Words of wisdom from Madonna’s former yoga instructor

- October 30th, 2011
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The great Gurmukh is India-bound after a three-city Canadian tour this month.

Internationally renowned yoga expert Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa wrapped up a four-day seminar today in Ottawa.

She taught a Kundalini yoga training course for yoga teachers Oct. 27-30 at The Shunnya Centre, 63 Beechwood Ave.

It’s the last official stop on a three-city Canadian tour this month that included visits to Vancouver and Edmonton.

The 68-year-old former yoga teacher-to-the-stars is now preparing to go to India.

In case you missed her, here’s a collection of wisdom-filled quotes from a recent interview I conducted with the woman commonly known as Madonna’s ex-yoga instructor, followed by video clips from the Vancouver and Edmonton workshops:

• On balance

“Body, mind and soul … (are) the three aspects of the human being and once they come into balance, that’s when you find happiness.”

• On happiness

“Happiness is that which doesn’t deviate due to circumstances. You know, you have a girlfriend, she breaks up (with you) and then you’re sad. … You had a bummer day. … When you’re truly happy, you just keep constant. It doesn’t mean you’re not emotional or sad when something happens. But you don’t give away that permanent gift inside of you.”

• On inner peace and geographic location

“If you find that peace inside of you, you can almost be anywhere and not be affected by your environment. But if you don’t have that inner strength and connectiveness, the environment dictates your emotions. … Kundalini yoga gives you the interior peace no matter where you are.”

• On whether a certain physical activity is worthwhile

“Is it fun, does it make me feel good, and is it also challenging? If all those three things I can answer (affirmatively), then to me it’s so worthy of doing.”

• On her formative years in the U.S. midwest

“I worked hard at ice skating and then swimming and being on the swim team and water ballet and all that. I always loved movement and dance. I loved to read and I loved school, but I really liked to move. I always have.”

• On breathing at full capacity

“That’s why people get high when they climb mountains, when they do marathons, when they ski — because they’re using full breath capacity. It’s hard at first, but then you get a high without any drugs at all. The high comes from the connection of your breath to your spirit. They call it a second wind in sports. We just call it a spiritual connection. It’s all the same thing.”

• On teaching yoga to celebrities

“I did that for a number of years. … That was a chapter of my life I would never go back to. It was interesting, it was entertaining, but it wasn’t sustaining for my soul. I got so less impressed as time went on with all the celebrities. I enjoyed them, but I saw then just as anybody else. They still had to learn to breathe and quiet their mind and move their bodies. They just became wonderful human beings, but they weren’t any different than anyone else.”

• On her worldwide notoriety

“I never planned on it. … I never asked for this at all. It just was my destiny. It wasn’t like I went out looking for it. I just kept teaching and working hard and carrying on, and lo and behold, this thing happened. But it wasn’t any of my doing. It was more just destiny’s doing, you might say. And I’m thankful for it.”

• On teaching

“I teach a lot of teachers to become teachers. That’s my biggest goal because I’ll leave my body, but what am I leaving on the earth? I want to leave teachers that will carry this ancient technology on. … I feel so blessed every morning I wake up and it makes me really be more dedicated to wanting to help other people to feel the same way — to feel alive.”

• On yoga

“It’s the most ancient science in the whole world. It’s 40,000 years old. It wasn’t just thought up in the ’80s and the ’90s. And you don’t need anything but yourself and your breath. You don’t even need any equipment. It’s such a built-in ancient technology that just came up. It was lying dormant, you might say, and then in the mid-’70s, it started awakening. And now … everybody’s doing yoga.”

• On tips for trying yoga

“Find a class in your area. It doesn’t matter what kind. Just give it a try. Everybody’s got yoga everywhere and maybe that won’t be the yoga that you’ll stick with, but you’ll get an experience and then maybe try another yoga class or get a video. And the best test is how do you feel? Do you feel more calm? Do you have more energy? Are you less worried? Whatever it is. Does your back feel better? Whatever it is. And that would be the sign. If you feel sicker and stiffer and more angry or whatever your thing is, then it’s not for you, but I’ve never met anyone that it’s not for them.”

• On the essence of yoga

“The expression is: ‘Off the mat and into the world.’ Like, get off the mat, your spirits are up, your body feels good, now go and help other people who don’t feel this way.”

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