Lately Kundalini has flowed from what-the-heck-is-this fringe status into the yoga spotlight. The mantra-based, super-spiritual practice is appealing to more mainstream sensibilities thanks in part to studios, like Golden Bridge in New York, whose celebrity clients and high-profile adherents (think: Gabrielle Bernstein) have popularized the method. And in Los Angeles, where one can never do enough yoga, Kundalini’s cool stronghold is palpable, with Golden Bridge’s outposts, and Yoga West attracting their share of devotees.
The studio of the moment, however, is the newly-opened RA MA Institute in Venice with a charismatic young teacher at its center.
Thirty-four-year-old Guru Jagat, who earned her following at Yoga West and Golden Bridge, was teaching classes out of her guest house in Venice when burgeoning numbers—and a pull she felt towards a space for sale in the neighborhood—catapulted her into founding her own place.
Opening night in May 2013 saw 300 attendees, and classes have remained steadily packed since. What to credit for the allure? Well, there’s the results that regulars swear to. Jagat explains that using Kundalini’s breathing, chanting, and posturing exercises is a “technology that activates the brain and endocrine system.” She’s seen it improve mood, anxiety, exhaustion, and fertility issues, among others.
“One of the reasons Kundalini’s the buzz thing right now is because anyone who tries it realizes it’s really quick and they feel so much better,” says Jagat, who was trained and given her name by Yogi Bhajan, the man credited with bringing Kundalini to the States. “People don’t have time to mess around. We need a fast technology to make us feel better.”
The method works for many, but the draw is also due to Jagat’s undeniable appeal. She’s down to earth and funny–not above self-deprecation or a ribald joke, and hangs with a chic crew of Venice wellness women (she counts Moon Juice’s Amanda Chantal Bacon and designer Susie Crippen among her good friends). She rocks the standard white turban and garb of other master teachers, but often does so with vintage kicks, or a frayed denim vest.
During class, where she sits on a stage in front of a giant gong (which was initially made for Van Halen), she’s magnetic, anecdotal, and funny. Looking around, attendees are “yogic trailblazers,” hipsters, and older, longtime devotees. All “trade Spandex blends for fashion pieces and some old school eclecticism,” she says, proudly.
And while a fair share of the movie industry walks through her door, ask her about specific celebrities and she draws a blank. “There are a lot of actors that come, but I don’t watch TV. I have no idea who they are. People have to point them out to me.” (She was familiar, however, with Demi Moore and Russell Brand, both of whom follow one of RA MA’s teachers.)
Her long term plan for the institute is to develop a yogic science university, not unlike Boulder’s Naropa. “I feel like we’re in the right place at the right time,” she says, “Just like how that was happening in the ’70s, where there was this cross section of a lot of amazing people and intellect and energy.” Throngs of Kundalini devotees seem to be feeling it, too. —Molly Creedan
(Photos: GuruJagat.com, HealthyBitchDaily, Facebook/RAMAYogaInstitute)