started practicing Kundalini yoga in the spring of 2012. As a person with an anxiety disorder, I immediately reaped yoga’s benefits. I started to feel more focused, energized, and relaxed.
I practiced Kundalini yoga wherever I could. This included at home, in friend’s homes, and at parks. Kundalini yoga is the yoga of awareness. It accesses the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body. Kundalini yoga also incorporates the breath, mudra, body locks, and postures to even out the glandular system, exercise lung capacity, and decontaminate the blood.
Kundalini yoga also brings balance to the body, mind, and spirit. It is not a religion but does have the potential to access the spirit.
If you want to try out Kundalini yoga for yourself, an instructor from Los Angeles, Jai Gopal, will be holding a workshop on Friday, December 16 from 6:30-9:30 and on Saturday, December 17 from 11:30 am-2:30 pm at Angela Phillips Yoga Studio in Virginia Beach.
I got to know Jai a little better through this Q&A.
Alex Hall: How long have you been practicing Kundalini yoga?
Jai Gopal: I got serious about Kundalini yoga around 2003, so thirteen years now.
Where did you do your teacher training?
I did my teacher training in Los Angeles with my Teacher, Harijiwan.
Are you also a Yoga Alliance certified teacher?
The Kundalini organization is called KRI, which stands for Kundalini Research Institute, and they’re the certifying authority for Kundalini Yoga worldwide. I am KRI certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher and also a Professional Level Teacher Trainer.
How do you feel Kundalini yoga is beneficial to the public?
Well, Kundalini is a technology of the human mind-body system. It stimulates the glandular system, balances out all the energy centers, strengthens the nervous system and creates a general feeling of well being, so it’s really good for everyone regardless of spiritual orientation. It’s beneficial to the public because the more happy, balanced people there are in the world the less stress and suffering we see.
What led you to start practicing yoga after you got out of the armed forces?
I got out of the Army and was studying writing in Los Angeles. I was really into Joseph Campbell and in a book about his teachings called Reflections On The Art of Living there was this whole explanation of Kundalini and the chakras and all of that. Normally that would’ve sent me running the other way. However, I respected his work and I really found his explanation very practical. I thought, there must be something to this stuff. So when I saw a Kundalini yoga class at The Hollywood YMCA, I gave it a try. A couple of years later I met my Teacher and the rest, as they say, is history.
Did yoga help you overcome any mental strife you may have developed after getting out of the armed forces?
Yes, Kundalini yoga and meditation helped me get rid of a lot of mental stuff that was blocking me. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t expecting it. At the time I considered things like yoga to be physical exercise because that’s how everyone looks at it on this side of the world. What I realized was that Kundalini yoga isn’t just physical; it’s a vehicle to take a human being into their most powerful state, mentally, physically and spiritually. It’s a technology that make a human being super-human.
What is your mission statement?
I don’t really operate that way anymore, which is ironic I guess, for a former military guy. I try to operate from intent. To answer the question though, in my mind, there’s really one mission, which was Yogi Bhajan’s mission, which is my Teacher’s mission, which is my mission: To make the teachings of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation available to people, purely and accurately, and to create teachers, so that more people can enjoy their lives.
Who, in your opinion, should be practicing Kundalini yoga?
Good question. You know what they say about opinions, though Alex… ha ha.
Can Kundalini yoga help everyone? Yes. Is everyone going to practice it? No. And that’s completely fine, because, to each his own. I will say this though: in Kundalini yoga, we don’t initiate people, meaning that we don’t go around recruiting and telling people that this yoga is going to save them, or that this yoga is better than anything else. We offer the technology very simply and give you an experience. If you’d like to practice it, it’s available to you. It will make you feel good and improve your energy and relationships. People who want to practice are welcome and those who don’t are also welcome.
Kundalini yoga, as well as most forms of yoga, includes a good amount of meditation. How often do you think one should meditate per week if they are undergoing a yoga practice?
Everyone is different. Ultimately it’s up to the individual to determine their practice. It’s good to have a personal practice you do at home. There are thousands of meditation techniques that Yogi Bhajan delivered to us, which is really mind blowing once you see what that’s all about.
Then there’s the group dynamic where you practice mediation in a class or workshop, which multiplies the energy because of the group. So it’s good to go to class regularly and practice at home, as well.
Many people do not realize the power of the breath. How are breathing and Kundalini yoga connected?
Funny you should say that. It’s true, many people don’t realize the power of the breath, which is ironic because without it you’re dead!
There’s a life-force energy in the breath. In the east they call it Prana. Mostly people breathe unconsciously. Rarely do you even notice your breath. We all breathe the same air, though and It touches everything. There’s a sub-atomic energy within the breath. That’s the pranic life-force energy. As soon as you become conscious of your breath, the moment you pay attention to it, your energy expands. It can be measured. The breath actually sparks the Kundalini energy as well, which is a dormant force at the base of the spine. I like to call it your super hero powers. Kundalini is the light of the soul and breathing consciously can activate it. In these Kundalini exercises when you bring the breath into the navel the Kundalini turns on and goes up the spine. That’s the beginning.
How would you explain this style of yoga to a beginner?
The Universe is made up of energy. Human beings have energy. The earth where everyone does business is also an energy field. If I can coordinate my energy flow with my environment and the flow of my soul at the same time, then I can mega-multiply my experience as a human being and progress quickly. We feel a lot of things are of outside of our control and they are! You can’t control a river but you can steer a boat and navigate it to your advantage and get somewhere. Kundalini yoga is a very fast acting way to get more energy. It’s really the same principle as martial arts. You use the energy around you to direct and project yourself and maneuver around obstacles to win.
How do you feel practicing/teaching Kundalini yoga has changed your life?
Everything changed when I met my Teacher. He’s such an impeccable human being that it made me want to be a teacher, as well. I’ll give you an example. Once around Christmas we were in class. The studio had put up a Christmas tree with all those fake presents under it for show. So my teacher, who is very funny, makes a joke about it. He turns to the fake gifts and says, “They’re all from me.” The whole class cracked up. Of course you had to be there, but it also impacted me because because even the way he joked about things was different from the rest of the world. Most of the world, including me at that time, would’ve said “They’re all FOR ME.” Seems like a small thing, but even joking around, it was about being expansive and giving, rather than limited and taking. I noticed it right away.
My life is infinitely better than even I could’ve imagined, practicing and teaching. Teaching Kundalini yoga is a trip, too. You watch people change before your eyes. For the better, of course.
You are traveling to Virginia Beach to hold a Kundalini and gong workshop. Tell us about it.
On Friday night December 16th and Saturday morning the 17th I am teaching a workshop called Applied Consciousness at Angela Phillips Yoga Studio. The easiest way to explain it is like this: everybody knows Star Wars right? Well there’s this Force around us and that’s consciousness. Something makes your heart beat automatically, without your thinking, right? Something makes a tree grow a mountaintop and no body planted it, or watered it. That’s The Force. Most of us use very little of this Force, although it runs us, through and through. On these two days we will do several Kundalini Yoga Kriya’s and Meditations, which basically turn up the brain’s processing speed, so we can perceive and use more of this Force, which is normally 80% unused by us. It’s pretty much upgrading your brain’s computer so you can process and enjoy more of your life. That’s the objective.
What are the similarities and differences between kundalini yoga and other forms of yoga?
All yoga is good. Yoga basically means aligning the energies of you and your environment with the cosmos. Kundalini Yoga starts uses Mantra— which means to direct the mind with sound, along with specific breaths and angular postures to activate the Kundalini energy quickly, and efficiently. Other yogas, which I have done quite a bit in the beginning, Hatha, Vinyasa, Power Yoga, etc., are all very good. They simply focus primarily on the physical postures and work through the polarities of the body. So it takes great mastery over the physical postures to activate The Kundalini. With Kundalini yoga, you go directly at the Kundalini energy, which resides at the base of the spine. This speeds things up.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Yes. There’s a lot going on in the world today and there’s a lot of pain and suffering, which is perfectly fine. To quote Joesph Campbell again, “Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.”
This is also basically what the Buddhists believe. The Sikhs have their version of it too called Cherdi Kala. Now that’s a mind bender, right? Say what? You want me to enjoy with all the suffering going on in the world?!?! Yes, the name of the game is: Enjoy Your Life. No matter what’s happening around you, you should find some enjoyment. That’s what a sense of humor is for. A lot of people are really at odds with what’s going on in the world right now. It’s very confusing. People are looking out there for answers and leadership and getting anxious because there’s no solace in it. It’s supposed to be that way. It’s driving you to find that infinite Force within you, which is where all the answers come from to begin with. You have to inform your life from the inside out. The more people who adopt this attitude, the more the world will become a better place to live.
To quote Yogi Bhajan: “The time is now, now is the time.”