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I recent­ly had the chance of sit­ting down with pro­lif­ic yoga mas­ter, Shi­va Rea, for a fire­side chat. OK, maybe she was dri­ving on the free­way and talk­ing to me through her cell phone and I was sit­ting in my office, endur­ing the hot sum­mer heat but it felt like a fire­side chat. Her voice came through the phone and soothed my feath­ers that had been ruf­fled that morn­ing by the world’s happenings.

I must live in a bub­ble because I only recent­ly dis­cov­ered Rea this past May at Shak­ti Fest. Shak­ti Fest was my first yoga fes­ti­val and the thing I loved most was the vari­ety of teach­ers I got to sam­ple. I am pri­mar­i­ly a Vinyasa prac­ti­tion­er so it was nice to be exposed to so many dif­fer­ent styles with­out hav­ing to put in a sub­stan­tial finan­cial com­mit­ment. Rea’s style of yoga is called Prana Vinyasa. She had every­one in a cir­cle giv­ing each oth­er mas­sages before she start­ed to teach her class. What res­onat­ed about her with me was her open­ness to the world and her desire to have all of us become as inter­twined as she obvi­ous­ly felt with one anoth­er and the cos­mos around us. She is the real deal.

I had to know about her name though. I’ve known yoga teach­ers who’ve been swept away into their new lives and reemerged as Rad Han­na or Sri Mas­ta when they went in as Igor or John. “My father named me,” Rea told me. “He was an artist and a surfer and lat­er in life, at a con­fer­ence, I met one of his friends who remem­bers him pulling out this art book that had the image of Shi­va Natara­ja in between surf sets and say­ing, I have this lit­tle baby girl and I named her Shi­va.” Rea said that most peo­ple in India have a name that con­nects them to the divine. “It’s been a real­ly beau­ti­ful seed that has con­tin­ued to flower in my life. I’m grate­ful to my father for plant­i­ng that seed.”

Rea cred­its her young par­ents for expos­ing her to a glob­al per­spec­tive of life. “They were 20 when they had me and I was always with them. They exposed me to a mul­ti­cul­tur­al world view and so I’m real­ly inter­est­ed in help­ing peo­ple find the uni­ver­sal aspects of yoga. Bhak­ti, or the way of the one, is one of those uni­ver­sal aspects.”

Bhak­ti Fest is a cel­e­bra­tion of the one, bring­ing every­one togeth­er to cel­e­brate their har­mo­ny. Bhak­ti Fes­t’s ori­gins go back to Wood­stock when Bhak­ti Fest founder, Srid­har Sil­ber­fein, looked from the stage upon the crowd of 500,000 music fans and promised his guru, Swa­mi Satchi­danan­da, that some­day that many would come to chant the names of god, or the one. Forty years lat­er Sil­ber­fein ful­filled that promise.

Rea says that even though every­one at Bhak­ti Fest is chant­i­ng the names of the one in dif­fer­ent lan­guages, the things that con­nects us is our breath. “The pow­er of love is the pow­er of love and it speaks beyond lan­guage with the pow­er of breath, what we share, and yet we are bare­ly tap­ping into it. Bhak­ti yoga becomes a way to con­nect to peo­ple with their deep­er purpose.”

shiva rea class

we come full cir­cle pho­to by rina nehdar

These days Rea only teach­es class­es through her DVDs, online or at spe­cial events like Bhak­ti Fest. In her quest to find her path, she’s taught yoga all over the world and has brought back ideas from her many voy­ages to India. “I do feel grate­ful that I’ve been able to be a bridge between the roots and the evo­lu­tion.” One thing unique to her class­es is that she teach­es in a man­dala, or a cir­cle. “We live in the solar sys­tem revolv­ing around the fire of the sun. Essen­tial to yoga is the homa or the yaj­na, the fire after the cer­e­mo­ny. I feel that when we sit in a man­dala, we are able to under­stand that every­body is cre­at­ing the expe­ri­ence. We look across and we see each oth­er. We’re not just look­ing up and see­ing one teacher.” Rea believes it is in this way of see­ing each oth­er that we begin to under­stand how our actions affect oth­ers and on a larg­er glob­al scale, how what we do in one com­mu­ni­ty, oil spills or chem­i­cal dump­ing, will affect anoth­er down­stream. It is in this vein that she start­ed the Glob­al Mala project, a move­ment that con­nects yoga and com­mu­ni­ty action world­wide to cre­ate a more sus­tain­able plan­e­tary liv­ing environment.

bring­ing us all togeth­er pho­to by rina nehdar

Rea believes that fes­ti­vals like Bhak­ti Fest are a way into that heal­ing space that moves from nur­tur­ing our­selves into being mind­ful about our actions with­in our com­mu­ni­ty. “In your prac­tice, you’re real­ly able to affect all of the dif­fer­ent aspects of your being. Both the spir­i­tu­al and ther­a­peu­tic aspects of yoga are real­ly what are nat­ur­al to us, but are becom­ing, unfor­tu­nate­ly, unnat­ur­al to us. When you walk into a class at Bhak­ti Fest, you real­ly have that expe­ri­ence of the per­son­al trans­for­ma­tion that’s avail­able through yoga, a guar­an­tee. I think you can walk into any yoga stu­dio and you may have a won­der­ful class, but this trans­for­ma­tive aspect, the inner and out­er trans­for­ma­tive aspect, the inte­gra­tion of move­ment and music is real­ly unique in Bhak­ti Fest.”

music and move­ment, the path into the soul pho­to by rina nehdar

Inti­mate expe­ri­ences of shar­ing our jour­neys in the Sacred Wom­en’s Tent and the Men’s Lodge were high­lights for us. Con­scious music with kir­tan per­form­ers Govin­da Ras (the artist for­mer­ly known as Ira) & Rad­ha, Dave Stringer and Sean John­son & the Wild Lotus Band, to name only a few, are the sound­track that accom­pa­nies the entire Bhak­ti week­end. Oth­er not to miss moments are the Sound Bath Dome, Fam­i­ly Vil­lage with activ­i­ties and crafts for kids (12 and under are free!) and the vari­ety of the most amaz­ing food ven­dors I’ve ever tast­ed at any event.

The Wom­en’s Tent pho­to by Rina Nehdar


Family Village - Bhakti Fest

Fam­i­ly Vil­lage — Bhak­ti Fest pho­to by Rina Nehdar

Child Friendly Bhakti Fest

Fam­i­ly Friend­ly — pho­to by Rina Nehdar

Sound Dome Bhakti Fest

Sound Dome — pho­to by Rina Nehdar


Shivasana Bhakti Fest

Peace Out pho­to by Rina Nehdar