Walking the Spiritual Path (An Interview with KYTA)
(In early 2016, Hari Karam Singh was interviewed as a "featured teacher" by the UK teacher's association, KYTA)
How did you first ‘meet’ Kundalini Yoga?
I’ve had a lifelong interest in all things mystical and the combination of a growing discontent with modern life and my “recreational” activities in university had led me to begin studying Eastern esoterism. After graduating in 2002, I came to London to pursue a career in music. Between the financial and the culture shock, it was not an easy time. One day my new flatmate said she was going to a “Kundalini Yoga” class up the road in Stoke Newington and asked me if I’d like to come. I had no interest in “yoga”, stereotypically believing it to be just the modern aerobics (oh the irony!) BUT “kundalini” is a word I had come across in my readings and interested me immensely so I went. From the first tuning in, I knew I had found something special. It was also good that the teacher played cool music – Gurunam’s Triple Mantra IIRC – I was a total music snob and had he played Snatam the first time, I’d have run for the hills. I love Snatam now 🙂
That class was my sanity for a while but it eventually ended and a newly acquired girlfriend filled the gap so-to-speak, but about a year later, I had the thought “There’s something to that Kundalini Yoga. I need to find it again”. I went on a hunt and found Guru Kaur’s classes at Pineapple Dance Studios. The rest is history!
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What inspired you to become a yoga teacher?
I had no interest in being a “Yoga Teacher”. I still don’t, really. I’m much more interested in learning and practicing. However, I’ve felt compelled to teach more lately because I feel like I’ve learned some things and that someone’s life might benefit if I share them – someone like me 10 years ago.
Me doing Teacher Training was all down to this one-liner delivered by Guru Kaur. I had been going to class 3+ times per week for 2 years. She was organising the next group and was nudging me to join in. I wasn’t interested – I had a decent occupation and I couldn’t see the point. She organised a lunch after class one Saturday as an information session and asked me to come, so I did. As the others present enquired about certificates, subjects covered and whatnot, my attention was drifting out of the second story window of the World Cafe overlooking a summerly Neal’s Yard. Then Guru Kaur dropped this line: “What we do in class – isn’t really Kundalini Yoga. Teacher Training – *that’s* Kundalini Yoga”. I paid that evening, as well as wrote the 500 word essay she required answering the question “What do *I* bring to the party?”. She was good!
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What inspires your personal practice?
If you study some of the stories of human excellence from the ancient yogic traditions you begin to get a sense of just how exalted a human being can make him/herself and how much higher this bar of achievement is then what we call “great” in the Western world. I want to be worthy of the company of those great yogis.
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Do you have a favourite sadhana? or a particular tool that you return to again and again in the teachings?
Stretch Pose. It took me 5 years to build up to 5 minutes. If you see me in the morning, I’ve done it – I haven’t missed a day in years. For me it’s the single most critical thing in KY to do. It’s the anchor that keeps you steady even in the most turbulent energies – whether they be from intense meditations or intense drama. That and Frogs – 108 a day was the first 40 day sadhana I ever did (thanks Sat Charan Kaur!) Still working towards Yogi Bhajan’s goal of “270 in 4 minutes”…
Pran Chakra is a gem amongst gems. 17 minutes to ecstasy…
Japji – Everything you ever wanted to know about spiritual reality in 39 verses or less.
Turban – Not saying what *you* should do but for me it was huge – the moment I finally defeated the inner desire to “fit in”. There’s only two ways you can go when you wear it publicly: uniquely inspiring or uniquely insecure – and you’ll be tested on which you are. I nearly got fired from my job when I first started wearing it. A few months later they were offering me a partnership. It also makes yoga and mediation *way* more effective.
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Is there a specific teaching from Yogi Bhajan that you take guidance from?
“Feel good, do good, be good. These are the only goods you can take with you. The rest belong to the Earth”
“The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan”, the book of quotes – man it is good. If you don’t have it, go get it now…
I also love these ones from his teacher: “Dull words never penetrate,” “The aged wolf loses it’s teeth and then decides it’s going to be vegetarian”
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What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a Kundalini yoga teacher? How did you keep up through it?
Authenticity and authority. I believe they both come from being experienced in something rather than just learning the lingo so for me expanding my knowledge and practice are the most important thing.
I also have a list I call my “Spiritual Bollocks” list which consists of words and phrases I try to avoid in class. They include things like “projection”, “chakra”, “infinite”, “at a cellular level”, excessive use of “really” and “energy”. It’s not that these words aren’t valid – sometimes they are the best word for the task – it’s just that it’s too easy to cover up one’s knowledge gap with lofty terminology. When I hear myself saying them too much I ask myself “what are you really trying to say?”. I like my friend’s version on an Einstein quote: “If you can’t explain something to your mother-in-law then you don’t understand it yourself” (Einstein: “a six-year-old”).
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What helps you to keep up on an everyday basis?
Homemade Yogi Tea. A cup in the morning is officially part of my sadhana 😉
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What practical advice would you offer to a teacher starting out on this path?
A couple pieces of solid advice that were given to me early on:
“The people who come out the best from this experience are those who keep going to a regular class during and after Teacher Training”.
“Don’t go quit your day job. Your inner life is about to become very unstable. You’ll appreciate having some certainty in the outer portion.”
“If you want to know how you are progressing, don’t pay attention to how you look, how you feel or even what thoughts you have. Look at the details in your external world”.
Sat Nam! Godspeed!
Hari Karam Singh