Mysuru Yoga Utsava – 15th – 17th December, 2023

A Global Quest for Happiness and Wellbeing

Indica Yoga’s Mysuru Yoga Utsava, held from December 15 to 17, 2023, embarked on a noble quest to discover pathways to global happiness and wellbeing—an endeavor that lies at the heart of human existence. This vibrant festival showcased Yoga's transformative and unifying power, bringing together diverse communities under a common purpose.

Each session of the Mysuru Yoga Utsava was a profound journey, delving into the truths of existence and charting courses for personal transformation. As the third installment following two successful online global festivals in 2020 and 2021, this edition featured over 200 practitioners, 30 teachers, and 50 artists from more than 10 countries, all converging to celebrate the ancient wisdom of Yoga.

Maitrī: A Celebration of Universal Friendship

At the heart of the festival was the theme of 'Maitrī,' symbolizing universal friendship and emphasizing the cultivation of loving relationships with oneself, family, community, society, and nature. This theme, inspired by the teachings of the Sutras of Patañjali, underscored the profound importance of Maitrī as a foundational quality for achieving inner harmony and mental clarity.

A Grand Commencement of an Idea

The inaugural ceremony, held amidst the serene ambiance of Wind Chimes, Mysuru, marked the beginning of a transformative journey. Distinguished luminaries such as Swami Muktidananda Ji Maharaj (Trustee, Sri Ramakrishna Math-Belur & President, Sri Ramakrishna Ashrama-Mysuru), Sri Subodh Tiwari (CEO of Kaivalyadham & Secretary General of Indian Yoga Association), Prof. H.V. Nagaraja Rao (renowned scholar), Dr. B.R. Ramakrishna (Vice Chancellor, SVYASA Yoga University), and Dr. Vinayachandra Banavathy (Director, Indica Yoga and Chief Curator, Mysuru Yoga Utsava) graced the occasion, setting the stage for an event that would redefine the boundaries of Yoga discourse and practice.

Setting the context for the event, Dr. Vinayachandra Banavathy laid out the foundational principles that govern the activities of Indica Yoga. He highlighted Indica Yoga’s role as a platform that connects and brings together teachers, institutions, and associations of Yoga that uphold the integrity and authenticity of the yoga tradition. The Mysuru Yoga Utsava was a culmination of such an effort at the most appropriate place—Mysuru. Sri Subodh Tiwari spoke about the application of Yoga in education for students and the steps being taken to ensure yoga reaches every student. Prof. H.V. Nagaraja Rao and Dr. B.R. Ramakrishna emphasized the need to embrace Yoga in its true and holistic aspects. Sri Swami Muktidananda Ji Maharaj, in his presidential remarks, highlighted how Yoga can bring inner alignment as well as global harmony. Smt M. A. Jayashree was felicitated on this occasion for her distinguished service in upholding dharmic traditions, especially through chanting practices.

Following the inauguration, a series of plenary and parallel sessions encompassed the rich and diverse expressions of Yoga teachings, covering both theory and practice in areas including asana, pranayama, chanting, meditation, and philosophy, led by experts, scholars, and teachers of international repute.

Engaging Workshops and Immersive Experiences

The opening plenary session was led by Mā Parvathy Baul and Sri Ramachandra on the Yoga of the Bauls. Mā Parvathy Ji eloquently conveyed the essence of the Baul tradition, rooted in the earth and passed down orally, distinct from scriptural teachings. This aesthetic yogic paramparā, rich in humanistic elements and not strictly adhering to traditional Vaiṣṇava norms, has evolved, especially as it interacted with urban spaces. Parvathy Ji highlighted the Bauls' profound connection with Haṭha Yoga and their alignment with the Nāth Paramparā and Sahajayāna tradition of Buddhism. She emphasized the importance of breath (Vāyu) in Baul practices, the role of the Guru in guiding towards spiritual realization, and the commitment required from a Śiṣya in this journey. This session uniquely highlighted the overlapping of the Yoga and the Baul traditions, both emphasizing sadhana and transformation.

Other plenary sessions included the enlightening "Atha: Yoga Begins Here & Now" by Yogashri N. V. Raghuram, Founder and Spiritual Mentor of Yoga Bharathi, India and US; the insightful "Understanding & Dealing with Kleshas" by Dr. Ganesh Rao from ACT Yoga, Mumbai; and the profound "Maitrī Bhāvana: The Essential Practice of Ekatatva Abhyāsa" by Dr. Vinayachandra Banavathy from Indica Yoga, Bangalore.

The festival also featured numerous engaging parallel sessions and immersive workshops that covered both theory and practice. These included Yotam Agam's session, where the experienced Ashtanga Yoga teacher from Israel synchronized breath and body movements with heart-rate-mirroring music. By integrating his musical compositions into yoga practice, he demonstrated the enhanced experience and benefits of combining sound and movement. Other highlights included the transformative "Yoga Panchamrita (5 Great Techniques)" by Sri Raghavendra Pai; "Nidrā Yoga: An Exploration into the Content of Consciousness" by Andre Riehl from France; the introspective "Discovering the Wisdom of Vishwamitra Within: An Inner Journey through Asana" by Ms. Shailaja Menon from Mat-&-Beyond Yoga, Malaysia; the heart-centered "Maitri: The Heart of Sri T. Krishnamacharya's Approach to Teaching Yoga" by Ms. Nrithya Jagannathan from Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai; and the enriching "Prana and Maitri: Deeper Exploration and Daily Practice" by Ms. Saraswathi Vasudevan from Yogavahini, Hyderabad.

Further sessions featured the enlightening "Antaranga Yoga and Shringara: Understanding the Role of Love in Yoga" by Sri Raghu Anantanarayan from Ritambhara Ashram, Kotagiri; the comparative "Maitri as a Fundamental Value in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Modern Psychology" by Dr. Jacques Vigne from France; "Sanskrit and Mantras: Discovering Inner Dimensions" by Dr. Anuradha Choudry from IIT Kharagpur; the mystical "Mudra Rahasya" by Dr. Mayur V. Kaku, renowned neurosurgeon from Bangalore; and "The Fundamental Principles of Yoga Practice" by Sri Bharath Shetty from Indea Yoga, Mysore.

Additional noteworthy workshops included the rejuvenating "Reset with Breath Work and Yoga Nidra" by Divya Bhanu Rolla from Cultfit, Bangalore; the elevating "Embodied Yoga: A Pathway to Higher Existence" by Sri Parveen Nair from Rishikesh; the contemplative "Practical Teachings from a Silent Yogi" by Sri Walter Tirak Ruta from Yoga Pramiti, Italy; the integrative "Pranavijnana: Insights & Practices from Yogic & Buddhist Traditions" by Sri Vinay Siddhaih from Bangalore; the compassionate "Compassionate Enquiry through Breath" by Ms. Joshna Ramakrishna from Atman Yoga, Chennai; the traditional "Asana & Pranayama Practice" by Dr. P. N. Ganesh Kumar, Mysuru; the meditative "Hridayollasa: A Guided Meditation from the Vijñāna Bhairava Tantra" by Ms. Akanksha Damini Joshi from Delhi; the nurturing "Prenatal Yoga: Shaping Life from the Beginning" by Dr. Latha Venkatram, renowned gynaecologist and obstetrician from Bangalore; the holistic "Yogic Movement for the Whole of Your Life" by Sri James Boag from the UK; and the devotional "Maitri Bhava through Bhakti Yoga" by Sri Subbu Bhaiya from Adhyatma Yoga, Bangalore.

In summary, the 3-day festival was a vibrant confluence of yoga and culture, featuring 30 esteemed teachers from six countries and encompassing 29 sessions, including a grand inauguration and a heartfelt valedictory ceremony. Held across multiple venues, the event ran parallel tracks to accommodate the diverse array of activities. The festival attracted 250 registered delegates from 10 countries, alongside over 50 distinguished invitee delegates, all contributing to a truly international gathering.

Soulful Narratives and Harmonious Melodies: Cultural Delights at Mysuru Yoga Utsava

On the enchanting evening of December 15, the Abhinava Dance Company, led by the esteemed Smt. Nirupama and Śrī Rajendra, graced the Mysuru Yoga Utsava with their mesmerizing dance presentation titled "Ojas." Drawing from a rich lineage of educationists and traditional storytellers, the duo infused their performance with a profound artistic heritage, showcasing their talents not only as dancers but also as choreographers, teachers, and storytellers. "Ojas" transcended the realm of mere dance, evolving into a soulful narrative that deeply resonated with every attendee, leaving an indelible mark on their hearts and minds.

The cultural extravaganza continued on the festival's second day with a captivating performance by Sunaad, under the expert guidance of Smt. Tara Kini, Founder Director of the renowned group. With a repertoire of over eighty shows that demystify classical music, Sunaad's presentation, themed "Vaiśvānara to Aṅguṣṭhamātra," was a spellbinding fusion of Zen Buddhism and Vedānta. Rooted in the profound teachings of the Upaniṣads, the performance celebrated the essence of community and friendship in the journey of self-discovery. The harmonious melodies woven by Sunaad invited the audience on an immersive odyssey, guiding them from the universal self to the inner self, exploring the interconnectedness of existence and the pursuit of life's ultimate purpose.

Concluding Reflections: Celebrating Authenticity and Diversity

The Mysuru Yoga Utsava, curated by Indica Yoga under the insightful guidance of Sri Hari Vadlamani, Founder, Indica and led by Dr. Vinayachandra Banavathy, alongside the invaluable assistance of Sri Datta Prasad and Smt. Padmavathi, epitomized a seamless blend of ancient wisdom and contemporary practice, leaving an indelible mark on participants and teachers alike. As beautifully articulated by Akanksha Damini in her profound reflections, the festival unfolded as a celebration of Maitri, Universal Friendship, nestled under the serene canopy of ancient trees.

The festival emerged as a heartfelt homage to the foundational roots of Yoga, transcending the conventional narrative of physical health and fitness to embrace the vast spectrum of spiritual traditions ingrained in Indian heritage. From Hatha Yoga to the enchanting melodies of the folk Bauls, from the mystical realms of Bhakti Yoga to the profound teachings of Tantras and Vedanta, the festival embodied a rich tapestry of pluralistic expressions of Yoga.

In addition, the festival showcased two significant book launches and over 10 stalls. Attendees could explore an exhibition dedicated to the rich Mysuru Yoga Tradition, deepening their appreciation of yoga's heritage. The cultural vibrancy was further enhanced by two spectacular cultural events, featuring performances by more than 50 talented artists. This festival was not just a celebration of yoga, but a global cultural extravaganza. The partners for this event included the Yoga Federation of Mysuru (YFM), Indian Yoga Association (IYA), and European Union of Yoga (EUY) along with more than 30 collaborating institutions and organisation. Another significant feature of the festival was the seamless execution of sessions, dining arrangements, and overall organization, all thanks to the tireless efforts of more than 20 dedicated volunteers. Their commitment ensured that all events were conducted with remarkable punctuality and efficiency.

In this vibrant convergence of diverse practices and traditions, the spirit of Maitri flourished, creating an energy field pulsating with enthusiastic knowledge-seeking and mutual respect. As participants immersed themselves in the plethora of offerings, the sentiment echoed by many was succinctly captured by Akanksha Damini: "too much to experience, too little time." Through this shared journey of exploration and unity, the Mysuru Yoga Utsava illuminated the profound interconnectedness that lies at the essence of Yoga's timeless wisdom, leaving all who attended deeply enriched and inspired.