Yoga with Mahan Rishi and Mirabai Ceiba

The thing about Sat Nam Fest is it brings so many of the “rock stars” of Kundalini Yoga together. They’re everywhere: Snatam Kaur sitting a couple mats away at a concert; Gurmukh getting a bowl of gazpacho; Markus Sieber (of Mirabai Ceiba) saying hello to an old friend. I admit to being excited about seeing these folks up close. But that was just a side dish. The main course, the sustenance of Sat Nam Fest, was being immersed in the live music and powerful yoga. My friend, fellow blogger, and bunk mate at the festival, Kathryn Livingston, has already shared the experience of Days 1 and 2, so I’d like to focus on my highlights from Day 3, Saturday.

I’ll begin with the morning concert by Jai-Jagdeesh. For me, it was beautiful, uplifting, and … happiness-inducing. Among her songs, my favorites were her cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and “On this day,” the birthday song in the Kundalini Yoga tradition. Jai-Jagdeesh sang it to her brother, after sharing with great emotion how grateful she is for her sibling. What’s crazy is that she doesn’t only sing, she also dances. Having studied classical Indian dance, she surprised everyone with a thrilling performance that involved very fast and precise, head, neck, eye, and hand movements.

I’m sorry to say that I really felt there was nowhere to go but down after Jai-Jagdeesh’s concert. What could equal that? Enter Gurmukh and Snatam. Together. Gurmukh challenged us with a kriya that had some nearly impossible moments. If you were there, I know you remember (and are still feeling) the 15 minutes of downward dog pushups. Ouch! But no one can keep you going like Gurmukh. “You don’t have to develop courage;” she told us as we struggled through an asana, “you have to call on it.” And Snatam, with that singular voice, held us up too. Incredible!

Downward Dog pushups in Gurmukh's class - keep up!

What could match that? How about Mahan Rishi accompanied by the amazing Mirabai Ceiba? There was so much wisdom and inspiration in this class — too much to recount here. But one thing Mahan Rishi said that really stuck with me was: “Don’t be kidnapped from the present moment by inner voices.” And how much easier it was to stay in the present moment with the astonishingly gorgeous sound of Mirabai Ceiba filling the room!

The evening ended with the event I’d been anticipating the most: a Snatam Kaur concert. I’ve listened to her music for over a decade but had never heard her live. Her music was as lovely as I expected it would be, but her concert was defined not by her sound or her voice. For me, it was defined by a hilarious story she told about her band’s van catching on fire. She was laughing so hard she was crying and the rest of the evening was peppered with her giggles. For the last song, she brought her former guitar player GuruGanesha on stage, and he told a great story about a grizzled Canadian cowboy who came up to him after one of Snatam’s concerts and said, “She broke me.” The cowboy explained how his wife had brought him to many kirtan concerts before, but he’d managed to stay strong until Snatam. She got him to sing. Snatam broke me too, and the cumulative experience of all the amazing moments at Sat Nam Fest broke me in the best possible way.

Snatam Kaur with Nirinjan, Todd, and Matthew

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