I’ve been to a lot of festivals over the years – rocked it out at Reading, waded in the mud at Glastonbury, but since getting into yoga these just weren’t quite fitting the bill anymore. I’m excited that recently there’s been an evolution of a new type of festival combining two of my great loves: yoga and music! In August I was fortunate to experience first hand the inaugural addition of what I predict to be the next big festival on the block – Udaya Live.
Udaya Live is the brainchild of Yariv Lerner, CEO of Udaya Entertainment and driving force behind online yoga portal Udaya.com. What better combination than to bring together a selection of amazing teachers and musicians from around the globe to teach and perform at a summer festival hosted in the beautiful mountains of Bulgaria!
The location: Borovets in the Rila Mountains might not sound like the most obvious choice for a festival location, but it is seriously one of the most stunning places I’ve been to (and this is coming from a gal who likes to travel!). Known as the Root Chakra of the world, the Rila Mountains are the highest in Bulgaria and are easily accessible just 70km south of Sofia. Musala Peak stands at 2925m tall and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. It’s easy to see and feel why this is renowned as a sacred and spiritual natural place. Best of all – the Udaya Live festival ticket includes a gondola and ski lift pass so there are no excuses for not taking some time out in nature to experience it for yourself!
The Festival: The festival schedule was so comprehensive it was nothing short of awesome! I consider myself pretty fussy when it comes to choosing yoga classes and music but I really was spoiled for choice each day as to what to attend. There was a great selection of teachers and musicians from all around the world. As a Brit I was really excited for the opportunity to take live classes with master teachers from over the pond such as Annie Carpenter, Sianna Sherman and Micheline Berry (to name but a few). I also enjoyed supporting my fellow UK based teachers such as Michael James Wong, Adam Husler, Celeste Pereira and not forgetting the Boys of Yoga! The best thing was that many teachers had different offerings on the schedule on different days – so if you couldn’t make one session, there was always the choice to attend another. The styles on offer ranged from Acroyoga, to Vinyasa, Bhakti yoga, early morning meditation and so much more. As a yoga practitioner and teacher who often finds it difficult to attend classes this felt like Christmas as a kid!
The yoga classes were spread between three different locations – Earth, Fire and Air – two beautifully decorated indoor spaces, and one outdoors. There’s nothing quite like being able to view the beauty of Rila mountains whilst in down dog! The wood stage tucked away on the edge of the forest offered the most perfect location for Sianna’s ceremonial offering and the beautiful haunting melodies of Masood Ali Khan’s hang pan. For those who wanted something more lively during the afternoons, the water stage played host to pool parties featuring Dj’s such as Drez, WYZE, Vijay, Pascal and Chakra Khan. You now start to understand my reference to being spoiled for choice!
Music: Outside of yoga there was also a wide range of other offering. The festival opened with a beautiful heartfelt puja led by Sheela Bringi supported by Deepak Ramapriyan and Brent Kuecker – one of numerous events I attended that brought tears to my eyes. I was delighted that each evening brought music to the forefront with performances by so many talented musicians and opportunities to join in with Kirtan. The musical highlight for me by far was “The Beatles Yoga” on Saturday evening. If you ever get a chance to see this performance I highly recommend it! Led by author of American Veda Phil Goldberg, and accompanied by live music led by Joey Lugassy, “The Beatles Yoga” describes the Fab Fours’ adventures in India and the important role this played in popularizing meditation and spirituality in the West. As someone who grew up in the north west of England surrounded by Beatles vinyl I can testify that the performances by Joey and band were phenomenal! For those who hadn’t worn themselves out, the nightclub hosted dance parties in the later hours with Dj’s such as Sol Rising, Human Experience and Drez providing the beats.
Verdict: Community and Connection are the two words I would choose to sum up my experience. The heart of Udaya Live went way beyond the festival schedule outlined in the program – it created a chance to connect with yogis from around the world, to share in yoga practice, ceremony and music. A global community of likeminded people all gathered together and awaiting YOU!
I know what I did last summer and I know what I recommend you do next summer – see you at Udaya Live 2017!
by Rosalind Southward: Forrest Yoga Guardian-in-training. Jewellery designer. Free-Spirit.