How did you first start doing yoga?
I started doing yoga when a friend of mine, my spiritual buddy, started practicing kundalini. After a few months she said I have to try it. I trusted her that she knew me well so I went, and I loved it. At first I was self conscious about chanting and whether I knew the words, but afterwards I just felt so great. The first time the greatness lasted an hour, and then as I kept going that feeling continued more and more.
Were you actively searching for yoga at that time?
I was studying Buddhism and meditation and really exploring mindfulness at that time. So I wasn’t necessarily looking for yoga, it just fit in with what I was doing at the time and the questions I was asking myself. My vision of yoga was more of the vinyassa or hatha style, I had no idea that something like kundalini even existed.
What led you to exploring Buddhism and mindfulness?
At the time, I had a social life and work life that was good and satisfying, so I was thinking, what’s next? What other aspect of myself is there to develop? I think I’ve always been spiritual, but in the community I grew up, the only answers that were out there were Christianity or Catholicism. I thought I was an atheist because that model of spirituality didn’t resonate with me. Buddhism is very much in alignment with how I view the world.
So for you, spirituality was something you felt guided to, not something that was missing?
It’s interesting, someone said this quote that really resonated with me– You can either be pushed by pain or you can be pulled by intuition. I’m lucky enough that in this area of my life, I was pulled by intuition.
How do you reconcile Buddhism with kundalini yoga?
I haven’t found there to be a conflict. I think these particular groups of spiritual practices are very similar. A lot of times they are referring to the same thing but using different words. I take what resonates with me and leave what doesn’t. I use my own experience and my own intuition as my guide. If something doesn’t feel true to me, then I don’t abide by it.
What kind of shifts have you experienced since starting Kundalini yoga?
It’s overwhelming to even think about! Kundalini helped me feel more relaxed, confident, and less frazzled. I was always laid back on the outside but on the inside I would be on a roller coaster ride. So people didn’t know it, but I would always be anxious or nervous. With kundalini, I started feeling differently. It gave me a feeling that nothing can hurt me and that my soul is completely fine. And then after teacher training, everything has changed. I’ve had so many experiences that actually prove to me that this stuff is true. When I think of someone and they immediately call me, or I want something and it happens. At this point it’s not even an act of faith– it’s the most logical explanation for my experiences.
Have you had any other profound experiences?
Yes! We were doing a meditation where you prepare for death, or prepare your soul to ascend rather than reincarnate. In the meditation you have to breathe really really heavily. While you’re breathing, Yogi Bhajan is talking about how this is what it feels like to breathe right before you die, and it was terrifying to me. I was super tense. To breathe like that and feel my oxygen restricted was terribly frightening. Then he walks you through a visualization of you ascending into a white light, and I was having a hard time letting go. And then I heard this voice inside my head. It wasn’t me talking to myself and I wasn’t trying to calm myself down. It was that voice of intuition, a woman’s voice that said “it’s ok. You’ve died before. You’re going to be ok” and then I laid down and fell asleep. Totally asleep. And then I woke up and was like– WHAT WAS THAT?! People outside of me can say whatever they want but that was my spirit telling me you’ve died before and you’re going to be OK.
If you were an asana what would you be?
It’s a vinyassa asana, tadasana (mountain pose). You’re standing up tall with your hands down by your side. Your feet are connected to the ground but you’re pulling your energy up, so you’re also connected to the heavens. That is what I strive to experience in my yoga practice – to feel connected to the energy on the earth but also as a spiritual being connected to the heavens.
What does sat nam mean to you?
It has a double meaning. For me, its about my truth, what’s right for me? I can read or learn about something and differentiate that this is right for me and this isn’t. Truth is all relative. So that’s what sat nam means to me—finding what is true for me. My individual needs, my truth, and my value system. And it’s also given me a sense that I am connected to the infinite. I felt it before but didn’t believe in it or feel comfortable using those words, but now I do. That’s why I like sat nam. It reminds me of my truth, that we are all connected and all love.
What advice would you tell yourself before you were on the spiritual path?
1) You are never alone. To feel like you have to do things by yourself is a figment of your imagination.
2) There are other like minded people just like you. I really thought that I was the only person who interacted with the world like I did. Coming into teacher training and being with other like minded people was so validating. It was nice to meet other people who have the same set of values and really have the courage to act on them out in the world, because it gave me the courage to do the same.
3) Trust your intuition. Listen to that voice inside of you that knows what’s right and what’s wrong for YOU. If that voice inside of you is telling you something different from what society is doing, especially when you’re a teenager, it’s really easy to go against what your own inner voice is saying.