11 Reasons to Attend Denver ChantFest


by Erin Mathiason

I’m a yoga festival junkie. I’ve been to Hanuman, Wanderlust and Tadasana, and too many Yoga Journal Conferences to count.  The first Denver Chant Fest? As you can imagine, I’m excitedly counting down the days. But maybe you’re just not sure yet if you’re going.  Here’s eleven reasons from this yoga festival junkie why you should attend Denver Chant Fest (it’s just too good to narrow down to ten!):


The Chanting. While this may seem obvious to those of you who already love the call and response chanting known as kirtan, what if you’ve never tried it before? No prior experience is necessary, and you don’t have to be a Sanskrit scholar or even know a single Sanskrit word to fully participate. Expect to experience some of the best (and best known) bhakti musicians/kirtan leaders in the country, including Jai Uttal and Dave Stringer. C.C. White may be newer to the kirtan scene, but with her amazingly soulful voice and incredible energy, you don’t want to miss her!  Whether you’re up dancing or meditating during kirtan, prepare to be taken into an experience of bliss and love.


The Yoga.  I’ll be taking classes with Janet Stone and Bryan Kest for the first time at Denver Chant Fest and I can’t wait! Janet Stone kicks off DCF with “Down n Dirty/Ganesha in Motion” on Friday night with DJ Drez providing the beats. One word comes to mind: empowerment! Bryan Kest studied in India with K. Pattabhi Jois, the man who brought Ashtanga Yoga to this country. Need I say more? Like Govindas and Radha, Saul David Raye will be teaching yoga and leading kirtan during the event. Raye, one of my favorite teachers, may be a little more chill with the yoga, but his devotion always shines through. 


It’s Local. This home-grown festival ain’t no corporate yoga conference. The organizers of this event are the same local yoga practitioners who bring you Friday Night Yoga Club, Yoga Rocks the Park and CorePower Stapleton.  The Denver Chant Fest line-up includes some of the best yoga instructors and kirtan leaders from the area including Shannon Paige, the Pushpams, Patrick Harrington, and Scott and Shanti Medina (to name only a few).  And what a great way to meet other Denver yogis and yoginis!


The Venue.  The Sherman Street Event Center is no ordinary venue. According to the website, “The Sherman Street Event Center was built in 1906 and features a beautiful Byzantine themed grand ballroom with a wraparound mezzanine. . .It is considered to be the finest example of Moorish Revival architecture in the region and is listed on both the National and Colorado Registry of Historic Places. . .” The Sherman Street Event Center is located at 1770 Sherman, close to hotels for out of town participants; the Warwick and Hampton Inn & Suites are offering discount reservations. The venue is also near to nightlife spots if you want to keep the groove going and coffee shops for an early morning boost. 


The Food. Never mind that the venue is within walking distance of great restaurants (about ¾ miles from both City O’ City and Watercourse), fantastic food will be available right at the event site. Chef Rich will be serving his “Globally Inspired, Locally Created” options like Banh Mi and Memelas in his Chef Driven food truck. The Crock Spot food truck promises “gluten free, vegan, sugar free, low carb, high protein, kid friendly options ALWAYS available,” which includes their “rotating build a bowl menu.” Highlands area Wafflich will be on site as well. Wafflich makes unique sandwiches from locally-sourced, organic ingredients. By pressing each sandwich in a wafflemaker, it is easy to share the sandwich with your yoga friends, also known as “wafflizing.” (Good thing I’ll be burning all those calories. . .)


The Nexus Vendor Village. One of the highlights of any yoga festival, even for a non-shopper like me, is the vendor village. Be sure to bring extra spending money as the already incredible list of vendors for the Denver Chant Fest keeps growing! If you love jewelry, you’ll find a half dozen amazing jewelry vendors in the vendor village. Yoga accessories will be available from Natural Fitness and Catspaws Cushions, along with women’s clothing from Beckons Organics and Autumn Tenyl Designs. Colorado-based companies Groove Herbs and Living Tree Soaps will be bringing body care products. For you foodies, there will be Teatulia organic teas, Happy Leaf Kombucha and Sushumna Chocolat. Shapiro Chiropractice and Denver Integrative Massage will be available to take care of your body. There will be books from Boulder Book Store, singing bowls from Tibet Imports, handmade sandals from Nomadic State of Mind, spiritual intuitive readings with Kamala Easton and so much more. 


The Murtis. With all this chanting of the names of God, you may want to know more about the deities. Dr. Manoj Chalam and his wife Jyoti will be presenting “Symbolism of Hindu and Buddhist Deities and Their Relevance Today” on Saturday afternoon. (I know, you’ll have to make the tough choice between kirtan and this class, but if you haven’t heard the Chalams’ speak before, at least consider it).nout. It took a long time for Manoj to figure out that his calling in life is to assimilate and teach spiritual practice and philosophy through the symbolisms of Yogic Hindu art which he now imports from India. Manoj has also compiled a book on Hindu and Buddhist Symbology. nout. It took a long time for Manoj to figure out that his calling in life is to assimilate and teach spiritual practice and philosophy through the symbolisms of Yogic Hindu art which he now imports from India. Manoj has also compiled a book on Hindu and Buddhist Symbology. The Chalams’ will also be selling their amazing murtis/spiritual statues from India in the Nexus Vendor Village.


Wellness Classes. As if the chanting and yoga weren’t enough, the Denver Chant Fest includes wellness classes on Saturday and Sunday with top-notch presenters. Saturday kicks off with “The Seat of the Bhakta” with certified Pilates and Yoga Instructor and former professional dancer Cher Aslor. New York City yoga studio owner Bryn Chrisman will introduce the premier film screening of “Women of Bhakti,” a movie that includes Shiva Rea, Sarah Ivanhoe, Sharon Gannon, Wah! and more. Kamala Easton, Ph.D., author of Autobiography of a Yogini:  A Black Woman’s Love Affair with her Guru, will be presenting “Embodying the Goddess Kali” on Sunday morning (and there’s more!).


The Grooves. The “top consciousness” music alone makes this festival a stand out. After accompanying Janet Stone for the kick-off yoga class, DJ Drez joins the Luminaries on Friday night for a not-to-be-missed dance party. Then there’s MantraMatrix’s trance-electronica to accompany Saul David Raye’s Saturday morning class and Solo(moon’s musical accompaniment to the Sunday morning yoga class. For those of you who love to dance, Rhythm Sanctuary Offers free ecstatic dance on Saturday afternoon. 


Kid-friendly activities. Bring your kids to Denver Chant Fest on Saturday for a free Kid’s Kirtan with Jai Uttal, in celebration of his album Kirtan Kids: The Elephant, the Monkey, and the Little Butter Thief. Stick around in the afternoon for some “kid friendly” food at one of the food vendors and then enjoy the free Ecstatic Dance with Rhythm Sanctuary later that afternoon, where “participating children” are welcome.


The Bhakti.  Bottom line, it’s about the love. Denver Chant Fest offers a time and place to surrender yourself to the joyful devotion of the chants, to feel the bhav (spiritual emotion). By participating in a weekend like Denver Chant Fest, we raise not only our own vibration but also the vibration of the community (and, perhaps, even the world!). 


“To be in such a tidal wave of bhav with everyone is the way I would like to spend the rest of my life.” ~ Shyamdas