Interview by Janae Jean and Spencer Schluter –
For this installment, we had the pleasure to interview renowned vocalist, workshop leader, peace activist and author, Snatam Kaur. Kaur was raised in the Sikh and Kundalini Yoga tradition. She has released more than 20 recordings and published three books. Her well-received book, Original Light: The Morning Practice of Kundalini Yoga, was released in 2016 and guides readers to creating their own daily spiritual practice to bring about long-lasting transformation. Her latest musical release, Beloved, features eight sacred chants and songs. We spoke with her about Kundalini Yoga, the Sikh faith, building a personal spiritual practice, the power of music, overcoming bigotry and more.
This following is only a brief adaptation of our conversation. To listen to the entire interview, visit www.ConsciousCommunityMagazine.com. Subscribe to us on iTunes, GooglePlay, Stitcher, TuneIn and YouTube.
Connect with Snatam Kaur via Facebook @SnatamKaur, Twitter @snatamk and Instagram @snatamkaurkhalsa. Visit www.snatamkaur.com.
Janae: Why did you decide to write a book now? Have people in the audience been coming to Kundalini Yoga through your music? Did people want to know more about this practice?
Snatam: The music I do has roots in the Sikh tradition and also the Kundalini Yoga tradition. About four years ago, I decided to write a book about my daily practice and about yoga and meditation. As I was out there sharing music and sharing these teachings and doing a lot of workshops for people, I realized that the important thing for real transformation, real long-lasting transformation, is having a daily spiritual practice. People needed to be empowered to have their own practice and know how to cope and deal with life’s challenges in the moment. So, I set out to write this book. It took me a couple years, but it’s one of the most fulfilling things that I’ve done so far, in this life anyway, to share with people.
JJ: For people who may not be familiar, could you explain what makes Kundalini Yoga different than doing Vinyasa or Hatha Yoga?
SK: Kundalini Yoga is often called “Singing Yoga” and “Householder’s Yoga.” It is a yoga that incorporates a lot of chanting, a lot of singing. Often times people who have a fear of chanting actually will come in and start practicing Kundalini Yoga and become able to really open their voice because there’s so much singing and music involved. There are movements and breath-work, sometimes vigorous and sometimes silent. It’s a very well-rounded yoga practice that one can do to stay physically healthy and in shape. Also, it has a mental-spiritual component which comes into the householder’s realm of things, giving people tools to cope with daily life, stress, relationships and mental-emotional patterns that aren’t serving any longer. It works in a direct, beautiful way. People are holding the postures themselves, engaging in the exercises themselvesand the meditations and the chanting. Through this process of holding the postures and doing the practice, it has a very healing effect. That’s a bit about Kundalini yoga, and it works with the energy of the spine. That’s why it’s called “Kundalini.” The Kundalini is an energy that exists within everybody. It has healing effects on the physical, emotional and spiritual levels when it rises up the spine. But, it can only do that when a person comes into a neutral zone or calm state. So, the Kundalini Yoga works to bring a person to that calm state. It has to happen from not just a very calm state, but also humble, a place of humility.
SK: Sure. People, listeners, who are familiar with me see that I wear a turban. In my concerts, I share a lot of chants that come from the Sikh tradition. Within Kundalini Yoga itself, there are a number of chants that come from the Sikh religion. Kundalini Yoga was brought to the West by Yogi Bhajan, the master of Kundalini Yoga, in 1969.
Kundalini Yoga is for people of all traditions, people from all walks of life. Because Yogi Bhajan was a devout Sikh, there are universal concepts that come from the Sikh tradition and that are integrated within Kundalini Yoga practice. Many of the mantras and chants are integrated. For me as well, as a musician, I share chants from the Sikh tradition and just watch and see how powerful they are for people. So, as a musician, I open the doors of this faith to share with people of all traditions. The same goes for Kundalini Yoga. That was the premise of the faith in the beginning from Guru Nanak, the founder of the tradition, that all traditions have access to the divine. There’s no one better or worse way, but it’s about how we apply ourselves in our consciousness and our presence of mind. That’s perhaps the greatest focus of this Kundalini Yoga practice to get into that state of consciousness or state of presence in day-to-day life.
JJ: Do you feel the act of singing itself is healing?
SK: There’s no doubt about it. You can shift your energy in just the act of singing alone. Of course, to bring in these sacred words and sacred vibrations allows you to embark onto an energy field that’s really powerful. I look at these sacred chants as energy fields that have existed since the very inception, the very first time that they were sung by some human form who had the wisdom, the intelligence and humility to sing these words.
SS: I have a martial arts background and that’s what got me interested in Sikhism. Can you explain how they are related?
SK: That’s an important part of Sikh history and life, that we are warriors. We have a martial practice called “Gatka.” The tenth master, Guru Gobind Singh, of the Sikh tradition was an incredible warrior. He talks about how his soul was in his previous lifetime … there’s this beautiful poem where he talks about this. He said he as a yogi meditating in the Himalayas and that the divine came to him and asked him to incarnate into this warrior form. And, he accepted, and he came into this life. He took up the sword and trained people in the martial art of Gatka. Much of the training was based in sound and these sacred rhythms. They would go into battle with this sacred sound current at their heels and in their hearts and fight with almost super-human powers. This is the story I really like to share about Sikhs! [Laughs.]
Janae Jean serves as editor, social media manager and podcaster for Conscious Community Magazine. She has an extensive background in new media and music education. Janae is actively researching using electronically generated sounds for healing. Visit www.janaejean.com and www.perennialmusicandarts.com for details about Janae’s upcoming classes, lesson information, workshops, shows, articles and projects.
Spencer Schluter is the advertising account manager, social media manager and podcaster for Conscious Community Magazine. His experience includes visual communications, advertising, social media, marketing, public relations and business development. Visit www.yggstudios.com for more information about his freelance design and consulting work. He is also a master level Reiki and traditional Chinese Qigong practitioner.
Podcast Theme Music: Sublimation (Theme from the Conscious Community Podcast)
Janae Jean Almen and Spencer Schluter, composers SpindriftGreenMusic Publishing ©2017