan.
Situated at Village Gohri Maphi, in Raiwala area of Rishikesh, the building's East Wing has thirty-four rooms, and will be able to serve 15 terminally ill in-patients.
With around ninety people - staff, volunteers, donors, supporters and friends - in attendance on a spring Tuesday forenoon, the ceremony was small and warm as Hospice building construction sponsors - two well-respected public sector companies in India - inaugurated their respective floors of the building. Everybody was happy to hear from them about how they were knowledgeable about the concept and need of hospice care, and promised to continue their support to GPH.
We cannot thank our volunteers and supporters enough, who drove to Rishikesh from as far as Delhi, and others who were visiting Rishikesh from different countries. They cheerfully worked long hours setting things in order for the inauguration day. Even our doctors were not shy to pick up a cleaning mop or shine the glass windows.
All guests were given a guided tour of the Hospice building, which was followed by lunch. The building will be an eco-friendly facility, with rain water harvesting, decentralised wastewater treatment system (DEWATS), solar water heating, and a construction design which maximises natural light and air circulation.
My latest book "Mudras for Modern Life" is attracting quite a bit of interest - especially since, in addition to the popular English edition, it is now available in Dutch, French, German, Norwegian and Spanish. Here I am at the Yoga Congress in Bad Meinberg, Germany. The room was overflowing with a crowd over 100 intensely interested students. More than half of them bought copies of my book and asked me to sign - what a pleasure!
The high point of the day was our attempts at anahata mudra - see page 58 in the book - or a short video on Instagram
- Bring your right ring finger into the web between the left index and middle fingers – and the left ring finger into the web between the index and middle finger on your right hand.
- Curl each of your middle fingers down over the ring fingers.
- Extend your thumbs and the index and little fingers; bring their respective ends together.
I'm looking forward to my next "Mudras for Modern Life" workshop in London - on Sun, 12th Feb at Yotopia in Covent Garden.
The London OM Yoga Show is an annual event that has been Europe’s largest yoga phenomenon since its inception in 2003. It claims to be “the total yoga experience under one roof “. Although it ostensibly strives to bring together the yoga community with the promise that “You will find everything you need for your yoga practice together with inspirational products for a healthy lifestyle”, many people see ‘products’ as being the key word. Each year I notice that fewer yoga schools are represented – almost no individual yogis had stands, as they did in the early days when teachers were offered the option of small inexpensive individual tables.
I didn’t have a stand, however I did spend parts of Friday and Saturday selling and signing my books. Tatiana, a former student, gave me a small table on her stall. She is starting a very creative new business, based on bringing the chakras into everyday life.
Many of the people who came by reported that they already possessed copies of my various books - and were inspired by reading them. I noticed that people who had one of my books were likely to buy a second – several people bought copies of them all. One young man thanked me repeatedly for writing “The Power of Breath”. He said it taught him to breathe properly. He bought the book in 2009, the year that it came out, and has been practicing with it ever since.
This reminded me of a similar experience at last year’s Yoga Show when another young man picked up a copy of my book “The Essential Guide to Chakras” and told his friend, “This is the book that I have to thank for my Master’s degree”. His degree was in theatre and his thesis expounded a technique that he had developed using the chakras to enable actors to better tune into the emotional state of their characters. He eagerly purchased a copy of my latest book “Mudras for Modern Life” and seemed very happy when I asked him if he wanted me to sign it.
In addition to selling books, I handed out leaflets for the ‘Mudras for Modern Life’ workshop that I’ll be teaching on Sunday (30th Oct, 2:30-5:30pm) at Yotopia in Covent Garden, London
Thiruvalluvar on SOAS campus
Thursday was my first day of actual class at SOAS (for you who are not familiar with the name, it is short for the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London). I'm just starting an MA programme in "Traditions of Yoga and Meditation".
It was a lovely autumnal day, perfect for starting a new major project - and, for me, this programme is quite a big step. Since my first visit to the SOAS campus, I've felt particularly welcome, perhaps because of being greeted by the statue of the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, who probably lived sometime between the 4th and 1st centuries BCE.
On the left you see the famous 113 foot high Thiruvalluvar statue at Kanya Kumari, the southernmost point in India
Our class began with a welcome from Dr Ulrich Pagel, the convenor of the programme. Then we had the lecture of the day, the first lecture of the course; it was given by Dr Ted Proferes on the "Chronology and Geography of Ancient India". The talk included a look at the Indus Valley-Harappan Civilization, pre-Vedic and early Vedic periods - mostly based on archological and linguistic evidence. It gave a quick survey of the period from 3000 BCE to 500 CE - and really helped to put things into historical perspective.
I recommend one of the books that we are using to anyone who might be interested: "The Hindu Religious Tradition" by T.J. Hopkins. You can buy used copies on Amazon. The second chapter, which is on my reading list for the coming week, contains a really good explaination of the different Vedas and their divisions - better than I've read or heard any place else.
I'm very happy to announce that my book "Mudras for Modern Life" is now available in a number of foreign editions: Dutch, French, German, Spanish and Norwegian. In English it is available as a printed book, as well as an e-book.
If you're in the London area, I'm going to be doing an introductory workshop at Yotopia in Covent Garden on Sun, 30th Oct, 2:15-5:15pm. Click here to book the "Mudras for Modern Life" workshop
Several months ago, to celebrate International Yoga Day on June 21st, I did a series of short videos with Watkins Publishing - in connection with my book "Mudras for Modern Life".
Mudras can assist you in rebalancing your energy, enhancing your well-being and transforming your life in a wide range of ways. They can be amazingly useful tools in both yoga and meditation; they can also aid you in developing an increased sense of calm in life and finding inner peace – and all you need is your own hands and a place to sit.
Whether or not you are thinking of attending my introductory workshop at Yotopia in Covent Garden on Sun, 30th Oct, you may want to have a look at the first of the videos, which I've just posted on YouTube, which is an "Introduction to Mudras"
Special thanks ot Lucia at Watkins Publishing for organising the "14 Days" series - and for supervising the filming and editing.
OM GAM GANAPATAYAI NAMAH
Today is Ganesha Chathurthi - Ganesha's birthday, which this year marks my 40th Sannyas anniversary - it is 40 years since I became a Swami. Forty years ago, I stood in front of a ritual fire with my teacher Swami Vishnu-devananda to renounce my attachment to the world and to vow that I would devote the major portion of my energy into trying to tune to the pure Consciousness within. I still wears orange, although not orange robes, the colour of the fire who witnessed my renunciation.
For now I'm settled in London; above is a picture of the Ganesha orchestra that plays sweet music in my kitchen. But, as a Swami, I try to have the attitude that the whole world is my home and the whole world is the family.
You might also be interested in watching a short talk that I posted on YouTube a year ago - on Ganesha Chaturthi. It is embarassing to realise I haven't posted anything since, but I do intend to be more diligent in this!
OM - exciting news - today I received a copy of the newly released Korean version of my book "Chakra Meditation".
The thought that my book is inspiring Korean yogis to meditate made me feel really happy
This is the second of my books that is available in Korea. One of my other books, "The Power of Breath", was published there several years ago.
Loving greetings from London - and welcome to my blog
The past few months have been unusual ones for me. I've stayed put in London for 3 1/2 month - not counting the few days in Scotland and York. This is a bit of a record for me - my Flying Mountain seems to have come to rest for a while.
Mountains usually represent stability, immovablity and security. But, Indian legend has it that in ancient times all mountains had wings and used to zip around the earth - often bumping into each other and causing massive overhead traffic pile-ups. Eventually, the ancient rishis got tired of the noise they were making and decided to bring them down to earth by cutting off their wings. Only one mountain escaped the cull as it was bathing in a lake. I like to think that (metaphoric) mountain is the one I use to bring the Himalyan traditions of yoga to the modern world.
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