In October 2013 I was one of a group of yoga enthusiasts- mainly, but not all, yoga teachers - who travelled from the UK to India for a double celebration - the World Yoga Convention, held every 20 years, and the Golden Jubilee of the setting up by Swami Satyananda of the Bihar School of Yoga. Four of us from Scotland joined the UK group led by Swami Satyaprakash Saraswati, who is based in Birmingham. The theme of the Convention was summed up as "Immersion in Yoga - serious, sincere and committed". I'd never been to Ganga Darshan, the Bihar School of Yoga ashram situated just outside Munger, but apparently it had grown substantially in the last ten years. Security was tight and rules such as no mobiles, no cameras, not being allowed out of the ashram except at permitted times were strictly enforced. The need for this came home to me when we heard reports, on the final day, of bombs going off in Patna, the capital of Bihar state. Something to do with elections I think.
The Convention was huge: 22, 000 delegates from all areas of India and a substantial number of overseas delegates heard 5 days of academic presentations focusing on all aspects of yoga, especially some very interesting scientific studies on the benefits of yoga practice. The speakers came frrom many different traditions of Yoga. Every session was preceded by a kirtan; mantra meditation as song, led in a call-and-response way so thousands of voices were raised in chant. It almost always resulted in dancing and clapping as well as chanting! Swami Niranjanananda presided over every session and did most of the translating, either from English to Hindi or vice versa. There were lunchtime workshops too but unfortunately for one reason or another I didn't manage to get to any so I can't report on those. The Golden Jubilee was celebrated in parallel, with a large fire ceremony (havan) burning all day accompanied by deep-voiced pandits chanting in Sanskrit. There were all-day kirtans by various national groups, evening entertainment programmes and a specially commissioned DVD of the life of Swami Satyananda. One of the highlights for me was called the Kundalini Awakening Centre or KAC for short. It was a short film in 5D (don't ask!) made by the sannyasins, with great effects illustrating the five senses and the awakening of the primal energy of kundalini, ascending up the spine- brilliant graphics!
As is traditional at Satyananda gatherings we also participated to some extent in the life of the ashram, contributing karma yoga for example in the kitchen, or cleaning bathrooms. Cleaning duty was 5-6 am; on the first morning I hadn't quite realised this but I did wonder why there were so many people in the shower area as I tried to complete my morning ablutions. Someone kindly explained so I then knew I should be working, not showering at my leisure. Karma yoga takes priority so when we were summoned to the kitchen area to help prepare vegetables we just had to drop all other plans.
The sannyasins based at the ashram had obviously been working very hard, under the direction of Swami Niranjanananda, because BSY published new or revised editions of 350 books (!) We were allowed to choose as many as we wanted, given away to us as prasad - gifts - so my luggage coming home was very heavy. Actually I had to post most of them back and they've just arrived, so I'll have a lot of reading to do.