Interview with Ana Brett and Ravi Singh

An Interview with Kundalini Yoga Teachers Ana Brett & Ravi Singh
By Stephenie Lawton

SL: How did you find Kundalini Yoga? Had you practiced other styles of Yoga previously?

AB: A dance coach of mine recommended that I do Yoga for upper body strength and breath control. Not only did it help me with that but also it allowed me to become less of a controlled dancer and more of an artist. It brought my dancing to another level. I had practiced other yoga systems. I found them very helpful, but ultimately they seemed to be based on precision and control, rather than freedom. Kundalini Yoga released me to actually use the technique I had spent so many years developing. It made me more fluid. A lot of this has to do with the breath.I encourage all dancers to take Kundalini Yoga classes to free the artist in them, so their dance truly becomes an expression of their souls.

RS: I first encountered Kundalini Yoga as a college student in the 70’s. I’d always had a pre-disposition to the esoteric and all things Eastern. Many of the courses I took reflected this interest. One was a psychology course, which examined the various spiritual modalities many young Americans were beginning to explore. One week a bearded man wearing all white and a turban came as a guest to give us a Kundalini Yoga class. Kundalini Yoga is a dynamic system. It features what’s called ballistic movement and breath of fire. I’d been jogging, doing Hatha Yoga, and TM (Transcendental Meditation,) but this was a whole new world. I felt that when practitioners of Kundalini Yoga spoke about higher consciousness and things of the spirit they were drawing upon an ongoing experience rather than abstract theories. I felt they were more present, more in focus than most of the spiritual practitioners I’d met. In retrospect I’d call it core strength, nerve strength, and radiance. Soon I was attending Kundalini Yoga classes almost every day.

SL: What changes do you see in yourself as a result of your practice?

AB: I feel more in my body but less constrained by it. I see students becoming more themselves and thus more radiant. What I see in dance classes is that people are trying to express their creativity but don’t quite know how. People are generally too much in their heads, even people who view themselves as athletic. All Yoga, especially Kundalini Yoga, gives you a firm footing in reality so that you can truly transform.

RS: Kundalini Yoga helped me to make personal breakthroughs I never thought I could make. It’s made me fearless in ways I had only dreamed about. I have seen how people go through tremendous amounts of personal suffering because their minds and emotions aren’t under their conscious control. Kundalini Yoga proves that health and happiness are not a myth.

SL: Tell me about Yogi Bhajan. What did you learn from him, and how did his presence affect you?

RS/AB: Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini Yoga to the US in 1969. He definitely broke the mold of the stereotypic mild mannered Yoga teacher! His style was confrontational and he demanded a lot from his students. He passed away October 6th, 2004. He was a genius in his ability to present a very sophisticated technology in a very accessible way. Kundalini Yoga has traditionally been a “secret” practice. Yogi Bhajan taught that Kundalini Yoga belongs to the people who practice it.

SL: How can a student design his or her own personal practice?

RS/AB: In our classes and on our DVD’s we always begin with warm-ups which cover the compulsories, things that need to be worked on everyday, according to this system, for balance and health. For instance, the spine must be flexed, our glands must be stimulated to synchronize and secrete, our nervous systems must be strengthened, our muscles must be strengthened and lengthened, our navel center must be activated and consolidated, our lung capacity must be expanded, our energy must be balanced, and our spirit must be awakened. For most people, it generally takes about a year to be able to do a home practice with the same intensity that you would experience in a class.

We have created our DVD’s so people can have the class experience at home. Our new DVD’s are Navel Power, Warrior Workout, and Ultimate Stretch Workout. We call these Kundalini Supersets because they work on every aspect of our inner and outer lives. For instance, Navel Power deals with the Manipura Chakra or the fire in the belly. It has been our observation that this is the missing ingredient in most people’s halting attempts to transform. This DVD also works on core strength. For dancers this is essential. When you have core strength it pulls you together and you can move from your center. It connects your mind to body more quickly so you can get those instant messages and act on them without letting your mind get in the way. Even just walking down the street feels better when you have core strength. Core strength adds to your presence which is important for any performer.

SL: Please describe a typical class:

RS&AB: Normally we start with some kind of breathing exercise, then we do some spinal warm ups and some stretching. From there we do a specific sequence called a Kriya. A Kriya is more than just a random group of exercises based on a part of the body or poses and counterposes. It’s a group of exercises, which work in concert with one another to create a synergistic, multi-dimensional, exponential effect. Each sequence is like a poem which has a literal meaning, a symbolic meaning, and a music and rhythm all its own. One Kriya might focus on mastering one’s moods, or working through creative blocks, or developing will power. You can conceivably come to class for a year and never do the same class twice. After doing a set we relax on our backs for a few minutes. Then we end class with a meditation or chant. Most classes are ninety minutes. Kundalini Yoga is very user-friendly. If you can breathe, you can do it. We give ways to modify every exercise so everyone can always participate.

SL: Do you feel Kundalini Yoga has guided you to your life’s work? How has it changed your relationships?

RS&AB: Soon after we met it became apparent if the concept of soul mates is valid then that would be us. We have come to view marriage as a spiritual path. We are learning, as most couples do, that for a more perfect union one has to leave one’s ego at the door. For us Kundalini Yoga is our life’s work. We have merged our specialties and are now branding ourselves as one unit. One’s destiny invariably entails using one’s gift to heal, uplift, and inspire. Throughout 40 years of combined teaching experience we feel that it is the most powerful system we’ve found to help people get past their preconceived limitations. It’s empowering. Kundalini is the evolutionary energy in us.

Kundalini Yoga, we feel, is the right thing at the right time. It seems that our culture is devolving. The comedian Steve Allen said, “people seem to know less and less about more and more. Pretty soon they’ll know nothing at all about everything!” Kundalini Yoga helps us to live off of our own energy, to be self-reliant and aware.

BIO

(to someone who wrote to us after reading about purported dangers of Kundalini on the internet): It would be a tragedy if you gave up your Kundalini Yoga practice based on misinformation and the counsel of your apprehensions.

Please be assured that In our combined 40 years of teaching Kundalini Yoga we have never come across anyone who claimed to be in the throes of "Kundalini Syndrome," etc., which wasn't actually something more prosaic.

We feel that what is being described on the internet and in certain books, is really the misinterpretation of a wide range of symptoms from hypoglycemia and allergic sensitivity, to bipolar disorder and heavy metal toxicity, to electromagnetic pollution and "medical students disease (thinking that you are manifesting the symptoms of every pathology you read about)!"

We feel that the "interesting" experiences people describe relate to the process of working through energy and emotional blocks, and that invariably it would be a misnomer to lable those experiences "Kundalini Syndrome or "Kundalini energy." More accurately, those experiences are the absence of Kundalini energy. What's needed, when someone has a comprised nervous system, immune system, or has suffered any form of trauma or prolonged stress (90% of the human population fits into this demographic) is MORE Kundalini Yoga.

Kundalini, in its true definition, is a healing energy which promotes balance and fulfillment. Kundalini can be defined as the basic bio-energy in nature, and "A Universal archetype in the growth of the psyche." Kundalini Yoga is designed to strengthen the nervous system, glandular system, while balancing the emotions and healing the psyche, to create a more well balanced, effective, and happier, more fit person.

There are a number of checks and balances built into Kundalini Yoga so that the practitioner never accesses more energy then they can gracefully accommodate. Every exercise and meditation creates a more well balanced, effective, and happier individual.

We advise people with regard to Kundalini Yoga: it is actually more dangerous NOT to do it. Kundalini Yoga provides the tools to live healthy, happy, and fulfilled - and to realize one's potential and greatness.

To reiterate, it could be said that individuals citing negative experiences are actually experiencing the absence of Kundalini energy or the extent to which their life energy is blocked. Invariably these people are helped immensely by practicing Kundalini Yoga. Please make the distinction between Kundalini energy and Kundalini Yoga. Kundalii is our basic life energy. Kundalini Yoga is the means by which we can access our life energy and be healthy and happy.

Some people go through a relatively mild physical and emotional detox at the onset of a Kundalini Yoga practice, especially if your previous lifestyle had some less than healthy aspects. We recommend that a person do Navel Chakra work (on our Navel Power DVD and all of the other titles) . A strong Navel Chakra is the default setting for personal change. It's the most important chakra because it gathers energy and distributes it to all the other chakras so that your energy can flow the way its meant to. In addition, a strong Navel Chakra gives a person the will to move forward with energy, maintain discipline, and be fearless