One of the great gifts of this life is that along the way, we meet people who change us, show us a new perspective, make us laugh or think or both, and often, without even knowing it, have a profound impact on us.
That’s why I’m delighted to introduce you all to Robin Bruce, a.k.a., Dharampal, a.k.a., my kundalini yoga instructor, a.k.a., one of my favorite people on the planet. Read on to experience the beautiful, elegant, down-to-earth awesomeness that is Robin; I especially like what she has to say about yoga, self awareness, and physical ailments.
7 Questions with Robin ‘Dharampal’ Bruce
1. How does kundalini differ from the more movement or pose-based yoga that my readers might be used to doing?
When I teach beginning kundalini yoga, I ask the students if there are any questions they might have before we start practicing yoga. Invariably I’m asked, “Why do you guys wear white?” Kundalini is an age-old yogic tradition and the style that I teach is under the umbrella of “as taught by Yogi Bhajan.” Think, anusara or lyengar as a type of hatha yoga. In this kundalini tradition all the teachers wear white as a way to convey neutrality because white is the combination of all colors. Another theory is that white increases the size of one’s aura. We all want a teacher with a big aura, right?
I was drawn to the kundalini practice because it was weird, physically challenging, and included singing. Afterward I felt great, high, and energized! It was unlike anything I’d ever tried and I loved it. The main difference in the kundalini practice is that your eyes are closed almost all the time! There is more mantra practice than a typical hatha class, and the physical postures are held for a certain period of time with a relaxation after 2-3 postures. The postures are put together into a kind of recipe called a kriya; the kriyas have different outcomes…. there’s a kriya for creativity or to quell anger.
Meditations are usually not silent and still. Kundalini meditation employs the techniques of mudra (hand or eye position), specific mantras, and music. The best way to know about kundalini yoga is to experience it. There are tons of classes in many major cities and in the Austin area. [NOTE from Mel: If you’re coming to Austin, hit me up in email, and I’ll take you as my guest to Robin’s class.]
2. I played roller derby so I have an alter ego named Melicious — and you have another name, too. Can you tell us about your kundalini name and what it means to you?
After practicing kundalini for a few years, I requested a spiritual name. This is a name that acts as a guide to help you along as you journey inward toward your authentic expression. My spiritual name is Dharampal — pronounced duh-rum-paul — and it means “friend of the path of dharma”… the path of action without reaction or life purpose. So my job is to help people find their way and to be true to my path so that I can help others along theirs. Pretty cool, huh? When I first received it, I was kinda bummed that I didn’t get one of those cool names that starts with an ‘S,’ like Simran or Seva. But since I’ve had the name Dharampal, it’s been very difficult for me to pursue things that are out of alignment with my dharma, my life’s purpose.
3. In addition to being a world-class yoga instructor, you’re also very athletic. What kind of training do you do off the yoga mat?
Off the mat I work out with a personal trainer twice a week. It keeps my energy level high and is very humbling when I get my butt kicked. I ride my bike whenever I get the chance and have a punching bag and gloves in the garage whenever I need some quick cardio.
4. Another thing we have in common is a wonky thyroid. Can you talk about how yoga, in general, and kundalini, in particular, help you manage your health?
Well, yoga helps me develop awareness — and when dealing with physical issues, it can be a challenge to separate the ailment from the emotions. Being hypothyroid mimics symptoms of depression, even though the person is not depressed. So with a heightened awareness comes the understanding that I may be feeling low energy, but that comes from a physical symptom, yet does not have anything to do with my reality. Yoga helps me keep it real: What I feel is real, but doesn’t necessarily relate to a situation or circumstance. I am not hypothyroidism. It is a condition that is temporary and will change.
5. I know you’re not a vegetarian (which is one of the things I love about you!). What’s your favorite good-for-you meal, and what’s your favorite treat food?
Oh, I really just love roasting a chicken with several full bulbs of garlic in the roasting pan below and making a gravy from that, served with seared broccolini and half a sweet potato. I guess that’s kinda my treat food, too! No, my real treat food would be [grimace] a big Nana’s brand gluten-free ginger cookie. Not paleo, I know, but damn good!
6. One of my favorite things about your class is the way you bring music into our routine — playing the guitar, singing, chanting. How do you think music enhances the experience of kundalini yoga?
Kundalini yoga unleashes your creativity. I think that live music is an ode to that creative expression. Teaching a class is a creative action, and I am in the moment with the class when playing music.It adds a unique depth to the class.
7. I have both of your previous CDs and use them for meditation at home a lot. Can you tell us a little bit about the new project you’re working on. We are especially excited about your version of “Long Time Sun!”
By ‘we’ do you mean you? I actually quoted you on my Kickstarter project under the heading “Music.” This album is a Robin grab-bag, so there will be two songs in English. One of which I am very excited to record called the “Elders.” It’s an earthy track inspired by old-timey spirituals and features steel-stringed guitar and the dobro. What’s also cool about it is that it uses the elements of mantra, but in English. Pretty Sweet! I’m also excited about “Paramaysareh,” a track that makes you want to sip a warm cup of tea and snuggle in bed with it. It just makes you feel cozy and supported! And “Om Namah Shivaya.” Who doesn’t love a Shiva chant? This track ignites love and compassion to those who sing and listen to it. It features Michelle Alany from Nefesh on violin… love her!
As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts about my kundalini adventures here and here and here and here, Robin makes her classes really special by challenging us with mantras and easing us into relaxation with her angelic singing. Now she’s embarking on an adventure to release a new CD, and as mentioned earlier, the new recording will include Robin’s original version “Long Time Sun,” which (a) routinely brings tough chicks to tears (in a good way) and (b) everyone needs to sing to every day. For real.
Here’s the deal: You can help make Robin’s new CD a reality. She’s launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the CD production, and it would be awesome if you could contribute. If you like what I do here on my blog, please support Robin, because without here, I’d probably be curled up in the fetal position under my desk instead of typing this right now.
Please visit Robin’s Kickstarter Page to learn more and kick in a little help to bring her CD into the world. Thank you and satnam.
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