It’s the Yoga.
I grew up in 3HO in the 80’s and I attended GNFC for six years and GRD Academy for two years. While at GNFC, we did absolutely no yoga. The only time we had to do yoga was in the winter months when school was not in session. At GNFC, while we may not have been fully assimilated with Indian and Thai born students (in that our specially designed ‘bana’ uniforms made us stand out) our day to day schedule conformed with the school’s schedule. Mornings consisted of prayer recital in the dorms for young children and gurudwara for the older children, followed by breakfast, prep (study hall) and assembly. Then we had classes until 4:00pm. Tea time followed school, and after that we had an hour or two of free time, or sports time. Then, gurudwara again (for the big kids), followed by dinner, and more study hall. Lights out was at 10:00pm. There was simply no room for yoga, gatka or much of anything else outside the bounds of a traditional/colonial style boarding school routine. It might have been grueling and filled with drudgery, but at least we didn’t have to wake up at 3:30 in the morning.
The 3:30AM sadhanas were part of our winter break, especially during those years we didn’t get to go back to the US. It sucked. Some of the guides made us take freezing cold showers before meditation and yoga… all taking place before the sun came up. I won’t go into the belief system that led to us being sleep deprived all the time. Let’s just say that… yeah. This is cult studies 101. It’s easier to control people when they don’t get enough sleep.
Okay, so then there was GRD Academy, as sort of intermittent in-between school that only lasted a few years. Here they made feeble attempts at a GNFC-style structure, but since Yogi Bhajan put himself at the center, he was able to mix his own stuff into it. For example, at GRD we had to wake up around 4:30am for sadhana. And our after-school stuff was largely militant–things like gatka, martial arts and calisthenics. And evenings were reserved for 3ho-style, new-age chanting and meditation. The traditional Sikh gurudwara was just on Sundays, at a local temple in Dehra Dun.
Still. At GRD, if you weren’t into the devotional stuff you could, with a little effort, avoid it and plop yourself down in the back, put your head down and tune it out. I’m not saying the yoga and meditation wasn’t shoved down our throats. It was. But it was just a little bit easier to ignore.
Fast forward to now. I fear that for students of the 3HO run boarding school in India, Miri Piri Academy, this is no longer the case. At MPA it is a graduation requirement to enroll in Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training. This fact alone makes MPA a de facto cult school. End of story.
Kundalini Yoga is not academic. Kundalini Yoga is not extra-curricular. Kundalini Yoga has zero connection to scholarly, historic or traditional philosophies and practices, Indian or otherwise. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Kundalini Yoga is nothing more than a hodge-podge of calisthenics-like movements, mudras and mantras–all completely invented by one person who was never a Yogi to begin with.*
But what horrifies me more than this, the banal scam of Kundalini Yoga, is that the 2nd and 3rd generation of 3HO children–children who did not choose this for themselves–are being told… get this… that Kundalini Yoga “will unblock and heal”… wait for it…
… their trauma.
TRAUMA THAT WAS INFLICTED ON TO THEM. WHILE IN THE CARE AND GUARDIANSHIP OF MEMBERS OF 3HO SIKH DHARMA KUNDALINI YOGA.
My head just exploded.
Seriously. There’s some very real trauma that is being dismissed and ignored here. And that which is being ignored now will only emerge later on. That which continues to be actively repressed, will likely have a resurgence in another, more destructive form, either inwardly or outwardly.
The risk right now for MPA kids is high. That pesky graduation requirement only seems benign. But is very much malignant. What it actually means is that MPA kids are being corralled as future recruiters for 3HO. And they are being deprived of a real education. Their opportunities in the world are narrower, and they are being cornered into believing that a career as a Kundalini Yoga™ brand instructor/teacher/performer may be one of their only viable occupations. I’ve observed a host of MPA alumni acting on it too, either working within 3HO itself, or by inserting themselves into the ‘wellness’ industry. I’ve observed the towing of a familiar line: that their upbringing with “the technology and tools” gives a semblance of authenticity and ‘cred’.
Except… Kundalini Yoga is bullshit. No amount of anything that anyone does in relationship to it will ever be authentic.
Most importantly, Kundalini Yoga is not–nor will it ever be–considered an effective or acceptable treatment for trauma. The only accepted treatment for trauma or a traumatic upbringing (such as ours) is Counseling–under a qualified and licensed Therapist who adheres to mainstream, evidence-based practices, standards and guidelines.
It’s hard, but not that hard to reckon with the full scope of our upbringing. Looking at it really broadly and critically helps to really see it for what it was, and allows us to unpack it fully so that we can understand it fully. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible either. I know because I’ve been there. I thought I could take some of it, and leave the rest behind. I even taught a few Kundalini Yoga classes here and there. Then, I looked at it critically, and knew that it’s just not copacetic with what it means to live a truly free life.
Yes, some literature does suggest that mindfulness or meditation can be useful for therapeutic purposes. Let’s be super clear on this: Both mindfulness and meditation (as described by the medical community) have no devotional component. It can be practiced in any way one chooses. It does not require a guru, a healer, a spiritual teacher, a shaman, mantra, mudra, or posture for it to be helpful. And it has never, ever been promoted as a be-all-end-all cure. It is merely suggested–and with many caveats–that it maybe could have palliative effects if used in tandem with mainstream therapies.
* The inventor of Kundalini Yoga (TM) brand yoga is Harbhajan Singh Puri. When Harbhajan Singh Puri emigrated to Canada and the US he started to use various monikers for himself which include: Yogi Bhajan, Siri Singh Sahib, Mahan Tantric, and Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh KhalsaYogiji.