Last weekend was my first time at World Yoga Festival UK, this is an overview of my time there and shorter posts will follow.
World Yoga Festival is on each Summer in Reading and takes inspiration from Puji Swami Dayananda Sarawati and other great masters of yogic traditions. The long weekend features meditation, yoga, Ayurveda, Astrology and Non-Dual teachings.
From a personal point of view I went for the Kundalini yoga workshops and the mini break away, the weather was incredibly hot and sunny too! It’s funny as I almost didn’t go, my mum mentioned a friend of hers told her to tell me about it, I rejected it at first ‘Thanks but I don’t do any kind of yoga I just do Kundalini’ as it”s true I’ve done Hatha and Bikram but I don’t have any desire to do the more physical stretching yoga’s or anything that the teacher has renamed just screams ‘commercialised Western yoga’ to me. Kundalini yoga is my jam and Sikhi is my faith, mixing other yogis and teachings just doesn’t feel right and I get a kind of ‘What am I doing here?!’ siren set off.
That being said I was at a Kundalini meditation morning that I just happened to go along to one Sunday (and took my dad, he liked it, he can’t even cross his legs but he had a great time, very impressed with breath of fire too). When my teacher mentioned she was going to assist a man called Guru Dharam at the World Yoga Festival and I was half sold, I could go for the Kundalini….
It being 10 minutes down the road, the weekend my parents were back from holiday and my weekend off sold it to me. Now there was a reason why I had kept my pop up tent in the hallway and £181 later I was all set. The price included somewhere to pitch my tent, all workshops and music. Also watching the taster video I saw someone swimming in the lake at the site so packed my bikini last minute and my goodness am I grateful I did!
After I’d set up my pop up tent in the blazing heat and consumed a cocao drink and cookies before they went warm I went for a walk before the first workshop. I strolled along in my little red shorts, orange triangle bikini, wearing my white headscarf turban and holding my sheepskin under my left arm. My did I get some looks! Is it the turban? The bikini? The sheepskin? It amused me, clearly I wasn’t around anyone that did Kundalini yoga as at those festivals I blend in entirely. Anyway yoga means union, we are all connected. Those who didn’t accept me as I came could use it as an opportunity to ‘recognise the other person is you’, or do some inner work on beliefs or blocks or something.
The first night, I was super pleased about this on the day, everything I ate or drank was free – I had a free shot of wheat grass from Passion 4 juice when I liked their Facebook page and from my tote bag that was included in the weekend ticket, a tea bag from Real Remedies, they were even sweet enough to fill up my big travel mug too! I bought some of my own food and ate a Quorn sausage gluten free sourdough bread (tastier than it sounds) sandwich in the sun by my tent. Looking back now I could have brought more food and cooking equipment. The car parking to tent pitching is only a short distance and others had cool boxes and cooking equipment, smart move.
The festival site was really lovely, the field before Beale Park in Reading, very green and open. Everything was in easy walking distance too, the toilets and showers (both amazing, didn’t expect that at all), the tents where the yoga workshops, talks and classes took place, a family fun zone, a cafe tent with low authentic seating, the lake and herbal drink stalls, vegetarian/vegan/gluten free food stalls and a long row of stalls selling a range of goodies. I’ll mention a few below.
This was my first ever festival where the food wasn’t included in the price, so I was a bit shocked at first, I mean £9 for a main meal that I could buy somewhere for £6?! Eventually I accepted this was the norm at festivals, to appreciate the food and so on. Yogi tea were there and drinks at other places were £2.50+ where as a hot or iced yogi tea was just £1! I had my usual dish of Channa Masla at the Bhangra Bus one day then a super tasty definitely worth £7 Masala Dosa from Indian street food, the people cooking on hot plates were friendly too and I chatted to them.
My favourite stall was Himalayan Crafts selling beautiful handmade jewellery, crafts, cotton scarves and other Indian style items. I was chatting to the owner, a wonderful friendly lady who was new to selling at festivals, I bought a pink and white scarf (favourite colours to wear) with multi colour tassels. She told me about another festival she is selling at RAW Fest in Ascot and Southall Mela both this August.
I got a sample of aromatherapy oils applied to me Dottera, the lady was right, it was incredibly cooling, that is the first time I’ve experienced anything like that! I also got a pretty mosaic bowl for my altar space from Marc Dieux, he also sold really comfy looking yoga cushions.
The tent with music, more talks and gong was near to the food and stalls and had a different band each night such as Soumik Datta who sang about forgiveness and love, as well as singers such as Brett Randell who played in the lunchtime.
I also took more photos on my Polaroid camera Instax 90, playing around with modes in different places is fun and good experience, especially self timer mode and propping my camera up on the grass. You can view my photos in my project trust and love in Polaroids. I love looking over my mini photos and treasure them more so than my camera phone photos at the moment.
Top 5 highlights of being at World Yoga Festival:
1. Guru Dharam with Holly Cole workshops were fantastic, just finding out that it was the first time Kundalini had featured at the festival was a brilliant step forward too. Guru Dharam each day lead a talk, kriya and meditation. Topics include: Breaking through karmic squares, your past lives and gifts and sound, light and assention. All very interesting and opening to bigger and brighter soulful living. He did longer meditations than I usually do at home, 31 minutes and it’s got me in a better habit of doing them more as they are hugely beneficial to well being.
‘As we got through the cycles in life, when it comes to gifts, use it or lose it. Just like stuff you’ve stored but haven’t had a connection with. Every soul has a mission – deliver and serve’ – Guru Dharam
2. Swimming in the lake! I can not emphasise how much I enjoyed from the simple act of swimming in the lake. Water is cleansing, it was cold so refreshing and I just swam along watching the birds find fish in the water. Feelings came up, ideas were explored and as the weather was so hot it was a perfect addition to my time away, a big natural pool to swim in, the surroundings especially in the evening are beautiful. I swam early Sunday morning, the day of a full moon in Capricorn and later I asked about lakes having a current as I felt an incredible pulling from the water, it turns out the moon cycle controls the tides, by late afternoon the water had settled again.
3. I really enjoyed the meditative upbeat music of Manish Vyas, his songs Lokaha Samastaha and Shivoham especially stand out to me. Though I don’t know the words and feel much more connected with Gurmuki Kirtan, I can just feel the aliveness and love from those songs. People swayed, sat and listened and got up and danced to them, I wrote in my journal things that I’ve wanted to write for a long time finally came with no effort.
4. A laughter workshop with Joe Hoare who runs the Bristol Laughter Club was hilarious!!! I couldn’t have had more fun, even from the first line ‘Whatever expectations you had, throw them away right now’ I knew it was a great choice to come. We smiled, laughed and sighed while moving our bodies around – definitely worth checking out.
5. Time, yes time. Hours of time between workshops (as I only selected a few) meant time to ponder, to read my creative book, yoga book, write, take photos and cloud watch. Have conversations with people and lay in the sunshine. I especially noticed this on retreat last year that the time between going to workshops was just as important as discovering new things in the workshops. As time also allows you to do that, discover more about yourself, let love in, explore what you want.
‘The artist and the photographer seek the mysteries and the adventure of experience in nature’ – Ansel Adams
I also went to a talk on Ayurveda by Amarjeet Bharama and an Indian dance workshop by Ananya Chatterjee. I chatted to Karen Skehel in the lake one afternoon who passionately told me of her dance meditation workshop and I would have gone to Devraj Singh’s class (though it wasn’t written up as Kundalini) and only realised walking along hearing music ‘Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru’.
From World Yoga Festival I got to experience the yoga I love and am training in now, Guru Dharam’s words about gifts use it or lose it, are a reminder to just get over my blocks and just teach. I will be re organising my site around this soon. I got to experience music that I wouldn’t usually search for and festivals give you that opportunity to do things out of your comfort zone or normal routine, such as laughter yoga and swimming in a fresh lake. Thank you Ram and Sonalini Banerjee, festival founders!
I enjoyed the lake so much that I’ve made the bold move and booked tickets to a festival I saw last year and loved the look of it but felt a little nervous about going to something so big, especially alone – Wilderness festival, in Oxford this August!
I think swimming in the lake brought up more feelings of what I really want – teaching art, yoga and travelling. To places such as Prague (maybe this year finally) and Amritsa, India (if not this December, then next).
‘A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable’ – William Wordsworth