Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa is considered the queen of Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan. She is a pioneer in the field of pre-natal yoga and is author of the best-selling book Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful. Since being baptized 35 years ago with the Sikh spiritual name meaning “One who helps people across the world”, Gurmukh has dedicated her life to fulfilling her namesake. For nearly three decades, students in Los Angeles and from around the world have sought out her teachings in Kundalini yoga, meditation, and pre-and post-natal care. Among her clientele are Cindy Crawford, Madonna, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Courtney Love. She is founder and director of the Golden Bridge Yoga Centre. Grazilia Khatri met up with her for a heart to heart chat. Here are the excerpts.
Your guru, Yogi Bhajan says prosperity comes with kindness. How does one apply that when running a business or closing a deal?
When you are running a business, you can either be cold-blooded and heartless, putting your interests ahead of any other consideration or you can have an attitude wherein you can look at your clients and business associates as souls that you need to be kind, compassionate and considerate to. Only then you will make a real profit and run a successful business and only then you will have everyone’s blessings on your side.
In your 30 years of marriage, did you have to face the ups and downs that regular couples go through?
Gurushabd and I go through the normal ups and downs that a couple faces in a marriage. It is only that because of our sadhana and continuous practice of yoga that we are better equipped to weather upheavals and have a broader perspective on how to look at issues.
Does it help that your husband and you work together?
It is probably the best thing that can happen in a good marriage. The best of marriages can get ‘fractured’ with long, continuous and repeated separations related to work and travel. Gurushabd and I are always together for our work and travels. It helps us to pool in both our resources of knowledge and respective areas of expertise to give a more profound experience to the participants of our programmes.
How does it feel to teach yoga in India, the place where it originated?
Teaching in India is an exhilarating, inspiring and deeply spiritual experience. Many times. I feel blessed to be able to bring back the wonderful technology of Kundalini Yoga to the very place from where it emanated. I also feel that with the onslaught of the western influence on the Indian psyche, there is a downward spiral of health and lifestyle-related issues in India. The west is now waking up to a healthier and more organic way of life, but India is concertedly headed in the opposite direction. This needs to be corrected on a very urgent basis.
What’s the most difficult part of being a teacher and a healer?
Walking my talk and practising what I speak.
How does a woman maintain the balance between being compassionate but not being taken for granted?
A woman easily gets taken for granted when she puts the interests of everyone in her life ahead of her own. She needs to learn that to be able to love others completely, perfectly and unconditionally, she needs to learn and train to love herself first. Only with the understanding of self-love will she develop an aura that will be kind, loving and compassionate and not be taken for granted by others.
Can Kundalini Yoga be taught to kids also?
It is especially important to teach it to children. It is in their formative and impressionable years that children need to be inculcated into the path of loving and giving. The seeds need to be sown early so that the fruits can be enjoyed sooner rather than later.
What advice would you give to couples who are trying to conceive?
My programme the Khalsa way, teaches you to have faith in yourself. Have faith in God. And most importantly, remember that it is not your failing. Never drop down to an attitude of shame, guilt or self loathing on account of a genetic or physiological anomaly. Prayer and solace in the divine wisdom is the best recourse.
You say “yoga is not about self-improvement but self-acceptance”. Please explain.
Self-improvement is sometimes too hard to your own self. You strive, you struggle, you try and when, as a human being, you fail—we all do sometimes—you hurt. Instead of self improvement, move towards a sense of self-acceptance. Love yourself, unconditionally. Accept yourself for who you are and what you are and then strive for self-improvement. It is a subtle yet powerful shift in attitude.
Did you have any challenging times while raising your daughter? Could you share some insights for parents who face issues with their teenage children?
I still do [winks]. It is never ever easy raising a child. The challenges for a parent living in modern times only keep increasing wherein you need to be a perfect combination of a parent, a counsellor, teacher and friend. For parents having issues with belligerent children, keep only this in mind that when you look at your child, look not at their physical form but directly at their souls. Connect with that inner light of your child and then you can see clearly that behind all of that belligerence and attitude is a hunger to be loved. And that’s what you need to do. Love them.
Do you practise any other form of yoga besides Kundalini?
I practise any style of yoga that is taught in the city where I’m teaching. Apart from my own practice of Kundalini Yoga I am always happy and excited to challenge my body and to learn new ideas, thoughts and perspectives about the human mind and body. One continues to learn.
What is Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning coiled, like a snake. It is compared to a serpent that lies coiled while resting or sleeping. Even though Kundalini lies dormant like a tiny seed, when the conditions are right, it can awaken and grow into a mighty tree.
To awaken your Kundalini is just to clear your conscience. It is very simple: you work hard, you meditate and you will lead a happier life. It is a form of yoga and can be practised by anyone, regardless of their age or life situation.
Kundalini Yoga balances the nervous and glandular systems. You experience your highest consciousness so you can find sacred purpose in your life. It uses breath, yogic postures and meditation to help maintain a healthy spine, strengthening the nervous and glandular systems. Through it, one becomes aware of much more than just the strength of the body. It helps to facilitate a change physically as well as emotionally and spiritually.
Kundalini Yoga is not just about getting on the yoga mat and exercising. It’s all about taking your energy and using it to serve a purpose. You need not stop other forms of yoga.
Kundalini Yoga can be very hard—mentally, not physically—as it breaks patterns and helps you look at yourself closely. The biggest step comes when you clear your inner ghosts and start your mission of how to help the world.
— By Bijay Anand
The author is the only Kundalini Yoga teacher in India, trained by Gurmukh. He can be reached at www.anahata.in
This was first published in the June 2014 issue of Complete Wellbeing.