This is part two in a two part series interviewing Uttamjeet Kaur, the owner and a teacher at Studio Sat Nam in Calagary, AB. Please check out the first part here!
MY: Have you noticed a transformation in your relationships and the people around you?
UK: The biggest thing there for me is the ability to control my reactions. I can choose how to react in a situation that brings up emotions. Instead of getting angry with whoever has pushed my buttons, I now have the awareness to realize I need to take a step back and remove myself personally.
MY: Yeah, it’s kind of like they are projecting and you are taking it personally.
UK: It has been huge for me to realize I can choose to react however I want to react. If I want to get into it with the other person, or just walk away.
MY: That makes a lot of sense.
UK: Yeah, and I think the other thing around that is just communicating effectively and speaking my mind when something is off.
MY: And that goes back to the voice.
UK: It does. If there’s a challenging situation and I see that something is not working in favour of the studio it’s quite easy for me to say – “Look this isn’t going to work out, thank you”, and just make the changes that need to be made without getting into personal stuff. This has been a great learning experience for me,
MY: That’s huge. I think a lot of people struggle with that.
UK: I think so too. And I did for a long time.
MY: Yeah. I do – right now.
UK: It’s hard.
MY: Yeah, that’s really cool. Do you kind of have a focus on the teachings that you share? I’ll tell you a little bit about that question; where it came from – because a lot of people that I know, they kind of have a group of people that focus on sharing with. The last women I interviewed, she teaches the blind. And one before that she teaches people who specifically deal with anxiety and trauma, and so when I was looking at your website I wasn’t really sure if it was geared for a certain group of people or if you have a specific focus in your teachings.
UK: My focus is just opening this space to any one that wants to practice and ensure they feel comfortable. It’s very important for me to preserve the legacy of these teachings. It is my job to keep them as pure as I can.
MY: What does the legacy mean for you?
UK: The legacy for me is the intention Yogi Bhajan had: Spreading this technology to people to help them become more enlightened and aware of themselves. It’s just so clear to me that his intention was to create teachers, to carry this technology into the further. KRI has done a great job of preserving and documenting everything he left. It’s all there for us. All we have to do is teach.
MY: That makes sense.
UK: Does that answer your question?
MY: It does, it does. And I want to know are you the only Kundalini yoga studio in Calgary?
MY: That’s huge! Calgary is massive!
UK: You can find classes at different studios.
MY: But there’s no pure studio?
MY: Yeah, you definitely still are fulfilling a need there, for sure.
UK: Yeah, if people can find us, and I know they will. There is no doubt in my mind that the studio will be successful.
UK: It’s just holding the space until then and paying the rent (laughs).
MY: It feels like you’re in a really good space.
UK: Yeah, I’m pretty lucky.
MY: So I wanted to ask you more about your daily practise. You said you do your daily practise of a kriya and meditation and it normally takes an hour a half or whatever. So my question is do you have any tips for people who have trouble developing a strong practise like that?
UK: Yeah, I do. That’s a good question. I would say to start small. Set a goal that’s achievable for you. Start with tuning in using both mantras and do whatever you feel you can do in five minutes, seven minutes or eleven minutes. Just commit to a daily practice, no mater how short it is. After you feel you’ve got a good commitment established, begin to increase the duration of your practice. I think the thing that goes wrong for most people is setting an unrealistic goal.
MY: Do you ever have days where you wake up and you just don’t want to do it?
UK: Oh yeah.
MY: What do you do then?
UK: I do it anyway. I drag myself out of bed and do it. There was actually one day last week and I was just having a terrible time. I actually fell down the stairs. I ended up with a clavicle misalignment, which, apparently can affect the way that we process emotions. Talk about not wanting to get out of bed, I was a walking disaster. I feel it’s important for yoga teachers to share there moments when they feel like crap. There is this misconception that we feel good all the time and its not true. We feel like sh*t sometimes too. It’s how we deal with it that makes the difference.
MY: I know! I taught a really intense class a couple of weeks ago in Nelson and after the class – I teach women who’ve experienced trauma and normally there’s only one or two women who show up so I often do the kriya with them – because it feels right. And so I did the kriya with them and for the next three days it felt like my whole body was on fire. And I was trying to get out of bed and was like “Oh my god!” Then I show up at the Library and ran into a guy I know and we are standing there having a conversation and my body was just hurting. I asked if I could sit down and he was like “Are you okay?” I was like “ Yeah I just taught this really intense yoga class.” And he was like “What? Yoga teachers can hurt?” I was like “Yeah! All the time!” and a little incredulous at the question.
UK: It’s true. I mean you definitely don’t want to complain, but I think it’s really important that you realize it’s part of your practise.
UK: Even though you feel like crap.
MY: Keep telling your story.
UK: Oh yeah! So I woke up and I just wanted to stay in bed, and I felt horrible. I felt dark and depressed, I couldn’t cope with the stress of the studio, the finances and life– I just didn’t want to do any of it. This was uncharacteristic of me, I’m a pretty light and positive person. I finally got up and thought “dammit, just do it.” I did the Kriya for the Neutral Mind and the Shabad Kriya Meditation. I experienced a complete transformation. If you can find the strength within you to practise even when it’s the last thing you want to do, it will prove to you over and over again that this yoga works and will help you when you need it most.
MY: Yeah. I notice it totally changes my energy when I’m able to do this practise daily. What happened for me last year was that I tend to feel overwhelmed by the practise. Would you have any advice for that?
UK: Just like it’s draining you or it’s too much?
MY: Yes, it’s too much, like I didn’t have enough time a day for the practise, but I also didn’t have – it just felt too much, where it’s just overwhelming.
UK: Yeah, I’ve definitely been there too. I think going through these kinds of moments is part of the process of being teacher. There is tons of inspiring literature from Yogi Bhajan available out there, quotes and lectures that will help you regain your motivation. journalling works for a lot of people, writing your feelings regarding your practice and where you’re at it. I’m not a huge fan journalling myself, but I know it works for other people. Sometimes all we need is to take a step back. Just go to the alter and tune in, do three minutes of breath of fire and a few frogs before you go back to bed. At least you tuned in. You did something.
MY: At least I kept that chain alive, that energy alive.
UK: I would say if you are at rock bottom and you absolutely cannot get back to your practice, at least tune in and stay connected to the golden chain. Listen to the mantras, read, go to classes, talk with other teachers and colleagues. chances are they have also been through it. Teaming up with a buddy to do a meditation is a great way to hold yourself accountable. You can choose something easy that works for both of you and do it together for thirty days. Check in with each other on a daily basis and keep notes.
MY: I found that it’s really helpful to have a strong community of teachers. I moved from Vancouver where I did my training and I graduated like 40 people and then your just involved in the community, involved in the studio and we started emailing people from previous years and it was really easy to keep up with my practise.
UK: For sure.
MY: Now I live in Nelson and there’s one studio with one teacher offering classes and with my job I can’t make the class times. I just noticed a lack of inspiration in my practice. So thank you for sharing that.
UK: No problem, it’s tough. When I did my training in New Mexico, there were 60 of us practicing and sharing in the community experience for one month. Returning home was definitely an adjustment. At that point there were a few classes at different studios in Calgary. The community here is a little smaller and not as gelled as other communities. Calgary is geographically spread out, it’s easy feel isolated and on your own.
MY: That’s similar to Nelson, because there are not a lot of people living in town that do the practice from what I can see but a lot of people who drive in from out of town.
MY: You’ve kind of already answered this question. I’m wondering if you would advise anything different if someone wants to begin their own Kundalini practise, what advice would you give.
UK: I think attending classes is really important for sure if there is a place that offers them. There is tons of information on line. KRI, 3H0 Foundation, Golden Bridge, Spirit Voyage are all great resources. The Sadhana Guidelines Book is a really good place to start. It has great info on the history of Kundalini Yoga and will help you build your own sadhana. Facebook is a really great place for people to connect and stay in touch. Many communities have established their own page.
MY: I have just one more question for you. What are your favourite musicians for kundalini yoga classes?
UK: Sure I would love to share. Sat Purkh Kaur, Dev Suroop Kaur, Nirinjan Kaur, Simrit Kaur, and Todd Boston. To name a few.
MY: Great! That’s all the questions I have for you, do you have anything else you want to share?
UK: No, I don’t think so, it’s great, good questions.
** During our time together Uttamjeet recommended reading about sadhana and she gave me a pdf to pass along and read to inspire us to do sadhana! Here it is! Yay! Thank you Uttamjeet!!
Uttamjeet Kaur (Janet) describes the call to practice Kundalini Yoga as a voice impossible to ignore. The call came for her in 2010. As it is for many, awareness of the practice came to her as she found herself working through life changes and the desire to examine herself on a deeper level. Completely different from other styles of yoga, she was attracted to the unique facets of Kundalini Yoga.
Uttamjeet recalls her first class as an experience like no other. She knew instantly that she was to answer the call to become a Kundalini Yoga Teacher. Uttamjeet completed her Kundalini Yoga teacher training at Hacienda de Guru Ram Das Ashram, home of Yogi Bhajan, in New Mexico.
During her time at the Ashram, she became aware that the next step in the journey was to open a space for Kundalini Yoga. Studio Sat Nam became a reality in 2014 and her vision for the studio continues to be to provide a sacred and safe space dedicated to the practice of Kundalini Yoga. Uttamjeet is described as a grounded and comical yogi.
She encourages people to be respectful of their bodies while at the same time safely pushes to go beyond the limits created by the mind. Her classes will leave you feeling empowered, focused and aware of your divine potential. Supporting others as they transform and grow while embarking on their own spiritual journey is of the utmost importance to her.
Uttamjeet believes in the power of Kundalini Yoga and is pleased to share the knowledge with all.