While many Kundalini Yoga veterans have been waking up in the ambrosial hours for years, I would like to share a description of some fundamentals of the practice that all attendees will have the opportunity to experience each morning — early in the morning — at Sat Nam Fest. Looking at schedule, there are some things worded in a totally different language that may be new to many! I am dyslexic, which means for me, sounding out the pronunciation of unknown words in a foreign language is especially difficult, so words like Japji, which is actually a Punjabi word, were quite hard for me to grasp at first.
It wasn’t until I attended a three-day workshop at Kripalu, where I was able to stay overnight and wake up to participate in an early morning Kundalini practice, that I participated in my first “Sadhana” and learned the meaning of the lingo. You too can experience the luxury of waking up and simply walking to early morning yoga programs (beginning at 5am) at this year’s Sat Nam Fest in the Berkshires.
When I first started doing Kundalini Yoga, I was invited to an early morning yoga practice. My first reaction was, “You all are crazy.” I am, by nature, a night owl. I couldn’t imagine waking up before sunrise and driving to a yoga studio. Maybe you too share the same sentiments? However, I know now that an early morning practice can cleanse your mind, uplift your spirit, and set your day.
JapJi is a powerful prayer that will be read aloud at 5:00am Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, in the main tent, The Sat Nam Pavilion. This prayer is featured at the very beginning of the holy scripture of the Sikhs and composed by Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism. The prayer describes what is true worship and the nature of God. It states that God is indescribable, the only true form of worship is acceptance of God, and to remain one with loving God, always.
What to Expect: Some sleepy, some not so sleepy, yogis on mats, sitting in easy pose, or sitting comfortably on a cushion, attentively listening to an ancient text read aloud by a man or women with beautiful pronunciation.
My first experience with this was challenging, but overtime, I began to develop a deeper appreciation of this ritual. If you’re interested in learning more about this, watch this video.
Morning Yoga, 5:15am
Morning yoga consists of a prescribed lesson plan of 25 minutes of asana. If you sleep in, don’t fret! There are plenty more yoga classes and workshops throughout the day, which you can view on the schedule.
What to Expect: Postures and breath work. Each yoga session generally includes physical movements ranging from twisting, turning, jumping, dancing, running, shaking, flexing, and squatting, combined with some static postures, and ending with deep relaxation. This is a bit different than a full Kundalini Yoga class, as the Aquarian Sadhana chants to follow typically serve as the meditation.
Aquarian Sadhana Chants, 5:40am
Yogi Bhajan taught that by chanting as a group you can reach your highest potential in life and connect through group consciousness. The chants are sang aloud in Punjabi. You can read more about the chants and their meanings here. Another great resource for educating yourself about the chants is this article written by Snatum Kaur. You may already be familiar with the music of the chants, but if you’re curious to learn more, check out Aquarian Sadhana music for sale here.
What to Expect: Yogis sitting on mats singing chants aloud from their whole heart for about an hour with some guided mediation from the presenter. Each morning will feature a new presenter, and you can look forward to experiencing music from the following artists. The schedule is subject to change, so check for updates online.
Thursday: Andrea Flax
Saturday: GuruGanesha Band
A gurdwara, meaning “door to the Guru,” is a place of worship for Sikhs. All people are welcome to the gurdwara even if you are not Sikh.
What to Expect: You can expect to hear people playing the harmonium and chanting Mantras & shabd (sounds). Since I am not totally familiar with what to expect during this part of the program, I did a little research and what I found out is that the purpose of the gurdwara service is to facilitate self-healing a transformation through practicing the technology of the Shabd Guru. 3HO defines this as:
Shabad means sound, Guru means teacher or knowledge that transforms you. The simplest meaning of Shabad Guru is a special sound that is a teacher. The Shabad Guru employs the Naad, totally balanced universal sound, to remove the constrictions and distortions of the ego.
This is a powerful devotional service that is said to connect the individual to the Infinite. Sikhs believe that through this event you can uplift your spirit and experience the Infinite. This is an opportunity for you to deeply connect with yourself and your soul’s journey to God. It’s believed that the specific sounds or mantras that are recited during the gurdwara awaken the soul and clear the mind. It’s an opportunity to free the mind of any finite identity or ego.
This program is offered before breakfast as part of the Sadhana program. In addition to reserving the 7-8:30 time slot as a sacred space for worship in the main tent, you can also visit another gurdwara site at any time during the festival in the Mohawk Studio, north of the Sat Nam Pavilion. This is an intimate setting with a beautiful altar and will serve as a peaceful place for prayer for people of all faiths or anyone interested in finding a peaceful moment to connect with themselves.
If you’re new to Kundalini Yoga, and not sure about some of these more in-depth devotional practices, I recommend joining me in giving this a try. Sat Nam Fest is a no-judgement zone with tons of friendly and accepting people, willing to sit beside you and model what to do, so you can observe and learn to discover your voice as a tool for transformation. I hope to see you there!