People ask me how I got introduced to Kundalini Yoga. Seven years ago I was seeking guidance from a spiritual teacher, Jim Tolles, during a time when I was “waking up” before I even knew what “waking up” meant or had any idea about what spirituality was. After some time he mentioned out of the blue that I should take a Kundalini Yoga class. He was honest in saying he didn’t know much about the specifics of Kundalini Yoga, but something told him strongly to tell me to do it.
Once I finally took my first class I never looked back. It felt like coming Home on the deepest level I’ve ever known. I knew soon after my first class my time with Jim was completed, even though he helped me not only get through but also grow exponentially during one of the most challenging times of my life. He even inspired me to start writing and create this blog. I’m very grateful that we crossed paths.
Today I stumbled upon this article Jim wrote which gives his views on Kundalini Awakening and Kundalini Expereince. It’s an interesting perspective on Kundalini Energy. Even though Jim isn’t a Kundalini Yoga teacher, after knowing him for more than a few years I trust he has knowledge about what energy is about and doesn’t take credit for knowing the specifics of Kundalini Energy. I think frankly he just doesn’t want to bother getting caught up in specifics, which I respect. He says it is best to, “allow the Kundalini energy to attend to itself,” only with a teacher who really understands the depth of Kundalini energy.
This got me thinking about the role of a Kundalini Yoga teacher. Perhaps this is just getting into the complex “specifics” of Kundalini Energy/Yoga, but I’ll go into it anyway. First and foremost we are all our own teachers. We carry that innate wisdom inside of us. As Jim states, everything can be a doorway to awakening. Kundalini Yoga/Energy/Experience is just one door. Yogi Bhajan said that in order to master something one must teach it. Yes, perhaps most teachers, especially beginning teachers, don’t quite understand the depths of energy they are dealing with in a class. However, teachers are required to go through an extensive teacher training program to at least start to understand it. Wisdom can only come with experience, which requires teaching. Yogi Bhajan’s legacy was to create teachers, not students. However, I’ve noticed the greatest teachers are also the best students. Teachers could be practicing for decades and still only be scratching the surface of the knowledge the teachings offer. At the same time there are a few teachers out there that have only been teaching a short time and understand the energy more deeply than an “experienced” teacher.
The tricky thing that happens is I see more and more Kundalini Yoga teachers adding other tools (which are valid by themselves) and calling it Kundalini Yoga even though it isn’t. Now you are seeing all different kinds of forms of Kundalini Yoga that are very different than the original Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan brought to the west. I think when in the wrong hands this could be just as detrimental as encouraging someone who is having a spiritual awakening to just be with it, go on a mountain, and not have any guidance in the process.
It is concerning to see students new to Kundalini Yoga or any spiritual practice that have these spiritual awakenings and don’t know how to manage it. This is especially true for those practicing Kundalini Yoga as it is like a rocket ship for awakening compared to other forms of yoga. If teachers are diving into other territories they are not a master of, then this can lead to that rocket ship going off into places they may not come back from in a balanced way. As a result people can become too scared to do Kundalini Yoga due the stories they heard, the misconceptions about Kundalini Yoga being a dogmatic practice, or having a traumatic experience with Kundalini Yoga because they did not have a qualified teacher/thought doing it on their own as a new student was enough.
Society is pressuring teachers to conform to what they want instead of letting the teachings stand alone in solidarity. None of this is bad. There’s conflict in the Kundalini Yoga world if this is the transition of how Kundalini Yoga is now wanting to be presented. But there is a huge caution sign that the average spiritual experience seeker or yoga student isn’t noticing. The teachings are very specialized and specific and need to be honored as such. Call me a purist, but I like to experience the teachings in the pure form. Even so, Yogi Bhajan influenced Kundalini Yoga with Sikhism which I am sure is a bit different than the Kundalini Yoga taught to the elite thousands of years ago. However, Yogi Bhajan started to study and master Kundalini Yoga and many other yoga practices as a child.
An even trickier thing is labeling absolutes to Kundalini Yoga certified by KRI (Kundalini Yoga Research Institute), not KRI certified, etc etc when all that matters in the end is helping a fellow person/student experience their soul on the deepest level so that person can listen to what their own soul is saying. One of Yogi Bhajan’s life long students, Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, who also created all the original KRI Kundalini Yoga teaching training manuals, reminded me recently to not get caught up in the absolutes or labels which I appreciated. At the same time I do trust knowing (hopefully) that I know what kind of class I am going to get when I walk into a class taught by a KRI certified teacher. Ultimately students are going to find the right teachers for them by who they are energetically drawn to, whether they are certified, not certified, etc.
In the end everyone is a mirror for the other person and therefore we are all each other’s teacher. More specifically, though, yoga teachers have a responsibility to make sure that they aren’t assigning their personal agenda to their class such as wanting to give them a personal high. Teachers are necessary to present the teachings which include the tools to balance all energies within. For me, Kundalini Energy isn’t just in the spine. It is birthed in every cell of Prana (life force) in and outside of every being. It happens to be awakened through the base of the spine and can be done so and maintained in a very balanced and systemic way through Kundalini Yoga. If that warm fuzzy feeling flows up the spine then great. If the student starts to feel more energy from the shadow or hidden self then great. If the student doesn’t feel much of anything then great, it’s still working on subtle levels. In the end, I’m glad that other spiritual teachers like Jim Tolles understand how sacred Kundalini Yoga is, just as all practices that create an opportunity for awakening.
Yogi Bhajan said that Kundalini Yoga is going to be the medicine for the future. One can see that it is already happening, which is why Kundalini Yoga is getting more popular by the minute. Wonderful teachers and Kundalini Yoga musicians are making that happen. I have to remind myself that although my life is dedicated to Kundalini Yoga it is still a not so well known practice due to it’s specificity. The specificity leads to a galaxy of internal freedom, though. Until Kundalini Yoga (and other forms of spiritual healing) become the norm working in harmony with western medicine instead of pharmacology ruling lives, don’t you think it’s a good time to start spreading the word about what Kundalini Yoga is really about?