Why I teach Kundalini Yoga “as taught by Yogi Bhajan”, and don’t
‘brand’ the Yoga I teach”
As a teacher of Kundalini Yoga, I get asked a lot of questions! It’s no different for me than being all my other past labels: A Dance/Movement Therapist, a teen counselor working with girls in gangs, a traveler living in different countries, a teacher, being a “mis-fit” in Mississippi. I’ve always been ‘different’ and have chosen unique jobs, the road less traveled and an ‘alternative’ life-stlye, and have been asked a lot of questions.
This is my “normal”. When I listen to my daughter ask me about being ‘unique or different’ (we don’t watch TV, we have chickens for pets, we read a lot, she makes vegan popsicles in my nutri-bullet for a snack, she chants complicated Gurmukhi and Sanskrit chants for fun, she’s 8) I just tell her “your Dad is a rocket scientist and your Mom is a Yogi….this is your destiny”…..and she smiles. So simple. This is who we are, and what makes us happy.
Yoga has become so mainstream, I guess it’s not really ‘alternative’ anymore. But Kundalini Yoga is still a little different. Yes we chant, we do “kriyas”(actions, a set of exercises to produce a desired result) we move our bodies in strange ways, but it’s still Yoga (YUJ~to join finite self with infinite self). The ultimate goal of Yoga is to realize you are one with God (Divine, Spirit, Universe, whatever that is to you) to realize every moment of every day that you are divine; not to get your leg behind your head! To live to your highest potential as a HU-MAN, being of light mind(Recently when I told someone I was a Kundalini Yoga Teacher, they said “isn’t that the sex yoga?” “don’t you do really crazy asanas?” HA!) It is a physical practice, but it’s so much more than that! The great thing about Kundalini Yoga or Yoga in general, is that you don’t need to believe anything for it to work. Yep, that’s right. You can come to it from any religion/belief system or none at all, and it will still work, you can be sufi, zen, christian, buddhist, you name it, or nothing at all…… I don’t believe in Kundalini Yoga, I practice it.
It’s not a belief, it’s a set of exercises, put in a specific order to work on the nervous system, glands and organs and create a desired result. It’s got scientific research to back it up! It has changed the patterns in my brain, gotten my organs functioning properly to manage my daily stress, it has ceased my negative thinking patterns, it has made me a better human being.
I was raised Catholic, went to Catholic school. My Mom is a born-again Christian and my Dad was an Atheist. I’ve been through the gamut of religions and searching for happiness…..and when I found Yoga, I found myself.
Nothing outside of me, just me, my soul, my essence, ME. Yogi Bhajan says “Yoga doesn’t make you great, Yoga makes you YOU”. I love it.
Now, let’s get to the reason I am writing this post. I teach Kundalini Yoga “as taught by Yogi Bhajan” because it WORKS. What do I mean by “it works?“.
Well it has healed me/taught me how to rise above my childhood abuse, my grandparents being murdered, abandonment, self-loathing, depression, anger….I could go on and on….but I won’t. It has stopped me from living from my neurosis to living from my highest self…I did Reiki, Hatha Yoga, healing seminars, movement therapy, body therapy, retreats, took drugs, you name it….I was in therapy for 10 years, I became a therapist.
I was a wounded healer, and Kundalini Yoga is what healed me (to this point in my life). So that is why I teach it, just like it was taught to me! Just like it is….straight from The Master himself…..It’s a practice….and it’s not MINE.
I started practicing Hatha Yoga in 1994 and noticed how different I became when I practiced it. I was happier, more present, I had a stillness about me that I never had before, but I wasn’t completely healed, I only felt this when I was on my mat, in the yoga room, doing my practice, not out in the ‘real world’.
When I discovered Kundalini Yoga in 2000, (I took my first class at Alive & Well in Hermosa Beach with Bobbie Jones), that was IT for me. I knew I was going to be a Kundalini Yoga Teacher (I was already a Hatha Yoga Teacher/Dance-Movement Therapist).
I now practice Kundalini Yoga for what it does off my mat, out in the real world. It keeps me calm, level headed, patient, loving, open, honest, real, present + more….when I practice it…..you get the idea. Does that mean I don’t cry? get upset? get hurt? feel my feelings? get disappointed?
NO it means I am HU-MAN. Yogi Bhajan never said don’t be human. He said do your practice, get your nervous system strong so you can handle anything that comes your way. Like LIFE. (There’s no cure for it BTW).
I signed up for Level I Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training at Golden Bridge Yoga, Los Angeles in 2002 and haven’t stopped practicing or teaching since (I have now completed 5 years of my Level II trainings at Yoga West LA, now 12 years later). Even though I have been practicing Hatha Yoga/Dance-Movement Therapy longer than Kundalini Yoga, it never worked in the same way FOR ME, as Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.
I still teach and practice Hatha Yoga. It is wonderful for my physical self, my body, my strength. But it never healed my mind and my emotions like Kundalini Yoga.
These are not ‘made up postures by me’ we follow the books.
I did not create Yoga, I did not make up these kriyas and meditations.
I am not a Master.
Yes, on some level we all are, we have this deep knowing of our soul selves, but how many people live from that place in their daily lives, all the time? We need teachers/guides to awaken us to our own potential, I am that. This is what Yogi Bhajan does/did for me; and as I study and teach these teachings, I hope I will lead people to do the same. But not to create a “following” but to lead people to their highest selves. As Yogi Bhajan said, “I came to create teachers, not followers”. He even said he is NOT a Guru!
I have been practicing Yoga/Dance-Movement Therapy for over 20 years. When I have practiced Tantric Yoga, Kundalini techniques, Chakra yoga, Ananda yoga, Ashtanga yoga, Iyengar yoga, trance dance, and too many to name….it has been great!
But Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan is AMAZING, the kriyas as they are given WORK, they have healed me beyond my wildest dreams. Why? Because I practice it. Because I do 40 day and 90 day sadhanas. Because I do the work, not because of some belief. This is why I continue to study it and teach it, but still, I am not a Master! After doing some research, I like this definition of a “Master”~
“According to Indian tradition, a true Yoga master would also be a disciple of a long lineage of authentic Yoga masters, stretching far back in time, even as far back as Shiva. A true Yoga master would also usually have a group of dedicated initiates following his or her teachings. As a Yoga master, when you walk into a room, just your presence will uplift the people around you. In order to stay in such a great state, you must stay strongly connected to the divine source energy within you. In order to accomplish this goal, it is of paramount importance to maintain a daily sadhana practice of meditation, contemplation, pranayams, kirtan, and Yoga asanas. The more connected and aligned you are with your own divine nature, the more you will be able to inspire and uplift the people around you. Becoming a Yoga master is not just about precision in difficult Yoga asanas. To bear the honorary title of Yoga master, you must first be in a constant state of remembrance of God. Ultimately, your journey to becoming a Yoga master is a journey of learning to love unconditionally. Not just others, but yourself as well” http://www.aurawellnesscenter.com/2011/04/20/tips-on-becoming-a-yoga-master/.
Or as Yogi Bhajan puts it “if you can’t see God in all, you can’t see God at all”. Am I in this constant state of awareness at all times? No, not yet, but yes, I am working towards it, in each moment.
So, folks ask me why don’t you create your own style of Yoga? Why don’t you create your own Teacher Trainings, instead of going to them at Yoga West? Why do you teach Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan? Just teach your own yoga, brand it, you can make tons of money!……because these are not my techniques or my teachings, I learned them from Yogi Bhajan, and his students of 30+ years, they are powerful and they work, he was a Master, so that is how I teach them.
This is not about me, or making tons of money, it’s about the teachings. They are pure. It’s not my version of “Yoga”. The wounded-healed girl from Mississippi, who has been healing herself and studying Yoga/Dance-Movement therapy for 20 years. I learn, I practice, I live it to the best of my ability, so I can teach.
Yes, this is my destiny, this is my path now, I have so much to share, to study and to teach, I am a dedicated student/teacher. I hope to help someone heal and lead them to their divine self and be happy as I have become (from the inside). I aspire to be a living Master. But I am not these teachings. “Don’t love me, love my teachings”~ Yogi Bhajan~
From my <3 to yours……Valinda Cochella MA, E-RYT/Viriam Kaur