The Greatest Gift

The Greatest Gift

Artwork By: Shey Khandro

The Greatest Gift

Why Giving Really *IS* Better Than Receiving
+ 5 Tips for Giving Selflessly this Holiday Season

We’ve all heard the old adage, and it’s hard to disagree. This idea, after all, spans multiple traditions and texts—from the Bible to the Bhagavad Gita and beyond. Early in the spiritual trajectory of American mystic Ram Dass, he asked his teacher, “How do I raise my divine energy?” To which guru Neem Karoli Baba replied simply, “Feed everyone. Serve everybody.” This concept of seva, or selfless service, is a kind of road map for the yogic journey.

But the trick, as it turns out, isn’t so much the giving part.

On some level, you probably already know that generosity feels good. There is evidence that the act of giving activates our brains’ pleasure centers—releasing dopamine (feel-good juice), serotonin (mood-regulating juice) and oxytocin (compassion juice). Can your kombucha do THAT? Didn’t think so. In fact, clinical studies link giving to greater happiness, reduced depression, lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, lower blood pressure and even longer life.

So why don’t we, as a species, give more? Answer: the ego. When the brain steps in front of the heart, we start to crave recognition for our actions. The ego may want acknowledgement, adulation, validation, reciprocity; any number of actions to complement our own. And suddenly, the good vibes we got from giving vanish—poof!—like Keyser S?ze. So, as we enter the time of year set aside for giving THINGS, your friends at Sedona Yoga Festival would like to suggest a wonderful alternative: giving of YOURSELF. Here are our top five seva tips!

1) Lazy Seva: Gifts of Donation. Hey, no judgment! We’re all busy, and this time of year is bananas. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference just by opening your wallet. December is a great time to make a donation of any amount to a cause that’s close to your heart. From your local women’s shelter to an international clean-water organization, donating literally takes just a few clicks these days. Not sure where your money will mean the most? Get a watchdog: Charity Navigator and Charity Watch can help you narrow your recipient by cause, percentage of donations that go to overhead and even how much executives are paid. 

2) Free Seva: Gifts of Service. Sometimes, the best things in life really ARE free—and there’s always somebody who needs a helping hand. The cool thing about gifts of service, though, is how personalized (or not) you can make them. Got a friend who’s always complaining about the color of their kitchen, or the weeds in their yard? Spend a day helping ‘em out. An elderly neighbor who can’t shovel their walk? Lend a hand; they don’t even need to know it was you. In fact, anonymous volunteering to help those less fortunate may be the purest form of giving there is; you can’t crave acknowledgement if you’re a total ninja about it. 

Artwork By: Shey Khandro

3) Maker Seva: Gifts of Creation. Listen, not everybody’s crafty. We get that. If you’re one of those people whose “canvas & cocktail” creations never quite look like the example…SAME. But can you write a poem, or follow a recipe? If you’re planning to give actual gifts this year, we hope you’ll consider making something for the special folks in your lives. Trust us: a week of lovingly prepared freezer meals or a tiny watercolor painting, however “unprofessional” or “imperfect,” will likely be your recipients’ most treasured prezzies—this year or any year. 

4) Relationship Seva: Gifts of Sacrifice. Maybe it’s just us, but there are days—perhaps years—during which all we really want for the holidays is for the members of our household to STOP doing that one thing. And guess what? If you’re having that feeling about somebody else, you can bet your sweet asana that another household member has a similar wish re: you. So this year, why not make a solemn promise to NOT do that thing your partner, parent or kiddo doesn’t love all that much? Maybe your sweetie would prefer that you stay off your phone during meals, or your teen would prefer that you refrain from referring to things as “straight fire.” Let your recipient choose. No matter what they pick, your loss is their gain. 

5) Check Yourself Before…Well, You Know. What does Ice Cube have to teach us about seva? A few things, actually. If we’re putting a seva filter on our holiday giving, “check yourself” can have multiple meanings. First: go into the season with some healthy realism. There’s only so much of you to go around, so let’s not burn this temple to the ground over the next 30 days! This will not only enable you to enter the New Year with calm, grounded energy—it will also help to curb the resentment that can build when you’re overextended.

Second: if you do start to feel a pity party coming on, it’s either because (a) that pesky ego wants recognition for your actions, or (b) you’re actually filling others’ cups at the expense of your own. In either case, kindly check thyself and make some healthy adjustments. And finally, third: receive. Say it out loud with me: RECEIVE. As it turns out, your self-proclaimed seva season is a wonderful time to practice receiving the gifts around you. Whether a holiday traffic jam is ‘bout to teach you some patience, or your office Secret Santa made you some dodgy-looking mystery muffins, there is magic in the surrender. No wrecking required. 

Gratitude 365

Gratitude 365

Photo By: Wari Om

Thanksgiving 365

5 Reasons to Cultivate Gratitude Every. Single. Day.

With the holidays comin’ in hot, your email inbox—rather, the entire internet—is about to fill up with “what are you thankful for?” missives and manifestos. And sure, it’s nice to spend a day with friends and family, enjoying a lovingly crafted meal and celebrating everything we hold dear. Usually. But as with most of our modern red-letter days, when we’re up to our elbows in casseroles and houseguests, it can be easy to lose sight of the day’s deeper meaning. 

But as yogis, we’ve all experienced the transformative effect of linking a series of individual events into a conscious practice—from mindfulness and meditation to asana or even healthy eating. So, on the cusp of the single day our culture sets aside for observing gratitude, your friends at Sedona Yoga Festival would like to invite you to make this feeling a part of your heart’s daily travels. Here are five compelling reasons to try it. It’s good for you…we promise!

1. Gratitude makes you happier—it’s SCIENCE!

If you’re already in the habit of keeping a gratitude journal, good for you…literally! According to research conducted by U.C. Davis psychology professor and leading gratitude expert Robert Emmons, people who take time to ponder the things for which they’re thankful experience more positive emotions, act with greater compassion and generally feel more alive.

In his two best-selling books (linked at the end of this post), Emmons recommends a simple gratitude journal as a great way to kick off the practice. While you might feel as if you’re always grateful for your partner, pet, home or health, the act of getting specific about the things you cherish—every day—can actually rewire your brain to focus on the positive.

The more granular you get, the better it works…and the more variety you have to keep the practice fresh day after day. For example: instead of writing “I’m thankful for my health,” try to dig a little deeper with something like, “I’m thankful for my strong legs, which carried me through the beautiful and inspiring Claude Monet exhibit at the museum today.” 

2. Your gratitude makes others happier, too.

Here’s a little more science for you: researchers studying positive psychology concluded that a single act of gratitude, such as saying “thank you” or expressing to a friend what they mean to you, produced an instant 10% boost in happiness and 35% decline in depressive symptoms. It’s incredible, isn’t it? Even better: the effects of these acts lasted about 3–6 months—so, while tiny efforts can have a deep effect, they DO bear repeating for lasting impact.

Photo By: Wari Om

3. Gratitude gives love more staying power.

With regard to the lasting effects mentioned above—as it turns out, they’re even more powerful when applied to intimate relationships. In a study conducted by UNC Chapel Hill psychologists, researchers learned that expressing gratitude to one’s romantic partner created an environment of mutual appreciation. Participants noticed that their partners became more responsive to their needs as well as more satisfied with the relationship overall. And in this case, the afterglow stuck around even longer: about 6–9 months. Hello, win-win!

4. The TYFSAK Effect: Gratitude is good for business.

Before Target came along and made everyone happier whilst simultaneously emptying our wallets (neat trick, guys) much of America’s one-stop bargain shopping was done at K-Mart. You might say gratitude was a company policy; all employees were required to wear oversized buttons emblazoned with the mysterious acronym “TYFSAK.”

While these buttons originally served as a reminder for the checkout clerks to say, “Thank you for shopping at K-Mart,” eventually the buttons began to reinforce the message. Unknowing patrons would ask about them, which would trigger the expression; those who knew the acronym got a visual reminder. The bottom line: everybody got thanked, and people kept coming back.

More recently, researchers found that gratitude can also have a profound effect in the modern workplace. Particularly for those in leadership roles, expressing gratitude for a job well done has been proven not only to boost employees’ self-worth and confidence—but also to increase trust between colleagues and help to create a more collaborative environment.

5. Finally, gratitude is good for your health. 

Experts agree that gratitude is a social emotion—it requires that we acknowledge the good in the world, and affirm that much of this goodness comes from outside ourselves. These affirmations lead to the myriad of social benefits we’ve mentioned, from higher levels of happiness to lower levels of loneliness and beyond.

Wisdom on the Wing: Taking Flight with Our 2020 Faculty

Wisdom on the Wing: Taking Flight with Our 2020 Faculty

Photo By: Alan Alcid


Taking Flight with Our 2020 Faculty

Artists and authors. Healers and holistic practitioners. Ayurvedic and energetic experts. Philosophers and performers. Musicians and meditation leaders. Scientists and shamans. 

Yogis—and YOU. What do the members of this diverse, dedicated and delightful group have in common? We’re all part of the life-changing Sedona Yoga Festival. And it’s with GREAT excitement that we unveil our spirit guides for this year: the esteemed SYF 2020 faculty. 

RETURNING PRESENTERS: Your Advocates in Evolution

We’re blessed to be in a place to which people always yearn to return—so our 2020 roster is brimming with the wisdom of vanguard teachers from all over the country. Respected alum Sara Ivanhoe, a lifelong yogi who’s currently teaching the benefits of yoga for healthy sleep to students at USC, joins us again, while “yoga biologist” Dr. Sundar Balasubramian offers up his wealth of pranic expertise. Master Teacher Dana Damara brings a shamanic sensibility to her fiery and spiritual classes, along with beloved Kundalini “rebels” Ana Brett and Ravi Singh and ISHTA Yoga founders Alan and Sarah Finger. If you’re not signed up for our newsletter, please do (at bottom of page); we’ll be announcing new faculty as they join!

FIRST-TIME FACULTY: Empowering New Energy

Desiree Rumbaugh, Wisdom Warriors™ founder and author of Fearless After Fifty: How to Thrive with Grace, Grit and Yoga, brings her famously open heart to our offerings this year. We’re also excited to be holding space (and poses) for Yin Yoga founder Paulie Zink, who’s joining our faculty for the first time. Dianne Bondy, diversity/inclusion warrior and author of Yoga for Everyone, brings her welcoming warmth to the roster in 2020—along with Yogini on the Loose Gina Caputo, creatrix of Integrated Vinyasa™ and Founder/Director of the Colorado School of Yoga. Again, new presenters are joining the fold every week, so please check in often for updates. 

Photo By: Alan Alcid

HEALING HEARTS: Yoga for PTSD Training (CEUs)

Yoga has always been a universal healing balm, particularly for those living with past or present trauma. With this in mind, Sedona Yoga Festival has always been passionate about empowering yoga teachers to nurture this unique community. Over the years, we are proud to have trained hundreds of teachers and impacted thousands of souls. Judy Weaver, Founder of Connected Warriors , heads up the Traumatic Stress, Resiliency and Healing with Yoga training faculty this year with Ravi Singh and Pete A. Sanders Jr. contributing. 

EXTRA, EXTRA: Expo, Sacred Sound, Energy Medicine + More

Acharya Shunya brings a wealth of Ayurvedic knowledge, and a range of energy medicine practitioners (including Robert W. Tumm, Sandra Walter, Anahata Ananda and others) will be on hand to help you fine-tune your resonance. As always, the whole conference will be awash with sacred sound, from healing kirtan with Wah! and Girish to the celebratory strains of Sean Johnson & the Wild Lotus Band + more. And finally, this year’s Expo promises to be our most exciting yet—bursting with high-vibration food and drink, colorful conscious boutiques and so many wonderful reasons to gather with friends old and new. 


Now in our eighth year, Sedona Yoga Festival is honored to be leading the conversation,
and facilitating authentic connection between people, passion and potential. We couldn’t be more excited about what we’re creating. During a time when so much of the world feels dangerously beyond our control, we’re blessed to be able to offer YOU—the co-creators of our collective consciousness—this opportunity to come together in community.

From the spiritual heritage of yoga to the future of the practice as we know it, this is your chance to expand and explore under the guidance of our esteemed faculty, and in the embrace of your peers. Because here’s the great thing about evolution: by definition, it’s open to everyone. There’s no wrong place to start, and there’s no pre-ordained finish line. Even better: although mind-body-spirit transformation can be a deeply personal process, it’s also supported, empowered and amplified by community. Secure your spot today!

Brain & Soul Science for NEXT Level Yoga by Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Brain & Soul Science for NEXT Level Yoga by Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Brain & Soul Science for NEXT Level Yoga

by Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Don’t settle for only experiencing a fraction of the yoga benefits that ARE possible for you. Learn “Yoga of the Soul” (Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in Classroom 4). As an M.I.T. Honors Graduate in BioMedical Chemistry and Brain Science and a Mind/Body/Spirit Teacher for close to 50 years, I look forward to sharing with Sedona Yoga Festival participants, “Secrets from Science” for going BEYOND their current level of yoga.

Superstrings Physics states that you exist in a minimum of 10+ dimensions. Just as only a fraction of an iceberg is above the water, so too, you are much more than your physical body. What keeps most people from tapping that beyond are the anchoring effects of the Limbic System of the Brain. That Limbic Brain, not only keeps even spiritually minded people from fully Soul Soaring, it automatically creates life crushing dis-stress.

A major benefit of yoga, is that it partially soothes those negative limbic effects, but often only temporarily. When you know the Stress Reduction and Soul Tapping techniques I will be teaching in the Yoga of the Soul Workshop you can: 1. deeper your experience as you do yoga, 2. have a methods for getting yoga’s benefits even when you can’t be doing yoga (at work, driving, in tense family situations, etc.) and 3. more fully connect with ALL of you dimensions beyond and life purposes.
Sedona’s Vortexes are amplifiers that (when you know how to tap them and which ones are best for what needs) can further cleanse Limbic Distress from your aura and body. The Vortexes can also help you get new insights for how to develop “Your Own” best yoga practices and send reminder energies home. As part of my “Scientific Vortex Information and Yoga of the Soul” Workshop I will be sharing: 1. the science that explains the Vortexes (and why they are NOT electric or magnetic) 2. which Sedona sites are best for what, 3. how to find Vortexes in your home area, and 4. how to create you own Yoga Vortex wherever you are.

If you can’t be at the Saturday 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Workshop in Classroom 4, my books “Access Your Brain’s Joy Center” and “Scientific Vortex Information” are available thru or as E-books. Both books will also be available at the Festival Bookstore.

Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Pete A. Sanders Jr. is an Honors Graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology with principal studies in Bio-Medical Chemistry and Brain Science. Accepted to attend Harvard Medical School, he chose instead to pursue independent exploration of Mind/Body/Spirit potentials for developing THE FREE SOUL METHOD, “Inner Technology” Techniques and “Secrets from Science” for Creating YOUR OWN Enlightenment.

Brain & Soul Science for NEXT Level Yoga by Pete A. Sanders Jr.

Vedic Astrology for The Weekend of SYF2019

Vedic Astrology for The Weekend of SYF2019

by Sam Geppi

On the weekend of March 14 Mercury and the sun will cross at the junction point between Aquarius and Pisces. This is where we see our social self releasing into our cosmic self. For many of us that means our sense of wanting to make the world a better place and “be the change” we want to see in the world – elevating to an even higher vibration, that divine being that is not even of this world at all.

To be honest, most of us do not really conceive of our metaphysical being at all. The culmination of our life usually revolves around some utopian vision of the world that we have helped to create that makes us feel good and that aligns us with others and everything externally in some way. But that is not the metaphysical self of Pisces. That being is a transcendent, universal entity, a being of energy and light without form. It is our soul nature.

According to Vedic/Indian philosophy, that energetic, non-localized being, incarnates in order to experience the things need for greater self-awareness and the greater clarity of that souls energy and its facticity. Stated more simply, we have incarnated because we do not embody our divine nature yet. Life on earth and our descent into form is so we can encounter those limitations and evolves them toward that higher, metaphysical self.

We can see this evolution of that higher, worldly self into that cosmic metaphysical self in this transition between Aquarius and Pisces.

Also, we will see the moon moving from Gemini into cancer over the weekend of March 14. Gemini is where we gather more information, become playful and curious, like a child exploring its environment. But eventually all of that exploration and curiosity must be anchored in the heart, and integrated into our soul matrix (cancer), otherwise it is just data, disconnected from the heart.

This is the other big transition of the weekend of March 14.

Those who attend the Sedona yoga Festival will surely be under the influence of such celestial vibrations.

I’m thrilled and happy to be presenting a workshop on “yoga and Vedic astrology and 2019 predictions” at the festival.


Originally Appeared On:

Sam Geppi

Sam Geppi

Sam Geppi (Sadasiva) is the author of “Yoga and Vedic Astrology” and “The Ascendant-108 Planets of Vedic Astrology”. He is the founder of the American Academy of Vedic Art and Science – which offers level 1-3 Certification programs in Vedic Astrology. Currently the Academy has more than 120 students enrolled. Sam is certified level 1 and 2 through ACVA and CVA and was hired by Dattatreya Shiva Baba to teach the first Astroved Vedic Astrology Certification Program in 2010.

3 Tools for Easing Life with Trauma – Today

3 Tools for Easing Life with Trauma – Today

Photo by Miguel Guzman at the 2018 Sedona Yoga Festival’s “Yoga for PTSD Training”

By Erin Byron

To large or small degrees, each of us lives with some form of trauma. In the past week, I’ve heard people identify trauma from common (though painful) life events such as parenting sleepless children, euthanizing a pet, or the illness of a loved one. 

It is traumatic to go through a shock or profound loss in life. Are there ways to lessen the impacts or prepare ourselves? Research on PTSD and trauma say YES! 

It is noteworthy that, while there may be a clinical difference between PTSD and trauma, the ways to ease their impact are the same. At the SYF Yoga for PTSD Training, numerous voices offer countless strategies, and the science behind them, to support you and your loved ones in healing trauma.

While we wait for March 14-17 to arrive, pick one of the following 3 ideas and start doing it today and let us know what happens when we see you at SYF2019. Betcha there’s a difference!

Do this first one anytime, anywhere to prevent or shift this…

1. Adapt your breath. 

Notice I did not say, “Take a deep breath.” While a 5-count-in, 5-count-out is an adaptation away from shallow breathing, it is not the only option. 

Instead, you can see what happens if you move only the abdomen instead of only the chest. Maybe you could sound the exhale or inhale with an ujjayi breath. I sometimes breathe out a merry “Ahhhhhh”, beginning on a high note and ending low. 

There are infinite combinations of breathwork. Throughout the day, simply change how you are breathing and notice what happens.

The next idea arises from a yoga for PTSD study. Yoga is continually proven to help reduce traumatic symptoms. What I love about this study is the awareness and self-reliance.

2. Listen to your body and make your own choices in yoga class. 

A study by Bessel van der Kolk, Laura Stone, and other researchers (2014) showed that when yoga students were invited to have curiosity about their bodily sensations and make their own choices about how long to stay in a pose, their PTSD improved. 

In fact, by the end of the study, 52% of the yoga participants no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD! The yoga and their self-reliant practice had a dramatic improvement on their quality of life.

The final tool is simple. It is gentle, takes very little time, and can bring huge benefits to the mind, nervous system, and body.

“That’s me, at the Yoga for PTSD Training at the 2018 Sedona Yoga Festival.” Photo by Miguel Guzman

3.  Use firm pressure to rub in foot lotion before bed. 

That’s it?! Yes, it could change your life. Do this for 5 days and wait for revelations. (Bonus points for using sesame or coconut oil with a few drops of an appealing essential oil. I like orange and rosemary oils with a soupcon of ginger.)

Whichever of these 3 options you choose, I hope you have fun applying the new tool. Once it feels secure or habitual, begin to apply the next tool. You can return to this list or inspire yourself with other ideas.

For a wealth of ideas, research, and direct experience with effective practice, please join me and my friends and colleagues March 14 – 17 at the Sedona Yoga Festival, Yoga for PTSD Training. I can’t wait to learn, teach, and commune with you!


  • Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD; Laura Stone, MA; Jennifer West, PhD; Alison Rhodes, MWS Med; David Emerson, MA; Michale Suvak, PhD; and Joseph Spinazzola, PhD. Yoga as an Adjunctive Treatment for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. 2014; 75(6): e559-65.

About the Author: Erin Byron



Erin’s Master of Arts research studied the benefits of Yoga practices in coping with Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and the literary review of the study equipped her for helping people with a range of physical and mental health concerns.

Erin is grateful for the opportunity to support others on their personal growth paths.

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