Rising Kundalini teacher Guru Jagat is only 36, but already has two major Kundalini Yoga centers—the RA MA Institute in Venice, California, which opened in 2013, and one in Boulder, Colorado, which opened this August—a record label, a book due out October 2016 (HarperElixir), and a dedicated worldwide fan base. We asked her to demystify Kundalini, explain why it’s trending, and tell us what’s next in her effort to bring this practice to the masses.
Q: Why is Kundalini Yoga is trending now?
A: Yogi Bhajan (the yoga teacher who passed along Kundalini teachings to the West) said that in this age—from 2012 on—these teachings will become more and more relevant. People are going to need something that’s effective at helping relieve some of the pressures that are on us in ways that have never been on humans before the Technology Age. Many people are crumbling under these new pressures, and Kundalini Yoga is a science that directly relieves the system on all levels. One of the other reasons I think Kundalini is spreading like wildfire is because you don’t ever have to buy the right outfit, you don’t have to wear Spandex, and you don’t have to participate in the yoga culture, yet you’re going to get a huge benefit from a minute of Breath of Fire while sitting at your desk in the afternoon. In fact people say to me all the time, “I love Kundalini Yoga, I just come and practice in my jeans.”
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Q: What about the barriers people may still feel because in Kundalini a lot of people wear white and there’s a lot of chanting?
A: Well, wearing white is not in any way a requirement. There’s a bunch of different technologies in Kundalini Yoga; it’s like a buffet. If something works for you, do it. Maybe you woke up this morning feeling a little negative, and you throw on some white and realize you feel better. If covering your head helps you during your meditation practice, or tying your hair in a knot at the top of your head helps you focus, then great. I tie a bun during business meetings because it helps me consolidate my thinking. It’s just one of the many things you can utilize that may help you to feel better and work smarter and have more energy. I know that in the past it has been a variable for people because we assign ways that people look to religion but I’m seeing that break down by the hour. We’re working through it. And with mantra, a study just came out of McGill University in Montreal that shows when people sing, it makes heightened vibrational frequencies that change brain chemistry and create serotonin; it creates extended states of joy and happiness. Western science is catching up to this whole sound technology. It’s an exciting time because I think more and more people are getting how sound affects consciousness.
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Q: So Kundalini isn’t a cult?
A: No. I think this is my big job on the planet—to be the translator for this misunderstanding that some people have been confused about. I am obviously a modern woman with a modern life. I have no association with any religion and am only interested in what is going to make me feel better and allow me to serve my community, my family, my businesses, and humanity, and have more energy throughout the day.
Q: You are writing a book with HarperCollins about yoga. Can you tell us more?
A: I want the title to be How to Do Yoga Without Ever Doing Yoga. I believe that Kundalini teachings have incredible mass appeal and that everyone can benefit from them, whether you are in a hospital bed or a professional athlete. They are going to give you energy and help you to maneuver your life, and so my job is to get them out to the public. I want my book in Walmart and Target. I am not trying to reach the 1 percent; I am reaching the 99 percent. No matter what your religious affiliations, whether you exercise or don’t, or do yoga or don’t, everybody needs something that they can do for a short amount of time that’s going to give them increased vitality and peace of mind. So my job is to get these teachings out there in the most mass way possible without diluting them at all and staying true to my lineage and my teachers.
Q: In addition to teaching Kundalini, you have a record label—RA MA Records. How did you get into music?
A: RA MA Records is about being able to take these kinds of sacred sounds and put them into the structure of modern music. When Elvis Presley came out with one of his first hits, the audience was kind of like “OK, what is this music, where does this belong, is this country, Motown?” Then there was a moment where they realized that Elvis Presley was basically the harbinger of a new genre of music—rock n’ roll. I believe that that’s what is happening in music now, and I think Madonna actually was the first. She was way ahead of her time with Ray of Light, where she was chanting to pop music. That’s exactly what we want—we want RA MA playing in elevators and in the clubs. Just imagine these heightened vibrations going into people who would not ever necessarily come to a yoga class or chant a mantra. That’s why we got into the music industry.
Q: Can we step back for a minute and talk about how you got into yoga and Kundalini?
A: I was traveling with a bunch of Ashtanga yogis. I started practicing with them in the morning, and that started my yoga. When I got back to New York City, I practiced Ashtanga every morning, until I tore my shoulder. Ashtanga was really hard on my body. I was invited to a Kundalini Yoga class and literally within the first 60 seconds I had an experience I had never had before, where all this energy was moving up my spine and the top of my head was buzzing. I was like, “OK, what is this? because I feel more energy than I ever have and it feels good! I felt more balanced than I had in years.” I needed to know what was going on, so I very shortly thereafter went out to Espanola, New Mexico, where Yogi Bhajan was still teaching.
Q: So, we know you want to make Kundalini and mantra mainstream. How do you plan on getting there, beyond the book?
A: Kundalini Yoga and meditation are exercise with a soul: they are exercise with spiritual depth. And you know, meditation is the fitness trend of 2015. All over the globe we are going to be lighting up these centers of consciousness and exercise, for both the body and mind. We will be opening several more studios beyond Boulder in the next year, stay tuned! I have my eye on Portland, Detroit, Atlanta… The big mission is opening RAMA University—the first University dedicated to yogic science and technology, from the study of the sound to the study of the brain and endocrinology. It may take me my lifetime, but that is what I am going to do.
Q: Kundalini practitioners and teachers use the words “science” and “technology” a lot. What do they mean to you?
A: That’s kind of a lexicon that I have created to describe Kundalini as I follow in the footsteps of Yogi Bhajan, who also used a lot of scientific and technological jargon in his descriptions. In order for things to be understood in a culture, you have to create the language to understand it. It’s good to hear that other teachers are speaking in that way as well! There’s something I call yogic science, which is a soft science and then there’s science science. I am interested in where these intersect. I am constantly searching and researching and finding studies that correlate to what we know in yogic science. A lot of hard science is coming out now to prove what we’ve known in yogic science for thousands of years—a whole issue of Scientific American came out on the brain and meditation recently. We are trying to understand human potential in every way. In yogic science, the real-time results of longevity and human happiness and health have been written, tested, and practiced by the Rishis and by the lineages of “yogic scientists” and practitioners throughout the past thousands of years, and then there’s modern science. Modern science is starting to catch up to yogic science! So it’s a very exciting time, and RA MA University is absolutely going to be working hand-in-hand with some of the more established universities like UCLA, USC, Harvard, and Stanford to continue these studies, if I have my way!
Q: Do you ever have doubts and depressive moments, and if so, how do you get over them?
A: This is what the mind training is for. I have trained my mind over a period of time to not subscribe to that channel. Yogi Bhajan says one thought of doubt can instantly zap 30 percent of your energy, and with the level of energy expected of me on a daily basis, I literally can’t afford it. I am on an energy budget. But it’s actually not about me; I am being animated by a much bigger situation and am just doing what I am told through my practice. Doubt would only happen if I thought that this was about me, but it’s not.
That said, fatigue comes up sometimes, as it does for everyone. And I feel blessed that I have tools to help myself and my glandular system recuperate through my practice.
Q: Is there anything else you want to share with our audience?
A: This is the time of reclaiming human dignity, and if there’s anything I can do in any way to encourage and inspire others to just remember, even for a moment, the immense power of who they truly are and their uniqueness—no matter what they look like or what’s going on in their life. Who they are is a profound gift to humanity. And to give of themselves in whatever way, however small or big.
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