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How Kundalini Yoga (Literally) Saved my Life in Graduate School

It’s August 26, 2014 at 4:15am and I’m taking the old-fashioned elevator up to the 5th floor where my former yoga home is located. As the gate of the elevator closes and the man sitting inside presses a button, I feel like I’m in a time machine that’s taking me back to 2006.  Eight long years have passed since I stepped foot in this magical place, Kundalini Yoga in the Loop, situated between artist shops in the Fine Arts Building on South Michigan Avenue.  My last memories of practicing Kundalini Yoga in Chicago all happened inside this quaint little studio, where I used to come religiously every Sunday morning like some people go to Church.

I would take the L from Evanston, IL, where I was a graduate student at Northwestern University’s Communication Disorders program.  Every other day of the week, I was miserable; fighting inner and outer demons, battling a depression that I was sure would take my life.  Shakta Kaur’s Sunday morning classes were my respite, my home away from home during those lonely and gloomy days.  On the outside, it appeared that I had everything going for me: I got into the top 3 graduate program for speech language pathology in the country; I was living just a 5 minute walk from Lake Michigan and a scenic bike ride away from the academic building where I spent the majority of my days; I managed to make a few good friends and found a spiritual community after relocating here from New Jersey.  Despite all this, by my third quarter in the program, everything looked bleak and the thought of completing what I started filled me with dread. I somehow managed to keep my academic GPA up, but when it came to performing up to standards in my sessions with clients, I was a train wreck. I was encouraged to go for therapy, so I started seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist who tried their best to help me…to no avail. The cocktail of antidepressants I was on only made me more suicidal, and talking about how I was feeling only made me feel more like a victim with no escape.  Only disciplined meditation and yoga practice created any noticeable changes in me. I would come to class with the usual negative train of thought that followed me around like a rain cloud, and come out of class feeling like the sun had risen on my horizon. 

During the intense practice of pranayama, kriya and meditation, I noticed subtle shifts in my energy and physiology. Since I was taking anatomy class at the time, I would visualize the diaphragm moving up and down during inspiration and expiration, and imagine how the vocal cords and all the laryngeal muscles expanded and contracted while reciting Gurbani mantras.  Sat Kriya strengthened my sense of self by reconnecting me with the seat of personal power and Kirtan Kriya reminded me that I am Infinite and my soul never dies. This brought a much-needed perspective on the ego’s desire to escape from my mental and emotional anguish.  As I lay in corpse pose during deep relaxation while listening to the sound of the Gong being played, I quickly shifted out of the default analysis paralysis state and into a more relaxed and intuitive mode through the activation of my parasympathetic nervous system.  The practice of yoga brought my book learning to life and gave it practical significance.   Kundalini yoga is the only practice that has given me the experience of God and connection with Source, not just the intellectual knowledge or philosophy about it.  Now I would like to share this powerful technology with others, so that they too have the opportunity to experience personal transformation.  Which is why, after practicing this style of yoga for the past 15 years, I finally committed to Level I Aquarian teacher training and recently became a certified Kundalini Yoga teacher! If you are searching for mental sanity as I did, the solution lies not in a quick fix in the form of recreational or over-the counter drugs, but in a lifestyle change. Congratulations, you have come to the right place!

About Akasha Kaur: Marina (Akasha Kaur) is a licensed social worker and certified holistic health coach who helps men and women facilitate their own mental, emotional, spiritual and physical transformation. She works with a wide range of clients including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and those struggling with clinical depression and anxiety. Contact Akasha Kaur for a complimentary phone or SKYPE consult at or 646-831-0585.

Kundalini Yoga in the Loop (KYL) celebrates its 11th year in Chicago’s Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., this October!  KYL is owned by Shakta Kaur and her husband, Hari Dev Singh.  KYL offers daily classes, monthly ‘gong & mantra’ workshops, beginners’ classes, Breathwalk (walking meditation), Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training (200- and 300-hour) plus bi-annual yatras to India.  Shakta’s 14th Level 1 200-hour Teacher Training is scheduled for Madison, Wisconsin, in March 2015.  For more information: or 312-922-4699.

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