By Atmabir Kaur/Victoria Lynes
Do you schedule in your yoga class right next to dental appointments, servicing of the car, work meetings and dinner with friends?
Or is it just wafting around loosely in the back of your mind, “Perhaps if I have time after…(insert 101 duties, chores and responsibilities here)…I may be able to fit in a yoga class?” Fit in a yoga class. Would you fit in a mammogram if you felt a lump? Would you fit in a dentist appointment if you had an aching tooth? No—you would just schedule it, and go.
But that is different, I hear you say. I say it is not at all. We all know that yoga is super good for us on so many levels—that yoga can prevent so many ailments which in the future will spare us from appointments with a whole gamut of healthcare practitioners. (This, is turn, will give us more time for more yoga, or other things that make us feel good! See how this works? More yoga = more time for you!) But sadly, it still seems that many women have a habit of putting themselves last on their busy to do lists. Why is this?
I teach many different classes around the city where I live. Most of my classes are filled with women. No surprise. Yoga attracts more women than men—we all know that. And Kundalini Yoga specifically has a magnetic effect on women who are drawn to it. I love to see new students come to class for the first time.
It is an interesting position to be in—as a teacher, sitting facing all your students, watching and monitoring their movement, gestures and energy through the exercises, breath work, chants and meditations we do in Kundalini Yoga. I can often tell by the end of the opening chant and after the first pranayama whether she will be back. There is a certain look that comes across her face and settles into her body—a sense of release perhaps, the melting away of all that she has brought to the mat. And let’s face it—when we do get to class, that is often a whole lot of stuff!
The busy lives we as women lead these days—juggling work, home, family and everything in between, is exhausting and depleting. We NEED yoga now more than ever. I see it on the faces of some of my students as they rush into class, fresh from their lives, often stressed, often tired, carting a small, heavy aura. “I almost didn’t make it,” they announce, quickly rolling out their mats, settling in to their spaces, sporting a look of “Ok, bring on the serenity would you?”
Have you noticed that when you ask the simple question, “How are you?” to your women friends, it is all too often answered with, “Oh… so busy… really, really busy.” And this is usually followed up with, “I just don’t have any time…” Many of us are run-down, numb and only mildly happy.
Yogi Bhajan taught that women are 16 times more emotional than men, which if not channeled through some form of uplifting practice, like Kundalini Yoga, can be our downfall. We can so easily become victims of our own insecurity and emotional commotions, creating much pain and misery for ourselves and others around us.
And as we get older, if we do not have our inner intelligence tuned up and our inner light on high beam, subconsciously we can feel like we are losing something. Our bodies change, things begin to sag and often our mentality does the same. We are often our own worst enemies and the funny thing is, is that we know this about ourselves—but keep doing it anyway!
Many of my beginning students ask me how they can better “perform” the exercises we do in class. “I wasn’t able to move my body that way,” or “I couldn’t pump my arms up and down for more than 20 seconds!” or “I just can’t clear my mind at all…I will never be good at meditation.” And so on. They work so hard to just get themselves to class, then sit there the whole 90 minutes, berating themselves for the no good person they are.
Of course, there are many responses I can give to these challenges the women are having. I want to say, “Just stop! Stop criticizing yourself, judging yourself, telling yourself you are not good enough. Look at your life and all the things you do! Look at all the things you juggle and all the people you take care of. Write it down one day—what you fit into 24 hours. You are incredible, strong, unselfish, kind and giving! You just don’t know it, so you don’t feel it.”
But I don’t often say these words. But my goal is always to encourage them to continue to come to class, and more often—that the teachings will work their magic and that they will one day arrive to class, unrushed, sit on their mat and the first things they will say to themselves will be positive. “I am grateful to be here.” “I have done my best today.” “I love and accept myself today.”
Yogi Bhajan said: “Strength and weakness follow each other. The question is, which side are you on? The question is not what the calamities are that you are going to face. Everybody has got to face that. The question is not whether misfortune is coming or not. The question is, how are you going to face it? If you face anything head on, it will go away.”
I often tell my students that by committing to coming to class each week, they are facing everything head on! Because these extraordinary teachings do this—they challenge us physically, mentally and emotionally, and force us to confront our neuroses—our inner commotion. They force us to focus on what is important in our lives and strive for that. And I often tell them too, that sometimes, just by getting to class, they have done half the work!
So please—if getting to class is often a challenge for you, even if you want to with every fiber of your being, schedule it into your day planner. Don’t try to just fit it in only if you have time. Make the time. It should not be a luxury, your yoga is as important as everything else you do—the up side being that if you get to class, then all those other things that you do will be done better!
Finally, a beautiful quote by Yogi Bhajan in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th:
“You do not understand your features. Your features are not your beautiful nose, your beautiful cheeks, beautiful lips, and so on. These are not your features. Your features are your beautiful behavior, your beautiful character, your beautiful health, your beautiful spirit, your beautiful advice, your beautiful wisdom, your beautiful inspiration.”
-August 21, 1978
Victoria Lynes/Atmabir: “I have to say that to teach has always brought me the greatest of pleasures. When I am teaching I feel the most connected to my truth - my "Sat Nam" - when I sit on my mat and gratefully share the joy and transformation of yoga with students from all walks of life. When I discovered Kundalini Yoga several years back, I resonated instantly with this powerful and profound practice. Having a busy life and being a mother of 2 growing boys, I was astounded at how a sense of peace, neutrality and strength quickly permeated so seamlessly into my daily life with the regular practice of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation.”
Internationally Certified KRI Kundalini Yoga Teacher
Level 2 Radiant Child Yoga Teacher