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  • Writer's pictureEmily Royce

Kundalini Yoga NOT As Taught by Yogi Bhajan

Updated: Apr 3

This is a blog about Kundalini Yoga. How I pretended to not know what I knew in training to be able to access this life-saving technology. How once I (and the whole world) got privvy to that information, I could no longer look away and instead I turned my back on the practice and the community. And how after four years I have returned to teaching, fumbling around for how to have ethics and integrity with the teachings while still embracing the joy that it is to practice and teach it.

Kundalini yoga has been a lifeline to me. It was early days with my Multiple Sclerosis and my health was crumbling. I left the workforce (an after school educational gig that could have been joyous but the militant pressure the adults put on each other had us all burning out.) My body needed support, and looking around at all these healthy appearing spandex clad bostonites led me to believe that yoga was the way.

Except I kinda hate In Crowd normal stuff. My co-worker said I should try Kundalini Yoga "it's really weird, I think you'll like it"

she said mimicing a strange arm motion on repeat.

So of course I went full in to train as a teacher. I have this thing where I like to enter restrictive spaces and practice my defiance. I resisted wearing white, instead wearing every loud color pattern combination I could fit on. I questioned everything we were taught. I circled and wrote "What the actual fuck?" to Yogi Bhajan teachings on homosexuality and how babies are made. And when I questioned these things, I was met with "take what makes sense for you, leave the rest."

I could not deny that the practices were having a profoundly beneficial impact. So too was the discipline and commitment involved in a 2.5 hour morning practice that began with a cold shower at 4:30am. I was high on the stuff for sure, and finally feeling like I had some agency over what was happening in my body, mind and spirit.

I always dig though. And the internet brought up blogs of abuse accusations and "I survived a cult" testimonials. When I brought this up at training, I was met with strong defense of him, "People were dying and he saved us!" Another Guru cult red flag.

I taught on and off for some years but then the book by Premka "White Bird In A Golden Cage: My Life With Yogi Bhajan" came out in 2019 and the subsequent report by Siri Singh Sahib Coporation (SSSC) (responsible for all the not for profit and for profit holdings in Yogi Bhajan's name.) The information is of course damning and wide in scope. Read a general overview here with a detailed account embedded as a hyperlink within this article. Trigger warning for sexual violence if you decide to go the more in depth route.

This level of abuse takes many people turning away from the truth. Focusing on the good things ("he was always kind to me...") and keeping the ranks tight so as not to deprive the self and the community from this powerful practice. Except he was just a fallible man. And if the practices are really ancient like he claims, this wisdom came long before him and will continue for long after. I hope that by removing him from my practice, me and my students are gaining more. And I do believe that he made some (or much) of this up, and that someone could get just as profound of a practice from experimenting with repetitive movements and sounds.

So what does that mean for us practitioners now who desire to be anti-abuse? Well, we have to be real with ourselves and each other. We have to feel into if knowing where this lineage comes from actually causes more harm to our systems and our community to practice. If we feel we can pass this practice on and still stay in integrity, how will we convey and live that as teachers and students?

It is intentional that I do not have a photo of Yogi Bhajan where I teach. I do not quote him and I do not play mantra music that uses his lectures in the background. I do not follow teachers who still have not acknowledged the harm. I do not attend festivals and White Tantra events where the willful ignorance of harm is just too much for me to bear and still stay in my body.

Where I teach is also where my sisters in integrity with Sexological Bodywork, Somatic Experiencing, and Herbalism practice. We are creating and nurturing a space for more people to find safety in their bodies and environments. What I bring into the space has a direct impact on all of them, and thus all who they teach and lay hands on. Let it be known that rooting out the abuse and manipulation rampant in the world (and the healing modalities world in specific) is the fire that burns in our bellies to do the work that we do. Ain't no cult or "tribe" or feel good vibes that is going to silence the truth among us.

We practice each week. Getting stronger in our muscles and conviction towards this aim. THIS is what we hope to spread through this community. Question things. Find your truth. Listen to the stories of others. Find a way to hold what is dear and dropkick what is not. Yogi Bhajan is gettiing dropkicked out the door of Soma da Terra and every sacred womb space that believes and knows the ultimate truth. That we, and life, are the teachers. Our bodies are the instruments and to be held in sacred regard. And that we owe it to each other to recognize the truth and speak it out.

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