I have just returned from a lovely weekend away with my family at this year’s World Yoga Festival held at Beale Park, near Reading, UK.
Its years since I’ve been to a camping festival and the days of going to Glastonbury with my mates - running the gauntlet of mud baths, bio-hazardous toilets and the difficult task of finding our tent again at 3am. So I was slightly apprehensive about bringing two small children to a festival and wasn’t sure what to expect. Thankfully, from the moment we arrived, we were welcomed with warm smiles, a friendly atmosphere and were invited to pitch (our enormous) tent in a spacious field with excellent facilities - clean toilets and plenty of good showers with hot water each day.
The festival was located in beautiful grounds, nestled amongst trees, wide open spaces and a lake which proved to be a Godsend in the hot afternoon sun. The programme featured a veritable smorgasbord of workshops offered by teachers from the UK and US, as well as Swamis and Yogacharyas - master teachers from India. I felt very honoured to be teaching alongside a lineup of so many esteemed and respected teachers. I’d been allotted two morning slots teaching Yoga kriyas - purification practices from our lineage of the late Dr B.P. Pillai of Kerala. I therefore had plenty of free time to spend with my family whilst Alice and I took turns attending workshops.
One of the great things about this festival is its ethos of presenting the full gamut of traditional yoga practices, so that as well as workshops in asana & pranayama, there were also Satsangs, talks and classes on Yoga philosophy, Vedanta, psychology, therapy, meditation and much more. I focused on attending teachings on ‘the direct path’ from Rupert Spira as well as teachings on Patanjali Yoga Sutra and Bhagavad Gita from Swami Brahmavidananda Saraswati. I felt touched, inspired and at times entertained by both these great teachers. I was particularly struck by Rupert Spira's session on awareness and his ability to hold space and talk to a very large crowd in a humble and intimate way. It was as if we could have all been sat at home in his living room while he talked about life, the universe and everything.
It felt as if the Swamis had brought the Indian sun with them and we enjoyed three glorious days of blazing hot sunshine. When I wasn’t teaching or attending workshops, I was able to explore the site with my sons who especially loved cooling off in the lake and visiting the family area to have their faces painted each day. In the evenings, we spent our time at the lovely chai tent overlooking the lake while the children played and were entertained by the incredible bubble show. Although we retired to our tent fairly early we were still able to enjoy the background sounds of the incredible musicians playing. The sound systems wound down at a reasonable hour so that we were able to get the boys to sleep and enjoy a restful night before classes early the next morning.
I can thoroughly recommend this festival. I was particularly impressed by how well organised it was, beautiful surroundings, excellent facilities, plenty of space and a great, inclusive atmosphere. It was heartening to see so many diverse groups within our community coming together through our shared love of yoga and celebrating and enjoying these practices. People of all traditions, backgrounds and ages - from my son aged two and a half, right through to one teacher from America who was ninety eight years old! We were all welcomed and included.
The World Yoga Festival has something to offer everybody: if you want to learn about asana you can do so with some of the most respected and experienced asana & Iyengar teachers in the world, but there is also an opportunity to learn about much more - from kriya and kundalini to Advaita Vedanta. The festival is a beacon of yogic culture and its manifold pathways to Moksha - liberation. Traditional Yoga is alive and well and if you want to learn more about it, there is a now the opportunity to do so each year right here in the UK.
For more information about the World Yoga Festival visit: www.yogafestival.world