Aquarian Sadhana is a practice which was given to us by the Master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan in 1992. He believed that we needed this practice in order to keep up with these times -- fast-paced, confusing, stress-filled times -- and live our lives as victories.
In short, it is a specific two and a half hour practice during what's called the amrit vela, or the ambrosial hours 3:30-7am. (At MKY, we make it a little more doable by starting at 5 or 5:30am.) Here's how the practice breaks down:
Yogi Bhajan said, "The greatest reward of doing sadhana is that the person becomes incapable of being defeated. Sadhana is a self-victory, and it is a victory of time and space. Getting up is a victory over time, and doing it is a victory over space."
If you are learning about Aquarian Sadhana for the first time, you may find some of its aspects extreme or strange. I know how you feel. I felt the same when I first learned of it and started practicing it.
I was first introduced to this practice in Teacher Training, and it was a requirement. Truth be told, I didn't have a great attitude about this requirement. I had all kinds of internal complaints about it.
If you want to learn more about Aquarian Sadhana, I recommend the book Original Light: the Morning Practice of Kundalini Yoga by beloved devotional artist and Kundalini Yoga teacher Snatam Kaur. She goes into depth and unpacks each aspect of the practice based on her lifetime of experience, growing up in a Kundalini Yoga community and studying directly with Yogi Bhajan. There are so many beautiful nuggets to take from this book, but here is one of my favorites: "It is through a daily spiritual practice that is consistent, like the heartbeat, that we change the psyche to know -- on an elemental, psychic, physical, chemical, and spiritual level -- that we are in fact putting the soul first."
I encourage you to read this book or any other about this beautiful gift from Yogi Bhajan, Aquarian Sadhana. But more so, I encourage you to experience it. Join us or find a sadhana near you. Sat Nam.
Yogi Bhajan taught that happiness is our birthright and our natural state of being. The problem is that sometimes life disrupts that natural state or our own minds run amok with stress and suffering. With Kundalini Yoga, we can reconnect to our innate joy. For me, my primary happiness equation is Kundalini + Dedication to Practice = Happiness.
I've now been practicing Kundalini Yoga for more than two decades. In that time, some difficult, unhappy things have happened. Nevertheless, I've been able to move through the challenges and reconnect to happiness, even in midst of sadness. Sounds like an oxymoron, but it is not.
Some things on this human path are hard, unfair, maddening, tragic, but when we have a practice in which we relate to our soul, our connection to Source, the hard stuff comes into perspective and come what may, we can live our birthright.
In this blog, I've highlighted 5 aspects of the practice that unlock joy: breath of fire, dynamic movement, meditation, connecting to the authentic self, and chanting. With each, I've offered a way for you to try it on your own. See how it all adds up to happiness. Enjoy!!!!!!! In joy!!!!!!! Return to joy!!!!!! You are joy!!!!
Happy Breath. Breath of fire is one of the foundational breath techniques of Kundalini Yoga. If you've practiced breath of fire, you know that it delivers a nice, buzzy feeling in the body. For me, it provides instant relief in the mind because its rhythm and sound take over and everything else recedes. The equation is simple: Buzzy Body + Relaxed Mind = Happiness.
TRY IT: Breath of fire is a quick, rhythmic breath through the nose with an equal inhale and exhale. On the inhale, the belly expands a bit. On the exhale, the belly contracts. Ideally, you'll breathe at a rate of 2-3 breaths per second. If you are just beginning to learn, you can start slow and begin to pick up the pace as the navel action becomes natural. So, sit tall in a chair or cross-legged on the floor and try for 1-3 minutes. Do it everyday. You'll be HAPPY you did. Note: if you are pregnant or menstruating, do not practice breath of fire. If you become light-headed, stop, take some long deep breaths and start again when you feel better, focusing on an even inhale and exhale.
Happy Energy. In Kundalini Yoga, there is often an emphasis on dynamic movement. We do this because we want to get the energy flowing, the blood circulating, the spinal fluid moving. When we feel this pulsing aliveness in our bodies, we feel good. So too, through dynamic movement matched with the breath, we can move through old patterns of tension, pockets of emotional blockage, and stagnation in the body. We are also focused on raising the Kundalini Energy. Kundalini is so much: it is vitality; it is soul energy; it is awareness; it is our potential. Most of the time for most of us the Kundalini energy lies dormant at the base of the spine. We move to awaken it; to clear the pathway for it. Here's the energy equation: Pulsing Aliveness - Blocks + Awakened Kundalini = Happiness.
TRY IT: Cat-Cow is a great movement for the spine. Begin on the hands and knees, hands shoulder-width apart and knees directly under the hips. Inhale and tilt the pelvis forward, arching the spine down and lifting the head. This is the cow position. Think udders hanging down. Exhale and push the mat away and curve the spine like a mad cat, allowing the head and neck to relax down. Continue this movement for 2 minutes, moving rapidly. Do this everyday. You'll be HAPPY you did.
Happy Meditations. The mind isn't always our friend. We can make ourselves unhappy and suffer if we allow the stream of thoughts to overtake our experience. That's where meditation comes in. The meditations in Kundalini Yoga have specific intentions. We have a meditation to release anger, to calm the heart, to increase cognitive function, to relieve stress, to reclaim happiness, and many, many others. Regardless of the intention though, meditating daily and addressing the mental storms through meditation, will help you be happier. Meditation helps you cultivate a different relationship to your thoughts, so your thoughts don't own you, don't define you. When your thoughts don't own you, you realize you don't have to suffer with them. When you suffer less, you are happier. The meditation equation (maybe the most important one) is: One Meditation Per Day = Happiness .
TRY IT: There is a beautiful practice called Meditation to Reclaim Your Happiness. Don't you love that? We are reclaiming, rather than building, happiness because happiness is our natural state. If you'd like to give this practice a try, you can go to this video with Sirgun Kaur, Kundalini Yoga teacher and devotional artist. Try this meditation everyday and do this same meditation everyday for 40 days. You'll get the full benefits that way and RECLAIM YOUR HAPPINESS.
Happy Authenticity. One of our primary focuses in Kundalini Yoga is on the authentic self. Through the practice, we shed the baggage, peel back the layers of falsehoods in order to connect to our truth. How do we do that? One way we approach it is through the repetition of the mantra sat nam, which means Truth is my identity. Repeating sat nam to ourselves creates a focus on and a resonance with Truth. We thread this mantra throughout our practice and it becomes a ritual reminder to drop the masks, forget the expectations of others, and be our truest selves. In my mind, that is the path of happiness. If we are trying to live anything but our true purpose, what is aligned with our soul, we create inner turmoil. If we align, we lift that turmoil and bring ease and joy. Here's the equation: Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam + Sat Nam = Happiness
TRY IT: Repeat Sat Nam. You can do this anywhere any time. Inhale and silently repeat the sound sat (rhymes with hut); exhale repeat the sound nam (rhymes with mom). Continue as long as you like and when you're done, say to yourself, "I am in my Truth." Do this every day, several times a day. You'll be HAPPY you did.
Happy Mantras. Mantras and beautiful music remind us of the magic of the universe. Each and every mantra in the Kundalini Yoga tradition is a reinforcement of the fact that we are part of something larger than our finite selves, that the Universe supports us. Here are just a few examples:
In chanting mantras, we embody their messages. When we chant in the sacred language of Gurmukhi (not our first language), we bypass the intellect and inscribe the sound and meaning in our hearts. Besides, just the beauty of it is uplifting. This is the simplest equation of all:
Chanting = Happiness.
TRY IT: Chant. Here's a link to a sample playlist of songs with the above mentioned mantras. You can also search for each mantra on Youtube and find wonderful versions. Listen. Learn them and, most importantly, chant along.
For many years, I let my ego run the show. I thought I was entitled to things just because of who I was. I was a legend in my own mind. I lived a lifestyle that was way beyond my means.
Then, the universe gave me the wake up call I needed. Everything fell apart. I had to sell my business. I had to scale back on everything. The legend was dead.
I went into a very dark period for many years afterward. (Some of you know my story.) After hitting rock bottom and then some, I turned it around. I faced who I really was. I went for therapy and got well. I was happy again.
Then, I found Kundalini Yoga. As I grew in my practice and became a Kundalini Yoga teacher, I received the gift of feeling "I am who I am, and that's alright" (as I wrote about in my previous blog, "The Gift").
As I've continued to grow and evolve with this practice, I feel something even deeper and stronger. I feel the truth of the mantra Ang Sang Wahe Guru. Ang Sang Wahe Guru means the dynamic, loving energy of the Infinite Source of all is dancing within every cell of my body.
I now know that the Infinite is with me at all times. It took me a while to understand and accept this. But when I did accept it, it made a huge impact on my happiness. I know I can overcome anything by trusting my intuition and knowing that I carry the divine light inside me.
Everything we need is already within. It’s as if there's a signal from a radio station that is always being broadcast. We just need to tune into it.
One way to tune into it is with Ang Sang Wahe Guru. This mantra eliminates haunting thoughts. Under the pressure of fear, it helps us stay conscious and ready to act. It brings the inner peace of knowing that the Infinite Being is with me and vibrates in every molecule of my being.
So I say to you, Trust the Infinite within. When it’s a grey, cloudy day, you know that the sun is still there. You can’t feel the heat on your skin and you can’t see the brightness, but you know it’s there. The same is true for your heart. On your cloudiest day, you must know that you have God in your heart, and the divine will see you through.
Enjoy this version of Ang Sang Wahe Guru from GuruGanesha Band.
I want to share one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received: Lower your standards.
Not everyone agrees with this advice because it sounds, on its surface, like a road to mediocrity, but I believe that it's a road to steadiness.
The advice comes from poet William E. Stafford (1914-1993) who famously woke up everyday at 4am and wrote a poem. One poem every day before his family woke up.
How was that possible? The poet e.e. cummings said that a writer could spend 25 years on one line of one poem, and we know that writers agonize over their words and can be reluctant to call anything complete.
When Stafford was asked how in the world he writes a full poem every day in the space of a couple of hours, he replied, "It's easy. I lower my standards."
What I took this to mean is not that he didn't go back and revise ever but that he wouldn't let perfectionism stop him. He wrote a poem to an end in the allotted time every day.
The advice -- lower your standards -- applies to so many things in life (my favorite application is house cleaning), but I think it applies especially well to meditation. From one day to the next, we don't know how our meditation is going to be. One day it could be full of distracting thoughts. The next day, it could be very peaceful. We could feel a darkness pervading one day and showered with light another. In all scenarios, we are meditating and more importantly developing the habit of meditating. In all scenarios, we are showing up for the deep work of connecting to our inner wisdom and however messy it is in the mind, I believe our souls take notice.
So please don't let perfectionism stop you. Please drop your expectations of how meditation should be. You closed your eyes; you went within; you sat for the allotted time... you meditated.
It's not about having a perfect experience or blissing out, it's about showing up and moving through it. If we can liberate ourselves from perfectionism and keep showing up, we can be steady in our practice. And steadiness is the most important thing, providing the container for the wisdom to pour through, the insight to burst forth, the peace to rise to the surface day after day. That's what Stafford did with his writing practice.
Lower your standards and let the soul respond. If Stafford's body of work is any indication, it will. You can read one of my favorite of his poems below.
I know that some people avoid meditation because they think they can't do it or they won't get it right. If that describes you, I pray you will lower your standards because the rewards of doing so are many.
First from Cate: I got home, and I began to reach for comfort in the form of popcorn and mindless TV. This was a habit that did not serve me. (Please understand that I don't think there's anything wrong or bad about watching TV or eating popcorn, but, for me, it had become an out-of-alignment habit and unskillful way to seek relief.) But this night was different. I was returning home after a Sacred Cacao Ceremony with Shamanic Energy Medicine Practitioner Hyacinth Mills. It had been a blissful and profound experience, but nevertheless I got home and began to go back to my habitual pattern: sit on the couch at the end of the day, eat popcorn, and watch TV. I say "began to" because what happened was my body and soul said, No. Without the force of will, something within me revolted against the idea. It was as if I'd been purified by the cacao and all the patterning that led me to seek the couch in this way fell away. I couldn't do it.
As we prepare for the next cacao ceremony at MKY on Sunday, May 19th, I reached out to Hyacinth to tell her about my experience and to ask her if it was typical of what people can expect. The following is how Hyacinth responded to my question. Read her beautiful words about the power of cacao.
Now from Hyacinth:
Cacao is a medicine of and for the heart.
It gently allows you to peel back the layers to be able to witness, process and release what you have been holding onto, whether its limiting beliefs, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, actions or a mindset that isn't based in truth and love.
We all have a story or things that we tell ourselves are true. When you are able to see those stories and behaviors for what they really are, not who you really are, through the sacred spiritual practice of a Cacao Ceremony, you are able to dream a bigger dream for yourself and for your life.
Old patterns fall away, creativity and inspiration is enhanced and healing happens, often in ways you never imagined possible. It's not just a mindset, it's an energetic shift that you can actually feel over time and it begins with the first ceremony.
Cacao is a beautiful complement to yoga and other mind-body healing practices. It works on a physical level, allowing more prana or life force to flow through your body and to your heart, clearing emotional blockages and tension.
It works the energy body releasing trauma and energetic imprints and also the mental body through neurotransmitter activation and production of Serotonin, the feel good hormone, Dopamine the de-stressor/relaxant, Anandamide known as the bliss (Ananda) chemical, and so much more.
Cacao is known as Food of the Gods for a good reason.
There is so much to say but it is so much better to come and experience this sacred medicine ceremony.
Plants are pretty powerful beings and have so much to share. I believe we need them now more than ever which is why I love to share the magic and mystery of the true meaning of Chocolate through Cacao Ceremonies.
Join Hyacinth on Sunday, May 19 from 3-6pm for Sacred Cacao Ceremony & Shamanic Sound Journey.
Right NOW -- this weekend -- is a great time to make a positive change. It will be the New Moon in Taurus. As we learn in the teachings of Kundalini Yoga, the New Moon is always a powerful time to set a new intention. With this New Moon, the energy of Taurus supports lasting change. You can think of yourself as the bull -- determined and grounded in strength and confidence.
Are you thinking of making a change? Do you want to eat better? Move more? Wake earlier? Drop a bad habit? Shed a self-limiting or hurtful thought? Then, let's start NOW. If you've been considering a positive lifestyle change, start NOW. Give yourself every advantage.
I've put together a list of 10 tips (which includes seizing the opportunity of the New Moon in Taurus) for giving yourself the advantage and anticipating and helping yourself through some of the challenges of change because change can be tricky. Before I get to the tips, let's look at why it isn't always easy to step into new good habits.
No matter how much we want to step into a positive future full of good habits, our old patterning may threaten to overpower our positive intentions. Old patterning gets in the way in the form of discomfort. For example, you can imagine that you may feel off if...
In addition to the old patterns, we also have the constant chatter in our minds that can knock us off course. At times, many of us are flooded with unhelpful and distracting thoughts. Our minds can throw us off track. For example...
Kundalini Yoga has a plethora of techniques for overcoming the tricks of the mind and the entrenchment in old patterns. I've put together a list of them below with a couple other things thrown in. Pick the tips that appeal to you; pick the ones that you feel will nourish you and carry you through. But, for goodness' sake, support yourself. Spoil yourself with support! You deserve it!
Don't know who Syd is? Well, he's this super chipper Buddha who believes in you, believes in your vision and your ability to change. You can tell that he's saying, "You've got this. I love you." At MKY, we have a special connection to Syd because his creator is our dear friend and student, Ellen Atkins, aka the Suburban Monk. We are a proud Suburban Monk affiliate. You can click here to see all 14 colors of Little Syd, meet Big Syd, find out a little bit of how he came to be, and purchase a Syd for yourself and for your change.
I hope these ideas serve you as you move closer and closer to a vision of your life that is the most expansive and joyful and aligned. Happy New Moon! Happy Change!
From Cate: This month marks our three year anniversary as Montclair Kundalini Yoga (MKY). If you know Savitri and me, you know how much we value this community and how much we love what we do. Our hearts swell with gratitude when we think about reaching this milestone. I wanted to share with you all the story of how MKY came to be, and Savitri shares her thoughts on this happy occasion below too.
We started with an ending. Savitri and I were teaching Kundalini Yoga at a studio called Aquarian Yoga and that studio closed. We discussed how important it was to each of us to keep teaching and keep serving our students. In fact, continuing to teach felt as imperative as eating. So we endeavored to piece that together any old way we could. We heard that we could rent space from Deb Williams who owned the Ashtanga Yoga studio just a few doors down, so we did. We figured we needed an online scheduler, so we signed up for Mindbody. We realized that we needed a bank account and an LLC, so we got them. Oh, and we needed a Website too, a Facebook page, an Instagram...
It evolved like that in the early days of MKY -- without a real intention to become a business. We didn't have a plan. We had a desire. We had/have a passion for teaching and the teachings of Kundalini Yoga. We wanted to dwell, as often as possible, in the joy of watching our students go within, release stress, and grow.
And here we are. The power of that passion worked and yielded a beautiful community. Every single day, I am grateful for the people who've shown up, for the kindesses, the healing, the seeking I am fortunate enough to witness at MKY.
Now, we are developing a plan and becoming, as we like to joke, more and more "legit." Hence, our logo. We hope you like it! It makes us feel happy and very official... "2 Legit 2 Quit" (Dating myself with this one.)
On the road to becoming legit, we've been supported by angels. All of you who come to the studio and trust us to deliver these sacred teachings are our angels. There are many angels who deserve individual recognition and gratitude, and we will make sure to acknowledge them at our -- now sold-out -- celebration class (4/12/19). But no one deserves more appreciation than our teacher team member, and musketeer, Andy Steinfeld (Teg Avtar). He is infinitely generous with his time and energy. It is a rare, rare, rare, rare thing to have the level of heartfelt, unwavering support that he offers us and the MKY community, and we know it. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Andy.
And, I am so grateful for Savitri who has become a spiritual sister to me. Having the opportunity to create a community around spiritual practice with Savitri is, for sure, one of the greatest gifts of my life. Below are her thoughts on the occasion of our anniversary. She wrote to us during a week of silent retreat with her spiritual teacher, Adyashanti.
From Savitri: I woke up today to a symphony of congratulations online for the three year anniversary of Montclair Kundalini Yoga. I’m not supposed to be looking at my mobile device during this week of silent meditation at Garrison Institute, but that’s pretty hard in today’s world and to see our anniversary celebration get started made my heart sing.
Here, we overlook the Hudson River at its narrrowest point, with a rollicking waterfall on the opposite bank and all the early spring flowers in bloom. A row of the greenest bamboo sways, as if winter never happened. Like every morning here, I practice Tai Chi besides the bamboo thicket, hoping to erase the chaos and dis-ease from my body, mind and spirit as if it never happened.
Then off to early morning meditation. It’s Wednesday and we’re half way through this silent retreat with the wonderful spiritual teacher Adyashanti. His wife Mukti also teaches Chi Gung every afternoon, which makes it even more special. For four days now, we’ve been fully immersed in the quiet places within, the natural state of pure awareness that extends out as the net of Indra, the interconnectedness that we call our world.
Adya has skillfully guided us, with immeasurable compassion, on a journey of beauty, awe and tenderness for every part of ourselves and for each other. We’ve traversed the sacred path, through the facets of our uniqueness, that are at the same time Unified Oneness. Adya has led us through territories of spiritual insight and epiphany, combined with potent transmissions of light and wisdom that resonate those same qualities within us. Now as I write this, we all glow within this Buddha field we’ve created that contains us so luminously.
The first few days I felt completely expanded in a transcendent state, free of my conditioned mind and life. Then Adya guided us back to the ground of our being to redeem parts of ourselves trapped in fear and vulnerability. - He encouraged us to make peace with ourselves, to stop rejecting parts of our totality, to relax all internal conflict with our own minds as well as the external conflicts we hold on to - this is redemption. Only with acceptance for ourselves and acceptance of the viewpoints of others can true solutions and wonderful creations emerge like diamonds.
The definition of Redemption is - to heal, to make whole. “Let the healing begin” is our MKY motto and I think of my yoga partner Cate, Arvind Dev, and our three year anniversary today and give thanks for her in my life and for all our many diamonds... The latest diamond, our new logo, was so fun to collaborate on and emerged like shining jewel. But the most precious jewels are all the beloved people who come to practice with us.
After meditation and a Dharma talk with Adya, lunch was served in silence. So nice to just receive, no cooking, no ordering, everything taken care of so nicely for us. Today for lunch, we had a nourishing black-eyed pea salad, chunky beet and green leaf salad and warm whipped yams, fragrant with coconut milk, lemongrass and saffron.
A sense of abundance swept over me as I filled my plate. I’d skipped breakfast, and my senses were heightened from all the quietude, so my whole being opened to and delighted in the feast before me. I carried my plate out to the bamboo grove and nestled in the grass in the sun next to some daffodils. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the beauty of nature, for the miracle of such a spiritually supportive experience, for the community we share with all our MKY members, for all the beings in my life, great and small. And I was grateful for the miracle of the meal laid before me with such love. Every moment here has connected me with what is right and pure, what is beautiful, what is true... may every moment be such and, with Arvind Dev, may we continue to facilitate this kind of spiritual support for our community, which we are so blessed to be part of.
Under the gentle sun, as I scooped up greens and warm yams with my fork and raised them to my mouth: I invited all the scared, neglected, harshly handled parts of myself to come forward and enjoy. Peace within, peace without. I invited all our friends and everyone I love and will ever love to partake in this feast with me, to enjoy the bounty, to eat to satisfaction, no winners, no losers, only gentleness.
Let the healing begin.
If you sleep well and arise refreshed, then you don't need this routine or this blog. If you struggle with falling asleep, getting quality sleep, staying asleep, or feeling rested when you wake up in the morning, then try it. It works! You really can access deep restorative sleep.
The routine consists of a 15 minute meditation, a quick body scan, and a trick for beginning to fall asleep.
If I lost you at "15 minute meditation" because you don't like to "be with your thoughts," please know that in this meditation you are NOT with your thoughts. You are with mantra and a breath pattern. You don't give your thoughts the microphone. You give mantra the mic and the thoughts recede like muzak at the grocery store.
Will you give this a try? If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and I will respond as soon as possible. I'd also LOVE to have you come back and leave a comment when you're experiencing the results... because you will.
Over 10 years ago, I faced a devastating diagnosis: Breast Cancer. My disease forced me to undergo surgery and radiation; it also forced me to confront deep fear. That’s when I learned the Kundalini mantra Sa Ta Na Ma.
At the time, I had never heard of Kundalini Yoga, but I was practicing Vinyasa at a studio near my home, and I found that yoga was helping immensely with my ability to face this challenging and frightening time in my life.
Out of the goodness of her heart, the owner of the studio, came to my house the day before my breast cancer surgery to lead me through a visual imagery meditation in preparation for my operation. But just before she left that day she turned to me at the door and took my hand. “Say these sounds--Sa Ta Na Ma -- pressing your fingers like so,” she instructed, “every time you are afraid. This will help to calm you.” As luck would have it, she had recently been introduced to the mantra at a Radiant Child Yoga training (Kundalini Yoga for Kids), and she showed me how to press thumbs and forefingers as I said Sa, thumbs and middle fingers as I said Ta, thumbs and ring fingers as I said Na, and thumbs and pinkies as I said Ma.
This was a moment of grace because the mantra became my refuge. Although I didn’t know what the sounds meant yet, I took her at her word. As I lay on an examining table awaiting my surgery, I pressed my fingers together and silently chanted. As I went for radiation treatments, firmly secured in an immobilization device called a “mold,” unable to move even a fraction of an inch, I silently chanted the mantra. As I waited for test results, as I tried to fall asleep at night, as I woke up in the morning filled with fear for my future, I chanted the mantra. Somehow, I got through it all—thankfully, with the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma as my comforting guide.
The mantra Sa Ta Na Ma represents the creation cycle: Infinity, Life, Transformation, Rebirth. Some of you may know it from Kirtan Kriya, a popular Kundalini meditation which balances the hemispheres of the brain, and has been studied by scientists for its role in guarding against Alzheimer’s Disease. Sa Ta Na Ma can also be chanted to bring a sense of calm and peace. In fact, that’s exactly what it did for me.
Many years have passed since my diagnosis and I’m now cancer-free. I’m also a Kundalini Yoga teacher, and Sa Ta Na Ma is still my go-to mantra. I use it when I am worried about my sons, when I’m traveling, when the future looks dim or hopeless. I use it when the news is bad, when I can’t see the light, when everything seems topsy-turvy, whether in my personal life, or in the universe. I use it whenever I feel unbalanced or afraid—not just in dire circumstances, such as facing down cancer-- but to bring ease to the everyday challenges of living in these times.
Touching the tips of the fingers to the thumbs while chanting is said to light up and balance parts of the the brain, but I’ve also found that it balances the heart and restores a sense of trust.
Before I found yoga, I was a skeptic, a doubter, and chanting mantra was something I never even considered doing. Back then, life seemed random, unpredictable, and often quite scary. I questioned everything, including my own beliefs. But cancer led me to search more deeply, and yoga helped me to find my center.
“To believe,” my very first yoga teacher told me, “all you have to do is look up at the sky.” Whenever I doubted, her advice was the same: “Trust. Believe.”
Whatever else it may do or mean, for me, Sa Ta Na Ma will always be a mantra of trust. There is a cycle of life we can count on, and all is as it should be: Infinity, Life, Transformation, Rebirth. Sa Ta Na Ma brings balance to my brain, my heart, and my life.
Trust. Believe. Look up at the sky. And chant Sa Ta Na Ma.
Kathy (Harjot Kaur) has been practicing yoga for more than a decade and completed her Level 1 (200 hr) teacher training with Gurudass Kaur Khalsa. She began practicing Kundalini yoga six years ago; a breast cancer survivor, she found it to be a wellspring of courage, trust and joy. The author of the memoir Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman’s Quest for Balance, Strength and Inner Peace, Kathryn blogs frequently for the Kundalini yoga music website SpiritVoyage.com. Her spiritual name, Harjot, means “light of the creative Divine.” Kathy is excited to share her light and love with her students at Montclair Kundalini Yoga; she strongly believes that Kundalini yoga is for everybody and every body: There is something for everyone on this uplifting, heart-centered path. She is also a practitioner of Iyengar and Vinyasa yoga and is deeply grateful to all her teachers. Join Kathy on Thursday mornings for Kundalini Yoga & Meditation. She plays the gong for relaxation. Here's what one of her students had to say about her awesome classes: "Harjot is one of the kindest, most knowledgable, and fun-loving kundalini yoga teachers I have ever had. I started attending her classes almost two years ago; and, in that time, I have noticed significant shifts in how I live my life. Something major that has changed in me, which I most certainly was not expecting, is that I am now so much more comfortable DANCING! At parties, in my living room, on the street... through the compassion she radiates as a teacher, Kathy has helped me open up to joy inside of myself and let go of whatever shame and insecurity was holding me back from letting that inner joy out of me. I think the capacity to help someone feel completely unashamed of who they are is a true mark of someone who has been touched by Grace. I am so grateful to be her student." - Jacob, Parsippany
I made a mistake. I spelled a word wrong on a brochure I created, and I missed it. It got paid for and printed. It gets worse. The word was KUNDALINI, a word which as a Kundalini Yoga teacher and studio co-owner, you can imagine I type often and am expected to know how to spell. And it gets worse still... it really mattered because where I misspelled the word was IN OUR URL (www.montclairkundaliniyoga.com). When I opened the package of brochures and saw that glaring error, the first word that came to my mind was stupid.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. How could I miss that?
And stupid could have been on repeat and become my mantra for the day and put me in a I-ruin-everything-kind-of-funk. But then, I reached out to my friend Andy. I reached out to share my despair, but luckily he helped me shift my perspective right away.
First, he saw a simple solution that I couldn't see because I was too blinded by stupid, stupid stupid. We could print stickers with the correct URL and not have to scrap the brochures and pay for new ones. Then, he shared with me something he learned from his study of the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. (If you don't know the book, it contains a code of conduct that can lead to transformation, happiness, and freedom.) Andy explained that the First Agreement -- Be Impeccable with your Word -- refers to not only what we say to others but also how we talk to ourselves. He said I should embrace my failures rather than judge myself.
In his book, Ruiz explains that the mind is fertile ground, so we have to be careful, impeccable about the seeds we plant there. If someone calls us stupid or we call ourselves stupid, that opinion can take root and grow and infect our whole lives. The author gives an example of a mom who came home from work tired with a headache and found her daughter full of exuberance and singing. The singing became loud and the mom's head hurt more, so she snapped and told her child to stop because she had an ugly voice. That little girl never sang again.
I would venture to guess that we all can trace back to harsh words spoken to us in our childhoods that made us constrict in some way because we believed them. We believed them, repeated them, relived them, and then reinforced the "truth" of them for years and years and years.
To put it in a Kundalini context, we all have mantras, words that we repeat to ourselves. They can be negative -- stupid, ugly, lazy. They can be positive -- smart, beautiful, strong. Or they can be sacred -- Sat Nam, Ang Sang Wahe Guru, Ek Ong Kar Sat Gur Prasad.
Sat Nam - Truth is my Identity
Ang Sang Wahe Guru - The Great Infinite Wisdom vibrates in every cell of my being
Ek Ong Kar Sat Gur Prasad - The Creator and Creation are one, the Truth of this is the Guru's gift.
Now those are impeccable words. I think the more we plant sacred seeds the more the negative "weeds" that have taken root get crowded out. I obviously still have some work to do because stupid bloomed pretty quickly and took over.
This is the work I emphasize a lot when I teach, shedding the untrue, shedding the layers of conditioning from our upbringing and society that don't fit with the truth of who we are.
When I look at my mistake, I still cringe a little. Fortunately, thanks to my friend, it'll soon be covered up by a sticker and fortunately, I was reminded to be impeccable with my word and talk to myself with compassion.
The moral of the story is to catch the negative self-talk before it takes hold and, when that fails, have a good friend to remind you. May the Truth in you guide you to speak to yourself with self-love, and please, please, please chant some beautiful mantras.
Cate discovered Kundalini Yoga by accident over 20 years ago and was surprised and thrilled by how engaged, energized, and inspired it made her feel. She's been practicing ever since. In 2008, Cate completed her Level 1 (200 hr) teacher training with Hari Kaur Khalsa of Hari NYC. In 2012, she broadened her knowledge with a very special Holistic Hatha Yoga training (300 hr) with Amy Witmyer of Sacred Space. Kundalini Yoga is her home, her go-to sanctuary, her point of peace and insight. She believes that it is a wonderful tool for busy times and busy minds. Join Cate on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and Friday mornings for Kundalini Yoga & Meditation.