I’m delighted to introduce one of my favorite Kundalini Yoga teachers today. Panch Nishan is an absolute treasure, which is still an understatement. She embodies everything that I associate with Yoga, especially Kundalini Yoga, and I have learned so much from her that she holds a special place in my heart.
With her, I can just be myself without ever feeling judged. Panch Nishan has spent half of her life immersed in Kundalini Yoga and tirelessly carries the wisdom of the practice out into the world in a beautifully authentic way. She hails from the States, lives in Berlin with her husband and son and offers workshops, trainings and classes all over Germany.
Panch Nishan Kaur Khalsa, what does your name mean?
Panch means 5 and Nishan is a flag. Kaur means princess, an expression of the royal feminine and Khalsa means pure. When I met the Master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan, for the first time and asked him for a name he said ‘Panch Nishan,the 5th center creating a link between heaven and earth.’ It is amazing how we develop a relationship to our name and what a fundamental part of our identity it is. Since I was 14 years old I wanted to change my name, to have a name in which had meaning to me, in which reflected my identity. Five years later I received my name. I love my name! I experience my name as both my strength, my gift, and where I have room to continually grow and evolve myself.
You are originally from the USA. How is it living with your husband and son in Germany?
I really like living in Berlin, it’s extremely international and accepting. Anything goes here and there is a feeling that everyone is welcome, a high level of tolerance for differences makes it such a richly diverse city. I find these to be ‘spiritual’ principles, in particular….tolerance.
Everything in Berlin is a bit more raw, I find the spirituality and expression of it here is woven into the fabric of the people living here, creating here. It still has the feeling to me of the phoenix rising from the ashes, where anything is possible.
Germany is a great place to raise kids and although I have never had a child in the USA, my sense is the quality of life for young families is higher here. I am a very independent person so in the beginning it was challenging to depend on my partner as I was getting to learn the culture and language. This phase also held a gift for me though! Now i feel good here.
You came to Yogi Bhajan very young, what was your first encounter with him like?
Yes, I was 19 when I arrived in New Mexico to do my Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training. I graduated from high school early and studied at the University of San Francisco for 2 years before I met Yogi Bhajan.
When I arrived, there were all these kids my age coming back from a boarding school in India founded by Yogi Bhajan called Miri Piri Academy.
And then I remember thinking, ‘how did I get here so late,’ wishing I found him and these teachings younger! Ahhh….the ideals of youth. Now looking back, I’m so grateful I got there as young as I did and had the opportunity to study with him for the last 5 years of his life.
My first encounter with Yogi Bhajan was in 1999 in the Espanola, New Mexico Ashram when he came into the classroom to teach the evening program of the Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Course. I remember my first glimpse of him, to this day, and how I immediately heard this voice, the voice of my consciousness, and felt this knowing in every cell of my being, ‘this is the teacher you were looking for.’
A week or so later I had an appointment with him to meet him personally and it was life changing and led me to stay living at the Ashram, where I studied and worked for him for 13 years to follow.
What impressed you the most about him?
His big heart! His sense of humor. His Naad – the impact of his voice. His authenticity. His attitude of service. He had no agenda, he was there to serve my soul and this allowed me trust him like I had never trusted another human being before. And I observed and saw how many people he served with this same approach. Truly Touching.
If you could summarize in one sentence, which is most likely not possible, what did you learn from Yogi Bhajan?
I learned to be myself. I learned techniques that connected me with my beautiful soul that I had, along the way and through the pains of life, distanced myself from. These teachings gave me a way to connect and in that connection my suffering slowly melted so I could return to myself and be myself – pure, joyful & true. Sat Nam, Wahe Guru! This is what I learned.
What does your daily spiritual practice look like?
- Recitation of Japji – a song, a prayer to connect to my soul. (Since I know this prayer by heart, and I’m a householder with a 4 year old, I often listen to an mp3 and recite Japji in motion.)
- Pranayam – breathing exercises. I start my practice with a pryanayam. For the longest time I would practice 11 minutes and just recently increased to 31 minutes. Currently I’m working the 1 minute breath – 20 seconds inhale, 20 seconds hold, 20 seconds exhale. I have an active mind and this puts my mind in the posture I want it/need it in to excel in life. It is a fantastic technique to awaken the neutral mind, the non-reactive, compassionate posture, where the mind is aligned with the heart of ones purpose….the light of the soul.
- Kundalini Yoga Kriya – I just started a new one for 40 days….kriya for a new energy balance or Kriya for the instinctual self. I often play the daily Sadhana mantras while I practice and when I have the time, upon completion of my yoga, I will sit and meditate with the mantras through to the end.
Yogi Bhajan wanted to train teachers, not collect students. Why?
Because he saw each human being as sovereign. When I first met him….by instinct I bowed before him. It was truly instinct, as growing up as an American, I never saw anyone bow before whereas it is more common in the East. He told me to get up immediately and taught me never to bow to another human being. His mission was to awaken the teacher/the master, the excellence, the Sat Nam in each individual and gave us a ‘hukam’ to be 10 times greater than him.
He knew the fastest most effective way to share these ancient teachings, that he brought out of secret, was to create teachers to share them. He saw people suffering and delivered a body of teachings to awaken the state of happiness…’happiness is your birthright.’ He didn’t want to see people unnecessarily suffering. I believe we have Teacher Training Programs in about 58 countries now.
How does Kundalini Yoga work?
Here is the theory:
Kundalini Yoga is based on angles and triangles. Different angles we make with our body stimulate our glandular system and strengthen the nervous system. These new glandular secretions in the higher centers of the pineal and pituitary gland help to regulate our hormonal system and create this ‘uplifting’ or ‘balanced’ feeling that practitioners often described as well as the ability to ‘shut off’ and calm down. Many exercises also work to increase the circulation of spinal fluid affecting also the cerebral spinal fluid to refresh us, rejuvenate us and increase mental clarity. This is physically how Kundalini Yoga creates a new state of ‘awareness’ as the Yoga of Awareness. Through creating rhythm with movement, breath, mantra, mudras, body locks (bhandas) and focus with the eyes (drishti) gives new patterns to the body and lights up the mind, stimulates the brain to align our patterns and habits with our full potential. Kundalini Yoga works through the chakra system balancing the energy centers of the body and corresponding glands and organs to create a new energy flow and body balance. It cleanses and rejuvenates the body, clears and focuses the mind while uplifting the spirit!
Here is the reality:
You pick a kriyas and a meditation and you already decided to dedicate some precious time of your day for creating the best version of yourself. That intention alone shifts everything you do that day. On top of that, through the physical stretches and the mental focus, you literally make yourself flexible enough to flow around any obstacle…like a river continues to send its water around all the rocks in its way, always finding its way to the ocean. So in short, KY is the way to get you from where you are now to your destination in the least amount of time and with a smile on your face.
If someone has not yet practiced Kundalini Yoga, what do you advise them when beginning?
Go with an open mind. Be prepared to do something you’ve never done before. Pay attention to your experience, don’t judge it by the individual exercises (some of them are very unique) but rather the end result. How do you feel after? Be prepared to come to your limit and build your capacity.
After Yogi Bhajan left his body, Nirvair Singh Khalsa has become a close teacher of yours. How important is it for you to have a teacher and why?
I would say, since Yogi Bhajan left his body, Nirvair Singh has been a significant mentor to me, amongst others. Yogi Bhajan is my teacher, he fills this space in my heart and is with me until my last breath and beyond.
There are some points in life where having a mentor is so helpful, in reflecting back to me what I can’t quite see and it has helped me speed up my process or course correct.
I think it is so helpful to have mentors regardless of the stage of spiritual growth. Someone who can reflect you back to yourself to see where you are at. To get a check if you get off course or are coming from a limited sense of self. In these moments in particular it has been really helpful to me. One of the things I treasure about Nirvair Singh is the depth of his neutral mind. This fosters such trust. Recently, in thinking about him and gaining deeper insight into the neutral mind, I realized with a strong neutral mind, one can only do good.
I’m blessed to know Nirvair Singh and have him come to teach as part of the International Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Program here in Berlin.
Your Aura is incredibly radiant and magnetic, can you give us 3 tips to create such a beautiful radiance?
- Cold showers!
- Bow your head everyday….to know what you do is bigger than you! To ‘give my head’ to my path, to my destiny, to what I am here to serve. To what I am here to learn and grow. This helps me surrender it all and not take myself so seriously.
- Daily practice – just finished a 1 year practice of 11 minutes Ghyan Chakra Kriya – this will shine you up for sure!
- Posture of service…..not what can I get, rather what can I give. At the same time good self care to keep giving (I’m still working on this one!)
What does yogic parenting look like for you? You have a 4 year old son….
Most important thing for me is to see my child as a gift and actually not ‘mine’ at all but rather a gift to this world. There is a tendency to think that children belong to us rather than remembering they belong to their own sovereign soul, to God, to the the universe. In my Dharma I relate to Guru Ram Das and have told my son since he was a baby that he belongs to the house of Guru Ram Das, is the son of Guru Ram Das. I feel so blessed I get to serve this gift, to nurture this beautiful, bountiful, blissful soul named Raj Dharam.
What helps me as a Mama….
Breath, patience, communication, prayer. My prayer that he always hold this precious connection to his own soul and doesn’t have to loose it and go through the suffering to find it again as I did. With the connection to our soul as human beings, we can do anything and most of all, have fulfillment.
Be the example…..
As we live like a yogi family, eat vegetarian, keep our hair (oh that’s also a great tip for the radiant body), be of service/share with others, meditate & practice yoga – our son just picks up on it. To walk our talk is so important both as parents and teachers. Also to be humble and show our child how we course correct, apologize and grow through the challenges of life and parenting. To get down to his level & look through his eyes. Asking questions and learning from our son Raj Dharam, potentially more than he learns from us. And celebrating and enjoying life together!
Instilling values & habits….
40 days before Raj Dharam’s 4th birthday we had him pick his 1st meditation to do for 40 days, 3 minutes a day before bed. Up until this point he would sometimes sit with us and practice our meditations for a few moments, but this is the first time we dedicated the time to ‘his’ meditation. He picked the mantra Sa Re Sa Sa. Sometimes he would sit and chant it other days he would chant it while jumping on the bed the whole time, and sometimes I would be the only one chanting it! In relation to being my teacher, one night I was so tired after teaching all weekend and used my last energy to just get his teeth brushed and pajamas on and as we were laying in the dark he said….’mama, my meditation.’ I totally forgot! This was the moment I realized, it worked! Helping my son establish healthy habits and values for himself that will serve him as foundational stones upon which a life is built.
p.s. if you try this, which I highly recommend, what helped get us started was that our son lit a candle every night before tuning in & meditating. For us this was a helpful part of the ritual.
You will be offering a Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Program again next year. For me, this was a very important journey. What can the yoga students expect in this training?
Transformation. Kundalini Yoga is the yoga of awareness and delving into it over the 7 month Teacher Training accelerates the awakening of you to you and a natural falling away of that what doesn’t serve your Sat Nam – your true self, your full potential. Kundalini Yoga awakens your potential and through this often old things fall away and new things come that align with your true self, with your Dharma – the path of your heart. The Training provides a foundation of love for transformation to take place, including supportive community.
Learning. A balance of theory, intensive practice of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation as well as time for self reflection/integration in order to bring the theory to life in your own life.
Everything you need to teach Kundalini Yoga. Each participants gets the opportunity to teach and do at least one 40 day practice to develop the habit of sadhana – daily practice.
Which Book inspired you on your path?
The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa* is the first book that comes to mind. It is a book that served me as I began to seriously practice Kundalini Yoga and devote myself to my Dharma. The life of Milarepa inspired me and showed me, through devotion, anything is possible. He refined and transformed himself and a dark past, under the guidance of his teacher, and brought profound upliftment to this world through his songs*.
Thank you, Panch Nishan.
For more information visit her Website.
© Grit Siwonia
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