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Yogi Bhajan's Drum in the Ranch Gurdwara, Espanola.

Sat Nam Kundalini Yoga Teachers,

Having a great selection of music that is organized on your iPod is one of the essentials that will help every new teacher increase the quality of what is offered in a Kundalini Yoga class. Spirit Voyage, iTunes, etc. are great resources to start collecting your favourites. Looking at other teachers’ iPods is the quickest way to start building your yoga music collection along with listening to what and how other teachers use music in their classes and writing down the name of the song and the artist you like.

Some teachers never play songs during a class (Yogi Bhajan rarely did during a yoga set) and some teachers play music all of the time. Remember we want to lead the students deeper into the experience of the kriya, relaxation and chant, so use your music with this in mind. Practice smooth handling of your iPod or laptop along with watching the students, the time, using a microphone (if applicable) and occasionally glancing down at any kriya notes you’ve made.

I like to organize my songs into playlists such as:

Various Aquarian Sadhana versions including mixing different artists for my own “custom” mixes.

Yoga Dance Mix – up tempo songs from Dev Suroop Kaur’s Kundalini Beat to Bangara.

Birthday Long Time SunshineOn this Day (Short Version) – Hari Bhajan Kaur.

Breath of Fire – up tempo navel tunes from Mangala Charan from Sat Kirin Kaur to Aad Guray Nameh by Gurudass Singh and Kaur.

Closing Long Time Sunshine – Amrit Kirtan, Snatam Kaur.

Guru Ram Das Mix – I have about 3 1/2 hours of just Guru Ram Das chants including wonderful versions by Pritpal Singh – Santo Ram Das Sarovar Nika and Dhan Dhan Ram Das Gur , Dev Suroop Kaur, and the version by Sangeet Kaur that Yogi Bhajan often cried upon hearing.

Gurbani Kirtan – from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib.

Jap Ji and Banis – daily Sikh prayers in multiple versions including a fast, slow, and tantric version of Jap Ji in Gurmuki (Guru Raj Kaur)  and various English versions.

Layouts (Relaxation) – soothing, subtle, lots of Snatam, Mirabai, Sada Sat Kaur, Gurushabd Singh, etc.

Lunch/Break/Mix – for lunches and breaks during workshops.

Yogi Bhajan Voice – from Patience Pays to Gobinday Mukunday from Sat Kirn Kaur.

Dev Suroop Kaur with Anoop Singh on tablas and Gurujot Singh on dilruba, Summer Solstice, 2010.

Although I rarely use music during a kriya up until the relaxation, on the occasions that I do I’ll organize a playlist for specific kriyas such as these two in your Aquarian Teacher Yoga Manual:

Nahbi Kriya

Rhythms of Gatka 1 – Pantra: exercise 1 & 2.

Ra Ma Da Sa – Snatam Kaur: exercise 4.

Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo – Snatam Kaur: relaxation.

Pituitary Gland Series

Jap Man Sat Nam – Snatam Kaur: exercises 4 thru 7 continuous.

Ong Sohung or Ra Ma Da Sa – Snatam Kaur: 8 & 9 continuous.

Aad Guray Nameh – Snatam Kaur: relaxation.

Last but not least consider learning an instrument – perhaps guitar or harmonium – and playing and singing live to your students. Your teaching career is long and you’ll get better over time. Simple Guru Ram Das Chants, The Longtime Sunshine Song and On This Day (Birthday Song) will go a long way in opening people’s hearts in your class – we all know the power and magic of live music!

Let me know if you find this useful and what you’ve added to your music and playlists that’s different from what I’ve listed.

With blessings and gratitude, Har-Prakash.

Snatam Kaur and GuruGanesha Singh, Toronto, 2009.

Level 1 Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Intensive, Espanola, N.M., 2011.

Paying attention to the following components can help make you a better Kundalini Yoga teacher. We have habits as teachers that can be helpful or hindering. Bringing into awareness our body-mind habits is the first step in improving how we teach what we teach. Knowing other ways of presenting gives us new options we can try on and use or not. We can instill new habits of excellence in delivering this precious technology.

Welcoming Students

How is the space held before the class officially begins? Is there music playing? Do you greet students as they come in? Is there the smell of yogi tea in the air? How do you receive your students so that they feel welcomed?

Technical Matters – Timing

Does your class start on time? Finish on time? Is there a smooth transition if there is another class after yours?

Are the exercises reduced proportionally if the full time of your kriya is too long for your allotted class time?

If you are doing more than five minutes of warm-ups, is this compromising the flow and depth of the kriya? KRI generally recommends a maximum of five minutes for warm-ups.

Deliver the Kriya as it’s Written

Read the instructions of each exercise in the kriya very carefully more than once and do the kriya yourself before teaching it to “make it your own”. Some teachers make brief notes on all the exercises with every class they teach – even if they’ve taught that class previously and are experienced teachers. Use whatever methods that deliver the kriya accurately.

If the illustration of an exercise differs from the write-up go with what’s written. If what’s written is unclear ask a senior teacher for clarification.

Do not add music during a silent meditation if it does not say to. Encourage the students to use the elements of the kriya and to go deeper by listening into the silence.

Spatial Positioning and Physical Asana

When teaching, where do you position yourself on the teacher’s bench – more left, right, back, front, centre? Sitting in the centre towards the front creates a stronger presence.

Does your physical posture support your projected presence as a teacher? Is your posture upright, alert, and open?

Are you limited by any physical conditions that might affect seeing all of the students? How will you compensate for this? Any limitations in demonstrating the asanas? Being crystal clear with your instructions or having another student demonstrate the asana will help.

Sharing the Stage

When sharing the bench with other teachers do you stay up front or move slightly back if the other teacher will have stage-time for a while?

How well do you co-teach? Are your transitions in sharing stage-time one-sided or gracefully considerate and inclusive?

How well do you remain present and engaged – is your physical posture supportive of the other teacher’s projection and stage-time?

Sightlines 

Can you see everyone? If you’re at the same height as your students do you need to stand or move to see everyone?

Where do you lead from – do you sweep the room with your gaze? Do you stop and start on individuals…? Try both ways, experiment and notice what each approach has to offer.

What is the potential blindspot in the room for you? (In the long horizontal Espanola hall it’s the teacher’s far right – Nirvair often leaves these people as they often don’t want to be seen).

Music

Does your music match the kriya’s energy or theme? How smooth are you using your iPod or computer’s music? Can you effortlessly include live music while you teach?

Amandeep Singh, Toronto, Ontario, KY Teacher Training, 2011.

Speech Patterns, Pacing and Vocal Projection

Many new teachers say “We’re going to…” or “Next I’ll demonstrate…” as a preamble to what’s about to occur. Preambles tend to take yogis up into their thinking and out of their present experiential awareness.

Using ummms, ahhhs, and other such speech fillers creates a subtle intrusion in the silence of the yogis internal experience that can be unpleasant and distracting.

Use direct “commands” and train yourself to let go of unnecessary speech habits. Less talking is usually more when it comes to deepening a yogi’s internal focus.

Are you talking too fast or too slow for the teaching, kriya, meditation or lay-out being shared?

How far out into the room are you comfortable projecting your voice, your sight – 10 feet, 15 feet, to the very back? How about to the far left and far right? Projecting to the back and edges of the room is a technique you can develop.

It takes intention, awareness and persistence to change long held speech patterns but the effort will help deepen your students’ focus and experience of shunia.

Using a Microphone

How comfortable are you using a microphone?

Can you cover the room visually and speak into the mic evenly? How about when demonstrating various kriyas? Practice using the mic with various kriyas without any students present.

Sat Dharam Kaur, Nelson, B.C. KY Teacher Training, 2011.

Chakras

Which chakra(s) are you leading from? Is this a match for the elements of the kriya and meditation being taught? Or for the teaching being given? Practice delivering specific exercises from various chakras and sensitize yourself to the felt differences.

Learning from Other Teachers

Notice how other teachers teach. What are their strengths and how might you include some of their gifts when you teach. Solstices are great opportunities to experience how world-class teachers do what they do. Consider taking notes on what they say about exercises, kriyas and meditations and add them into your yoga manuals.

Interpersonal Challenges – Praise, Blame, Attraction, Aversion

Consider various scenarios and role-play them with other teachers to help prepare for some of the challenges likely to happen in your professional teaching career:

Who are the students you are likely to be attracted to energetically on an emotional, sexual or intellectual level? Who are the students you are least likely to be attracted to? How do your attractions and aversions influence how much, how little and who you pay attention to? How do you manage these tendencies before, during and after class?

How might you respond to a student who says in class “That’s not the right way to do that!”

How do you respond to a student who tells you after class that they think you’re absolutely amazing and that they really, really love you and want to massage your feet? How about if they want to meet with you outside of class?

How do you respond to a student that tells you, “That was the worst yoga class I’ve ever been in. You’re not a very good teacher!”

Yogic Lifestyle Recommendations

Yogi Bhajan gave so many recommendations for what a person could do every day that when a student added the hours required to do them all, it came to over 70 hours – or about three days of recommendations! Each recommendation is a potential lever that contributes to health, vitality and consciousness. Encourage students to try out the yogic lifestyle, paying close attention to the cause and effect to find out which leveraging techniques work for them. Have your students share their successes with other yogis in class.

Not Knowing Answers to Questions

How do you answer a question you do not have a confident answer for? Can you be comfortably honest saying “I don’t know, I’ll get back to you with an answer”. Who are the senior teachers you can get answers from?

Instructions and Corrections

Are you able to notice which students are not doing the kriya as instructed? Eg. The posture isn’t correct, or the class is chanting too fast, too slow or the pronunciation of the chant is incorrect?

Do you anticipate the chants and pranayamas that are challenging for students to get right and take extra time going over and checking the details before the students are engaged in the exercise? Eg, if students are engaged in a kriya that has the palms of the hands massaging the ears they will have to take their hands off their ears to hear you if you’re talking. Also, when there is chanting or a pranayama pattern in a kriya or meditation you want students to be chanting or breathing correctly before they begin. Better to have them rehearse a little before than have to stop them and correct them once they’ve begun the set time.

How do you handle it when you realize after the class that you taught something incorrectly during the class?

and last but not least, Creating a Cosy Community and Service

How can conscious community be created during a class? Is there any time made for some socializing and sharing yogi tea? Do you offer special events such as full moon meditations? How about holding a class outside at the beach or in the park?

Have you created social opportunities outside of class time? Potluck dinners? Spiritual movies? Yogathons to raise money for a cause? A spiritual music dance? Talent shows? Breathwalk, a day of hiking in the countryside or a vegetarian picnic at the beach? A Facebook group where your students can support each other online, create buddy support systems, share yogic goals, etc?

How well does your yogic community integrate into the larger “non-yogic” community and what might you do to further facilitate this? Have an open house where you teach, have yogi tea and vegetarian food? Perhaps speak at a library, school or health fair about the benefits of yoga, and have a sampling of a mini or full class? Beautify the neighbourhood cleaning up litter in public parks? Feed those in need? Approach a service group in your area with a cadre of yogis and ask how you might help?

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Sat Siri Kaur Leading Breathwalk, Kundalini Yoga Intensive, Espanola, N.M. 2011

These considerations (with additions) initiated from a discussion with Nirvair Singh during a Level One Kundalini Yoga, 28-Day Teacher Training Intensive in August, 2011, in Espanola, New Mexico. Thanks to Nirvair, the TNT prep and KRI team, group leaders, the new teachers and all those yogis seen and unseen who helped facilitate the excellence of this training.


We’re all in this together – I pledge my allegiance to living ever more compassionately – will you?

With blessings and gratitude, Har-Prakash.

Tibetan Thangka Detail, 2007, from Mcleod Ganj

Tibetan Thangka Detail, 2007, from Mcleod Ganj, India.

Shinzen Young – my mindfulness meditation teacher for the last decade – has reworked the common western categorization of the sensory system into a simplified and elegant model. This TSSFIT chart, particularly when combined with the triple skill-set of mindfulness – concentration, sensory clarity and equanimity –  is eminently practical and effective in helping us to understand how the various constellations of the human sensory system, and our relationship to that sensory system, affects identity and behaviour.

In the west we usually conceive of the sensory system as seeing, hearing, tasting, touching and smelling. External sights and sounds are usually identified as other – other people, other beings, or the world in general as something existing separate in relation to our conventional sense of self. Now when we consider how our conventional sense of self arises, what we most identify as who we are is composed of a combination of our body’s touches (for a simple working model smell and taste will be considered special categories of touch or body space – see chart below) and emotional feelings, and thoughts that have internal visual and auditory components, or T-F-I-T for short. Individually we often refer to this as “my” body and mind. Deeper within the self-referential body/mind system are the feelings and thought combinations arising in F-I-T, or feel, image, and talk space. Our reactivity arises most personally as F-I-T activity – shame, embarrassment, rage, terror, grief, happiness, joy, compassion, etc., accompanied and reinforced through thought. “You’re making fun of me!” “I love you.” “That’s mine!” These sensory components of body and mind are self-referentially reflected and reinforced in the “I”, “me”, “mine” of our language. There’s nothing wrong with this in and of itself, but as we’ll see later, if that’s all we identify with we stay limited within our conventional fixed identity.

Now let’s look at the chart below. Notice how in the right side of the TSSFIT chart the FEEL-IMAGE-TALK, or F-I-T sensory spaces, represent the more subjective “I, me, mine” conventional sense of self. On the left side of our chart the T-S-S sensory spaces represent a more “not I, me, mine”, or a more objective “other” or “world” space.

HUMAN SENSORY SYSTEM – Conventional Sense of Self and World

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Sitting Using Gyan Mudra

In Spiritual Practices and the Sliding Scale of Identity I wrote about using the TSSFIT approach to the human sensory system. The practical applications of using the TSSFIT chart are many, and this article will elucidate how it can be applied to Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan.

I began studying with Yogi Bhajan in 1984, and my love and gratitude for his teachings continue, almost five years to the day after Yogiji’s physical death. Combining Shinzen Young’s Vipassana (mindfulness meditation) training over the last ten years, particularly his sensory clarity, his TSSFIT chart component, and his “taking the mist out of mysticism”, has helped me clarify Yogi Bhajan’s deep yogic teaching of moving from “mystery into mastery”, in a form that is “trackable, and therefore tractable”.

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Yogi Bhajan, Summer Solstice, New Mexico.

Yogi Bhajan, Summer Solstice, 1985, New Mexico.

Yogi Bhajan gave thousands of different meditations for people to use. Whichever meditations you choose to work with there are two strategies for building momentum in your Kundalini Yoga practice: meditate more often, and deepen the quality of that meditation. Meditating more can involve formal sits, yoga sets, and using various techniques to extend your concentration and awareness throughout the day. Deepening the quality of your meditation is written about in Patanjali’s classic Yogic Sutra’s, particularly in the Eight Limbs of Yoga. The limbs five through eight Patanjali calls pratyahar, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.

Our attention is constantly being pulled here and there when engaged in the outer world. When we withdraw our attention from the outside world, with the eyes closed and the listening directed inwards – unless you’re listening to the activity of chanting – there are less distractions. This enables us to direct attention inwards, which helps us engage in pratyahar. As we’re persistent in applying concentration at deeper levels, we begin to synchronize and merge with the Source first in formal meditation, and eventually throughout daily activities. This synchronization and merger throughout formal meditation and in daily life is the deeper meaning of pratyahar in Kundalini Yoga.

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Shinzen Young & Har-Prakash Khalsa, Jan. 2009, Santa Barbara

Shinzen Young & Har-Prakash Khalsa, Jan. 2009, Santa Barbara

Har-Prakash Khalsa – Given that, in your own words,  “enlightenment is a multi-faceted jewel”, is there a description of enlightenment that you like?

Shinzen Young – In this regard I tend to go towards my Buddhist background.  Scholastic Theravada Buddhism says that three things go away at the initial experience of enlightenment. It’s very significant that it’s put in terms of an elimination process; something goes away, rather than an attainment, a “getting” of something. So enlightenment is not yet another thing that you have to get.  And meditation as a path to enlightenment could be described as merely setting the stage for Nature/Grace to eliminate from you what needs to be eliminated.

The technical terms in Pali for the three things that go away are “sakkaya-ditthi”, “vicikiccha”, and “silabbata-paramasa”. Sakkaya-ditthi is the most important. Sakkaya-ditthi is the perception that there is an entity, a thing inside us called a self. That goes away.

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