L.A. (Yoga) Story
Consider this a regular Tuesday afternoon at Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa's Los Angeles home: The buzz of hummingbirds feeding in the lush foliage of the patio entrance seems louder than the traffic off Wilshire Boulevard, not more than a block away. Numerous pairs of shoes form a kind of haphazard edge around the patio, a sure sign that one of her Kundalini Yoga classes is in session. The front door opens with a tinkle of chimes and there stands Gurmukh, dressed in pure white Indian clothing from her turbaned head on down. So radiant is her smile and so frothy are her clothes that she conjures an image of the Good Witch of the East. While Gurmukh's house may not be Oz, you're definitely not in Kansas, either.
Two women file past her with a hug on the way to locate their shoes. "Have you met Julie and Melissa?" she asks, presenting everyone to each other with ill-contained glee—it's easy to tell that introductions are one of her favorite things. Hellos and So-nice-to-meet-yous are made, then it's time for See-you-agains. As she shuts the door Gurmukh says off-handedly, "Melissa's a singer. She's really good! I guess she's getting popular, too."
That's when it becomes clear that Gurmukh is either a master of understatement or has honestly missed the fact that a few million fans already think Melissa (as in Etheridge) is pretty good indeed, if her Grammys are any indication.
Gurmukh rolls her eyes. "I am so clueless," she says. "When Courtney first called I thought she was that girl from the show Friends that everybody always talks about. Then I had to ask my husband, 'Who's Courtney Love?'"
This may seem odd coming from a woman who has been featured in no less than the New York Times, Vogue, W, InStyle, Spin, and Rolling Stone as Hollywood's most celebrated yogi, who has taught Madonna, Cindy Crawford, Al Pacino, David Duchovny, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M....Let's just say it's probably easier to name the Hollywood elite who haven't walked through her door at some time over the last decade.
It all began with a phone call 10 years ago from David Duchovny's manager who'd heard about Kundalini Yoga and wanted a teacher. Gurmukh ended up teaching a group of actors from "Twin Peaks," including Sherilynn Fenn. She soon had entrée into the homes of directors, stars, musicians, and even a few political pundits for private one-on-one classes. "One phone call led to another, then another, and another," she says. "I didn't seek it. It just happened."
This would seem like an ideal opportunity to influence the most famous trendsetters, who would then produce more enlightened work. Gurmukh says that's what she thought too, but she realized no effect is ever that direct. "The students themselves weren't getting all they could out of the experience by doing it alone. Too often I would come home and feel like I hadn't done enough, because I didn't insist on things I know in my heart would have really helped them," she says. "I realized that if I teach 100 people in an hour and a half, I help the world more than if I teach just one, no matter who that one person is."