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Awareness Magazine
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Bhakti Fest Celebrates Music, Yoga and Ecology

By Shannon Skillern


The fourth annual Bhakti Fest, set to take place in Joshua Tree September 8-11, has a new spin on its signature blend of yoga, music and workshops: Ecology.

“It is important that we as individuals, communities and tribes honor our connection to the earth as part of our spiritual practice,” says Sridhar Silberfein, Founder and Director of the four-day event, coined by attendees to be a Spiritual Woodstock.

“There are many ways to explore our reverence to the natural world: choosing high-quality food from sustainable sources, admiring scenery on a hike, and of course doing our part to reduce our footprint on the Earth. But beyond these ethical guidelines and day-to-day activities there is a spiritual connection we can activate in our personal sadhana. I wanted to explore that as a piece of this year’s Bhakti Fest.”

New to the festival this September is a Loyola Marymount-accredited two-day workshop on Yoga and Ecology. Registration is open to everyone and credit will be offered toward those in the LMU Yoga Ecology program, a five-certificate course of study.

Los Angeles-based yoga instructor Sara Ivanhoe kicks off the program Wednesday, September 7 with a pre-fest Green Yoga class, integrating asana with a historical journey through myth, the marriage of Vishnu and Prithivi and the Buddha’s quest for enlightenment.

The second day of the workshop is scheduled post-festival, on Monday, September 12. Following asana with Sara, Dr. Chris Chapple and Dr. Laura Cornell, Founder of the Green Yoga Association will lead workshops on how to integrate yoga practice with environmentally-responsible lifestyle choices. The Monday workshop will also cover elements of Vedic philosophy known as the Earth Verses.

Bhakti Fest is the only festival of its kind to celebrate the specific path of Bhakti yoga — a practice centered around union with the divine through chanting sacred Sanskrit mantra. The festival features around-the-clock kirtan performances by Krishna Das, Donna DeLory, Jai Uttal, Deva Premal & Miten, Wah!, Shantala, and Dave Stringer among others.

“Part of the fun in this festival is the crowd,” says Jeanie Kirk, a Bay-area resident and regular festival-goer. “The energy gets so elevated with all of the singing and dancing. The feeling of freedom after this kind of practice really cultivates a sense of love and gratitude for everyone and everything… I walk away feeling so much more conscious and that carries into every aspect of my life.”

The festival’s location near Joshua Tree National Park is indeed the perfect setting to appreciate nature. Tent camping and cabin accommodations among cacti at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center invite a sense of awe and reverence for the outdoors.

An all-star yoga lineup featuring Shiva Rea, Saul David Raye, Seane Corn, Bryan Kest, Mark Whitwell, MC Yogi & Amanda is scheduled to lead a diverse range of classes, from trance dance to bollywood to more traditional vinyasa and hatha styles.

The festival is also known for workshop and lecture content, the depth and breadth of which satisfies seasoned spiritual practitioners and newcomers alike. Dr. Manoj Chalam is a regular presenter whose topics cover Hindu and Buddhist myths, symbols and ritual. Author and spiritual teacher Ram Dass, is scheduled to deliver a workshop via DVD and Radhanath Swami, author of the book The Journey Home, will appear as a featured presenter.

What Bhakti Fest brings in conscious content is not limited to its programming. The festival boasts one of the purest collections of raw, vegan and vegetarian food vendors in addition to many high-quality health and wellness companies offering up supplement samples.

With green food, green yoga and a high-vibe lineup of conscious music, Bhakti Fest is an event that invites us to align with our highest selves.

For more information and Yoga and Ecology workshop registration for Bhakti Fest, visit www.bhaktifest.com. Four-day festival tickets can be purchased online in advance for $300, $450 at the door.

Shannon Skillern is a yogini, fashion designer, marketing, events, and creative services visionary serving the conscious community in Los Angeles. She can be reached at shannonskillern@gmail.com