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kundalini yoga

in Inspiration, Kundalini Yoga, Spirituality

Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training

A Transformative Journey

I will never forget my first Kundalini Yoga class. I don't think most people do.

My friend Elsa, who was in the middle of training to become a Kundalini Yoga instructor, asked me to attend her "yoga" class, which she held out of her real estate office. I was experienced in Vinyasa Yoga so I was thrilled to have a chance to practice, no matter where it was.  LITTLE DID I KNOW...this was NOT Vinyasa.

"ONG NAMO GURU DEV NAMO!!!!!" Elsa chanted loudly to start the class. We were supposed to have our eyes closed, but I peeked through my right eye to see what the heck was going on. I had never heard of Kundalini Yoga before then but I decided to just go with the flow. I was absolutely stunned to see how effective this practice was in getting me to relax and quiet my mind in such a short time. Yes, I felt awkward at first, but after a few minutes my body remembered. It remembered that this ancient practice was a part of my ancestral lineage. It was a part of who I was. My soul reveled in this recollection and now all that was needed was for my conscious mind to catch up to the Truth.

And did it catch up!! I was hooked after the first class. I wanted to learn everything there was to know about the practice. I stayed up several nights watching YouTube videos and reading tons of articles about Kundalini Yoga. I read great things, controversial things, and also scary things, which deterred me for a while [ugh, fear *eyeroll*]. But then I came across an article about the Master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan, and I was surprised to discover that his birthday was the same day as mine. I took that as a huge sign from the universe. I wanted to go deeper....so after just a few months of being introduced to Kundalini Yoga, I signed up for Level 1 Teacher Training.

Image result for so it begins meme

TEACHER TRAINING

Level 1 Teacher Training took about nine months and was a pretty big commitment. Once or twice a month, we would meet all weekend long. The first day, my stomach was in knots.  I didn't know what to expect nor did I know anyone there. We all had to sit in a huge circle to introduce ourselves. I am naturally outgoing but speaking in front of 40 strangers gave me a bit of anxiety.

Truth be told, it went pretty well. As the months passed, we got to practice speaking in front of the class and interacted in smaller groups. We thoroughly discussed topics from our books and many personal matters on a one-on-one basis, which allowed me to get to know some of my fellow classmates on an intimate level. We even took turns in teaching our first yoga class in small groups. Oh, and the workload was not for the faint of heart. We had to read and take in A LOT of information but fortunately our teacher, Deva Kaur (a/k/a the Queen of Kundalini 😉 ), was amazing at explaining everything to us. For me, it all felt so familiar. It felt like home.

Our Level 1 Teacher Training Graduation Ceremony in Yoga Source

WHAT I GAINED

  • KNOWLEDGE: What didn't I learn!? We were taught so many things: The roots of Kundalini Yoga; yogic philosophy; humanology and yogic lifestyle; Western anatomy; yogic anatomy; awakening consciousness through pranayam, mantra, asana, mudra, bhandas, and meditation; the role, responsibilities, and identity of a Kundalini Yoga Teacher; proper yoga class structure; teacher etiquette; and SO MUCH MORE. The beautiful part about the knowledge we received is that we were not "talked at" all day long about these topics. Instead, we were very interactive and EXPERIENCED most of the things we studied.

 

  • GROWTH: My vulnerable side and I had been out of reach for yearrrrrsss. I equated it to weakness. Boy was I wrong. There is so much power in acceptance and vulnerability. We had to speak in front of the whole class at times. Other times we had to speak to a partner about a sensitive or personal topic. We were told to get up and dance in many instances. Or walk around the studio. Or lay down and suck on our tongues. Or chant with our eyes open. Or watch others cry. There was definitely no room for embarrassment or judgment here. These experiences helped me gain a stronger acceptance of myself and others. It allowed me to embrace vulnerability in a way I had not before, which helped me to grow as a person.

 

  • PERSPECTIVE: My perspective on spirituality definitely changed. It does NOT have to be serious all the time. For God's sake, life is meant to be FUN! For example, at lunch we were always given a delicious Indian meal. It was all good until those beans started kicking in and farts started flying out of people left and right. Man, I had my fair share of giggles. Also, there were times where we had to stay in baby pose for a while and I felt like I was drowning in sheep hair. I would sit up, spitting all over myself, trying to get the hair out of my mouth [in Kundalini Yoga, we sit on sheepskins while practicing]. This was the epitome of human-ness in spirituality. And I loved it.

 

  • PUSH PAST LIMITS: This training helped me push past the limits of my mind. Sitting on the floor for 8 hours was not easy. Plenty of times it hurt like heck, but I did it. Keeping up with the 40 day meditation challenges was also difficult, but I did it. Studying textbooks for hours and preparing class schedules was daunting.....but I did it. Your mind can play tricks on you and make the tasks at hand seem insurmountable...until you overcome them. Having the confidence and belief that you CAN do things is key; because in reality, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO. 

 

  • COMMUNITY: Lastly, I began to put my guard down and was more open towards others. I actually started to TRUST people! And I am glad I did, as I gained a sense of what a real community is. I felt supported, guided, and loved the entire time. I met some amazing friends and I was finally able to come together with members of my soul tribe who love me just the way I am.

 

Me, speaking at the Graduation Ceremony

HIDDEN JOURNEY

I went into Teacher Training with a insatiable hunger for knowledge. What I left with was far more than just that. In the process of learning the origins and intricacies of this ancient practice and the methods on how to teach it to others, I learned so much about myself.

It has given me such an appreciation for life (and my body) that otherwise I do not believe I would have attained. The relationship with my mind has significantly improved and continues to get better, one meditation at a time. Before being introduced to Kundalini Yoga, I was on a fast track to disaster. Unhealthy thoughts and habits, destructive relationships, stressful career, and harmful behavior patterns were my norm. I did not know who I was or the power I possessed as a woman.  I can honestly say that Kundalini Yoga played a big part in being able to let all that go. It taught me to self-reflect in order to self-correct.

In the span of nine months, I shifted right before my very eyes. The amount of transformation that occurred in that time is monumental for me. It brought me closer to my true authentic self.  I discovered that this was not a regular yoga teacher training, but a gentle nudge towards a profound inward journey.  I can honestly say that all of my classmates and I left this training a changed person, in one way or another. I recommend this training to anyone who is looking to teach Kundalini Yoga, but more so for those who are willing to grow and evolve as a spiritual being having a human experience.

SAT NAM!

Class Picture

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How Spirituality Changed My Religious Beliefs

Can I be honest? Like completely honest?

Growing up, I HATED church.

I was born into the Catholic religion.  I went to private Catholic schools all my life and attending church was mandatory. The problem was, I never felt comfortable. The solemn and gloomy energy was overwhelming to me.  I would actually feel scared to be in a Catholic church...heck I even had nightmares about it. The energy just didn't feel right. Maybe it was because I was a fearful child? But once I finished high school, I breathed a sigh of relief that I would never have to step foot in a church again.

Or So I Thought...

All types of destructive behaviors had a stronghold of me in the beginning of my college years. I was a rebel without a cause. I ended up marrying an extremely abusive person who gave me that final push into darkness. I was able to escape and was divorced 7 months later, but the damage was already done. My life was spiraling out of control, and FAST. At that point I barely believed in God. One of my friends repeatedly invited me to go to a Christian church with her and I shot her down faster than the speed of light each time. Finally, I said yes [don't recall if I was drunk when I agreed]. So there I was entering this new church, hungover from the night before, when I heard the band rocking out. I don't remember the song at all; I just remember the music emanating this feeling of joy that penetrated my entire being. I began to cry and people started putting their hands on me...and for once in a very long time, I felt ACCEPTED. This Christian church quickly became my new home. The vibe was so friendly and relaxed; I felt comfortable, I felt LOVED. I no longer felt as if I was broken or damaged goods. I had a renewed sense of hope and I thought this was where I belonged.

When my son's father and I got together, our common beliefs in Christianity definitely helped the relationship, but it was also the cause of some fights. I mean seriously, I am not going to hell just because I have tattoos or get tarot card readings from a Santera I know...SHEESH. We attended church often but there was STILL something deep inside me that didn't feel quite right, like something just didn't make sense...this feeling grew faint as we stopped going to church. Upon ending our relationship, I returned to church full force. Again, it gave me that sense of love, belonging and acceptance...but the 'off' feeling came back with a vengeance.

IF YOU ARE UNWILLING TO QUESTION YOUR BELIEFS, YOU WILL NEVER KNOW IF YOU ARE FOLLOWING TRUTH OR LIES.

I decided to embark on a truth-seeking journey which lasted months. I NEEDED ANSWERS...to what, I don't know, but I had a gut feeling I would find them. I read tons of research from credible sources on religion, spirituality, faith, science and all others types of topics. The more I informed myself, the more things started to make sense to me. Why the heck was I following outdated, man-made 'rules' from a book only written to control the masses? Why was I made to believe by the church that the only way God would love me unconditionally was if I met all of his conditions...HUH?  Lies after lies debunked...Simply put, I came to my own conclusion that religion is a corrupt institution made by man to control man. The cloud of confusion started to lift and the 'off' feeling dissipated. A spiritual teacher was put in my path and as she guided me through soul work, I discovered Kundalini Yoga. EVERYTHING CHANGED. Like the light switch finally turned on.

Spirituality Is Subjective

Working with my spiritual teacher and practicing Kundalini Yoga brought me PERSONAL EXPERIENCES in which I was able to FEEL my soul...I was able to FEEL God and KNOW that I am an extension of God...I was able to feel the vastness of LOVE and PEACE! The actual feeling of it is quite indescribable and it may seem crazy, but it is my truth. [By the way, no I don't use drugs lol] I learned that spirituality is subjective...you just have to experience it for yourself. The beauty of knowing that God is this powerful primal force of loving, Divine Energy which is permanently there for us wherever we go, in whatever we do, is so comforting. If I EVER need to feel loved, accepted, or worthy, I can just turn to my Highest Self, my soul...for God resides there. I don't need to look for these things externally; they already live within me. Discovering this totally freed me and for once, I finally knew what it felt like to be in alignment with your highest truth. 

My Religion Is Love

Beliefs are just thoughts that you think over and over and accept them to be true. They can change at any given moment if you want them to. HOORAY FOR THAT! I took all the beautiful teachings of compassion, love, forgiveness, and wisdom from various religions and combined it with my experiences to create a new belief system for myself. I wholeheartedly believe in God...I KNOW God exists. I also believe in angels and spirit guides [I have physically seen and dreamt about them]. So do I plan on going back to church? Who knows? Do I think other people should stop going to church? No. Every soul is on a different path in life; I respect everyone's journey. If the church gives you comfort in a time of need, do what feels right to you. Feed your soul in whatever way it chooses to be fed. There is no right or wrong in your walk of life, only lessons.

I can however tell you this about myself: I no longer need to use a fictional demon as a scapegoat if I don't take personal responsibility for my own actions, because I am accountable for myself;  I no longer need to fear evil or feel hopeless in life situations, because I know about the Laws of the Universe, duality, and contrast; I no longer need to go crazy trying to meet conditions so I can be 'saved', there is nothing to be saved from; I no longer need to feel that an ascended master [Jesus] who lived centuries ago is the middle man to God, because God already lives within me; and I don't need to belong to a religion to feel loved, because I AM LOVE.

Image result for love is my religion rumi

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My Experience at White Tantric Yoga

I recently attended a White Tantric Yoga event hosted by the studio where I practice Kundalini Yoga.

[Before diving in, I want to clarify that White Tantra is not the same as Black Tantra (directing energy to manipulate other people) or Red Tantra (directing energy solely for sexual purposes). White Tantra is a meditative group practice in the practice of Kundalini Yoga that directs energy to cut and release blocks from the individual's subconscious mind.]

My friend Elsa, who is actually about to graduate from her Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training, had attended a Winter Solstice White Tantric Event last year and although she didn't go into too many details, she did say that it was a bit like childbirth: extremely exhausting while you are there but the pain of it is quickly forgotten after and it does change your life. Gee thanks girl, not exactly what I call motivation! Regardless, I had wanted to attend out of curiosity and of course reap the benefits that this type of event proposes to give you. Yogi Bhajan had said that attending one of these events is equivalent to meditating 10 years in a cave. The claim sounds fabricated to me, but hey, why not!?

Not Quite 'Yoga'

The sea of yogi's dressed in white swarmed the auditorium. Everyone was told to find a partner and was directed to sit on the floor. We formed about 20 rows of partners sitting criss cross in front of each other. Although everyone was very friendly, I was grateful that Elsa decided to come with me and be my partner. Here I was, all dressed in comfy white yoga clothes, mentally ready to perform a bunch of rigorous, physical kriyas. HAHA! Think again Nelsy. All the exercises we did were meditative, meaning, hardly any movement was performed. In some of the kriyas, we were instructed to either hold hands and ask each other questions, hold each other's shoulders while looking into each other's eyes and chant the "Ang Sang Wahe Guru" mantra, or put our chin on each other's shoulder and chant the "Ardee Bhaee" mantra...EACH KRIYA FOR 62 MINUTES. Yes. 62 minutes.

Elsa and I

What I Learned From My Experience

Elsa and I shared several moments of vulnerability and intimacy during 2 of the kriyas by voicing our biggest fears, concerns, hopes, aspirations, and joys in life. We were open and supporting with one another. This taught me how it felt to be genuinely vulnerable with someone and BE ACCEPTED for who you are. After being hurt by so many people in life you learn to keep them at a distance. You build walls, masks, and false beliefs to avoid pain, criticism, and feelings of unworthiness...only to realize at the end that it does nothing but distance YOU away from your true, higher self.

We also shared moments of stillness and oneness while meditating and chanting together. Staring into each other's eyes while chanting made us laugh a little [OK A LOT], but the times we surpassed our laugh attacks and went still were very powerful. I felt how we are all connected. The feeling is pretty hard to describe but it was as if we mended or meshed into one, along with everyone else in the room.  Some people were crying, some were laughing [us], but all of us were in this experience together at the same point in our time space reality, separate but united.

Finally, the discomfort of holding positions with someone else for so long and being in such close proximity to others irritates and frustrates a few if not most people. Their squirms, loud breathing, opera-ish version of the chant, or maybe even body odor can be downright annoying. But once you get past all that nonsense, you kind of just surrender and accept the space you are in.  This taught me how to honor and accept my space while simultaneously honoring and accepting someone else's. No matter how loud they chanted or breathed, I loved them for it at the end.

Was It Worth It?

After the event was over, I was able to understand why Elsa had described the experience as childbirth. It was in fact very intense and draining. Holding a posture alone for 62 minutes was exhausting. Add the talking exercises, powerful chanting, and meditation and you are sure to be pooped by the end of the day. BUT MY EXPERIENCE WAS WORTH IT! 🙂 

Have you attended a White Tantric Yoga event? How was your experience? I would love to hear about it!

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