Denise Sohandev is a Life Coach, Breathwork Specialist and Yoga instructor at Hanya House. In 2020 her deep love of Kundalini yoga was shaken when the Kundalini community was hit by a major scandal. Here she explains how, while she may have lost the turban, the ancient texts have helped her back to the practice she loves so much.
Kundalini and my own healing journey
My love affair with Kundalini yoga began when a friend was doing her teacher training and needed a guinea pig to practice on. I’d already been practicing and teaching Hatha yoga for over a decade and willingly stepped in to try something new.
This gesture of kindness changed my life in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I’d been in psychotherapy already for over five years and, while we’d made huge strides in my mental health, there was a block I just couldn’t get through. What I didn’t know or understand at the time was that my trauma wasn’t being held in my head, it was in my body and Kundalini yoga gave me a safe way to release it and take that final step in my healing process.
It didn’t take me long to realise that this was the modality I needed to teach. Kundalini yoga turned out to not only be the instrument of my own healing but so many of my students found the physical release that they had been waiting for too.
And then came 2020. No, not the pandemic. One of the teachers, who had helped to share Kundalini yoga with the West was alleged to be a sexual predator as well as a gun-running, drug-smuggling fraudster.
This compassionate practice that had changed my life and countless others was revealed as not flawed, but false. I spent the next 18 months in limbo. I Rejected the practice on moral grounds, abandoning my turban and turning away from the all-white attire. The thing that troubled me most was the actual physical practice of Kundalini, so different from traditional yoga. Did this teacher just make it up? Were we all duped?
Back to the ancient texts
And so I dove into the ancient texts, found the original sources and realised that no, he didn’t make it up, these practices and traditions can be traced back to ancient sources (from hundreds of years ago), and my experience was real. The yoga works. Even if the messenger was deeply flawed.
Over the past year, using the original sources – and the practice I love so deeply – I have found peace and joy and stillness and healing once again with this modality. Kundalini yoga isn’t like other yoga. Dynamic movement allows us to push the physical body to places we couldn’t imagine which – in turn – allows us to sink even deeper into that elusive stillness.
Stillness. Many people are drawn to Kundalini because of precisely this, we all seek stillness in a world that is becoming louder and louder but it feels almost impossible to just finish work then sit and meditate. For so many people, the “Kundalini blend” is the answer. Intentional movement. Sacred stillness. Focused breath. The space in between.
I am grateful for this yoga, even for the all the doubting of 2020 because it led me deeper into my practice and gave me the opportunity to really appreciate what I am teaching, what I am practicing, and how it transforms not only body but, crucially, mind too.
As we like to say at Hanya House, stillness is medicine, and – for me – Kundalini is a hugely undiscovered stillness tonic.
Denise guides a Kundalini yoga class at Hanya House twice a week. If you would like to join a class, click here to contact us and we’ll be happy to share the upcoming schedule. Interested in learning more about the deeper philosophy of Kundalini? Here are four books that Denise recommends: Tibetan Yoga of Movement, Kundalini Tantra, Kundalini-Yoga Parampara & Hatha Yoga Pradipika.