Basking in the sunshine, camping under the stars, and moving my body with amazing yoga teachers is what I came to Shakti Fest for – what I left with was a new clarity on how to approach living yoga beyond a mat, retreat, spiritual text, or paycheck.
I’ve been practicing yoga for twelve years, teaching for seven, and grappling with the money question for lifetimes beyond this current reality. How do I teach yoga, be of service to the world, and also make enough money to pay my rent? I find myself oscillating around this frequently, which takes me out of my practice and keeps me stuck in my monkey mind (or maybe it’s my money mind?).
After spending a weekend immersed at Shakti Fest – studying, chanting, dancing, and practicing with some of the most inspiring yoga teachers, workshop facilitators, and kirtan artists, I believe I’m closer to the answer than ever before: living yoga is living service – meaning serve first, live yoga off the mat, and prosperity will come. Also, as advised to me by Shakti Fest’s executive producer, and world renowned yoga teachers Shiva Rea and Kia Miller: “Don’t quit your day job!”
In Sanskrit, yoga, which derives from the word yuj, means “to unite” or “to join.” The Sanskrit word, seva (“selfless service”), derives from two words: saha, meaning “with that,” and eva, meaning “too;” combined seva means “together with” or “unity.”
Just serve, and then you will make money? Some might call that naive…but some of the great teachers have lived by and are still living by this concept and it works.
“I say teach yoga, but teach it with a passion,” said Shakti Fest’s Executive Producer, Sridhar Steven Silberfein, when asked about how to make teaching yoga sustainable. “Teach it with a love that you want to help change people and turn people on to a better way of life. Not ‘what am I gonna get from it’– we’ve got to stop that concept. Everything will come to you at the right time, it’s just our anxieties and desires built up from our ego mind that want everything right now.”
Silberfein started Shakti and Bhakti Fest, the largest yoga and kirtan festivals in the USA, as well as several other businesses that combine business and yoga (a health food store, natural skin care line, and a recording label to name a few).
“Basically we wake up in the morning, we produce, direct, edit, and write our own story and we star in it. That’s all we do everyday – just think about ourselves. Hardly any time is spent thinking about another person or a group of people. So by coming here we are building spiritual community, a safe haven.”
Shakti Fest is a place where people can come back to themselves, center in, and as they reconnect with themselves, they connect with others, and unite with their community with more integrity. In addition to Shakti Fest being an incredible venue for yogic practices and sacred community, it also lives service through its seva program – where people can volunteer in exchange for festival tickets and camping. Shakti Fest also donates all of the proceeds (after paying for expenses) to orphanages in India to support young girls who are living in poverty. Silberfein is dedicated to living a simple life so we can give back and practice seva as much as possible.
“Service to me is an attitude of being” said Kia Miller, internationally renowned Kundalini and Hatha Yoga teacher. “When I’m fully present to the moment I’m able to serve the moment from my full being. When I’m living my life from that place then I’m naturally by extension being of service.”
She also recognizes the difficulty in combining business and yoga. “You don’t want to put all the pressure on making your rent by teaching yoga. It’s helpful that you have something else that’s paying your rent and your food bills for a little while. When you are really in alignment and you’re serving and you’re giving to people I find that there is just a natural prosperity that follows that.”
Miller believes that acting out of service is not separate from any other way of being.
“Everything you’re doing is coming from a connected place of service as opposed to separating it out and living your life here and being a certain way, and then serving over there, and then feeling bad about yourself or beating yourself up because you’re not serving in the way people perceive people should serve.”
Her message is loud and clear: stop trying so hard and instead just be present in the moment, present for yourself, and ultimately present for your community. The more we live from a place of connectivity and unity, the more we are truly practicing yoga at its core meaning.
A lot easier said than done, right?! Miller suggests the simple act of doing a daily yoga practice to ground into this concept. She says “Just keep practicing. If your well runs dry, then try something new. There are so many different approaches to yoga and I think it’s important that we keep open to everything and not become too narrow. We want to be narrow enough that we can dig a deep well but we don’t want to lose the ability to be receptive to all.”
Since I’ve been home, I’ve been integrating concepts I learned at Shakti Fest into my daily practice and I’ve noticed a big shift. I feel more aligned to myself and therefore more capable of connecting with others out of integrity. As for paying the rent, I’ve let go of the concept of trying so hard to make yoga my profession, but rather my living. I now know that the more I live yoga, and live seva, the money will come. I’m also working on getting a day job…
The annual Shakti Fest and Bhakti Fest happen every May and September in Joshua Tree, California to bring song, dance, yoga, chanting, meditation, workshops, and delicious vegetarian and vegan food together.
For more information or to buy tickets for Bhakti Fest this September, please visit their website:
Bhakti Fest – September 7-11, 2017
Shakti Fest – May 10-14. 2018
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Simone is an experiential educator who’s passion for international travel, growth, and transformation take form through photography, practicing and teaching yoga, and communing with nature.