Sat Nam, Yogis! Meet yoga instructor Karen Chandler, also known around the studio and in the yoga community as Prem Baldevi Kaur.
Kundalini yoga is unlike any other type of yoga that you might practice. Where hatha yoga and vinyasa flow focus on the physical exercises that yoga has to offer, Kundalini has a lot more to do with you, your consciousness, and how you experience the present moment. Kundalini helps you connect with yourself and your consciousness through a set of practies (or kriyas), like meditation, mantras, breathing exercises, and certain postures. The main idea behind Kundalini is awakening: the awakening of your own awareness and consciousness.
Prem leads Kundalini at 7 pm on Tuesdays at Be Well Studio, and here she answers a few common questions about the practice of Kundalini and her personal experiences:
What does Kundalini mean?
Kundalini is the divine energy force that resides within us all at the base of our spine. We practice all forms of yoga with the goal of raising that Kundalini energy to flow freely through the chakra system so that we may live up to our fullest potential in all we do. Yogi Bhajan compiled his method of yoga which includes specific techniques such as breath work, chanting, energy locks (called Bandhas), mudras (hand positions), mantras, and sound vibrations to all work together to quickly and powerfully raise the Kundalini energy. It is designed to be a form of yoga that a normal, busy individual can practice opposed to the forms that ascetics would have to leave their families to practice in monasteries or caves.
What drew you to Kundalini Yoga?
I practiced various forms of Hatha yoga for years for back pain and stress relief. I stumbled into a Kundalini Yoga workshop at a yoga festival in 2017 and knew immediately this was something entirely different. I had no understanding of meditation, or our bodies energy systems, or how to recognize when things were out of balance, but I knew I needed to learn these things. Our bodies pick up a wide range of information from our environments and it is the job of our intuition to decipher these signals and translate it into useful data. Kundalini Yoga helps us to do these things by becoming aware and harnessing the power of all our senses. The vigorous exercises prepare the body to focus the mind quickly, effectively allowing us to withstand the pressures of stress and anxiety in the environment and still perform to our best abilities.
What should I expect in your Kundalini Class?
Expect to be challenged. For me, Kundalini challenged my beliefs regarding religion and spirituality (Kundalini Yoga while based on the Sikh tradition is NOT Sikhism). It will challenge your ego. (Yes, I may ask you to do something you think is totally ridiculous). It may challenge you physically. It will challenge your fears. It will challenge you to step out of your box of what you think is comfortable and acceptable. It will challenge you to let go of whatever is holding you back, and to live more authentically. It will challenge you to push past your limits and recognize your boundlessness. It will challenge you to use your voice more effectively and to speak your truth.
Why do you wear all white?
As a teacher it is tradition to wear white, comfortable, flowing clothes as well as a head covering. It is certainly not expected of the students. As a teacher we are reminded by wearing white that we are merely the vessel of the teachings. It is not for us to draw attention to ourselves, but to be a reflection of the teachings of Kundalini Yoga for others. The wearing of the turban was a hurdle of overcoming the ego for me. Now I am proud to wear it as a symbol of my training. Yogi Bhajan also stated that wearing white allows you to expand your aura an extra two feet in every direction. My kids joke that it is now my favorite color, and I do admit it takes over a great part of my wardrobe. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself gravitating towards wearing white more as you begin to practice Kundalini.
What does Prem Baldevi Kaur mean and why do you have a “yoga name”?
My spiritual name is translated as “the Lioness who is an angelic embodiment of God’s divine love, power, and strength in the world”. Anyone can request a spiritual name from 3HO, the governing body of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan. I decided to request one about one third of the way through my teacher training as a symbol of my transformation through Kundalini Yoga. Your name can be used as a meditation, and it considered a blessing when anyone calls you by your spiritual name.
Sat Nam, Yogis
Sat Nam is the central mantra of Kundalini Yoga and is translated as “truth is my identity”. It is used as a greeting and a blessing.
Prem Baldevi Kaur is a graduate of the Level I 200 hr Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan teacher training. She has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and nursing and a master’s degree as a Family Nurse Practitioner. She loves to explore the connection between our spiritual and physical wellness, and brings a wealth of human anatomy and healthful guidance into her classes. She fell in love with Kundalini Yoga because it incorporates not just physical movements but use of sound currents and a limitless variety of breath and meditation techniques.