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!
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.
The next "Mudras for Modern Life" workshop in London
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
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!