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By Adi Shakti Kaur/Chaya Go
I remember first meeting these two ladies at the global mala project Manila in September 2013. In a sea of hundreds of yoga enthusiasts—a massive crowd that is at once incredible and overwhelming to be in, these two women drew me to an unmistakable radiance that I couldn’t help but smile back to! No, it was not because their heads were wrapped, or that they were clothed in all-white. In that huge crowd of bustling bodies, their joyful presence was at once great and beautiful.
It was divine coincidence that it was their classes that I pre-registered for! “Kundalini Yoga” and “Cycles of Women”—those words had a familiar ring to them, a hint of wisdom that was comforting, although I did not entirely know what to expect. I just remembered consciously picking classes to try that I knew would be different from the hatha-vinyasa practice I have been exploring in the last 5 years.
Marisa Harnadh and Sierra Knolle co-taught 2 classes that day, and I stayed for both of them, back-to-back! Needless to say i walked out completely blissed out! In fact, I did not have the words to explain the experience. It has taken me almost a year to begin to put it into writing now.
Their classes were a potent mixture of chanting, movements, postures, breath work, and a great dose of spiritual teachings! There was a full range of standing and seated sequences—with the latter ones proving to be much more challenging when you have to hold or repeat specific movements for several minutes at a time! These kriyas, which may seem oddly different from the asanas or poses ‘typical’ of a yoga class as the larger public knows it, are each a challenge to push through our limits of what we can and cannot do or become.
Oh yes, everyone in that packed room started sweating! Tears were streaming down my face! (and I had no clue where they were coming from!). I remember teacher Marisa’s constant reminder to keep our Higher Self in mind all the time; “She is where you are headed to,” I seemed to hear; and without a doubt, I did see myself, in all Her brilliant light, before me throughout class.
Teacher Sierra taught us yoginis about the powers of a woman, as wonderfully taught by Yogi Bhajan, the founder of the practice. Extensive volumes of his Women’s Teachings expound on the great strength and radiance that is unique to a spiritual being in a woman’s body, and how this ultimately deserves the greatest reverence and self-respect. I found these lessons sprinkled throughout her class wonderfully refreshing! Again these reminders served to uplift me to a higher place, a place I do not always easily arrive at in my regular meditations or home practice.
Right around this time in my life I was steeped in working full-time in a private foundation devoted to community development projects nationwide. In November 2013 I was parachuted into disaster relief when Yolanda hit the Visayas. I had to momentarily say goodbye to teaching yoga, given the madness of emergency work. This was rivalled with equally intense times at home that plunged my heart into its own dark storms. Many months later in the new year, when things began to shift and readjust, I immediately found more quiet time and space, and easily took refuge in my growing Kundalini Yoga practice.
Since then, the team of trained Kundalini Yoga teachers has been growing across metro Manila. I have personally attended Rosan Cruz and Tara Joy’s classes, and met Madonna English too, who has begun teaching in 2014. Quite unlike hatha-vinyasa classes that are mainstreamed into our local studios, finding Kundalini Yoga classes still proves to be a little tricky (but not scarce anymore!).
Perhaps more work is still needed to extend Kundalini Yoga beyond neighbourhoods in Makati City, to many other areas in metro Manila, even translating its concepts into a more ‘local’ and Filipino understanding, and creating greater accessibility for individuals who are ready to invite it into their lives. But being a practice that is much less dependent on the availability of classes, and much more reliant on a self-initiated passion, I find a joy in nurturing an intimately personal practice day by day.
Adi Shakti Kaur: My recent plunge into Kundalini Yoga inspired me to take on a 40-day personal practice. From May 30 to July 8, 2014, I meditated on the Adi Shakti mantra, one of the many sacred sounds in Gurmukhi believed to contain a specific energy, frequency, or vibration. The Adi Shakti mantra in particular is on the feminine creative power —and each day, with an open mind, an open heart, I sang the mantra, meditated with it, even slept with it playing quietly on loop into the night. I longed to feel my own. On July 9, 2014 the very next day after I closed this meditation, I received mail (a love letter, I should say!) answering my request for a name in the Gurmukhi language: I received the name, Adi Shakti! The very same mantra I have been carrying in my heart for the last 40 days; the very light I have perhaps been travelling with, living and loving with, in the last 26 years.
Chaya has worked in development projects with Indigenous communities in the philippines and guatemala, their stories woven together with Common Threads. She currently assists in projects by the Assisi Development Foundation for poverty reduction in pockets throughout the philippines. She is a proud member of the UBC Philippine Studies Series, a collective that works to tell many new stories of the filipino people, over radio waves, written printed word, marches and fiestas, practicing new solidarities and refusing any single story of any people. To contribute to the larger collective work for social justice, Chaya always finds new opportunities to tell stories of transcultural partnerships; she also conducts workshops on The EIESL Project.