As the fiftieth anniversary of the famed Woodstock Festival approaches, the organizers of the annual “Flower Power Cruise” reached out to the Integral Yoga Institute of New York to help re-create, on their April 2019 cruise, the inspiring Yoga vibes that Swami Satchidananda shared on the Woodstock stage in 1969. A floating music festival, now in its fourth sold-out year, the 2019 Flower Power Cruise cruise was the first to offer complimentary Yoga to everyone on board.
The cruise was on the Celebrity Infinity ship (named Valletta under the flag of Malta). The ship carried 2,100 guests and a crew of 1000. Between Hope Mell, Garuda Buss, and us (Karuna Kreps and Shankari Cichon), we brought two centuries worth of Integral Yoga practice and history to the cruise. We had taught all over the world, but never on a ship at sea. We set sail from Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday afternoon, passing Cuba and reaching St Maarten on Tuesday. Wednesday we headed to San Juan.
Every day we taught Yoga classes in the morning and afternoon. We had the lovely aft top deck for our classes. While the ship felt steady underfoot, balancing poses were a major challenge. Sometimes the wind picked up or our angle to the sun made shade hard to find, but it was a great space… so open and freeing. By the end of the trip, even Nick, our sound tech guru, was doing poses during classes.
We shared the teaching of classes. Every morning, we instructed an hour of traditional asanas and deep relaxation followed by what the cruise advertised as a separate session, a half hour of pranayama and meditation — it had to end before the daily ship’s morning announcement came over the loud speakers. In the afternoon, we taught one hour of varied subjects including Hope’s Joint Freeing Series and Garuda’s Stress Management class. Each day, placed on the beds during turn-down service, every passenger received an inspiring, unique quote from Swami Satchidananda, printed on the ship’s daily announcements. Their uplifting tone was a gift even for those who did not make it to Yoga class.
The food was never ending, very well prepared, and varied. For breakfast there were pancakes/waffles, muesli with dried fruit and yogurt, a fresh fruit bar, and Asian-English-American full breakfasts offered. And always coffee and tea and fruit juices. Lunches always had a complete salad bar, stir fry and a pasta bar, and soup and sandwich offerings and dinner had all that and a dedicated vegetarian corner and desserts. There is no way to go hungry on a cruise ship. The serving staff on our cruise line was amazing. All our servers wore tags with their names, jobs, and countries of origin. What a UN of workers: Romania, Russia, Pakistan, Greece Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Serbia, Philippines, Canada, et al. Our waiters in the Trellis Room were Jesus and Christ. Really. We often ate on the aft open deck beneath the rooftop terrace. That is how we met our favorite band on the trip, The LSB Experience from the Netherlands. They serenaded us at lunch. There were many big name bands from the “flower power” era—some tribute, some with a few original members. Among them were: The Beach Boys, Tommy James & The Shondells, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Jefferson Starship, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Yardbirds, Cheech & Chong, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap, The Who Generation, and many more. Everyone really enjoyed the entertainment.
Sailing on the Celebrity Infinity, the Yoga classes we taught were held on the sports deck — a newly added relaxation and entertainment area named “Rooftop Terrace”—a multi-functional venue with modular furniture, cabanas, and a large LED screen. Efficient and decorative signs with short quotes about Yoga clearly pointed the way from two decks below to the quiet place atop the ship where Integral Yoga could be found. On the Rooftop Terrace was an ample supply of brand-new Yoga mats, imprinted with the Flower Power Cruise logo, as well as clean towels that each student could use for extra padding. We distributed handouts with sketches of the Yoga poses onto which students clung lest they blew overboard.
Students of all levels came for the Yoga classes and most showed up repeatedly. Almost all were in their sixties and seventies. A few were taking a Yoga class for the very first time. Two Yoga instructors attended regularly. For some, it was their first introduction to Integral Yoga. One of the production crew compared our classes to the stretch Yoga classes she had taken in the past and said they could tell we were teaching the real McCoy.
In the seven days of offering classes and ongoing, casual conversations about Integral Yoga, we saw visible progress in physical flexibility, steadiness, and strength of the students. Some showed up on deck early for classes and lingered after the closing chants. Some passengers joined us for classes on the Rooftop Terrace and some of them for conversations in the lounges on the lower decks. The four of us often wore teaching whites that stood out among the colorful tie-dye worn by most of the two thousand passengers. As our group of yogis formed a presence that was easily identified, fellow passengers would occasionally ask us about Yoga or stop to tell us how it had changed their lives. We could see how they were able to sense and embrace within themselves an experience of calm inner stillness. Yoga practice on board provided everyone with regular and ongoing opportunities enjoy a brief but profound vacation from the generous sensual stimulation available round the clock on many of the other decks of the Flower Power Cruise.
To commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock, we were also invited to give a presentation about the history of Woodstock and how it was opened by Swami Satchidananda. That hour-long panel discussion with vintage video was given in a cozy lounge and recorded. It may be seen here.
You can visit https://flowerpowercruise.com to learn about upcoming cruises. The 2020 Flower Power Cruise sold out just five days after our 2019 cruise ended. So, the producers have announced the addition for next year of a second Flower Power Cruise. On the proposed musician line up is one of Swami Satchidananda’s long-time students, Felix Cavaliere, lead singer of The Rascals. We and the students we met onboard sincerely hope that Yoga classes will remain an ongoing component of the many memorable and delightful cruise experiences that set sail in the future.
(Photos courtesy of: Joan Shankari Cichon)
About the Authors:
Karuna started teaching Integral Yoga Hatha in 1968 at the first Integral Yoga Institute in NYC, under the guidance of Swami Satchidananda. Her company, Net Ingenuity, has built and managed many websites about Yoga. She now lives with her husband in Austin, Texas.
Joan Shankari Cichon
Joan met Swami Satchidananda at a talk in NYC in the summer of 1968. She recently returned from pulling her tiny trailer home up the West Coast, through British Columbia and the Yukon, to Alaska. Previously, she has walked the Camino de Santiago (a pilgrim trail across northern Spain), wandered among the Pompeii ruins, and stood at the rim of Mount Vesuvius. Currently based in Tucson, Shankari continues her nomadic existence while writing.