A man was alone on an island. Day and night he practiced Kundalini yoga with meditation, and chanted mantras to connect to the universe. One day a boat arrived at the island shore. A man got out of the boat and said to him, “You aren’t saying the words right”, then sailed away. The man on the island was alone again. He did not understand what had just happened, or what he was doing wrong. So he floated out to sea, until he reached the boat, and called out, “What’s the right way?” -original source unknown
A variation of this story was a teacher’s answer to my concerns during a Kundalini Sunrise class at Sanctuary Yoga. A true gift to the community, this free class is taught on early Wednesday mornings by couple Sohan and Siri Deva.
In what first appears to be for an exclusive religious group, Kundalini yoga is for everyone. Brought to the United States from India in 1968 by Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini is a comprehensive and spiritual form of yoga, described as the releasing of coiled energy at the base of the spine up through the seven chakras. The transfer of the stored energy raises awareness toward self realization. Through a combination of focused exercises, (kriyas), postures (asanas), breath work (pranayama), and chanting (mantras), it isn’t your typical yoga workout session in a trendy studio or gym.
At the start of the session, the couple sung gently in turn while Siri Deva played acoustic guitar. I listened to the words, fearful to mispronounce them. They shared that pronunciation was not what mattered, but intention. It is recommended to listen first.
My intention is to learn and deepen my practice (my life) so as to welcome and generate positive abundance infinitely. This isn’t about wanting things that are frivolous or just for myself.
Throughout this post, there are many educational links provided for you to explore. Here is a link from my first session with video of the exercises lead by guest teacher Cynthia.
The kriyas were then followed by a meditation with recording by artist Dev Suroop Kaur.
Embracing connection of community and awareness, I wanted to know more about this practice from a personalized view. Graciously, Sohan agreed to answer my questions in the following interview. May this serve as a stepping stone in your own practice, whichever way that may be.
How did you two first meet?
We met at the largest Kundalini Yoga event that happens every year near Espanola, New Mexico, the 3HO Summer Solstice Sadhana Celebration. It’s a festival that includes daily morning sadhana, communal healthy meals, daily yoga workshops and camp community service and more. We were on a service exchange team together working to welcome and check-in new arrivals. It was fun to work with the team we were with and we spent a lot of time together. We also took some yoga classes together and did some partner yoga. This was while he was living in Oregon and I was living in Florida.
On a side note, there is also a 3HO winter solstice sadhana celebration just before Christmas every year in Lake Wales, FL. It’s a cozy 700 people, where as the summer is about 2000 people or more. We met at the summer festival in 2013 and were married at the winter festival in 2014, a year and a half later.
When did you first begin your Kundalini practice?
Mine began in 2008 when I was in a car accident. It caused some shoulder and neck pain that the chiropractor and massage therapists just couldn’t seem to fix. So my mom introduced me to some hatha yoga videos. It gave me a nice body focused introduction to yoga. Then my mother (who was already a yoga teacher at that time) mentioned something about ashrams she was looking at in her Sivananda yoga tradition. I had to google to see what that was all about. It turned out that there was a Kundalini Yoga ashram about 5 minutes from my apartment in Orlando. (The Baba Siri Chand Ashram in Altamonte Springs, FL, I designed their website later). We went together to check out the classes that March and then it took me a little while to go back, but I did and just kept going. The community is awesome and so are the teachers there.
What is most challenging about your practice?
In the beginning it was choosing one meditation or yoga kriya and sticking with it rather that trying to do 5 at a time and over loading my system trying to do everything. Right now I am working on focusing on a style of meditation called Japa. It is the continuous repetition of a mantra all day, everyday. Sometimes it’s done with a mala, but you can also do it without. It’s a practice that takes time and mindfulness to develop. The reward is that your entire being vibrates the mantra continuously and imbues your whole vibration with this energy that can help you when you need it.
What keeps you practicing?
It’s just something I do everyday, like brushing my teeth or taking a shower. While that makes it sound mundane, it actually describes how essential the practice is to my life. I can feel the difference if I don’t practice everyday and so there is no question or decision. It’s like having dirty teeth all day, only it’s a dirty mind and energy field. Some folks in the community call it mental floss or a mind shower.
There’s also the impetus to bring the community together more and more. Kundalini yoga is a special practice and it is all thanks to the community. We share a special spice tea called yogi tea after most classes and have time to chat with everyone. The community gets together for special sadhanas to celebrate and potlucks to hang-out or to do clothing swaps and different things. It’s a lot of fun to spend time with folks who are on a spiritual path and have the continued support of others who live a like minded life. Make no mistake, Kundalini yoga is a lifestyle well beyond the practice of meditation and yoga. It supports your healthy life if you choose to.
Do you have a favorite mantra you would like to share?
If it only were that simple. Currently I am working with the mantra Ang Sang Wahe Guru. It means that the Divine Essence of All is vibrating in every limb and cell of my being.
The information below is from http://www.spiritvoyage.com/mantra/Ang-Sang-Wahe-Guru/MAN-000024.aspx
Translation: The dynamic, loving energy of the Infinite Source of All is dancing within my every cell, and is present in my every limb. My individual consciousness merges with the Universal consciousness.
More Information: Ang is ‘a part’. Sang is ‘in every,’ or ‘with every’. Wahe is ‘the indescribable living ecstasy of Infinite Being’. Guru is ‘the knowledge that transforms your mind, emotion and essence.’ The whole phrase means, “The Infinite Being, God, is with me, and vibrates in every molecule and cell of my being.”
This mantra expresses a universal truth. Repeating it creates a thought, which gradually guides the psyche to adjust itself. It re-connects every fragmented projection of the psyche, each separated part of the body, and synchronizes the finite sense of self to the Infinite Oneness. This act of rejoining the separated parts is the quintessential act of healing. Under attack, under war, under the pressures of fear, this meditation keeps us together, conscious, and ready to act. It brings the inner peacefulness that comes only from the touch and scope of spirit.- Gurucharan Singh, Director of Kundalini Research Institute
Anything else you would like to share:
Anyone is welcome to the morning practice. You can do as much or as little as you want or can and visualize the rest. Part of the benefit of sadhana is that you get there and the group energy helps you along even when the practice isn’t perfect. That’s why it’s practice! Any donations to the Amala foundation on our behalf are wonderful because we are so grateful that Sanctuary Yoga lets us use the space to offer this free class to the whole Austin community.
These are links I share with everyone about the morning practices and Kundalini Yoga.
More Information on Kundalini Morning Sadhana: morningsadhana.org
- Mantra Explanations and Recordings
- Mantras and musical resources for purchase
- Recorded Kriyas and Meditations from Sohan
- Kriya Instructions on Paper
- Yogi Bhajan Videos and Kriya Instructions – Library of Teachings
Japji App for study: https://www.sikhdharma.org/japji-app/
Live stream daily sadhana from Millis, MA Ashram: http://livestream.com/sikhdharma/millissadhana
We have a ton of videos on Youtube that are full meditations and kundalini yoga kriyas for people to practice with. There is one that is the heart beat meditation for beginners, but the magnetic field and heart center kriya is probably the most popular. That, or the new lungs and circulation.
This facebook group is announcements about all Kundalini yoga sadhanas in Austin https://www.facebook.com/groups/265109813626515/
More about Sohan and Siri Deva here: