In the previous lesson of this series on teaching Kundalini Yoga I shared my experience of how to gracefully co-exist as a teacher in a place where there are many other teachers. In this fifth and final installment I am going share with you another tip: Listen. Diversify.
By listening, I mean listen deeply to the needs of your students. What brings them to class? Is it their own needs? Are they sharing what they learn from you with someone who is unable to come to class? Attune yourself to - and by this, I mean meditate on - the needs of your students and the people they associate with. Do they have there special needs? Do they represent unusual demographics? Are they part of a social group this is unserved or underserved by the current teaching paradigm?
Let us look at Yogi Bhajan’s teaching life for an example. In how many classes did he focus on the needs of specific people? Let us make a rough count. Yogiji started with many people who were just curious about yoga and he happened to be the first yoga teacher they met. Others wanted exposure to “the mysterious wisdom of the East.” Then there were hippies who needed techniques to direct their minds and keep them in higher consciousness. Wounded people who needed methodologies to heal and feel whole again also came to Yogiji. Before long, the Master was devoting significant time to helping his women students realize their graceful potentials in the several facets of their lives. Yogi Bhajan taught yoga to the Los Angeles professional soccer team to make them better players. Through Guruka Singh, he taught Olympic swimmers to make them compete better. Through David-Shannahoff-Khalsa, he gave meditation techniques for people with various psychiatric diagnoses to help them heal. Now and again, Yogiji would give a class for children or young people so they might grow up strong and balanced. Occasionally there would be a weekend for men to be better men. For people born into the Sikh tradition, he encouraged them to chant “Wahe Guru” and stick to the high moral ground of their spiritual legacy. There was never a need that Yogi Bhajan was unable to address in one way or another.
My story, of course is different, but here are some niche needs I feel I have been blessed to address. Yoga for children to help them keep their sparkle and glow. This started with me just subbing a class. Soon I was loving it. (Link to my video) Chair yoga for seniors to help with their mental and physical fitness, to say nothing of their spiritual aspect. This class came through a referral. It requires some adjustment of the original exercises, but I soon developed the hang of it. My seniors are some of my most grateful students. Yoga for sufferers of posttraumatic stress (PTSD) to take back their lives. This began with Dr. Farah Jindani’s research work here in Toronto. Now it is a regular class I teach. Yoga for civil activists to feed their spirits and make them quick on their feet. Get them out for an invigorating session, then send them singing "Longtime Sun" before the teargas flies! Kundalini Yoga to enrich the lives of the hearing impaired. You will need an interpreter for this, or you can learn sign language yourself; a big field begging for teachers. (Link to my video) Classes and workshops for invincible women. In my experience, many Kundalini Yoga teachers are shy about sharing these great teachings. If no one else is doing it in your area, consider taking the plunge. Kundalini Yoga to touch the spirits of immigrant Sikhs and their children is a specialty of mine. Requires knowing some Punjabi and being familiar with Sikh history and culture.
Another approach to getting classes going is to commute to a place where Kundalini Yoga has yet to take hold. If you can find ways to fruitfully use your commute time, this can be a worthwhile strategy.
Even if you currently have no classes, by studying your social environments and using your imagination, you are very likely to find a group of people grateful to learn from you.
Where not to go? There are two specialties you will likely not want to pursue, though they may at first seem lucrative.
#1 The first is celebrity house calls. Gurmukh Kaur made her name with these house calls, then with Yogi Bhajan’s guidance she gave them up. Celebrities may have money to burn, but their egos can be unmanageable. In my experience, it is much better for a person, even if they are physically or mentally challenged, to make the effort to come out and join a class. That effort and the longing to get there is in itself an important part of the Kundalini Yoga experience. If someone pleads with you to come to their house, I suggest you do your best to humor them to come out to a class instead.
#2 Online classes. I have never taught online, though I suggested to Nirvair Singh of KRI some years ago that we make use of the technology. His reply was that Yogi Bhajan had disapproved teaching over the phone in his time as there was a distortion of the energy. Presumably there would be a similar mismatch of the energy online. Prerecorded and archived live classes are one thing, but I suggest we leave teaching video courses at a distance to the Mahan Tantric.
In case you missed them, here are links to the previous articles in this supplemental series for Kundalini Yoga teachers:
#1 Speaking of Kundalini Yoga
#2 Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
#3 Sadhana Today and Tomorrow
#4 Give Space. Allow Grace.
May God and Guru give us light, excellence, and inspiration each day. May we succeed in life and in teaching the sacred science of Kundalini Yoga with humility, effectiveness, and grace. Sat Nam.
In the Name of the Cosmos which prevails through everyBody and the Holy Nam that holds the world.
Guru Fatha Singh Khalsa