A Brief Report of the 41-day-long Global Festival of Yoga: Celebrating Wellness from 21st June to 31st July, 2020

Indica Yoga, a platform of Indic Academy, offers inclusive and diverse forms of Yoga training and experiences that are authentic, immersive and transformative. It had recently organized the world’s first online Global Festival of Yoga: Celebrating Wellness for 41 days starting from 21st June up to 31st July, 2020. This soulful immersion included interactions and practice with several Yoga Experts consisting of leading Scholars, Practitioners, Researchers and Artists from around the globe.

The global festival was organized and delivered in collaboration with national and international associations including Indian Yoga Association (IYA), European Union of Yoga (EUY), Global Peace Initiate of Women (GPIW) and Center for Soft Power (CSP) as major partners and a few other organizations like Ritambhara Ashram, Ritambhara Wellness, Vyasa Houston and Vyasa Singapore.

The primary purpose of the festival was to celebrate the ancient yet timeless spirit of Yoga to rediscover and celebrate wellness. This global festival was also curated to serve as a platform for connecting with authentic teachings that will explore different facets of Wellness through a convergence of Spirituality and Science; Philosophy and Practice. The other objectives included

  • Celebrating yogic wisdom, traditions and practices on a global scale
  • Building synergies between Science and Spirituality, Philosophy and Practices that enhance human wellness and happiness
  • Exploring techniques, technologies and practices of Yoga for promoting individual, social and collective well-being
  • Connecting the global communities committed to a conscious living

In this backdrop a series of talks, panel discussions, philosophical and scientific presentations, practice & experiential sessions on varied dimensions of Yoga were planned three times a day i.e. Morning (7.00-8.30 AM IST), Noon (11.30 AM – 01.00 PM IST) and Evening (7.00 – 8.30 PM IST). These sessions catered to different time zones including the Far East, Indian, European, Eastern & Western (American) time zones.

To summarize the global celebration of Wellness, the Festival hosted 112 sessions in total featuring about 124 experts, teachers, artists, doctors, scientists and researchers representing diverse traditions and practices of Yoga. About a third of them were purely practical sessions including asana, pranayama, meditation, yoga nidra, bhajan & kirtans etc. which were offered by leading practitioners bringing many forms of yoga practices on one platform. Further, the presenters, the best of the Yoga community across the world were from 25 different countries from the Bahamas to Turkey; from Ireland to Singapore. The high powered list of eminent speakers and practitioners included Ravi  Ravindra, Sraddhalu Ranade, R. Nagarathna, Gabi Gillessen, Dena Merriam, Francois Lorin, Rudolphe Milliat, Andre Reihl, Eddie Stern, Raghu Anantanarayan, Acharya Mangalananda, Ramakanth Gundecha,  Frederick Travis, Sampadananda Mishra, Krishna Das, Stephen Parker (Stoma), Subhash Kak, Matthijs Cornelissen, James Boag, N. V. Raghuram, Naveen K. Visveswaraiah, K. Ramasubramanian, Jozef Keikens (Narayana), Ganesh Mohan, Saraswati Vasudevan, Bina Mirchandani, Nrithya Jagannathan, Krishnaphani Kesiraju, Lorenzo Cohen, Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani, P. P. Chakrabarti, Anuradha Choudry, Vinayachandra Banavathy, Zoltan Cser, Smitha Mallaiah, Yogi Maheshwara, Geza Timcak, Ravi Mantha, Rajiv Vasudevan, Chanchalapathi Dasa, Chef Manjith Sigh Gill, Zolatan Cser, Gauranga Das, Alan Wallace, Jacques Vignes and may more. For the whole list of resource persons please refer to (https://www.indicayoga.com/events/month/2020-07/)

The Festival also included about 12 panels of conversations and dialogues on significant themes like Yoga & Human Unity; Yoga & Mystical traditions of the world; Dharma, Yoga & Economic Well-being and Yoga & Unity with Nature: Perspectives from Indigenous Environmentalism, that were specially curated by GPIW for event with a special panel on Wellness in workplace by experts from the Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur.

This, first of its kind, online Global Festival of Yoga witnessed the participation of about 10,000 active seekers who had registered for the event while each session was well attended by about 150 to 250 enthusiastic participants. The recordings of the lectures that were delivered on this occasion, available on the Indica Yoga YouTube Channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/IndicaYoga), form part of an invaluable repository of rich archival material on Yoga to enlighten any genuine seeker on the yogic way.

The Global Festival of Yoga was curated by Dr. Anuradha Choudry and Dr. Vinayachandra Banavathy.

Prevention & Control of Cancer – Looking East to the Ancient Yogic Sciences: Dr Lorenzo Cohen, MD Anderson Cancer Center

Dr Lorenzo Cohen, Professor and Director of the Integrative Medicine Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, and Distinguished Clinical Professor, Fudan University Cancer Hospital, Shanghai, China, conducts experiments to show how Yoga and meditation can help in the treatment of cancer.

He will be presenting a talk as part of Global Festival of Yoga 2020 on 13th, July 2020 between 7 pm and 8 pm. Please register using this link: https://indicacademy.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2B5HVrDrQvqThOX-rUlHDQ


Dr Cohen is conducting research to demonstrate that lifestyle changes can influence cancer outcomes.  His ‘Mix of Six’ theory propounded along with co-author Allison Jefferies, points out that while most people believe that cancer attacks people randomly and that one cannot explain why someone gets it and others don’t, there are six factors which are part of the mix of cancer prevention and care.

A synergy in cancer care requires “changing your lifestyle in a number of areas makes each change more effective than it would be on its own. These same lifestyle factors interact with and reinforce each other in both positive and negative ways.” The mix of six includes – love and support, stress avoidance, sleep, exercise, diet and environment,” says the authors of the book – Anti-cancer Living.

For those who need evidence of the impact of traditional medicine and Yoga to deal with cancer, one does not need to look further than Dr Cohen’s work. He “conducts research examining the bio-behavioral effects of integrative medicine practices aimed at reducing the negative aspects of cancer treatment and improving quality of life including studies of meditation, Tibetan yoga, Patanjali-based yoga, Tai chi/Qigong, and other strategies such as stress management, emotional writing, neurofeedback, and acupuncture”.

He is interested in examining different types of complementary programs that can be easily incorporated into conventional treatment to decrease the psychophysiological consequences associated with treatment and improve outcomes.

Dr Cohen is the grandson of the late Vanda Scaravelli, author of Awakening the Spine and yoga teacher of many, herself a disciple of J Krishnamurti and Shri BKS Iyengar and Shri TKV Desikachar. In this interview, Dr Cohen speaks about his work and inspiration.


Could you share the influence of your grandmother on your choice of career?

My grandmother, Vanda Scaravelli (author of Awakening the Spine), was a big influence in my life. She started her own yoga practice in her 50s when she was spending time with J Krishnamurti and taking lessons from BKS Iyengar and TKV Desikachar. I spent every summer with her in Italy and then for a full year between undergraduate and graduate school. During this extend time with Vanda, I took daily yoga lessons learning the power and depth of this ancient practice. It was inspiring to see how she led a true yogic life. I later realized that this yogic way of life is what our cancer patients needed to reduce suffering and improve longevity. Developing strategies to educate our patients on healthful living to prevent and control cancer has been the focus of my career and a yogic way of life is the answer.

What is the role of Yoga in your personal life?

I try to have a daily formal practice that includes meditation, asana, and pranayama. But more importantly, I try and follow the tenets of a yogic life beyond the mat with a focus on what in our book Anticancer Living we call the Mix of Six - 1) harnessing the power of love, support, connection and purpose; 2) seeking to foster calm; 3) creating healthy sleep habits; 4) ensuring our bodies stay in motion; 5) consuming only foods and beverages that sustain health; and 6) decreasing exposures to environmental toxins and pollutants. By following the Mix and Six and fostering a yogic lifestyle we will improve ourselves and in time the rest of the world.

What sparked your research interests in integrated therapy for cancer?

My graduate degrees, Masters and PhD, were in medical psychology with an emphasis on the negative psychosocial and biobehavioral effects of stress on humans. Once I started to focus in cancer, it became clear I could not just study stress but needed to relieve stress. This is when I started to turn to conventional psychotherapy-based programs and integrative modalities such as yoga, meditation, expressive writing, and more. My initial focus was on the mind-body side of integrative medicine, but I quickly started to explore other modalities such as acupuncture, massage, preclinical and clinical research of natural products, and energy medicine as a way to reduce suffering and improve clinical outcomes.

What does your research show in terms of the impact of Yoga in women with breast cancer?

There are many benefits that cancer patients derive from practicing yoga. My research and that of others shows that yoga improves multiple aspects of quality of life including sleep, fatigue, pain, stress, and mental health as well as physical function, cognitive abilities, and more. We also see improved stress hormone regulation and immune function. And all of these benefits are from studies that just focus on yoga from an asana, pranayama, and meditation perspective. Imagine the outcomes when people adopt a full yogic lifestyle transforming how they eat and interact with themselves and the rest of the world.

Is it being used concurrently with radiotherapy anywhere in the US?

Many cancer centers have onsite yoga therapists or yoga teachers. However, yoga still remains something that is up to the patients to seek out for themselves and integrate into their cancer care. However, with the expanded evidence base, more and more physicians are recommending patients engage in some kind of mind-body practice. For the patients who come to our Integrative Medicine Center we recommend yoga and other mind-body practices. We look forward to the day when yoga and other mind-body practices are systematically provided to patients alongside conventional medicine and become part of the clinical pathways.

[Image credits : Dr. Lorenzo Cohen]

You have researched different Yoga practices and traditional medicines. Can you describe what importance is being given to them in modern medical research in the US?

I believe we have reached a tipping point on the evidence for the utility of traditional medicines alongside conventional care. This is clearly seen in the area of mind-body practices and also in the use of some traditional herbal medicine with the WHO adopting the use of Artemisinin, a traditional Chinese medicine, for the treatment of malaria for which Dr.Youyou Tu won the Nobel Prize. There is clearly more to discover and document in this area and it is good to finally see some recognition and financial investment. However, funding for integrative medicine research is still a fraction of what is invested in more conventional areas, where the return on investment is focused more on the shareholder and less on the population as a whole. However, the evidence is clear on how to prevent the majority of chronic illnesses in our world and the solution is not in a pill or made in a factory.

Is it possible to evaluate the impact and delivery of traditional medicines and practices through Western lenses and systems?  What are the pitfalls?

It is important to evaluate all medical interventions using standardized techniques. The gold standard is to use the randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trial. However, the RCT is just one level of evidence and valuable information can be gleamed from other scientific designs including case reports, epidemiological studies, case series, and more. The pure RCT can be a challenge and will often miss some of the subtler benefits attributed to a particular modality.

In behavioral research it is also more challenging to conduct double-blind studies. However, it is also important to evaluate the safety profile of a particular treatment against the possible benefits. For example, there would be more concerns for a patient taking a potent natural product versus trying a new yoga asana series. In order to expand the acceptance of integrative medicine alongside conventional care it is important to use western research strategies and include creative assessment techniques to reveal all the benefits.

Clinical trials in cancer are happening at great costs. Do any of them involve Yoga and Ayurveda?

Although interest and investment has increased, research funding for integrative medicine, including yoga and Ayurveda, lags far behind conventional medicines. This is partly due to the lack of clear financial return on investment. However, we are starting to slowly see changes in this area as more of society seek out these practices.

What is your perception of international forums like WHO in determining the course of health care?

Having organizations like the WHO endorse and advocate for specific medicines, programs, and interventions, as well as develop practice guidelines (e.g., reduce global sugar consumption) is an important step. However, decisions are typically made at the local level, down to specific institutions, and increased efforts are needed at all levels of decision making, especially to increase reimbursement for lifestyle programs.

Yoga and the Emptying of The Self: Francois Lorin

Francois Lorin, one of the co-founders of the Federation de yoga Viniyoga, France, made his first trip to India in 1963 by land, a journey which took him 12 months. It was the year he met the ‘intellectual’s philosopher’ J Krishnamurti and after that never missed a chance to attend his talks both in Europe and in France till the latter’s passing.

In the years 1966 to 1987, at a time when the baton of Yoga was being passed on to a new generation of practitioners who saw Yoga as a means of dealing with a fast changing world, Lorin studied under traditional guru Sri T K V Desikachar, son of the legendary T Krishnamacharya, in Madras. He imbibed asanas, pranayama, the Bhagavad Gita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and much more.

He will be presenting a talk as part of Global Festival of Yoga 2020 on 2nd, July 2020 between 7 pm and 8 pm. Please register using this link: https://indicacademy.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_2B5HVrDrQvqThOX-rUlHDQ

Lorin says Yoga practice changed his life very deeply, with time and dedication. “Sri TKV Desikachar was at the time teaching only through individual classes, both for practice and for the study of yogasűtra-s of Patanjali. He didn't try to teach me some wisdom, since he knew my inklings for Krishnamurti's vision but, as any good teacher should do, it helped me to grow and to become ‘myself’ both in the physical and psychological planes.”

In one post, Lorin mentions that there were two times in his life when he had a sense of the non-reality of the self and a notions he believed in. Asked by Indica Yoga about this, he says, “The first time I felt the absence of ‘me’ or 'mine' was after an intense listening to a lecture given in Saanen, Switzerland by Krishnamurti. Nothing special happened, the appearance of the world and of people remained the same but I was emptied of the feeling of being a ‘separate’, limited, individual and fear and personal desires disappeared.”

The second incidence he says was a few years later, “when I went to an ‘intensive’ conducted in a disused chapel by Svâmi Muktânanda, the guru of the Siddha Yoga movement. As he slowly came to the place I was seated, transferring his ‘shakti’ through the touch of a peacock feather, to so many people going ‘crazy’ (or so it looked to me), I actually felt nothing when it became my turn and I was so disappointed since I considered myself as a very serious student of yoga, spending so much time each year in the south of India to practice and study yoga! A few minutes later the Svâmi started telling us the story of the king who wanted to know what detachment was and almost die, wanting to ‘detach’ himself from his physical body. Fortunately the Maharanî, who was enlightened taught him better; don't make violence to the innocent body but get rid of the sense of personal identity. Hearing these words I felt an inner tear which opened my trunk and I could feel, right in the center, the citadel of the ego fighting against disappearance! Then, for about 7 to 10 days, all sense of ‘me’ had disappeared and I could listen and talk to the trees around me when I stopped for rest on the highway back home and my wife and children were seen as they actually were: not mine but not separated...”

There were many who were drawn to J Krishnamurti. He himself would practice yoga for an hour in the morning. In one instance he narrates an incident in which a monkey was watching him do his asanas from a window. When he reached out, the monkey held his hand and continued to do so till he finished his practice.
Asked what attracted him to Krishnamurti, Lorins narrates his connect to India. “My first visit to India was because I started practice at home with books, since at the time there were few yoga classes and I used to live in the countryside. As I came driving to Madras (it was an overland journey from France to India which took 12 months). I visited the Theosophical Society in Adyar. I saw an announcement about Krishnaji's next talk in New Delhi and, since it fitted my agenda when driving back to France I stopped and went to listen to him. I was not fluent in English and could not understand much about what was said but I was deeply impressed by the passion and the energy of this man. So much so I postponed my return and drove down to Varanasi where he was giving his next talk in Rajghat. There I bought a few of his books and, driving back with a British hitchhiker I both learned English and started understanding his teachings.”

Asked if yogis need to be reclusive as they were in the past, he says: “A recluse is one who has understood the poisonous nature of me and mine and more broadly of the rational mind left as the boss of our lives and it applies even more so today! Both TKV Desikachar and his father T Krishnamacharya applied the motto: "ekas tapo dviradhyaya" alone during the practice, two for the studies.”

Of the practice of Yoga in France, Lorins says that he did not meet the pioneers. “They were few and I never met them. I was too young and they had left this world - Kerneiz was one of them, Lucien Ferrer was another one but I have met other people who were known in Europe in the field of Yoga - Roger Clerc, student of Ferrer, André Van Lysebeth, student of Svâmi Shivânanda, Nil Hahoutoff and Mahesh.

Asked if Yoga can transform the world, Lorin says in true Krishnamurti style: “The world is already a fantastic place and it shouldn't be and couldn't be changed; human beings have a lot of way to go to be as beautiful as the world and those of us who rely on sensitivity and love, will be saved, no?


Neuroscience & Vedic Sciences Explore the Same Reality, the Underlying Laws of Nature: Dr Fred Travis

Dr Fred Travis is the best person to explain to us what happens to our brains when we meditate. As laymen we all know we feel calmer, more with ourselves and the world, but as a neuroscientist, he will tell us about the electrical patterns that emerge in our brain causing this sense of peace.


Dr Travis’ current research includes the “Physiology of enlightenment that dawns through regular meditation practice and also the effects of listening to traditional chanting of the Veda and Vedic Literature.” The inevitable question that comes to one’s mind is how can neuroscience explain the genius of rishis like Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who intuited much of their knowledge?

He replies, “Neuroscience and Vedic science are exploring the same reality -underlying laws of nature.  These are captured in modern experiments and experienced by practice of Vedic Technologies. Science and Vedic Science are two angles to look at the same reality, and so understandably would yield parallel insights.”

Asked if there are things that we experience through yoga and meditation which cannot be explained through Science, he says, “A limited model would give a limited picture.  A full model of science that includes the idea that Consciousness is primary can explain results of Yoga and Meditation.”

As a youngster, Dr Travis used to work as a stage manager in a theatre group. The troupe would perform at Massachusetts in summer and tour around the countryside in fall, winter and spring. He was in charge of props, lights and the entrances and exits. In one interview, he says that “Some days it was really easy to do. It’s like I walked in and the whole plan was there; I just had to go through the steps. Other days it was like walking through mud.”

He tells Indica Yoga that seeing this variation in potential, he wanted a meditation practice that would ensure that there were many more good days. “I noticed that some days I was more alert, creative and happy than other days.  I wanted a meditation that would enliven my full mental and spiritual potential.  I started Transcendental Meditation and I filled all of these desires.”

What is it that makes meditation special? Are there other activities which create a similar good ‘unlocking of potential’ feel? Musicians have talked about experiencing it during intense moments and so have sports persons extremely focused on goals.

Interestingly, Dr Travis’ graduate programme was the impact of TM on creativity. While researching a group of students, one a trial group exposed to TM and another which was not, he says in an interview to Tmhome.com that in creative problem-solving, “you really appreciate what transcending does. Without transcending it is hard to think outside of the box.  The “box” is the problem space. Without transcending, you’re stuck in the box, you’re stuck in the words and concepts and problems which are there and you don’t have the broad awareness to see outside of that. And when you transcend every day you step outside of that box; you step outside of time and space, outside of body sense, and you are just awake, you’re alert. And when you bring that quality of the mind back to whatever you are doing, you see the world completely differently.”

He adds, “Every experience affects the brain.  Meditations are different and so affect the brain differently.  Experience of Yoga during Transcendental Meditation enlivens global alpha brain coherence.  This is not seen in other meditations.”

He will be speaking at the Indica Yoga's Global Festival of Yoga: Celebrating Wellness on how Transcendental Meditation is different from other kinds of meditation. “Meditations involved different degrees of effort and control of the mind.  Focused arousal meditations require most effort; TM requires least effort.” Please check here for details of his session.

In his earlier research, he had pointed out issues with the medical tools available to assess neural activity under meditation, including the obstructive impact of the noise from MRI machines. “Neural imaging has grown since 1990.  You need to subtract meditation images from control images to remove effects of the loud noise on the final images,” he says.

Scholars have debated whether Yoga and Meditation are an art or a science? Do they involve the right side of the brain or the left? Says Dr Travis: “They activate both sides of the brain.  Yoga and meditation activate deep subtle levels of mind and body.  But since we are a whole being, effects of these practices can be seen with current measures.”

Transcendental Meditation is a powerful tool for transformation. As to how it has changed his life, Dr Travis says, “Before I started TM I looked around and saw a changing world around me.  It lacked a basis and lacked any current model that would integrate the various streams of experience.  Transcending during TM practice has given me the experience of the field of Being that is outside of change, and supports and guides the various streams of activity.  This has simplified life and made life meaningful.”