I decided to go the Kundalini Yoga Festival in Blois with a group of people I was studying Kundalini Yoga teacher training with. One of the requirements of the course was that you had completed the White Tantra element which you could do by attending the festival. The yoga festival itself was a week long and extremely popular, however there was also three days of White Tantra at the end of the week with many stalwart kundalinis turning up for that element of the festival alone.
Blois could be easily reached by train from Paris and as the festival is held each year at the end of July, the weather was incredibly pleasant. The festival was held in the fabulous setting of the grounds of Chateau Anand, an old chateau overlooking a lake.
There were dormitories available, however many people decided to camp and certainly the beautiful surroundings a were conducive to that. The weather can get extremely hot at that time of year so the tent spaces under the shelter of the trees were the first to go.
In terms of camping, I purchased a two man tent which appeared to be a one man tent and for a very diminutive man at that. My two man tent was tiny and I will certainly know next time to purchase a bigger one.
Being a novice camper and having purchased a tent package with a sleeping mat, I thought that was all I needed. That was until I unrolled the sleeping mat and it became painfully apparent that there was no way that I was going to get a good nights sleep in something that had the thickness of a light blanket.
I made a trip to the area at the festival where there was a small collection of camping sundries on offer. The only sleeping mat left was an extremely comfortable double one, however unfortunately for me, it was a double size. Being desperate I purchased it and somehow managed to semi inflate it and fold it over with the result that my mat was now so big in my tent that I could nearly touch the top of my tent with my nose. I did however sleep extremely well during the festival.
Given the size of the festival and the fact that there were over two thousand in attendance, the organisation was extremely well done, made all the more incredible by virtue of the fact that many “chores” were done on a karma yoga basis which essentially meant that the attendees chipped in with completing the day to day household chores.
The collection of classes on offer was very impressive with an absolutely huge amount of choice.The days were divided into three parts, with morning workshops from 11.30 to 1.30, workshops from 2 to 4 and then evening study groups from 5.30 to 7. There was then a beautiful selection of music on offer from various kundalini musicians in the evenings.
The first half of the festival week was taken up with with picking and choosing your class be it yoga, meditation, music, talks etc. with the hardest part of the day being getting up for Morning Sadhana.
The Morning Sadhana
The Morning Sadhana was not for the faint hearted, with start times from between 3.45 and 4 am.
The experience was however made all the more pleasant by virtue of the unbelieveably kind people who were prepared to get up every morning, go around the tends and literally sing everyone awake.
The Sadhana ran from 4.15/4.30 to 6.30/7.
While getting up at 3.45 am took some getting used to, for me the experience was worth it. The music played as part of the Sadhana was just beautiful and there was something truly wonderful about being wrapped up in a blanket chanting as the sun rose over the lake.
White Tantric Yoga
After 3 days of picking and choosing your own yoga classes, the format o the festival changed and for the next 3 days all attendees attended the big tent main festival space to partake in the White Tantric yoga. The White Tantric Yoga sessions took place over the next 3 days and were so popular that new arrivals came to the festival specifically and only to do the White Tantra.
White Tantric Yoga is done in pairs as a group meditation. You sit facing a partner and follow instructions for meditation given on a video and by direct instruction. Essentially you find a partner and sit opposite them and in most instance maintained eye contact with them while sitting in a yoga pose without moving for up to an hour while you engage in breathing and mantra work. I was at the festival with friends however we just joined the throngs of people seeking a partner for each session as it can be a bit tedious staring at the same person for three days. A helpful tip for White Tantra that I found useful was to find someone of around the same height as you. Sometimes the pose may require that you sit palm to palm etc. and it would become incredibly tedious if you had to keep leaning forward and sit in that position for up to an hour if you are (as I am) 5’10” and the person sitting across from you is 5’1”.
What is fascinating about White Tantra is that although you are staring into someone else’s eyes what you “see back” are your own issues and that can be quite emotional. The organisers describe White Tantra as follows:
“Our minds release 1500 thoughts per wink of an eye. Some of these thoughts get lost in the unconscious, and some get stuck in the subconscious and affect the conscious mind. These thoughts become feelings, emotions, desires, multi-realities or fantasies. Instead of mastering our mind, often our mind and thoughts direct us, which can cause impulsive decisions, poor communication and self-imposed stress.
White Tantric Yoga enables you to break through these subconscious blocks, so you can have a more enjoyable life. In the shortest time, you can experience release from a lot of the burden you carry in your mind. When you see and act on each moment with clarity, you can gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your life can change. Your mind, body, and soul can act together as one. This is the path to personal freedom and awareness, and will bring more success to every area of your life.”
The white tantric yoga sessions can be pressurised, with people endeavouring to stay in their positions for up to an hour at a time. However the effort is certainly accepted by many to be well worth it, hence the large numbers that attend.
The one thing that took some getting used to was the food. Not for the faint hearted. A very bland affair which in fairness was not at all surprising given the nature of the energy work being undertaken and the fact that the festival was catering for attendees on a mass scale and all food preferences including vegan.
The potato soup and bananas for breakfast was however not for me and I must confess that I was one of the attendees who regularly escaped to the village close by for a croissant.
The organisation of the meals had to be seen to be believed with 2,ooo people lining up in rows to be fed and then engaging in one of the most expertly arranged dishwashing endeavours known to man.
The festival is worth going to for the music alone. If you enjoy the music traditionally utilised as part of the kundalini yoga practice then you are in for a treat at the festival. Many of the well known kundalini singers and musicians perform at the festival and each evening finishes with a concert. In the beautiful weather, in the beautiful surrounds, it truly was a fabulous thing to be sitting in the evening sunset listening to the music.
What to bring?
- Lots of loose, comfortable, white clothing.
- A white cotton head covering which completely covers the head and will stay on securely during exercises with movement (you can do what you want in this regard during the rest of the festival, however the head covering is mandatory for the White Tantra sessions so do bring it with you)
- A blanket or sheepskin to sit on and a light blanket to cover yourself with during relaxation periods.
- A water bottle is absolutely essential – between the weather and the energy work there is a danger that you will become dehydrated.
- Camping gear – learn from my experience above and bring a decent sized tent and a comfortable sleeping mat. Also, obviously a good mosquito spray and a torch are necessary, in particular bearing in mind the early morning starts.
- A few small padlocks – you will not be able to have all your stuff with you at your spot in the White Tantra sessions so best to lock it your tent.
- A couple of portable phone / device rechargers. There is access to plugs in the halls of the dormitories, however they are quickly discovered by those in tents and you may be waiting a while until one comes free. You may also decide to recharge your recharger rather than leaving your smartphone lying about in the hall and then recharge the phone at your leisure while you have it. Unfortunately there were phone thefts at the festival so it is about using common sense on that front.
- If like me you are not a yoga natural, do bring props for the White Tantra – I forgot and regretted it. If you are going to be sitting cross legged for a long period of time, often up to an hour without moving you need to make yourself as comfortable as possible and this involves making sure your legs are as comfortable as possibly propping at whatever are your dangerpoints – thighs, knees, ankles or in my case, all three.
- Also, remember to bring the program you get in registration with you to the festival. The program for this festival is unusual in that it is incredibly detailed and quite apart from the fact that it contains all the different classes that are on each day, it also contains all the mantras and meditations that are used in the Sadhana.