'Nada, Tantra, Bhakti Bliss: Pleasure and Power Through Your Voice' – doesn't that sound intriguing? Or what about 'Hips, Lips and Fingertips'? Now, be careful don't let your mind wander astray....
These are in fact just 2 out of nearly 100 yoga classes and related workshops that make up part of the UDAYA LIVE Yoga & Music Retreat that, already in its 4th year, will take place 14 - 19 August 2019 in the beautiful Riu Resort in Pravets, less than an hour from Sofia.
A bit of a yoga fan myself, I visited the event in 2017 for a day to see for myself what it was all about. I spent the whole journey back to Sofia regretting that I wasn't there for the whole retreat - so in 2018 I made sure that it was on my agenda. In fact I opted out of my usual yoga retreat in Greece so that I could justify the time and cost of attending UDAYA LIVE. I needed the break – bogged down with too much work and not enough time or resources to tackle everything.... I deliberately decided to attend the retreat on my own in order to get the most out of the experience. In fact I didn't need long to make make contact within the 300 strong international group, with people from the USA, Australia, UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Romania and India. There was an incredible 'aura' of openness and friendliness among all at the retreat and after 5 days none of us were sure that we really wanted to step out of the blissful pink bubble and face the day to day realities again.
So what makes UDAYA LIVE so special and how did it all start?
UDAYA LIVE is without a doubt one of the biggest and best organised events in the whole region. 5 days and spread across 4 stages, attendees are free to pick and choose from a huge offering of all types of yoga classes, from meditation and restorative classes through to power and acro-yoga. With 30 different teachers from near and far the wealth of knowledge they bring to share is incredible. Beyond that most classes are accompanied by live music – again nothing but the best musicians from USA, India, UK and Bulgaria. Starting the day at 7am – yogis can take up to 7 classes a day, enjoy 3 vegetarian / vegan buffet meals and spend the evening enjoying the musicians in their own right in concert on the magical water stage.
Yariv Lerner is not only the CEO of Nu Boyana Film Studios in Bulgaria, he is also the CEO of UDAYA ENTERTAINMENT INC., a yoga, health and wellness lifestyle company that produces high quality, cinematic yoga and fitness classes on dvd, flash drive, and on its online streaming platform UDAYA.com founded in 2011, the organisers of this event.
If you don't know Yariv you might be finding it hard to understand how the executive producer of films such as 'Hunter Killer' and 'The Hitman's Bodyguard' is also such a big yoga fan, so we asked him about it.
“Yoga has always been an integral part of my life since I was about 18. I started practising as a supplemental modality to martial arts and it just fitted hand in hand with both the physical and mental philosophy. The martial arts I was practising was called 'Mushindo Kempo' - practised by monks in Okinawa and brought to England by Terry Dukes. Within the practice was the concept of 'Non-Violence' which is an odd pairing with something that is considered martial by nature. A deeper exploration into the practice translates the art of combat into the art of communication both on an internal and an external level. Yoga is also the art of communication both internal and external. Both practices rely heavily on the vehicle of breath. Jumping along... later in life...I was an athlete and when injury visited me I used Yoga as the 'healer'. It gave me a deeper appreciation of the practice. These days my practice has transformed into a less physical and more meditative modality but at its essence it is still yoga. That's the amazing thing about the practice. It can be your best friend and support you all through life.”
Four years ago the first UDAYA LIVE retreat took place in Borovets, Bulgaria - how did that idea come about?
“It was through a mutual friend of my father, whose daughter an avid yogi herself, came on one of our shoots. She introduced us to the hotel in Borovets and from the moment we got there we felt it was the right place to hold the festival in an attempt to connect teachers and students. Not only was the location beautiful but it was just under an hour from the Rila Lakes, one of the great spiritual places on the planet. Yoga, hiking, meditation, good food...who can ask for more? The next year we learned that the hotel was under renovation, so we relocated to Pravets on the lake. Having the stage on the water and adding the element of live music performances really amped up the vibe.”
As to the future of UDAYA LIVE, whose numbers are growing steadily year by year as word gets out, and how sustainable it is, Yariv says “A large part of this question will be determined by the numbers we get. Currently the hotels we use limits the number of guests and it forms a nice intimate environment. At some point we will have to consider whether to grow or to cap it? At its current state we describe it as yogi summer camp where we just get together, laugh, practice and listen to some exceptional world music.”
For Yariv the days at UDAYA LIVE are also about reconnecting with old friends and meeting new people and when asked about his favourite yoga asana I was not too surprised by the answer: “A well deserved 'Savasana'. Try and it and you will understand why.”
I tried so much at UDAYA LIVE last year, from sound healing, meditation, Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, Kundalini, Qi-Gong through to the Dance Commander and more and in the quiet moments of 'Savasana' the pieces of the puzzle started coming together and they continue to do so. I too made new friends – who I look forward to meeting again this year. Thank You so much dear Yariv and all the team behind UDAYA LIVE for bringing this wonderful gift to Bulgaria. Working on a guide for this year's event has filled me with such anticipation – who knows what UDAYA LIVE 2019 will bring for us all? You won't know if you don't join us ;-)
Paromita (Publisher of Bulgaria in your pocket)