Updesh Kaur (Gail Dutton): Teacher Feature August 2010

What got you into yoga? When Where Why?

I took my first Kundalini Yoga class at a local gym in Clearwater back in September of 2000. I had just received my degree in Business Management from Eckerd College and was starting on my efforts to quit smoking after almost 30 years. I was keeping a promise I made to my younger sister to become a nonsmoker.

I was immediately drawn to the technology of Kundalini Yoga because the teacher, Martha Arruda, was so real in her explanation of the teachings.

Kundalini Yoga is the Yoga of Awareness; it’s the yoga for householders, people who live in the world. It’s a complete practice, including asana (physical exercise and postures), pranayama (breathwork) and meditation to enrich the mind, body and spirit. This yoga benefits overall health and vitality and is said to be particularly beneficial for the endocrine and neurological systems.

One of the first meditations I did was Kirtan Kriya, a meditation to change habits. Martha was very matter-of-fact in her teaching and challenged each student to have their experience and be their own scientist.

When and why did you decide to start teaching?

In the spring of 2001, I attended my first White Tantric yoga meditation in Miami. It’s a form of meditation facilitated by the Mahan Tantric, Yogi Bhajan, and helps to clear our subconscious thoughts (clutter of the mind).

Once I got back from this weekend meditation, I started to entertain the possibility of attending the Teacher Training Immersion course in Espanola, New Mexico. I’m sure my interest really surprised my teacher, Martha, as I was extremely addicted to my daily dose of caffeine. I probably drank 6 to 8 cups of coffee everyday.

Through my experience of this practice, I feel my ability and freedom to align my habits with who I want to be in this world.

Briefly describe your training and influential teachers.

I registered and attended the August 2001 Immersion Training in Espanola, New Mexico. The Immersion Level One Training is truly an Immersion (pressure cooker) in the Technology and Teachings–24/7 for 3 weeks.

Everday started with Sadhana (daily morning practice and meditation during the Amrit Vela from 3:45 to 6AM). Breakfast was from 7:30 to 8:30 with classroom activities following. Most of the days ran until 8:30 or 9:00PM.

The opportunity to meet and have Yogi Bhajan directly involved in the delivery of our course is one of my most memorable experiences. I had the opportunity to "sit at the Master’s feet" as he lectured us on the responsibilities of being a Kundalini Yoga Teacher.

I directly experienced Yogi Bhajan’s influence when he said, "Go be ten times greater than me." He also said, "I’ve come to create teachers, not to get disciples."

Describe your personal approach to the practice.

In preparing to teach any Kundalini Yoga class, I always make sure to practice the kriya and meditation in my personal practice. This allows me to have my own experience. It allows me to determine whether there will be a need for modifications to any of the postures, reductions in the times for how long each asana is held and which meditation should be taught. It gives me a sense of how different postures are challenging for different people and reinforces how important it is to be released from judgment.

Each student is in class for his/her experience. Yoga is not a competition. It’s a yoke for bringing our mind, body and spirit to wholeness.

Describe your own practice and any thoughts or insights about staying with it.

My personal practice can vary with the seasons. I will maintain a strong daily practice of kriya and meditation for 90 to 120 days, focused on bringing in a new quality and releasing an old pattern.

Once that’s accomplished, I can sometimes experience an erratic practice, where it’s difficult to get myself on the mat. During these erratic times, I practice at least 4 days a week. However, I operate from the perspective, "all I need to do is Begin Again." It’s right there within my reach.

Almost every Saturday morning at 4:45AM, you will find me attending or leading Sadhana. Sadhana is the daily spiritual practice of kriya and meditation. But more importantly, at Yoga Village, it’s a time when the community comes together to share in the practice. It’s a time of "All for One, and One for All." If just one person opens up to Infinity (GOD) just once, we will all be blessed in his openness. Come join us sometime.

Do you have any additional thoughts to share?

As a Kundalini Yoga Teacher, my approach is to get out of the way of the teachings–to teach from a place of Shuniya (zero)–so that each student can go deep within themselves to experience his/her connection to Infinity.

Kundalini Yoga is a self-initiating practice. My purpose as a teacher is to connect to the Golden Chain of Teachers that have come before me and allow the teachings to flow through.

Updesh Kaur teaches Kundalini Yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6AM and Saturdays at 9AM.

Updesh Kaur recommends a recent St. Pete Times article on the benefits of Kirtan Kriya. Click here to read.