Highlights from the 2016 Hanuman Festival in Boulder, Colorado

From SF Yoga Magazine:

On the first day of the 2016 Hanuman Festival, Kia Miller and Tommy Rosen sat at the front of their immersion, under a large tent by Boulder Creek. The space was packed with brightly colored mats, with people who had traveled from the Midwest and the East Coast, from Montana and Wyoming, from California and Canada, all coming together for the sixth annual festival, for four inspiring days of yoga, live music, connection and community in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.

The founder and director of the festival, Yoshi Aono, said that his vision was to gather a community of like-minded practitioners, to present the highest quality teaching available and do it in a safe and sacred way. And his vision has blossomed into a vibrant, multifaceted event. There were so many amazing offerings on the schedule, in fact, that it was hard to choose.

In Kia Miller and Tommy Rosen’s immersion, they guided the class through a Kundalini yoga kriya to integrate the mind and the heart. “Coming into heart-centered consciousness,” Kia Miller said, “life flows. We’re not led by attachments or aversions, but we are spontaneously present in the moment.” In Kundalini yoga a kriya is a series of postures, breath, and sound that work toward a specific outcome.

The entire festival was a four-day experience of being spontaneously present in the moment. In Gina Caputo’s vinyasa flow class, she honored the roots, the tradition of hatha yoga, while taking us on a journey to the modern creative expression of it. She asked us to hold hands in navasana, boat pose, to gain strength and support from each other, and the lead singer of my new favorite band, Magic Giant, set up his mat right next to me. We held on, feeling the connection between the hundreds of people holding hands all over the room. And then he let go, jumped up on stage, and the class ended with an awesome folk revival dance party, banjo and drums and bass.

Live music was performed all day in the community tent in the middle of the festival as well. Govind Das from Santa Monica chant-rapped the Hanuman Chalisa with Saul David Raye. A bright new talent from Hawaii, Elijah Ray, made his first appearance at Hanuman Fest. Juan Pablo Barahona performed a Shamanistic cacao ceremony. And on Saturday night, Magic Giant lit up the crowd with another spontaneous dance party. Many of the yoga classes had live musicians performing as well, including Lila Kirtan, Natavi and Radha’s gorgeous voice making savasana an ethereal experience.

A powerful addition to the festival this year was the Wisdom Center, with events including a panel discussion on Conscious Sustainability and a presentation by the gifted photographer, Robert Sturman. Sturman shared moving images of the Prison Yoga Project at San Quentin, the Africa Yoga Project, and images of breast cancer survivors doing yoga, reclaiming their dignity. “One thing I know,” he said, “is that photography changes the world. The images normalize things. We see the images of guys doing yoga in prison, and we begin to think, why wouldn’t they do yoga?” He showed images of Veterans with amputated limbs doing yoga, which he said was under the category, “What’s your excuse?” He showed an image of 96-year old Tao Porchon-Lynch doing a vasistasana arm balance. “Photographs,” he said, “help inspire people.”

The festival as a whole was inspiring, from the diverse styles of yoga and wealth of information shared by so many luminary teachers, from Richard Freeman and Mary Taylor to Janet Stone and Sianna Sherman and many more, to the elevating experience of participating in Kirtan, in singing and dancing to live music, all of it tapping into the collective desire to wake up and connect and live more conscious, meaningful lives.

“So many festivals come and go,” Yoshi Aono said. “I knew if I did this, I would have to be completely devoted to it.” That was one of the reasons he chose Hanuman as the name for the festival. “Hanuman represents ultimate devotion and service,” he said, “the strength and will in all of us to do anything in this lifetime.” He said that his staff and crew pour their hearts into the event. “It’s about empowering people through the teaching. It allows people to open up and understand that they themselves have all the potential in the world.”

Click here to get your tickets for the 2017 Hanuman Festival (June 15-18).