I want to be a yoga teacher when I grow up.

February 18, 2015 at 10:10 pm

When we fold our hands in prayer,
God opens His arms and gives us a hug.
Life is fulfilled with this union.
That is yoga.
-Yogi Bhajan

About three months ago I wrote a post I titled “Now what?” In it I expressed confusion about where my life was heading:

It won’t be long until all my children will be in school. I feel like I’m soon to be laid-off from my day job. What am I supposed to do now? Write more books? Get a job? Put my doula training to work? Volunteer in the community? Train in midwifery? Become a foster parent? Fight against modern day slavery/trafficking? I have no idea.

IMG_0946My friend, Felice, introduced me to Kundalini Yoga and Meditation several years ago. She attended yoga teacher training while we were writing our book, The Gift of Giving Life (in which she wrote a whole chapter about meditation). Since then she has written more books about Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, and she has taught thousands of students around the country and world, including me. But I was resistant. Boy was I resistant. And never in the years she urged me to keep up my yoga and meditation practice did I ever have a desire to attend a yoga teacher training myself.

Then, August, September, and October happened. As I was weaning off the benzodiazepine (temporary anxiety med) I was prescribed, I experienced horrific withdrawals. That drug was without a doubt the worst thing that has ever happened to me. If you want to read more about that period of time, see HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. I have never been so utterly miserable. But that misery provided me with powerful, life-changing lessons. One of those was the power of my own words and thoughts (see HERE). And one of the other lessons was the power of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation.

As I endured months of withdrawals, I tried a lot of things in an attempt to find something… anything that would bring me even a small bit of relief. Taking brisk walks would usually help take the edge off. Crying was usually a helpful release. I had stopped meditating in July and August, in part because I was feeling upset with Felice. Meditating reminded me of her, and it was painful to think about her then. Plus I was so deep in darkness and despair that I didn’t think anything would help me. Sometime in September (or was it October?) I got desperate enough that I was ready to set aside my heartache and pride and try meditating again. And this is why I often say that my misery during this time was a gift. If I hadn’t been so utterly miserable, I may never have seen the power of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation illustrated so vividly.

2015-02-19 01.47.32 pmAll I could think was whoah. When I re-introduced meditation, I was blown away by how well it worked. Meditation cut my withdrawal-induced misery and anxiety instantly down to a negligible level. For those twenty or thirty minutes when I would meditate, I would feel like myself again… for the first time in so long. In the beginning the relief only lasted an hour or two. But the effects were cumulative. The more I meditated, the better I felt. Some days I would meditate several times in the day to get the relief I needed. Meditation and yoga helped save my life.

And I was sold. All of my resistance to Kundalini Yoga and Meditation crumbled to dust. Though my psychiatrist had wanted to double my SSRI dose and put me on an anti-psychotic in August (wow, overkill), I have been able to wean down to just one medication at the “lowest effective dose.” As long as I take my other “medication” [meditation] every day, I feel great.

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Janice and me

So, a few weekends ago, I attended an all-day yoga event with my friend, Janice. At the end, there were some friendly people at the door handing out fliers saying, “You can still sign up for yoga teacher training!” I smiled and accepted the flier while thinking to myself… no thanks. I had no interest at all.

A day or two later, I was meditating in the morning, and I was suddenly (surprisingly) overwhelmed by the urge to sign up. I texted Felice to tell her. She thought purple pigs must be flying. Ha! My one hold-up was the cost issue. My husband felt like it was something we couldn’t really afford. I prayed, and I woke up the next day with thoughts and images in my head that further fueled my drive to do the training. I was offered a partial scholarship from Yoga Phoenix, and then my husband found out he would be getting a raise. That was the nudge he needed I guess, so he told me I should go ahead and sign up!

My teacher, Jaap Kaur

My teacher, Jaap Kaur

That very night I went to Yoga Phoenix for their Friday night class, taught by Jaap Kaur, my yoga teacher training instructor. We had been exchanging emails and texts for a couple of days, so she suggested I come and fill out the registration paperwork after class. As soon as I walked in the door and said, “Hi, I’m Lani.” She smiled warmly, came around the table, and wrapped her arms around me. It was love at first hug. I seriously adore this lady. She is awesome.

Last weekend was my first set of teacher training classes. I was a little nervous about jumping into things after missing the first two weekends of class. But I was quickly welcomed and felt like part of the “family” in no time. My 2+ years of tutelage under Felice’s determined wing were excellent preparation, enabling me to be ready to jump right in without feeling too far behind. That first day of class, I knew without a doubt: this is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

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Many Kundalini Yoga students and teachers obtain what they call a “spiritual name.” It’s not required, and (as I often am with new things) I was very resistant to the idea. My given name means “heaven” in Hawaiian. I already have a spiritual name, I thought. After years of growing up hating my name (people always mispronounced and misspelled it), I have come to love my given name as an adult, and I didn’t want to get a new one.

Then, the night before teacher training, I had a dream. As I was driving to class the next morning, a flash of memory came. I remembered dreaming… a scrap of paper with some words was handed to me. Someone said to me, “This is your spiritual name.” As I recalled this image, I groaned inside… but I don’t want a spiritual name. This time my resistance crumbled after just a few minutes of pondering. OK, I’m ready, I said.

Two nights ago, my spiritual name arrived:

You have been blessed to live as Harsimrit Kaur, the kind, creative and spiritually prosperous Princess/Lioness who remembers God’s Name with every breath. . . . Let your kind and prosperous presence be a comfort and upliftment for all.

I don’t plan to replace my given name. Please continue to call me Lani, if you know me and see me often. But I plan to use Harsimrit Kaur as my yoga-teacher name when I start teaching.

The last few weeks have been an adventure to say the least. So I guess I’m going to be a yoga teacher. (But that doesn’t mean I’m ruling out being other things too… doula, midwife, who knows what else.) I’ve only attended two teacher training classes, but I already have so much I want to tell you! Stay tuned for some “Yoga Teacher Training Diary” posts coming up.

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my little yogis-in-training

White is taking over my closet (thanks, Goodwill)

White is taking over my closet (thanks, Goodwill)

yoga