By Shivi Verma
Zambhala, with its melange of eclectic wares, exotic workshops, and dynamic yoga coaches from all over the world, was a yoga lovers paradise, says Shivi Verma
|Learning yoga with Eoin Finn at Zambhala|
Move over film fests, lit fests and the infamous Think fests of Goa. India hosted its first ever Yoga, Music and Life Spirit Festival in Goa over two days on December 21 and 22, 2013. Organised by 70 EMG, a high profile event management company, the programme had all the makings of an event of international standards.
Named after Shambala, a mythical kingdom described in Kalachakra tantra of Tibetan Buddhism, Zambhala was a feisty, colourful, dynamic, chaotic and, at the same time, life transforming event for the participants. Its only limitation was that it had wrapped up every available therapy, yoga practice and healing modality within two days. So it had several unmissable workshops running simultaneously.
Zambhala was a hallmark of skilled planning, meticulous organising, and great eye for detail.
Said Martin D Costa, CEO 70 EMG, “We wanted to create a yoga brand unlike anywhere in the world. And since India is the birthplace of yoga, there could not have been a better place to organise it. We did not want it to be a retreat. It had to be a festival full of fun, celebration and activity.”
They chose the Bardo Beach club at the Ashwem Beach of Goa. One of the lazy, sun-kissed beaches on the ivory coastline of Goa, which is preferred by foreigners, looking for privacy and leisure.
The Bardo in itself was the perfect venue, replete with white lounge chairs, sun decks, pools, porches, three restaurants, barbeques, and music to complete the holiday feel. And with Zambhala hosting its first date with yoga lovers, it definitely had to live upto its luxurious image, which it did.
On my way to the venue, I spotted many yoga enthusiasts scooting their way up to the venue on their rented mobikes, donning latest yoga wear with the yoga mat hanging primly on their backs.
Colourful flags fluttering high in the sky announced the event in no uncertain terms.
I was greeted by the sight of diligent yoga practitioners sincerely doing asanas under the guidance of international yoga teacher and founder of Blissology, Eoin Finn on the central Deck of the beach club.
Moving ahead in the left hand corner of the resort, under a colourful sunlit shade called Bubbloop, yoga and ayurveda expert Kishen Shah taught eager listeners about various doshas of the body, and how each one was so essential for human existence. I had the detailed programme list of the event in my hand, and I had outlined a few to especially attend, but with more than 150 workshops happening over two days, many of my chosen ones were overlapping. Therefore, I decided to play it by the ear and get a feel of the festival.
As I moved inwards to the main ground where all the camps, tents, and stalls were erected for the workshops, my eyes caught the beautiful Irma Battig teaching her students the five Tibetan rites under an open circular tent called the Big Chakra. The red shade formed by the colour of the tent’s fabric, gave the ambience a warm, personal feel. The weather was sunny, bright, and the magnificent Arabian sea could be seen gently kissing the sandy shores just a few metres away from the beach club. The mood was set…the classes had begun…limbs were moving and turning in quick, rhythmic motion to the commands of the various instructors, and mysterious scents were wafting out of tents where esoteric rituals were being performed.
In one corner Anahata was performing a fire-based ritual of shamanism and invoking spirit guides. Inside a multicoloured tent called the rainbow tent, sisters Pooja and Aparna Bangia were teaching people to create with paint. Called psychic painting workshop, participants were first made to go through Om chanting and then to let go of their inner creative force through brushes dipped in paint. What emerged through this exercise was an interplay of beautiful, enchanting and interesting colours on huge canvases. “Every colour, design and flow chosen by the painter shows his emotional and spiritual state…but we are here not to judge them, but to help them give a creative release of their inner self,” said Aparna.
I badly wanted to experiment with the modality, but since I had missed the divine invocation part, I was asked to come in the next round. In the meantime my new harem pants got ripped by a hook somewhere, forcing me to look for a replacement. While yoga clothing were astronomically priced, a nice pyjama bought from Aura Herbal wear saved the day for me. I must admit that I had never felt so pampered by any fabric worn so far in my life. So check them out if you wish to nourish your body by way of organic clothing.
Newton Kondaveti’s Past-life Regression fascinated me and I entered the pastel tent. A couple of fun exercises later, I did not know whether what I saw was my imagination or a glimpse of my past life…but the experience did leave me feeling renewed.
Next stop was something intriguing called orgasmic meditation for women by Veechi Shahi. Initially what appeared to me as an attention grabbing stunt, turned out to be an astonishingly revealing, deeply unifying and bonding experience. Women shook and danced celebrating their femininity, but the real work began when they all sat down. Veechi asked the women to pair up and share their innermost sexual fantasies and frustrations with their partner. As we held each other’s glance, differences dissolved and an unknown mysterious bonding emerged.
My partner opened up and shared her pain of having got married in her adolescence, and never knowing what it was to have a boyfriend. All my judgments about her skimpy clothes fell away when I saw her heart and the yearning behind those eyes. Mostly, I did not know what solace to offer, but several bold women stood up and spoke openly about their needs, and how they were met when resolved to take responsibility for their lives. “When you change…your partner changes too,” said Veechi authoritatively. I never knew that discussing sex and that elusive orgasmic pleasure could so easily become a part of normal talk among women. Women shed their inhibitions and openly reclaimed their right to being sexually satisfied and pleased by their partners. A woman who had also brought her young daughter to the camp was cheered by the group.
Karima Dawoodani, a 25-year-old psychotherapist, attracted people to her bewitching stall of soul work and the magic of dream catchers. Dream catchers were fascinating wall hangings made of colourful, intricately woven threads on a hollow ring, with painted bird feathers and sparkling stones attached on it. These myriad, enchanting things appeared to be some mystical import from a faraway fairyland. Said Karima, “This art dates its origin to the Native Red Indians of North America. I weave customised dream catchers for every aspiration and desire that you may have in your life. Dream catchers have the power to attract the desire you send out to the universe. There are dream catchers for love, abundance, healthy relationships, success, and joy.” Having exhausted my budget by the emergency pyjama, I left the stall with a pang in my heart.
The crowd at Zambhala was a mix of Indians and foreign tourists. Little children swam in the indoor pool, and people chilled by the poolside enjoying mocktails and continental food.
As the sun went down, the main stage of Zambhala was occupied by whirling Sufi dervishes. The dance troupe led by sufi dancer Zia Nath was a presentation of sacred dances accompanied by soul stirring Sufi music and poetry. “The Sacred Dances are a merging of diverse dance forms from ancient sacred temples of Egypt, the Middle East and India. Devotional in their quality, the dancers dance their way to divinity,” said Zia. She combined the Sacred Dances consisting of Gurdjieff movements, Sufi whirling and Odissi Classical. The audience was bowled over by her troupe.
“Every movement of dance is filled with divinity. The realisation of God is at the centre of our being,” Zia added.
As the night darkened, the show acquired a sluggish, lazy feel. People inside the big Chakra broke into impromptu postures and dance moves. Some could be seen lounging around the pool area, smoking, casually talking, or simply lying on the grass and enjoying the live music being played by the band. Healers and stall holders began wrapping their wares and folding up their stalls.
I retired to bed in my cottage suite, but sleep eluded me. Yet I woke up feeling refreshed. Perhaps it had something to do with the energy of the event.
Next day I entered the red tent, where Shanta Gyanchand was enlightening women about their goddess energies. Something in it recalled some forgotten memories in my mind, and I left the tent quickly.
The next workshop was by Sohrab Ardeshir, well known actor, and a channel. Having garnered much curiosity because of his profile and his mystical work, his tent was chock full of people. Sohrab occupied his seat on the main stage. Soon his body began to jiggle with some form of invasive force. His eyes changed colour, and he began to speak prophetically about the trajectory of people’s lives in 2014. The entity declared itself to be Archangel Michael. It announced 2013 as the dream year where the energies of people were in stasis in the universe. “In 2103 people achieved the experience and learnings of 5-10 years within one year. The rigid blueprints of a soul’s sojourn on earth have become fluid and now souls can recreate their lives according to their will. In 2014 which is the waking year, victimised ones will discover themselves, stand up against oppression, conformism and authority. In 2014 the world will see the uprising of children against oppressive and disrespectful teachers. 2014 will be immensely action-oriented and people will have to learn to multitask,” Sohrab said.
Thereafter, a press meet was organised of various yoga practitioners and healers in the media tent. Duncan Wong, Janet Stone, Eoin Finn, Sohrab Ardeshir, Jehangir Palkiwalla came and spoke about their life and work. Duncan, celebrity yoga consultant of people like Madonna, and Bjork, talked about his fondness for martial arts and deep regard for the wholesomeness of yoga which he combined with his martial arts practise to give birth to California yoga. Jehangir, the stalwart of classical yoga, had his reservations about various New Age experiment with yoga but he summed it up saying that the ultimate aim was to get closer to God, and if any of the New Age experiments aided in that, he had no objections to it.
I spotted a young, slim damsel, dressed in leotards and an off-shoulder top. Thinking her to be one of the many hip participants, I did not pay much attention. But soon I saw her on stage teaching girls to hula hoop their way to fitness. She was Swati Shah, hula hoop expert. The music was foot tapping and I could not resist the lure of the fascinating moves. I joined the group. But to my dismay, it was not as easy as it appeared. No sooner would I twirl the ring around my waist, than it would fall down to my feet. I knew it would take me a couple of workshops more to master the art. I made a hasty retreat after a few failed attempts.
I was drawn to Jehangir’s workshop on hearing the name of God from his mouth. The suave yoga teacher was talking about developing love and association with God through yoga. His soothing personality combined with the loving energy of the divine name had a calming effect on me. I felt that all the different and confusing feelings that had surfaced within me through different workshops had one final answer. Surrender to God, and he will take care.
A mini workshop on communicating with comatose people led by Sohrab and psychologist Anuradha Deb was highly informative. “Comatose people are not vegetables. They go in this state because the soul requires seclusion to do important work upon itself, undisturbed by outsiders. But they are aware of their surroundings, and will communicate if you try. The most cruel thing is to keep them in isolation, and decide to pull the plug on their life arbitrarily.” said Anuradha.
The sun was on its way down and the Zambhala dhuni beckoned all the participants. Down the resort, on the Ashwem beach, a bonfire was created. A Japanese drummer began to beat the big drum, and the lamp was passed through the hands of all the facilitators, before Martin used it to light the bonfire. The participants pledged to burn all their negativity in that fire, and resolved to welcome the new year on a fresh, positive note.
The two-day festival had come to an end. People hugged, and bid goodbye, promising to meet again the next year. My feelings were mixed. While on the one hand were tremendous takeaways at amazingly low prices, on the other was the paucity of time to attend and benefit from each of the unmissable ones. But if you are somebody who likes festivity and celebration, mixed with purpose and meaning, then keep your dates free for Zambhala in 2014.
Pic caption: All the participants congregating around the Zambhala dhuni on the second day
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