Snatam Kaur and the Rise of Kundalini Yoga in Hungary
Snatam Kaur, who performed in Budapest on May 7 and 8, may well be the most visible face of Kundalini Yoga in the world after Yogi Bhajan, who brought the practice to the West. She sings kirtan, a form of Indian devotional music involving chanting, closely connected to Kundalini Yoga.
Born in Colorado, Snatam Kaur’s family moved to California when she was two. She first visited India with her family aged six. Throughout her childhood, she performed kirtan with her mother at Sikh temples and religious ceremonies. At high school, she began writing her own songs. Snatam Kaur has been committed to social justice all her life and is a dedicated peace activist.
Kundalini yoga is a form of yoga that involves movement, different forms of dynamic breathing and meditation, often linked to chanting mantras. Teachers and devotees wear white clothing and often wear white turbans. A form of yoga unlike any other, Kundalini can be challenging but it can also be profoundly uplifting.
I’ve practiced Kundalini yoga off and on for the past ten years. It’s the most powerful form of yoga I know. I’ve drifted off into meditation to the sound of Snatam Kaur’s voice more times than I can remember. So, it was a pleasure to speak to her on the eve of her Budapest performance.
Growing up in a community guided by the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, Snatam Kaur would often sing at gatherings.
“After one particular gathering when I’d sung something a lady came up to me and said ‘You did a really nice job, but I think you should take some voice lessons. You’re a little out of tune’,” she told me.
“I decided not to believe her, to believe my voice was my soul’s voice. I feel my voice was born at that moment. I was 12.”
“Beloved”, Snatam Kaur’s 2018 album, was nominated for a Grammy and she performed at the ceremony, which, she says, “was supercool. I’m so happy that my album was so well-received, especially as it includes two traditional songs from the Sikh tradition. There’s also a song dedicated to raising awareness of the challenges facing our water supply. I feel that we each have to keep doing what we can to protect the earth and its resources.”
This is Snatam Kaur’s third time in Hungary. What did she make of the country and its capital?
“Budapest is just gorgeous. I spent a lot of time in different neighborhoods. To me, there’s a sense of a country being transformed, in the process of finding itself.”
How about receptiveness to Kundalini yoga? “It’s flourishing incredibly well. There’s a genuine interest in the practice and love for the teachings. Now, I find people are quite familiar with many of the chants I perform.”
I was curious as to why she thought that Kundalini Yoga was becoming so popular.
“It changes the whole person, allowing us to be who we really are but in a stronger way. People are empowered to uplift themselves in challenging times, to channel emotions and harness emotional energy to devotion so we become really effective peacemakers, fathers and mothers,” she explained.
“The chants give us strength and energy to break the patterns of stress and feeling unloved in which so many of us are trapped. Whenever you chant, you participate in a wheel of energy created by people who’ve chanted before you and someone coming into that chant 100 years from now will feel your healing energy.”
For Hungarian Zoltan Ambrus, whose Kundalini Yoga name is Navraj Singh, discovering Kundalini Yoga was a revelation.
“I thought yoga was a gimmick,” he told me. “I didn’t want to do it. But, one day, my wife asked me to try and something happened instantly, in that moment. I went to my first Kundalini Yoga class the next morning.”
Singh has been practicing for 11 years and teaching for five. Together with his wife, he runs a Kundalini Yoga Center in Budapest called Adi Shakti. He estimates that there a few hundred people practicing Kundalini Yoga regularly in Hungary.
For Singh, Kundalini Yoga is growing “because humanity is going through a crisis. We have many people coming to our classes, foreigners and Hungarians, who have found that Western ways of handling stress don’t work for them. They come to us to learn to relax. And more are coming all the time.”
Why does Singh think Kundalini Yoga is so good at helping people relax? “It can connect someone to his or her inner power and can strengthen all the body’s nervous and glandular systems in a very, very short time. That’s how people get back to their inner balance.”
Because Kundalini Yoga is so very different from the other forms of yoga that you’ve probably seen and may practice, it can look a bit intimidating. The fact that teachers wear white from head to foot and often seem to be on another planet can be rather unnerving, especially in our “busy, busy, busy” world.
But, if you’re at all interested in yoga, meditation and mindfulness, I would urge you to try at least one Kundalini Yoga class. Like Zolán Ambrus before he metamorphized into Navraj Singh, I found that Kundalini Yoga affected me instantly. I don’t wear white to classes, worship Yogi Bhajan as a guru or believe any of the more outlandish claims made by Kundalini Yoga. All I know is that it works.
Find out more about Kundalini Yoga classes, workshops and retreats at www.shaktijoga.hu
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