A year ago today it was Friday and I was getting nervous about opening my first yoga studio in Helsinki. How could I make it happen, I had no previous experience of running a business. I'm an artist, I do creative work so how could I ever manage to run a business? Nevertheless I knew it was something I had to do. One year ago today I thought that within a year I would know if my decision was right!
I have been teaching Kundalini Yoga for over 15 years. One month after beginning to do Kundalini Yoga in San Francisco I was already sending personalised yoga programs to my friends in Finland. They had never heard of Kundalini Yoga. In 2001 yoga wasn't such an important part of many lives in Finland as it is now. There were only 1-2 Kundalini Yoga teachers in this country. My training to become a yoga teacher was nothing but conventional. Me and my partner in those days, Kuldip Singh, were pretty much hippies. Going with the flow was the only way to live. And thank God for that!
After two years practising Kundalini Yoga by ourselves in 2003 we had an opportunity to open our first Yoga Studio in Glen Cove, Long Island. By then we spent all the spare time in Sikh Gurdwara, we had been baptised in Sikhism, and given our new names from Siri Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhs. Although we were wearing white turbans, Indian clothing and teaching Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan we had never been in any real connection to the community we so much wanted to belong. We just couldn't figure out how!
The risk to open the yoga studio was not high. The space was given to our use by an Indian Sikh family who we had met in the temple. We just brought in our lamb skins and decorations and began teaching. This all happened before we had met our teacher, Dyal Singh Khalsa. He also lived in Long Island, and he had heard about us running a Kundalini Yoga studio in the area. At that time it happened to be the only Kundalini Yoga school in Long Island! We were teaching without any education or certification to be teachers. We just knew that this was all we wanted to do!
The day when we were invited to meet Dyal Singh Khalsa, a student and personal healer of Yogi Bhajan, was the day we had longed for. We wanted him to be our teacher. But that was easier said than done. First we sat down with him and he made us Yogi Tea. He was curious to know how we became sikhs without having any connection to 3HO, the Kundalini Yoga community. We told him about our eagerness to teach, and we'd like to have him as our teacher. There were no teacher trainings the same way there now is. It wasn't a business. If you wanted to know teachings of Yogi Bhajan you went to learn from him in New Mexico. We were in New York and eager to learn from Dyal Singh. He didn't say yes or no. We had to show him that we were worth of his time, and he had to ask permission from his master.
In our second visit at his house I found myself with a rag and a bottle of Windex as we cleaned his mediation room from the ceiling down to the smallest statues and souvenirs on his altar from holy places (and there were tons of those!). In the second visit we found a mountain of clothes and sheets waiting to be ironed on the top of his bed. Without a word of questioning we began to work. And this dedication payed us an honour of being his students. Third time meeting with him we were invited to take his yoga class three hours drive out in Sagaponack, Long Island. It all started from that one hour class and took us on a journey that lasted for five years. Dyal Singh was our personal teacher for those years. Eventually Yogi Bhajan gave us a written permission to run our little yoga school without certification but only as long as we were under guidance of Dyal Singh. I still have that email from Yogi Bhajan as a personal treasure. Yogiji passed away within a year after we received his email.
In the Spring of 2004 Dyal Singh said that if we ever wanted to learn from Yogi Bhajan it was now or never. He was very sick and getting worse. So we maxed out our credit cards and signed in to the Master's Touch course up in the mountains in Espanola, New Mexico. It was three weeks intense training waking up every morning 3:30AM and studying and practicing until 10PM. And we made it through. We already had the knowledge from all possible Kundalini Yoga books we had read, but to be there at the feet of these great teachers such as Yogi Bhajan's first student and a beautiful lady Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, and doing a meditation under Yogi Bhajan's window while he held the space for us from his sickbed was something that I can't put in words. Very powerful and worth the wait!
I received my Master's Touch certification 12 years ago. It took at least nine years as a practicing teacher before I felt I was finally ready to teach. Now I know what I'm teaching. Each and every student teaches me more how to be a better teacher, how to serve all as my teachers were serving me. Tomorrow our yoga studio in Helsinki is turning one year old. Our studio in Long Island lasted only for one year. This is the reason why one year ago I was so nervous. Could I make this studio last for more than a year?
And I did with help of all the students! Tomorrow we can happily begin our second year. I'm ever grateful to all my teachers, and to the students, and also to this very sacred space in a basement of Laivurinkatu 33, Helsinki. This yoga studio was there waiting for us and preparing itself to be ready when we arrived. In love and light we'll move onward!