Dynamic kirtana singer Bada Hari Dasa leads Toronto's yogis in chanting of the Hare Krishna Mantra.
Yoga enthusiasts all over Toronto untangled their arms and legs this April to check out InSpirit, a nine-day yoga festival with a difference billed as “The Eternal Spiritual Experience.”
Events held at various venues around the city, including the University of Toronto, were designed to help people discover the ancient teachings of the East and their practical application to everyday life. The $5 - $15 price tag, with full vegetarian meals included, helped yield long lines of hungry seekers.
But audiences found the unique events satisfying another hunger too. Eclectic and atypical to both the yoga scene and to ISKCON, who organized them, the shows were a diverse mix. Monk, Yale graduate and author Devamrita Swami tackled global warming through Vedic ecology, and taught audiences how to unleash the hidden powers of the mind through spiritual sound, discover the religion of the soul, and even find the missing ingredient to create true love.
It may have been ROAR Sound, however, that delivered the most cutting edge thrill. With a poster featuring a glowing image of the half-man half-lion deity Nrsimhadeva, ROAR sound advertised itself as a “Supremely horrific show” and invited people to bring their own instruments and jam with mantras and beats, before treating themselves to “Vegetarian Xtreme.” Guided mantra meditation and kirtan exercises with Kirtan master Badahari Dasa added to the experience, giving an insight into the science of self-realization.
“The kirtan session made it evident that this new generation of Yoga enthusiasts are not interested in Yoga because of Lulu Lemon, but because they are looking for something more,” says Bhakti Yoga student Madhavi Dasi. “As Badahari picked up the pace, people stood up one by one to dance. By the end of the kirtan, thirty of the seventy people attending had risen from their seats and were dancing and singing along, arms high in the air.”
Madhavi says many expressed their joy and excitement about the show. “They said they’d never experienced Yoga like this,” she recalls. “They plied us with questions, and begged us to teach them how to play our instruments!”
The title InSpirit, Madhavi explains, hints at the ability to tap into the very essence of our existence, and to try to understand our relationship with the Supreme. “It was an amazing experience to witness a new audience trying to understand these truths through the power of the Hare Krishna mantra and the teachings of Bhagavad-gita,” she says.
ISKCON Toronto’s outreach projects, The Bhakti Yoga club and Urbanedge Yoga, organized InSpirit and continue to hold similar events, with a look at India’s greatest historical epic, the Mahabharata, coming up on May 11 at Yonge and Bloor Yoga Studio.