Reginald Hubbard is on the 2023 Bhakti Fest agenda. We met years ago. Reggie was a big wig for an even bigger wig. I managed media relations for a major national civil rights convention attracting 10,000 people. In 2022, I found Reggie at an online yoga retreat, and my respect for him soared.
Working in a world filled with too much pessimism and skepticism, he looks forward to being immersed in a community of devotion and deep practice from September 15 to 17 in Joshua Tree, Calif. Bhakti Fest, the biggest gathering of yogis in the U.S., is always at the top of my travel list.
Among the many reasons why I want to soak up what Reggie offers is that he’s about much more than asana and breathwork. Reggie’s session is called Good Grief - A Sangha for Healing and Transformation. Through his workshop, he hopes to normalize the expression of grief and allow compassion to arise among the participants.
“Over the past several years, we have all lost something—a sense of innocence, a family member, an idea of what we thought should happen, a job, a loved one, or a relationship. We cannot open ourselves up to the magic of healing unless and until we hold space for the unavoidable, universal experience of grief.”
Reginald’s Path to Yoga
When I met Reggie, he wore a dark suit and tie. But his dream job wasn't the answer. He gave asana and meditation a try.
“I became devoted to asana practice to process psychological abuse, racist micro-aggressions, and a lack of support while working for a non-profit—essentially to keep from cursing out my boss and do my best to keep from being fired.”
Eventually, his pink slip arrived—via text. With no cussing or hard feelings, Reggie viewed the unprofessional insult as an auspicious omen.
He replied, “'I want to thank you for how poorly you treated me because you gave me the wisdom to deal with extreme adversity.’ It was then I knew that the yogic path was for me.”
His practice evolved from an initial stage of curiosity, to necessity, then devotion and service.
“I take the promise of yoga at its word and merge things together with a reliance on consistent practice, self-study, and a willingness to release what is no longer in alignment with my dharma. Now there is truly no separation between my yoga practice and what I do in the world.”
“Yoga has changed my life because it has shown me the power of sadhana and seva. Consistent practice over time has had a compound effect on my mental health, spiritual awareness, and ability to be of service to others and whatever situation I find myself in. The ability to consistently ground myself in peaceful, loving presence through asana, japa, and meditation has made me a better person, practitioner, and human."
In response to different life demands and spiritual interests, he adopted different practices, including nada yoga. “Sound has allowed me to still the mind to achieve deeper states of meditation, bringing on deeper healing, insights, discernment, and connection to awareness.”
Peace and Activism
“I occupy a unique space in the yoga world at the intersection of yoga and social justice, organizing, and activism. As such, I try to bring peace to activist communities because many activists run themselves into the ground. In yogic and dharmic spaces, I bring activist fire to push people from the self-absorbed self-care paradigm into a community-oriented approach. I try to bring peace to the overly active, and activism to the overly peaceful.”
The Chief Serving Officer of Active Peace Yoga, as he calls himself, views his role as “a steward of ancient wisdom practices in service to our collective healing and liberation. I'm not afraid of the deeper wisdom texts and yogic lore. Embodied philosophy, sound practice, and a focus on service are the ambrosia of yogic practice. That is why I am anchored in them.”
“Remaining connected to peace throughout the swirls of life has improved my ability to be present and of service to others. Wisdom arises. Compassion arises. Loving kindness, discernment, and loving service arise. Once we do the work to actualize an inner revolution toward peace and well-being, we must share it and maintain it.”
The Yale existential philosophy grad shares the teachings of the sages of all ages. Reggie cherishes two patron saints of his teaching practice. Jimi Hendrix reflects the manipura chakra and fire element while he views Prince as the sahasrara chakra, or connection to the divine.
“These cultural icons were unapologetic black male creatives who broke new ground and inspired countless people with their creativity and authenticity. Rooted in yogic wisdom and discipline, I seek to express myself in the spirit of Jimi and Prince to inspire a new reality over maintenance of the status quo.”
Reggie eschews the commercialization and modernization of the ancient practice.
In my book, “From the Boxing Ring to the Ashram,” I recount a pivotal moment for me at the Sivananda Yoga Farm in northern California. A karma yogi asked if I was planning to attend the teacher training. That remark changed my life. Until then, despite my 40 years of yoga practice, I never saw myself as a yoga teacher. I was not slim and trim. I was not young and pretty. I did not wear lycra.
While I felt “less than,” Reggie delights in not fitting into the Western yoga mold he describes as “vinyasa, asana-centric, body-obsessed, monochromatic, cis-gendered, slender, heterosexual, white female. As a bigger-bodied, black male, who teaches more from an embodied philosophy/hatha asana orientation rooted in social justice and collective liberation, I have no desire to be affiliated with a stereotype that cheapens the sacred nature of ancient wisdom and is exclusionary rather than inclusive.”
I applaud Reggie for shutting out unhealthy prejudiced societal messages.
Humanity is his Community
“Whether it be through my teaching practice, showing kindness to a stranger, sharing wisdom with others to keep them from unnecessary suffering, teaching peace practices to the activist community, nudging the spiritual community to be more engaged in social justice, or liberating pedestrian practice with creativity - I want everything to be vibrationally enhance
“I try to keep my practice rooted in the principle of dana, generosity. I encourage people to pay what they can, if they can. If people don't have any disposable income, I ask that they spread the word, say a prayer or some other gesture that is a suitable energetic exchange.”
High five. In fact, those prayers may be more valuable than the greenbacks.
Background on Bhakti Fest
Bhakti Fest celebrates the devotional paths of yoga, Kirtan (sacred music), and meditation. With a world-class lineup of musicians and yoga instructors, conscious workshops, and artisan vendors, Bhakti Fest offers the most heart-opening, consciousness-raising experience of any festival on the scene today.
The non-profit festival donates a percentage of its funds to charities and other nonprofit groups that provide food, education, and environmental beautification programs worldwide. Among them are Food for Life Vrindavan and the Seva Foundation.