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By Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, Missouri, USA
I began my life with Kundalini Yoga and Yogi Bhajan after first running away (literally) from a group of yogis dressed all in white and wearing turbans chanting by the side of the road in the desert in California. I simply thought it was much too far out for even me. Things changed only six months later when I was grateful to find a vegetarian restaurant in Kansas City called the Golden Temple, staffed by the white clad and turbaned yogis I had run from. The food was good, the service graceful, and the vibration peaceful. A sign on the wall said, "Yoga Classes" and named a location. It was only a few days later that I took my first Kundalini Yoga class and learned why I had been put on this planet. A few months later I met Yogi Bhajan. A few weeks after that, I decided to become a Sikh and have never looked back. It has been thirty plus years since then—years of married life, fatherhood (my son is a saint), and teacher to many, many students here in the Midwest, and I regret not a moment.
Soon after he arrived in the United States in 1969, Yogi Bhajan began sending his students around the world to establish ashrams. These residential centers were meant to be communities for people teaching and practicing Kundalini Yoga.
Sat Tirath Ashram (The Reflection of Truth) was first established in the early 1970’s by two of Yogi Bhajan’s students, Gurucharn Singh and Kaivalya Singh. The community was located at 3824 Forest Street and populated mostly by students who kept a hectic schedule at the community’s two Golden Temple Restaurants, and a health food store. The ashram moved into the current space at 3525 Walnut in the Midtown/Westport area in 1977. It is a three-story house built by a lumber baron in 1899, and is located between Crown Center and the Country Club Plaza, two very prominent commercial areas. Yogi Bhajan’s goal was to enable students to live and learn together in 3HO businesses while supporting each other with a strong group sadhana and providing the larger community with Kundalini Yoga classes.
Yogi Bhajan first visited Sat Tirath Ashram in 1976, when he taught a three-day weekend White Tantric Yoga Course. His students came to participate from all over the Midwest—Dallas, Oklahoma City, St Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis, and Iowa. His first comment about Kansas City came after adjusting the posture of a White Tantric Yoga participant. He said, “What is this Kansas City, a spaghetti factory?” That first White Tantric Yoga course was held at the Community Christian Church which had been designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Yogiji utilized Wright’s sometimes quirky design by telling all the men (only the men) to jump up after a particular exercise and “run to the bathroom.” The building had a number of maze-like passageways. I think Yogiji meant for us to scramble through the building like mice in a maze. Everyone eventually found a bathroom. I didn't even have to use the bathroom until after I found it. I am sure the task assigned by our spiritual teacher was much more subtle than we perceived.
This was my first personal contact with Yogi Bhajan and it was a "giddy" weekend. It concluded with my desire to ask him whether I should move into the ashram and become a yogi. As I waited on the stairs outside his room for my turn, the answer to my question was obvious. I left without talking with him (there were so many others waiting for a few moments with the Master, I felt I might be wasting his time). I simply went back to my apartment a few blocks away and began packing my bags for a move I have never regretted.
My wife, Sat Inder Kaur, and I were appointed ashram directors by Yogi Bhajan in 1980 and we have continued to pursue his direction to “bring Kundalini Yoga to the Heart of America.” In addition to offering classes at the ashram every day of the week, we have established Kundalini Yoga at the local branch of the University of Missouri, UMKC, with a 1-hour credit course on Kundalini Yoga and Meditation. We’ve been asked to teach a second section of the Kundalini Yoga and Meditation class since comments on course and teacher evaluations have been overwhelmingly positive relating to the stress-reducing effects of the class for UMKC students. I have also taught at the Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth (both the maximum security unit and the honor farm); and the state prison in Lansing, Kansas. We have both taught at many sites around the two-state area including community colleges, health clubs, senior centers, community centers, and other venues.
Sat Inder Kaur and I are both retired from full time careers (as a high school teacher and social worker respectively), but we find ourselves just as busy teaching Kundalini Yoga—if not busier—as we were before retirement.
Since 2004, we have conducted annual Level One Teacher Training courses and Level Two modules as well. Our students have established Kundalini Yoga classes at health clubs, chiropractic offices, massage studios, churches, Buddhist centers, various public events, and in private homes. 2011 will see a new level of outreach with the inauguration of Level One courses in Oklahoma and Arkansas in 2012.
Over the years from time to time, we have felt the urge to move back East, but Yogiji always asked that we stay here and continue the mission of bringing Kundalini Yoga to the Heartland. Now, I don’t think either Sat Inder Kaur or I would really think of moving, we love it here.
The physical presence of the ashram consists of the residence, which is a three story brick and wood structure containing four multi room apartments, two single rooms, a guest room, the sadhana room/yoga center, Gurdwara, and community kitchen for langar prep. There is also a an organic vegetable garden and a Peace Garden which surrounds a parking lot adjacent to the main building.
Recently, the ashram was blessed with a gift from an artist living in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where they taught a series of classes this summer. Sadhana Kaur (Marie Camilla Lentsch) and her husband, John, brought a stainless steel artwork to the ashram’s Peace Garden. Titled, “3HO/Body, Mind, & Spirit,” it consists of three welded stainless steel columns mounted on a smooth concrete base.
In “keeping up” with Yogi Bhajan’s directive, Sat Tirath Ashram and Kundalini Yoga Center in Kansas City will continue to support teachers and students for many more years. You can see more about Kansas City’s 3HO organization at www.kckundaliniyoga.com.