LA Yoga Magazine – Sep/Oct 2002
“You’re the biggest bunch of rebels I’ve ever seen,” says a beaming Guru Singh to a class diverse in age, ethnicity and gender, but altogether quite tame. Could that 60-year-old woman in the corner really be a rebel? How about that 30-something yuppie in back who I saw arrive in his gleaming Audi? The 50 of us assembled here for Guru Singh’s Summer Solstice Kundalini Yoga workshop are professionals, blessed with favorable life circumstances, in tune with mass culture, part and parcel of the global economy. This is clearly not the Monkey Wrench Gang.
Guru Singh teaches Kundalini Yoga four times weekly at Yoga West in West Los Angeles. He is a student of renowned master Yogi Bhajan and enjoys a large following Today’s workshop is one of four annual intensives he leads in honor of the change in seasons, because seasonal changes have subtle but profound effects on the human body and mind.
“Summer is the time for growth,” he explains. In this vein Guru Singh begins to lead us through each stage “of a physical incarnation” to get in touch with our inner growth process. According to Kundalini Yoga, there are seven steps for entering an incarnation. The first six: Ovum, Sperm, Embryo, Fetus, Birth and Childhood are accomplished innately. The seventh step, Adulthood, is, according to Guru Singh, rarely realized.
Through the use of mantra, sound, meditations and yoga postures, we embark on a seven-step voyage. Mantra is used in a few different ways. At times we are asked to focus on a mantra, repeating it silently in our minds. Later we chant a mantra together. The sound Guru Singh uses includes the use of gongs, drums, his guitar and recorded music. Selected meditations and yoga postures are designed to bring about the desired effect of each stage of the growth process. Throughout class, Guru Singh correlates the practice with daily life challenges, and speaks about the need to continue to spread light and raise awareness. “Be aware of the insecure ones, but know that you are a soul, and you live forever. Enlighten yourself!” he urges with rebellious fervor.
The sperm stage is one of the day’s most inspiring lessons. Before the exercise begins, Guru Singh explains that the sperm that conspired to conceive us was victorious over 300 million others. “we were conceived in victory,” he says. While I feel funny taking words like “ovum” and “sperm” so seriously, I can see his point. Every day we have the opportunity to feel defeated or claim victory. Too often I choose the former, and that serves no one. In this exercise we sit in Siddhasana, and hold our hands as if cradling a sphere. We inhale deeply through our mouths and exhale through the nose. The gong reverberates throughout the room as we silently repeat, “victory.”
At one point our hands were formed from the same tissue as our brain. As embryos, all humans have their hands sealed against their heads, while they remain curled in a tight ball. We replicate this position, squatting, legs open, hands on our heads. Viewing our development in this way, it makes sense that holding our hands and fingers in different mudras can stimulate and access points deep within our mind.
“Birth is where sheer frustration meets total surrender and total flexibility,” Guru Singh instructs. To assimilate this lesson we stand in a variation of Virabhadrasana 1 (warrior 1) for five minutes. This is normally not a difficult pose, and five minutes, relatively speaking, is a short period of time, but the combination is a daunting and seemingly never-ending task. In order to make it through I must let go of the frustration, and surrender to the practice. Sweat soaks my back and chest as the pain comes and goes in waves, and a smile breaks across my face.
“To be a true adult,” says Guru Singh, “we can no longer be concerned about claiming territory. Adults care for one another like we are one another, and this is the only path to peace.” Unfortunately, our world today is often dominated by people competing and clamoring after territory and resources, and this breeds conflict and alienation. With these words I realize what Guru Singh meant at the beginning of class. Perhaps rebels, in today’s hi-tech, capitalist society, are those who seek the tools to live in harmony with others.
The adult sequence is without question the hardest of the class. Here, we are told to sit with a group of classmates we don’t know and exchange our hopes and dreams. Within me there is immediate resistance. Perhaps I fear that a 48 year-old corporate executive who’s had a life altering experience might grab my hands and exclaim, “I just wanna dance, man!” In truth, though, it does require vulnerability to bear our souls and support one another. This final activity forces the realization that we must rebel against the norm and abandon such survival techniques if we are to emerge into an adult world where there is no enemy and there are no strangers. This evening, our yoga practice has left us buoyant and open hearted as we stand in our own commitment, with an unwavering faith and belief in our fellows. Perhaps Guru Singh was correct after all. Yoga is the way of the rebel.