By Ravi Singh
Before the world turned, way back in 2018, I was asked to join the Yoga Alliance Advisory Panel for Teacher Training Standards. It was recognized that as yoga morphed into a commodity, monetized to the hilt, too many people were becoming certified who weren’t necessarily qualified. A course correct was in order. Our panel put forth a white paper outlining higher standards for yoga teachers, but in that process, I realized that what was really needed was not a make-over for yoga education but essentially a do-over. After all, what we had then was really a glorified database. All a teacher or school needed to do was turn in the requisite paperwork and voila, instant credibility. There was no real vetting involved. In response to that state of affairs, I resigned from Yoga Alliance and helped to found Yoga Unify with the intention of upleveling the yoga profession.
It’s an inescapable fact, that yoga studios rely on Teacher Trainings to remain financially viable. Many Trainings are led by instructors who are barely out of Teacher Training themselves and yoga students are often not in a position to discern the difference between quality and mediocrity.
Yoga Unify did make somewhat of an impact, and was cited in Yoga Journal as a “Game changer in yoga education,” but the Pandemic curtailed our momentum and we “met our fate on the road we took to avoid it,” i.e., the need to remain financially viable threatened to overshadow our core precepts. For that and other reasons, I’ve chosen to dedicate myself to Evolving Kundalini.
In January of 2020, Premka’s book, White Bird in a Golden Cage, sent shockwaves through the Kundalini community. It depicted Yogi Bhajan’s (heretofore to be known as YB) unethical behavior in a way that left no room for doubt. Many Kundalini students and Teachers chose to walk away from the practice and in some cases, burn their manuals. That was a perfectly understandable response because, after all, many had learned Kundalini Yoga in a kind of bubble, with only a passing reference to the greater continuum of All Yoga. For many, the 3HO experience proved dangerous for the freedom of their own psyches and the growth of their own soul. For many creatives and independent-minded Teachers it was a conglomerate of mediocrity.Some 3HO trained Teachers labored under the erroneous assumption that YB had “made up” Kundalini Yoga.
That’s because the only source material they had access to were labeled as ‘The Teachings of YB.” These were our options then:
1. Walk away from the Teachings.
2. Sweep unpleasantness under the carpet and blithely proceed in deep denial
3. Move forward with integrity, having confirmed that Kundalini Yoga was not solely the invention of YB but an extension of the sacred signal as broadcast through Guru Nanak et al.
Having chosen Option 3,
EK has risen from the ashes of the 3HO debacle. Throughout the decades that Kundalini Yoga was practiced and taught, there were creative and independent types who did their own investigations, relied on their own experience, and chose to be leaders rather than followers.
We are moving forward as an ethical container and conscious community. This requires that each of us take responsibility for its forward momentum. We can’t expect others to do this work for us. We are autonomous beings and are our own authority. We are dedicated to embodying our practice and trusting our own experience. Premka’s book revealed only the tip of the iceberg of the corruption and harm perpetrated and abetted by YB but the inconvenient truth is that YB’s contribution in presenting a body of Teachings can’t be ignored, but the source of these teachings always has been the Infinite Teacher. And for the record, let it be stated unambiguously: YB did not “make up” Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini Yoga has a proven pedigree that is readily apparent to those who are willing to do even a cursory investigation. Kundalini Yoga represents a universal construct. It’s a shabd-centric system. It’s based on kriya science. It’s a tantric system that embraces what works: conscious breathing, rhythm and resonance, and tuning in to the sacred signal. Most of the mantras in Kundalini Yoga can be found in the Holy Book of the Sikhs and other yogic sources. As we do our practice and tune into the source of these teachings this becomes more and more evident. In my own case, I learned these techniques, practiced them, and out of that arose an experience that is ongoing and has informed everything that has
followed. Everything else is incidental. As we always say, Kundalini Yoga belongs to the people who practice it. We’re not saying that to be patronizing. It’s a literal statement.
Enabled by the 3HO model, I have seen that many entry-level Teacher Trainees relate to Kundalini Yoga in very much a logical and linear manner. Kundalini Yoga is a tantric practice and honors the true intention of “kriya” which is spontaneous flow.
As Teachers only time will put us in a position to be able to connect certain dots. Until then the scope of what Kundalini represents can be daunting. This system and context is so vast. One’s intellect tries to fill in the gaps but leaves one floundering.
As we progress on our path those dots will connect. Look up Kundalini, tantra, Patanjali… on Wikipedia and your confusion will only increase. Time is the great revealer and there’s no substitute. This holds true in every venue of the human experience as one transits from novice to master. Thus, so that Kundalini Yoga can truly evolve, it is imperative that we Kundalini’s are trained well.
Kundalini Yoga is an emergent system and that means no one can stop it from evolving. We are all part of that process by passing on what we’ve found to be authentic and true. The Evolving Kundalini initiative is the perfect venue to have discussions around what the party line has been in 3HO and what’s really true.
Also: what makes Kundalini Yoga Kundalini Yoga? How much leeway do we have until it becomes something else? We’re not going to solve this in a day but together we can make Kundalini Yoga into the dynamic, joyful, truly Aquarian system it was meant to be.