Friday, January 10, 2014

Being a teacher

Being a Teacher

 By Shakti Parwha Kaur
"Just teach what you know, and teach people to relax." 
-Yogi Bhajan
On my own, I certainly couldn’t teach Kundalini Yoga. This is not false modesty. It is a fact I learned from Yogi Bhajan. Every evening before he sat down on the teacher’s bench at Guru Ram Das Ashram in Los Angeles, he would stop at the altar, hands folded in prayer. One time I asked him what he was doing. He told me he was praying, “Oh Guru Ram Das, I’m just a nut, please teach this class for me.”
He never took personal credit for anything. I believe this is one of the main reasons he was such a beloved and effective teacher. He had achieved incomparable yogic mastery, awareness, and power; he was not just an ordinary man, yet he downplayed the vastness of his mastery. We’ve all read in the Bhagavad-Gita about how the warrior Arjuna couldn’t handle the enormity of it when his “friend,” Lord Krishna, revealed the full glory of his cosmic consciousness. Yogiji didn’t want us to be overwhelmed by him; he wanted us to love his teachings—not him.
Whenever he was complimented, admired, or thanked, he always said “Guru’s grace.” He humbly acknowledged that God was the Doer of everything. He said, “I’m the mailman, not the mail; the water pipe, not the water.”
Training us to become teachers, he often warned us about the incurable disease called Spiritual Ego, which makes you think you’re really hot stuff. It’s easy to get such an inflated ego when you start teaching and people give you accolades. The only way to prevent this disease is humility. Surprisingly, however, there’s an opposite kind of ego—the pathetic, insecure little self that tells you you’re not perfect enough, or you don’t know enough to teach (as if you are the doer!). Yogi Bhajan once told me, “Just teach what you know, and teach people to relax.”
Yogi Bhajan didn’t give me a chance to worry whether I was ready to teach or not. His teacher-training program was quick and decisive, and I was his first trainee. Twenty-five yoga students were lying in corpse pose relaxing after an exercise when he said to me, “Now you teach the class.” Then he walked out of the room.[1]
I was terrified. I had been going to his classes for about six weeks. I had taken reams of notes, but I had certainly never taught a class.
Nearly panic-stricken, I feebly tuned in with Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, and told the women to stretch and sit up. Then I led them through the same sequence of exercises he had just given. That was a format he had often used, so that’s what I did. My mind was on automatic pilot. Somehow I managed to finish the hour. I don’t remember much about it except that my rendition of Long Time Sunshine was pretty sad.
It’s 36 years later, I’m still teaching, only now I’m not terrified. (I can even sing Long Time Sunshine without any mistakes.) I especially love teaching beginners, having them tell me how their lives have improved since they began practicing Kundalini Yoga is tremendously rewarding. Many of them have gone on to become teachers themselves.
I still rely heavily on Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo“Tuning in” is not a ritual. It worked for me in 1969, and it still works. It’s the direct “dial a prayer” number that invokes the guidance and consciousness of the saints and masters who preceded us on this path (including, of course, Yogi Bhajan—as well as Guru Ram Das, Master of Raj Yoga[2]). Chanting this “reverent greeting” sets into motion the cosmic law, “Where you bow, you will be blessed.” I feel truly blessed when I teach. It is my experience of Guru’s grace.
Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa was Yogi Bhajan’s first student in the United States. She has been teaching Kundalini Yoga since 1969. She was officially certified by KRI after completing the first Masters Touch Teacher Training Course in 1996. Author of Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power, Tool Kit for Teaching Beginners,and Kundalini Postures and Poetry, Shakti is currently working on Marriage: The Highest Yoga.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Meet the stylish, 34-year-old leader of Los Angeles’ Kundalini scene

Friday, January 3, 2014

Meet the stylish, 34-year-old leader of Los Angeles’ Kundalini scene

Guru Jagat is helping make the practice of Kundalini cooler than ever. (Photo:
Lately Kundalini has flowed from what-the-heck-is-this fringe status into the yoga spotlight. The mantra-based, super-spiritual practice is appealing to more mainstream sensibilities thanks in part to studios, like Golden Bridge in New York, whose celebrity clients and high-profile adherents (think: Gabrielle Bernstein) have popularized the method. And in Los Angeles, where one can never do enough yoga, Kundalini’s cool stronghold is palpable, with Golden Bridge’s outposts, andYoga West attracting their share of devotees.
The studio of the moment, however, is the newly-opened RA MA Institute in Venice with a charismatic young teacher at its center.
Thirty-four-year-old Guru Jagat, who earned her following at Yoga West and Golden Bridge, was teaching classes out of her guest house in Venice when burgeoning numbers—and a pull she felt towards a space for sale in the neighborhood—catapulted her into founding her own place.
(Photo: HealthyBitchDaily)
Opening night in May 2013 saw 300 attendees, and classes have remained steadily packed since. What to credit for the allure? Well, there’s the results that regulars swear to. Jagat explains that using Kundalini’s breathing, chanting, and posturing exercises is a “technology that activates the brain and endocrine system.” She’s seen it improve mood, anxiety, exhaustion, and fertility issues, among others.
“One of the reasons Kundalini’s the buzz thing right now is because anyone who tries it realizes it’s really quick and they feel so much better,” says Jagat, who was trained and given her name by Yogi Bhajan, the man credited with bringing Kundalini to the States. “People don’t have time to mess around. We need a fast technology to make us feel better.”
The method works for many, but the draw is also due to Jagat’s undeniable appeal. She’s down to earth and funny–not above self-deprecation or a ribald joke, and hangs with a chic crew of Venice wellness women (she counts Moon Juice’s Amanda Chantal Bacon and designer Susie Crippenamong her good friends). She rocks the standard white turban and garb of other master teachers, but often does so with vintage kicks, or a frayed denim vest.
Guru Jagat
Guru Jagat in front of the “Van Halen gong.” (Photo: Facebook/RAMAYogaInstitute)
During class, where she sits on a stage in front of a giant gong (which was initially made for Van Halen), she’s magnetic, anecdotal, and funny. Looking around, attendees are “yogic trailblazers,” hipsters, and older, longtime devotees. All “trade Spandex blends for fashion pieces and some old school eclecticism,” she says, proudly. And while a fair share of the movie industry walks through her door, ask her about specific celebrities and she draws a blank. “There are a lot of actors that come, but I don’t watch TV. I have no idea who they are. People have to point them out to me.” (She was familiar, however, with Demi Moore and Russell Brand, both of whom follow one of RA MA’s teachers.)
Her long term plan for the institute is to develop a yogic science university, not unlike Boulder’s Naropa. “I feel like we’re in the right place at the right time,” she says, “Just like how that was happening in the ’70s, where there was this cross section of a lot of amazing people and intellect and energy.” Throngs of Kundalini devotees seem to be feeling it, too. —Molly Creedan