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  • Writer's pictureRon Brent

7. My Life as a Yogi Begins

From the time of my awakening in May, 1967 until now (early 1970), I’ve studied and/or practiced a number of spiritual disciplines. Aside from a single class attended in the back room of a New Age newspaper, taught by an East European by the name of Yarosha, yoga has remained a relatively unknown commodity to me.

Now I find my entire lifestyle is rapidly transforming under the tutelage of Yogi Bhajan. There are changes to the clothes I wear, the types of food I eat, the time I wake up in the morning to the time I go to bed at night. I stopped shaving and cutting my hair. There’s a new method to the way I get out of bed in the morning, a way of shielding my eyes when turning on the lights, a way to brush my teeth, take a shower and even a new way to sit - no, I mean squat atop the toilet seat.

On top of this, I now have an entirely new circle of friends. It’s as though I’ve stepped into a brand new culture. BTW, this jumping from one lifestyle into another is something I’ve done a number of times in my life.

The bulk of my days are dedicated to the study and practice of yoga, done mostly with other students. Yoga practice consists of various postures (āsanas) and breathing techniques (prānāyāma). These are often combined into what is called krīyas.

Many of these practices are accompanied by the recitation of a mantra, which is coordinated with the breath. Mantra repetition is an essential component of Yogi Bhajan’s teachings. This is either done silently (jāpa) or sung and chanted along with a group of students.

The primary mantra given by Yogi Bhajan is Ek Ong Kār Sāt Nām Sīrī Wāhe Guru, or simply Sāt Nām. Sāt Nām is also used as a greeting.

This mantra was given to Yogi Bhajan by Maharaj Virsa Singh. It’s in the Punjābi language and is revered by Virsa Singh’s many followers. As a young child Virsa Singh received the mantra in a dream/vision by Baba Sīrī Chānd. Sīrī Chānd was one of Guru Nanak’s two sons. Considered a Siddha (adept) he lived his life as a reclusive yogi. In Virsa Singh’s ashram in India, the main temple of worship is dedicated to Baba Sīrī Chānd, his initiation (dīksha) Guru.

The highlight of my day is attending yoga classes at the 3HO ashram, most of which are taught by Yogi Bhajan himself. Approximately six weeks into an intensely dedicated period of time, Yogi Bhajan asks me to begin teaching classes. This results in me doubling down on my dedication to the practice.

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