May 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
by Kathy Livingston
If you’re a KY practitioner at AquarianYoga Center you most likely know our gracious and beautiful teacher, Sevakpreet Kaur (Karolina). Sevakpreet became a Kundalini Yoga teacher in 2012 and we thought it would be interesting to ask her some questions about her experience as we are soon to offer our own Kundalini Yoga teacher training here at the center with Gurudass Kaur. (Call or inquire at the front desk—training starts in September and you can sign up now!) If you are thinking about becoming a KY teacher, please check out the Aquarian Blog Interview below. (Even if you’re not presently considering this path –or already are a teacher–this inspiring chat with Karolina is well worth reading!)
AYC: Why did you want to become a teacher?
Sevakpreet: Kundalini Yoga has been very transformational and life changing for me. After knowing and experiencing the effects of Kundalini Yoga, I began to feel I wanted to share this technology with everyone around me so they could use and benefit from it in their life. At first, I didn’t really know if I would actually start teaching in a traditional way, but I knew I would use this knowledge to help the people that I care about; my two sons, my family, my friends. Also, I knew going through the training would be enriching just for my own experience and understanding of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan. If I can improve my life and elevate myself to be the best I can be, it means I will be the best for the people in my life. Everyone you touch and are in contact with benefits if you are the best you can be. And that’s what a teacher is–touching and enriching the lives of everyone around you, starting with yourself.
AYC: How has teaching changed your life?
Sevakpreet: As I mentioned, when I decided to do the teacher training I didn’t know if I would actually teach. While in training we go through practicums where you teach a class to your classmates to complete the certificate. It was a very stressful time for me preparing for the practicums. After my first class though, I could not believe how well I did and how positive were the reviews of my classmates and the two teachers evaluating me! This was a life changing experience as well for me. Being a teacher means holding the space for the students to go through the experience. It means the teachings are flowing through you and the students feel safe in the space you hold for them to go deep into the experience. It is not about how great a teacher you are or how much you know, it’s about being able to connect to that part where you are not a person, not yourself, not a woman or a man, you are a vessel for the teachings to flow through! This is actually the Oath of a Teacher in Kundalini Yoga and I completely understand and I feel just that. When I am teaching, I forget about everything except being a teacher for the students in my class. I can say my life has been greatly transformed since I became a KY teacher!
AYC: What is the most important thing you learned from the KY teacher training?
Sevakpreet: Oh, this is not an easy question! Everything I learned and experienced during my teacher training is the most important thing, everything! Every single day we learned more and experienced even more. Kundalini Yoga teacher training is an intense and challenging training all the way through. But, if I have to single out one thing, I would say it was the group community that we built over the course–you know, Kathy, something like with the Child Play Yoga Training we did here at Aquarian Yoga Center in September of last year. That was only three days and you remember how well we connected with all the students, the teacher, we became a family! This is what I learned with my KY teacher training as well! The most important lesson, I guess, that you can learn with Kundalini Yoga is the feeling of being one with everyone. And the best way is in these classroom environments where you go through so much processing that you see in all of your classmates, everyone is you and you are all of them. You recognize the oneness. We all have our own story and once you start sharing it with others you see that your story is not much different than that of the person sitting next to you in class! I just became so aware of the workings of the human mind, soul and spirit. The mind tells us we are different until you reach out with your soul and see and touch the spirit in the people around you. The technology and science of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan in a teacher training environment brings out the very basic understanding of the importance of becoming a KY teacher. Spread the Love, Light and Peace to all because We are all One!
AYC: Why would you recommend this training for others?
Sevakpreet: KY teacher training is not just training to become a teacher, it is training in life! Whether you start teaching or not, you learn life lessons that will transform how you approach and live life. It will teach you to Be You! “Life is a lie if you do not achieve your Self for yourself!” – Yogi Bhajan
AYC: How did your training expand your understanding of the Kundalini yoga teachings? Do you go deeper, or what?
Sevakpreet: Oh, you most definitely go deeper! I feel the connectedness with the Golden Chain of teachers before me, with Yogi Bhajan, and I developed this connection with few of the other gurus, like Guru Nanak and Guru Ram Das. Most of all, I feel this connection with Baba Siri Chand, one of the gurus who lived to be 135 years old and looked like he was 20. Not for that fact but because he had a special lesson for me. Through his story I understand the life of a teacher (and we are all teachers, one way or another) is one of sacrifice, humility, compassion, and most importantly losing the ego. The teachings of Kundalini Yoga are vast and you can go as deep as you want. We learn and grow throughout our entire life. As Yogi Bhajan said, “If you want to know something, read about it. If you want to be an expert on something, write about it. If you want to learn something, teach it!”
AYC: Is there any advice you have for someone who may be considering doing the training but can’t decide?
Sevakpreet: If you have thought about taking the training, just do it! You know it’s coming from a place within you that knows better! I recommend this training to anyone who understands the importance of becoming a KY teacher. Anyone who feels they can learn more to become better for their own selves and for the people around them and the environment. Anyone who feels the call that there is more they can do with their lives. If you’ve thought about it, you know it! But words are good for just so much. Let’s get into the experience now! See you in class!
March 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
By Kathy Livingston
AYC: I’m sure many of our yoga students will be excited to learn you are offering prenatal yoga classes! Why is prenatal yoga beneficial for moms-to-be?
RL: Practicing prenatal yoga will help stretch, strengthen and relax the body in preparation for childbirth, while relaxing the mind and the emotions as well. Yoga helps to make more room in the mother’s body for her growing baby, as well as for her own organs as they shift with each passing month. A prenatal yoga class also offers a time of community and reconnection with other moms-to-be.
AYC: Can you explain a little about the method you use—the Khalsa Way?
RL: The Khalsa Way Prenatal Yoga was developed by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, and is based on ancient teachings learned from Yogi Bhajan. Two important elements of Khalsa Way yoga are meditation and attention to the breath. As I learned from Gurmukh, a mother can teach her baby to breathe and to meditate before birth. As a mother deepens her breath, she deepens the connection to her baby and to her inner resourcefulness. The baby then learns this calm breathing pattern before even entering the world. The baby also learns and remembers the sweet, connected state imparted by meditation.
AYC: Sounds wonderful.
RL: I find this method of prenatal yoga to be a very complete, well rounded and authentic form of yoga. Some forms of prenatal yoga only focus on preparing the physical body for childbirth. The Khalsa Way Prenatal Yoga will help increase the mothers’ awareness of the entire pregnancy and birthing experience.
AYC: How do the postnatal classes benefit new moms?
RL: After taking the first 40 days or so to rest and connect with her new baby, mothers can begin to practice yoga to assist in the healing process after childbirth. Postnatal yoga will help the mother regain strength in the body while offering mental release from her demanding new role as a mother. In this class moms will practice gentle postures to reacquaint themselves with the abdominal muscles and to release tension in the neck, shoulders and low back.
I also like to keep the invitation open for moms to include their new babies on the mat during these classes, as a way to bond energetically during their yoga practice.
AYC: When are the classes being held?
RL: Prenatal classes are being held twice a week, on Tuesday and Sunday at 12:30 pm.
AYC: How did you get interested in teaching pre- and postnatal yoga?
RL: When I was 19 years old I witnessed a pregnant woman (about 5 months) go into urdhva dhanurasana (upward bow pose), which is a very intense backbend. I viewed this as the coolest thing I’ve ever seen, and my young mind immediately said, “that will be me!” Sixteen years later my perspectives have evolved significantly. I do not teach backbends in my prenatal classes, and I have since discovered a strength that is not only rooted in the physical, but also is rooted in love and divine grace. As a teen I was very active and health conscious, always dancing, exercising and eating well, so from my perspective this woman appeared extremely vibrant, confident and liberated. It absolutely fascinated me. This was a good introduction to yoga for a spunky teenager.
RL: Mommy & Me classes are a beautiful way to bond with your child. The structure of each class will vary according to the ages of the children. Moms will assist babies and toddlers into various yoga postures, while children ages 3 and up can participate independently.
AYC: Are there other benefits?
RL: Yes, yoga aids in brain development as it helps children develop coordination, concentration and mental focus, while creating a healthy physical body. The world is new to children and babies, and they learn mostly from exploring and having fun. During a Mommy & Me yoga class, we fuse fun and focus. As parents and children practice yoga together, they will be moving, stretching, breathing, laughing, and taking turns. During this bonding between parent and child, trust is built, self-confidence is fostered, and children begin to develop respect for others and their environment.
AYC: Sounds like a lot of fun! And you’re also teaching new Hatha yoga classes at the center, too!
RL: Yes, they’ve already started. I hope to see you there!
Editor’s Note: Please share and spread the word about Rosie’s wonderful new prenatal, postnatal, mommy & me, and Hatha yoga classes. Click here to find out more about AquarianYoga Center’s growing schedule of classes!
March 21, 2013 § Leave a Comment
By Kathy Livingston
AYC: How exciting to learn that you are offering classes for teens and tweens! Why is yoga so beneficial for teens?
SNK: Yoga is great for teens because they’re under so much stress, like all of us in this really high-pressure time and culture. Yoga really helps to strengthen the nervous system and to build focus and attention, which helps kids in school. It also helps teens deal with all the anxiety in their lives–fitting in, wearing the right clothing, and all the challenges that come along with growing up, being a human, and figuring out who you are. Kundalini yoga in particular is so helpful because it guides us to come to our true self, our Sat Nam, our true identity. It helps us to take away the masks that we wear and really shine.
AYC: Does it improve self-esteem?
SNK: It really does! Through Kundalini yoga, you come to accept your body. Along with the practical things like coordination, strength, flexibility, balance and lung capacity, it works on the whole mind-body-spirit connection.
AYC: I remember that the “monkey mind” chatter was really out of control during my teen years.
SNK: That’s common–especially during those tween years. Teens and tweens may not even really know what’s bothering them; they just know that they may be feeling out of sorts. During the teen years, the hormones are raging, and Kundalini yoga helps to balance the endocrine system, which is all about the hormones. To quiet the monkey mind as a teenager or at any stage of life is a real gift. Give yourself the gift of yoga; it will give you back the gift of your true self, your Sat Nam.
AYC: What would you say to parents who are wondering about introducing their teen or tween to this practice?
SNK: Kids are facing so many challenges and if they are drawn to something like this, there will be so many benefits. But first, I would say to a parent, the student needs to want to be there. Even though we are talking about teens or tweens, kids are sophisticated. They know their minds, so they have to feel somewhat drawn, there has to be some sort of searching in their soul, a sense that they’re looking for something. Of course, they’re going to get the physical benefits; they’ll get stronger, they’ll get more flexible, they’ll find the balance and coordination; those things are a given. But on top of that, they’ll be able to quiet the monkey mind, focus, concentrate and be true to themselves. Then, hopefully if they’re in a situation and things are going on that they really know they shouldn’t take part in, they’ll be independent enough to know that “No” is a full sentence.
AYC: That’s a great way of putting it!
SNK: They’ll be comfortable enough in their own skin to pass by some of the things that kids experiment with. People take risks or self-sabotage when their self esteem is really low. But if they have a good feeling about themselves and strength of character and commitment they’re not going to put themselves in harm’s way; they’ll have a connection to their own spirit, and that is so very important during the teen years, as in all years.
SNK: The types of breath work that we do, the amount of time that we hold postures, but basically that’s the only difference. Tweens and teens are ready and if they’re willing they are able. I’ll design each class to the students’ needs. An 8 year old and a 12 year old are very different! The tween class will run for 45 minutes and the teen for an hour.
AYC: Can you tell me a little about the adult class you’re also teaching?
SNK: It’s a gentle Kundalini yoga class with restorative relaxation. I am very excited about that because there are a lot of people who are afraid to come to yoga class because they think they need to be a pretzel! I want them to know that in this class we are going to create a really safe environment to work at your own level and provide a really deep relaxation experience.
AYC: So the first tween and teen classes commence on April 18?
SNK: Yes, we’ll be meeting on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. I am thrilled and honored to be part of this community and I can’t wait to meet the tweens and teens that will soon be coming to my classes!
Editor’s Note: Please share this post with other parents, teens and tweens and help us spread the word about this wonderful new program at AquarianYoga Center. Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3:45 p.m.(tweens) and 4:45 p.m. (teens). Click here for schedule.
February 19, 2013 § Leave a Comment
by Kathy Livingston
Three years ago, when I first met my Kundalini yoga teacher, Akalsukh Singh, he was teaching two classes at a wellness center not far from my home. Although I’d been practicing yoga for five years, I was new to Kundalini, and only tried it because my internist—who operates the center—suggested I might want to give it a chance.
After my first encounter with Kundalini yoga, I continued with the practice and loved it so much that about a year later, when Akalsukh opened a home studio in Montclair, I decided to make the trek from my hometown a half hour away for classes. But there wasn’t much space in Akalsukh’s little apartment; only seven students could fit into his modest living room at one time. We practiced on the rug and sat on pillows, as there really wasn’t even room for our mats!
One day, after our practice, I got into a conversation with Akalsukh about his hopes for the future. He had mentioned to me before that he really wanted to open a Kundalini Yoga center, but didn’t know how it could happen. It was a vision that he held without actually knowing how the funding or location could ever appear. However, he maintained a strong belief that one day his dream would come true.
I asked my teacher if there was some way I could help, and he told me about a mantra that I might consider reciting. Called So Purkh, it is a shabad or prayer from the Sikh tradition given to us by Yogi Bhajan, the master of Kundalini yoga, that women can say for up to three men at a time. A few days later I decided to begin (adding my husband and eldest son to my prayers), though the complex twenty-seven lines, said in Gurmukhi eleven times a day for 40 days seemed a bit daunting at first! Nevertheless, I rose every morning before dawn to chant this mantra with devotion (I later found out that several other students had also joined in this effort).
Not long after we began reciting So Purkh, things started happening for Akalsukh and the community of students that had grown up around him. One student found the perfect space for a center (641 Bloomfield Ave: the address adds up to 11, an auspicious number, and we opened the doors on 11/11/11 at the onset of the Aquarian Age). Another student stepped up to invest financially, and soon others joined her. Within a matter of a few short months, the walls were painted, new floors were laid, a market place was stocked with yogi tea, clothing, CDs and other products, mats and blankets were purchased, a website was designed, teachers were hired, and we were in our new spiritual home. The pace at which all this took place was nothing short of miraculous! Meanwhile, we kept chanting So Purkh; we decided not to stop at 40 days!
I have watched this process with fascination and awe. During the past three years, I’ve been blessed not only by the many positive changes that Kundalini yoga has brought to my life, but also by the many wonderful people I’ve met, and continue to meet at the center. Classes are often full—as are Akalsukh’s beautiful monthly full moon and new moon workshops. The center has grown in leaps and bounds and continues to do so, and at every class or event I attend it is a joy to embrace the dear friends that have been with me since day one of this journey, as well as to welcome the many new students that are discovering Kundalini yoga and AquarianYoga Center each and every day.
This month, Akalsukh will be expanding the center once again, this time to include the space next door that has recently become available for our use. The center will be adding more classes (both Kundalini and Hatha yoga), children’s yoga, teen yoga and much more.
It’s exciting to watch this process of growth, and when I think back to my very first yoga class with Akalsukh three years ago (me, Akalsukh and my GP!) I can scarcely fathom the blessings that have led us to where we are now. Observing and being part of the journey of Kundalini yoga and AquarianYoga Center has filled my life with grace and my heart with gratitude. It’s also made me realize more than ever how truly generous the Universe is, and how certain it is that our prayers will always be heard and answered. Sat Nam!
Editor’s Note: Save on classes as you support AYC in its expansion of serving our community! Click here to find out more!
December 26, 2012 § Leave a Comment
“Caliber is the total capacity of an individual to communicate and to project one’s identity. It is a combination of the total personality.” ( The Master’s Touch, Yogi Bhajan p 187)
Guru Nanak said if you conquer your mind, you conquer the world. The murderer of the martyred children and teachers in Connecticut did not have much control of his mind. If you believe that we are all connected and one, you may wonder how it is possible for one of us to be so seemingly separate, so at the mercy of a troubled mind. And who is to blame? His parents, society, he alone? Complex questions that lead us down many disparate paths.
Recently while cleaning up my yoga papers, I came across a tiny slip of paper. On it I had scribbled only this:
Altitude = caliber
Location =the state
The concept of altitude and location are phrases Yogi Bhajan talks about in his essays, The Master’s Touch. I made sense of them by mapping the concepts of altitude and location with the concepts of caliber and mental state. I found that one’s altitude and caliber might be seen as the consistent level of consciousness you live at from day to day. Sort of like what grade you’re in at school. Whereas I understood location to be the mental, emotional state you visit at any given moment.
For example, if you are meditating, and have a peak experience, you visit a different location. You move into a state of heightened awareness for a few minutes, hours, or days. While this is immensely valuable (because now you know that location exists), you do not live there. Instead, you return to your day-to-day collection of comfortable, familiar locations or mental-emotional states. This habitual collection of locations which you inhabit, I see as constituting your caliber and altitude. Living at a different altitude and developing caliber takes significant but not impossible work.
While I make no claims to my own caliber or altitude, I can tell you that with the practice of Kundalini Yoga I had the palpable experience that I actually am the Light of the Soul; I am Thou. I was given a glimpse. And during this embodiment as the Light of my Soul, I saw that there is no place for defeating habits, addictions, or delusions. As the light of the soul, I experienced that these things do not exist.
In other words, when the soul gains “control” of the mind and mental state through consistent dedicated practice of Kundalini Yoga, these habits and less-elevated mental states start to fall away because they do not exist to the soul.
“Huh?” you may say: “How does it work?“ This is a topic that is better experienced than put into words. So please forgive my attempt. Here’s a simple analogy. Just as you brush your teeth every night to keep your teeth clean, you wash away the debris blocking the soul daily through your practice. It is a process. And a magnificent adventure. Always fun? No way. But the rewards are great.
I recently read a poem, “I Do Take Me” by Astarius Miraculii (copyright 2009 from Miraculii Song of Ascension). Astarius talks about his own past self-hatred and how he was able to shift to a new perspective stating, “Now every bond is Sweeter too; For Loving Me is Loving You.” He ends with a stunning line, “I DO TAKE ME TO BE MY SPOUSE.”
Reading the poem, I believe the author now lives from this latter place of self-betrothal. This is not a weekend layover. This is his daily altitude, his caliber. He is his own beloved because he has visited the location enough to realize and accept that he is the light of the soul, the universe, God.
We seemingly come into the world alone and leave alone. Yet our soul is always there wanting to be friends if we’ll allow it. Why not start to try to build a relationship with it? Yogi Bhajan urges his Kundalini Yoga students again and again in his lectures to “Befriend your soul!” This is the same idea that the poet-healer Astarius is expressing.
A friend commented that he felt we all created the murderer in Connecticut by the very fact that we allow so much dysfunction to exist in the world. If this is true, how to stop it from happening again? What steps can be taken? From a yogic perspective, we need to commit to marrying ourselves first. Then we can truly be the light of the soul and shine it on others.
*Disclaimer: the opinions expressed are the author’s only. This is my current understanding of caliber based on my readings, my thoughts, and notes. Others may have a different understanding and I am happy to hear their thoughts.–Kristen Hancox
December 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
by Kathy Livingston
Did you ever think about how quiet snow is, and yet how powerful, how all-encompassing it can also be? It falls gently, effortlessly from the sky without a sound, and yet can completely change our plans for the day!
I have mixed feelings about winter, because snow, sleet, rain and freezing temperatures are not my favorite things. Yet I also see the value—and the beauty—of a cold, snowy day. It encourages staying inside and going within. It can inspire silence—or celebration—as winter is also the time of holidays and getting together with family and friends.
In the days ahead, there are many events planned at AquarianYoga that celebrate and honor this special season, beginning with this Friday’s (December 21st) Winter Solstice workshop. This will be the first winter solstice event held at our center, and I know it will be illuminating in many ways.
December also brings our New Year’s Eve celebration with meditation, chanting, celestial communication, dancing, vegetarian food, and live music. What could be better than ringing in the New Year with Kundalini yoga? I hope to see you for some or all of this special evening.
Check the website for other exciting workshops coming up in January including an informative session with Kundalini yoga practitioner and physical therapist Russell Ditchfield-Agboh on the skeletal system. This is not a yoga class, but you’ll learn lots about the body and how to practice safely. January will also bring a workshop with Siri Sat Kaur, who was here last year as well. She always offers an inspiring workshop; in this one she will explore Kundalini yoga, the “gateway to magic.”
New and Full Moons in January will be beautiful on cold, starry nights so mark your calendars for January 11 (New Moon) and January 27 (Full Moon). I always look forward to the monthly Healing Power of Gong and Mantra workshop as well.
Winter is indeed a time of silence and reflection, but also a wonderful season to reach out for the warmth of friendship and spiritual community at AquarianYoga Center. Although wind, snow and sleet may sometimes alter our plans, a beautiful blanket of freshly fallen snow is also a gift; one of the natural miracles that the universe offers us with every change of season.
December 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
When I encountered my first Kundalini Yoga teacher 11 years ago, I was meandering through the streets of downtown Pittsburgh one weekend with a couple of friends who were visiting me from out of town. Suddenly, I felt a magnetic pull drawing me towards an odd-looking Japanese woman with a white Turban covering her head. My feet directed the way and I sat down in front of her to talk. Before I knew what I had gotten myself into, she was reading my numerology chart and demonstrating Breath of Fire.
Several days later, I was at her house one early morning for Sadhana and continued taking Kundalini classes with her for the remainder of my undergraduate days. This practice completely transformed my senior year as a Psychology major at Carnegie Mellon University. Instead of pulling “all nighters” (as they were commonly called) like many of my classmates, I started going to sleep before midnight and waking up at the crack of dawn for early morning Sadhana practice.
My beloved Kundalini Yoga teacher, Ellen Madono, guided me in effectively handling the challenges of University life by utilizing the powerful technology of specific Kriyas designed to release energetic blocks and raise one’s energetic vibration. In my final year at Carnegie Mellon, I was not only doing well academically (graduated with straight A’s as an Honors student), I was also more grounded and empowered than ever before. I attribute these results in large part to the practice of Kundalini Yoga, which taught me that spiritual discipline is a foundation for success in any area of life.
Editor’s Note: Akasha Kaur (Marina Livis) is a Licensed Social Worker, Certified Holistic Health Coach and Children’s Yoga teacher (trained in Radiant Child Yoga, Levels I-III and Yoga for the Special Child).