Everyone's a 'yogi' out here- The Zambhala experience

Saturday, 28 December 2013 - 12:05pm IST | Agency: dna

What is it like to celebrate a yoga and 'life spirit' festival in Goa? Anita Aikara takes a closer look…

Yoga is having its moment…
Last week’s yoga and ‘life spirit’ festival, Zambhala attracted over 2000 visitors. While the staunchly loyal fans of yoga were there to work on their form and spread the awareness, there were other curious participants, who simply joined in the boisterous revelry to soak up the spirit of the festival. For two days, the quiet neighbourhood of Bardo—tucked away in a quaint village in North Goa—turned into the hotspot for yoga tourists to experience some of the best Indian and international yoga and alternate healing workshops. From a hearty mix of yoga professionals—who could easily balance their weight on one leg or do a headstand effortlessly—to festive-goers, who wished to soak up the festive spirit and surf the waves, Zambhala attracted scores of yoga tourists. The weather was perfect—mornings were splendid with the sun embracing us in his warm glow with a drop in the temperature post sunset. It was more of a yoga aesthetic that prevailed here; visitors spoke a language of their own, the lingo of Iyengar, ashatanga and spiritual healing.

It’s no wonder that Martin D’Costa, one of the brains behind this impressive festival chose this location to host the first edition of Zambhala. “Zambhala is an answer to the question that so many of us are asking—how to grow, strengthen and build ourselves in this life,” said D’costa.

The line-up for the festival included some of the best yoga teachers—Jehangir Palkhivala and Deepika Mehta from India, Eoin Finn from Canada, Janet Stone from California and Duncan Wong, who has previously taught Madonna, Bjork and Sting, among others.

Tent it up…

Peppered with colourful tents overlooking the beach, Zambhala had something in store for everyone— along with a vegan cuisine that reflected the healthy mood around. The epicenter of this festival was a colourful tent called the Big Chakra, which had made itself the destination of high-profile yoga instructors lecturing eager participants on yoga. 

Other tents included the Red Tent, dedicated for women to come together with their ‘sisters’ and chant, pray and dance. It was the feminine energy icon at Zambhala where words were allowed to flow without judgment. The Gurukul was the perfect hub for those who wanted to experience a traditional class of yoga, as it was taught in the ancient times in this organic yoga hub made with old-fashioned chatai walls and wooden floor. Deriving its name from the greenery surrounding it, Jungle Yoga let people be close to nature while at the Bodhi Circle, the circular life spirit space, practitioners of Zambhala shared the life skills they learnt over the years.

Two days, 150 workshops…

There’s something extremely relaxing about stretching your body in a yogic pose, watching the sun rise in the distance, seated on the sun-kissed deck overlooking the beautiful sand and surf of Ashvem beach. For serious students of yoga, mornings were dedicated to meditation and yoga—with scores of enthusiastic participants perfecting the art of the perfect sun salutation, surya namaskar. Eoin Finn’s Earth, Body and Yoga saw people hugging and welcoming each other at the start of the class. “The crowd here is small so there is a better connect among people,” he quipped. Bending, stretching, taking deep breaths, the crowd joined Finn, a yogi, avid athlete and founder of the Blissology movement doing those extreme yoga poses that felt like someone was pulling your hips out of your socket. By the end of the class, a lot of people ended up feeling sore yet happy. A few tents away, India’s most eminent yoga teacher and natural therapist, Jehangir Palkhivala taught people how to extend yoga into their daily lives.

The festival was not just around lying around on a mat and trying to master the different yoga poses. Amidst the meditation and intense workouts, Master Hypnosis Irma Battig took centrestage at the Big Chakra with her workshop based on the Five Tibetan Rites explaining five exercises that reverse the ageing process. Delhi-based crystal healer and tarot card reader Bindu Maria uncovered the world of crystals at her class titled Body Healing with Crystals. Enlightening the crowd gathered about the magical healing properties of crystals she explained, “Crystals have been used by priests, rulers, in healing. They find a mention in the Vedas too. Human beings are a manifestation of light and colour and every crystal resonates with the chakras.” It was psychotherapist Anuraddha Deb who helped people decode their dreams, understand and interpret them in her class, What Do Your Dreams Mean?

He may have not owned a time-machine but nothing stopped Hyderabad’s Dr. Newton Kondaveti as he took participant back in time, to their previous lives with his past life regression, which saw a huge turnout. A trained spiritual scientist with a specialisation in past life regression therapy, Kondaveti reincarnation and showed how past life regression can be an important tool in healing emotions and phobias. 

The old school of thought that yoga is just for girls—or at least for the more spiritual kinds—was dismissed at Zambhala. While women as expected to be more flexible than men, here young men didn’t leave a stone unturned to compete with their better halves. Sweating, panting, reaching out for the nearest bottle of water, they joined in with enthusiasm in the rigorous exercises.

Late afternoon sessions were meant for some kind of activity. Calirvoyant, tarot card reader and artist, Karima Dawoodani equipped the participants with the skill-set required to make colourful and vibrant dreamcatchers meant to filter your dreams. While the Mallakham workshop let you experience being upside down with your head to the ground and your legs up the wall.

When Swati Shah introduced participants to the art of Hula Hooping with oversized colourful hoops, it was hilarious to watch them try to balance the hoops on their bellies, minutes before the hoops dropped to the ground. Shah inadvertently struck a chord with the crowd as she slowly and successfully guided their movements, before teaching them the hand movements as well.

For those of you who thought that yoga was only about sweating out doing warm-ups, meditation and stretches, life coach and OSHO therapist, Veechi Shahi had something unusual in store. Her ‘Orgasmic Yoga’ saw a packed tent with women letting go of their inhibitions, dancing to soulful music.  A toned down version of the Orgasmic Yoga practiced in the West, Shahi urged women to become aware of the body as a source of wisdom, happiness and freedom. 

Come sunset and participants chose to take a stroll down Ashvem beach. For those who were still yearning for more, there was the option of the sunset yoga with well-known Vinyasa yoga teacher, Janet Stone, who had flown down all the way from California to be a part of Zambhala, followed by yoga by the moonlight to the sounds of a strumming guitar on the beach with Kishan Shah.

Teacher of Sufi whirling, Zia Nath’s performance brought about the much needed break to two days of activity—it was one of the most powerful performances witnessed at the festival. Defying gravity, the danseuse and her troupe of seekers on the mystical path, performed in unison, spinning with incredible grace and keeping up with each other’s pace. The dance of whirling dervishes, which was charged with symbolism, served as a spiritual offering, had the crowd cheering out loud and yelling for more. 

Dhuni, the sacred fire ritual marked the end of the festival. Participants, revelers and teachers—notwithstanding their rank—sat together staring in silence at the bonfire, surrendering themselves to the sound of the drum beating in the background. The medium was silence and one was free to make a wish. It was in this profound moment—as the sun began to set in the distance—that D’costa spoke of his wish to the gathered crowd. He wished that people could come together again, next year at the same place, same time, for yet another edition of Zambhala.
He felt as happy as a man who has something to be happy about and is suitably happy about it.

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