Gabriella Virginia: America’s Youngest Kundalini Yoga instructor
Sleeping next to my mom, I awaken to the jarring sound of her alarm. It is 3:45 A.M. I am six-years-old, half awake, and surrounded by the magnificent Sandia Mountains of New Mexico. Exiting the tent with my mom, I see hundreds of other people who are here for the same reasoning; yoga. They are everywhere dressed in pure white, standing in sharp contrast to these ancient mountains. I find a profound sense of comfort on the mountaintop and an unanticipated seamless connection to those around me that I have never felt before. Clearly, this scene is the opposite of what I am used to in my Jersey Shore hometown; still, I am at peace in both scenarios. I guess it is because I am at peace within myself.
The ancient practice of Kundalini Yoga has been in my life since that first trip to New Mexico. Then, on that mountain, living in a tent, with cold showers, no bathrooms, excruciatingly hot days, chilly evenings under the stars in a sleeping bag, and mung beans and rice every night for dinner, we practice Kundalini Yoga. When I started doing this practice with my mom, I felt a tremendous comfort and connection to the universe. However, as I got a bit older, I struggled with feeling that it was “her thing,” not mine. Doing the yoga without feeling as it were my very own was challenging as an adolescent. Over time and with maturity, I have become cognizant that it can, indeed, be my thing, too. It is also the dynamic that takes place between girls and their moms which I now understand as part of the natural separation process which helps us grow and evolve.
After nearly a decade of practicing this yoga, I go through a rigorous year-long training to earn my own teaching certificate and become America’s youngest Kundalini Yoga teacher. Understandably, the training is a shock to my fourteen-year-old self; I feel as if I am the odd person in the group. The facility is located two hours from home, and I am the only student below age twenty-five. Waking up at 3:30 A.M. to do the morning practice sadhana in a class filled with mature adults was not easy. I was exhausted and irritable some mornings, but it was a necessary part of the training and discipline.
Needless to say, I am compelled to emerge from my shell. I am the polar opposite regarding my religion and culture. Growing up in a small beach town, like the majority of my peers, I have been raised Protestant. Conversely, the students in the training identify as Sikh: they wear turbans and some speak Gurmukhi. Because I have been exposed to this reality at such a young age, I am in the least shocked. Nonetheless, it is decidedly different. Clearly, I must seek a balance between the home and yoga atmospheres.
Over the years, my exposure to this new culture has opened my eyes. There is so much more in this world than what I have known in my daily life. It is nearly impossible for me to explain a culture to my high school friends that is so foreign to theirs —what this is, why I practice it, the reason they see pictures of my mom wearing a turban and a white dress. Conversely, making lifelong friends with those who are so different from me makes me truly appreciate and savor our respective differences. Significantly, it gifts me with a fuller and more realistic idea of what the real world ahead is like.
Even now, words cannot adequately describe what the energy was like up on that mountain so long ago. It remains a timeless and precious feeling. The Kundalini Yoga practice has transformed me into the person I am today and has shone its light on the more wordly wise person I will be tomorrow, as my life naturally unfolds at college and beyond. Today, I am open-minded, non-judgmental, and respectful of everyone. It is the friends I make and the knowledge I have about diverse people, places, religions, and languages that I truly appreciate the most.
This world is going through major growing pains, and so many people are searching for peace. I feel so grateful to have a practice that helps me remember that there is so much more than likes on instagram and who has what to say about another.
My mother loves to remind me of a song I wrote when I was eight. The song was:
Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo
Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo
Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo
I bow to the divine wisdom within myself and beyond
If our spirit is greater than our mind, we are all ok.
Truth is my name.