Marking its 6th year, Bhakti Fest is nothing short of a small village built on the hot desert sands in Joshua Tree. Three yoga halls and a series of buildings, tents, teepees, stages and shops cover several acres of desert anchored by an organic vegetarian food court in the center. The festival plays host to around-the-clock yoga classes, healing workshops, chanting sessions and mindfulness discussions led by over 90 teachers and trailblazers of the Western yoga movement including Dharma Mittra, Shiva Rae, Govind Das and Radha, Saul David Raye, Erika Burkhart, Sianna Sherman, Raghunath, and Tymi Howard to name a few. Even though many of these teachers sound like they’re of Indian descent, none of them are actually Indian, yet they’ve certainly embraced the ancient Hindu knowledge and tradition and adapted their yoga teachings and classes so they may appeal to the Western mindset.
However, these are not your ordinary yoga classes. In one session, I watched 75-year-old Dharma Mittra somersault himself directly into a headstand. In other classes, the instructors were accompanied by live musicians and incorporated various forms of singing and chanting, making the class more of a multi-sensory experience than just another kick-your-asana workout. With close to 50 musical groups and kirtan artists on the grounds, many of them would play live for yoga classes during the day and then grace the main stage at night. Some of these main stage artists include Matisyahu, Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Girish, MC Yogi and Donna DeLory, who left a lucrative pop career touring with Madonna for 20 years to focus on creating her own kirtan chanting music albums. Continue reading >>