Kamini Desai in the Press

Kamini Desai Explores a Yogic Life
Inner Calmness Leads to Self-Mastery

by Linda Sechrist in Natural Awakenings Magazine, September 2014

Kamini DesaiKamini Desai’s Ph.D.-worthy versatile body of teachings combines her lifelong interests in Western psychology and Eastern philosophy. Trained at the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, she develops and leads core programs for Florida’s Amrit Yoga Institute, providing advanced studies dedicated to the science and system of integrated human development. A resident of Salt Springs, Florida, and the Netherlands, she teaches in 10 countries on three continents.

What is a yogic lifestyle?
It means being focused on inner peace. Through the study of yoga as a complete science of self-mastery, I’m cultivating the realization of my highest self beyond body and mind. This intention is the director of my unfolding life. I like to use the metaphor of a ship. If this higher self as a wise captain isn’t steadily setting the course at the helm, then on any given day, the happy, sad, grieving, enthusiastic or depressed me will likely be steering my life in a contrary direction and I’ll just be going in circles

. In the Integrative Amrit Method of Yoga, along with the integrative method of yoga nidra that I practice and teach, my focus is on the release of body energy, rather than any physical pose. Energy is healing. When energy is freed up, it naturally calms the mind and creates a spontaneous, meditative state in which the highest self can be experientially known.

To free energy, I attune to the sensations resulting from the physical alignments in any yoga posture. Each pose focuses attention on sensations occurring along the meridian lines in the body, allowing areas that are blocked and limited to open up and energy to optimally flow. Then, in what Amrit yoga describes as the “second half of the posture,” I close my eyes and feel that released energy becoming magnified through my attention. The stronger the energy becomes, the more the mind organically dissolves into a meditative state where mental, emotional and physical healing can happen spontaneously.

Kamini on the cover of the September 2014 Natural Awakenings MagazineWhat was it like to grow up as the daughter of Yogi Amrit Desai, a well-known guru?
I feel blessed that I was exposed to my father’s teachings from a young age. His message that I first embraced was that people and things will always change, and if I rely on either of them for happiness and peace of mind, I’m depending on the undependable. The need is to find internal stability in the midst of every polarity.

My dad, now approaching 82, has always been an example of one whose entire life is about moving towards a changeless state of being and of what it means to remain a nonjudgmental witness to all that happens in life. Still, I had to learn my own lessons.

How have you benefited from yoga?
I began studying with my dad when I was 16. Now, at 46, I more fully value the depth of yoga.

The longer I practice, the more grateful I am that my mind is less fragmented than it otherwise would be. I’m progressively able to deal with situations that would have sent me over the edge before. I more naturally avoid wasting a lot of mental energy in internalized, “If they say this then I’m going to say that,” conversations. With less mental chatter, I have more energy and stamina to focus on what is in front of me. I can be totally absorbed in each present moment for a deeper sense of fulfillment in what I’m doing.

How do you feel about the Westernization of yoga?
Individuals that begin any style of yoga for its physical benefits are off to a good start, but anyone that maintains a regular practice becomes curious about yoga’s other benefits, like relaxation, more peace and a sense of happiness that arises without any apparent cause. Eventually they ask, “Why is this good thing or greater bliss happening to me? What else is there besides postures?”

Although everyone eventually learns many life skills, we rarely learn how to live our lives well, manage our emotions and relate to others in ways that create more peace and happiness within. These are the uncaused benefits of yoga that people come to love.

Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. Visit ItsAllAboutWe.com for the recorded interview.

 

Kamini teaches at East Oregon Correctional InstitutionDownward Dog Barks Inside Prison Walls
from the East Oregonian, by Kathy Aney
October 1, 2011

While a speaker at the 2011 Yoga Round Up in Pendleton Oregon, Kamini took time to visit the East Oregon Correctional Institution. She led five inmates from the prison's Enrichment Project through a series of asanas and breathing exercises.

The project is designed to help inmates learn healthy ways to use their leisure time once they are released, one of the risk factors of recidivism. Other yoga instructors lead the men in bi-weekly classes that help the inmates deal with the stress of prison life.

Read the entire article here.

Is Stress from Resistance to What is Happening?
Cosmopolitan Magazine, Netherlands

Kamini Desai

Kamini: “Some people need excess tension to function; they need it for energy. Our body functions through the balance of tension and relaxation. If you are stressed, your adrenals release adrenalin. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure increases and your muscles tense. If you do this every day, without fully and deeply relaxing your body, it will become overworked and exhausted. About sixty percent of visits to doctors are stress related symptoms that include every ailment from digestive problems to neck and shoulder pain.

“..Yoga is a way to bring deep rest to the body and mind. The style I teach is a meditative form of yoga. The emphasis is on conscious movement combined with breath. With an emphasis on meditation, you watch your thoughts and the sensations in your body without choosing for or against what you are feeling or thinking. You observe yourself in a different way than you normally would. Instead of interacting with your thoughts, you simply watch them. This allows you to become peaceful in the midst of the activity of the mind.

“With yoga, you are moving towards integration. You are not only your body, you are also your mind and feelings. Imagine that you are at work, but are thinking about vacation. You are divided because you are not at work, nor are you on vacation. With yoga, you try to bring these three aspects together. Yoga is good for the nervous system, for blood circulation and helps to keep the muscles and spinal column flexible.

“I grew up with yoga. My father had a yoga center in the United States and developed Kripalu Yoga. During my teenage years I stopped, but when I was in college I found myself under constant stress. My friends as well. Everyone was busy trying to make a success of their lives. I started to see that it didn’t matter if you had an exciting career or lots of money if you can’t relax. That is when I started doing yoga and meditating again and began teaching at my father’s center.

“My father always used to say; “Stress is resistance to what is happening.” If you are waiting for a red light and are in a hurry, you get stressed. You can train yourself to relax instead. Just by breathing into your belly instead of your chest, for example, you can induce a relaxation response.

“More and more high performance athletes are using meditation and yoga to succeed. In business life you can see which executives will make it and which won’t. Those who can work skillfully with stress and keep their cool will do the best. And everyone can do it, you don’t need physical ability or strength to do it.

How does she take care of herself?
Kamini: “I try to do yoga every day. If you are practiced at it, you can get into a state of relaxation very quickly. Sometimes I spontaneously enter a state of meditation. Other times I need to consciously practice meditation by disengaging from things that are bothering or troubling me.

“I find that eating properly is important; your body and mind influence each other. If you don’t eat enough or eat too late, you feel weaker and get irritated more easily. My parents were always very interested in diet and followed a macrobiotic diet for many years. I don’t do that anymore. I am vegetarian and eat lots of vegetables and fruit.

“I have difficulty keeping up a routine. I will begin and then stop again. That is why I teach. I have to be prepared for my students!”

This interview with Kamini appeared in Cosmopolitan Magazine in the Netherlands in 1998. At that time, Kamini was teaching yoga lessons and workshops at Oibibio in Amsterdam.

Fit & Healthy Magazine

Fit & Healthy MagazineIn 1998, Kamini and Rene led a group on a yoga retreat on a sailboat through the islands of the Aegean Sea. The paragraphs here are excerpted from a review of the trip by Filip and Hilde Neven of Fit en Gezond (Fit and Healthy Magazine). The review appeared in August 1998 in Belgium.

An Eight Day Sailing Trip on the Aegean Sea
…The first yoga session is planned in the morning. While the little town of Gumusluk slowly awakens, Rene explains with a calm but authoritative voice how we, with certain stretching and breathing exercises, can become more aware of our bodies. “Breathe slowly in and out and allow your thoughts to come and go,” we hear Rene say. I can see Filip thinking, “Is this almost over?” But as we finally arrive at the last yoga posture, the relaxation that follows flows through me like honey. It is still early and with a stronger sprit and full belly we sail out of Gumusluk.

Meditating in Full Sails
When the wind comes, the three sails are hoisted. The motor goes out. All that is left is the sound of water and wind. A perfect opportunity to meditate, according to Kamini. She teaches us to listen to the stillness. Lying on our backs, we drop more deeply into our mats. If we get distracted by our thoughts, we come back to focusing on our breath. When we open our eyes, we fix our eyes on a point and take it in without commenting on what we are seeing. It gets hot on deck. Time for a swim.

Danskinetics after Snorkeling
Kamini has brought a cassette recorder on deck. After our swimming party comes a dance party with exotic eastern music.

Foot massage in Iassos
In Iassos we climb over the Greco-Roman ruins. Left over from our exciting adventure through the past are aching feet. No problem. Back on board foot massages are waiting for us. We feel reborn after a refreshing treatment.

 

Stress Course A Breath of Fresh Air
Kalamazoo Gazette

AUGUSTA - Clasping her hands with the person in front of her, Kamini Desai places one foot on the taught length of cable stretched between two trees. Taking a deep breath, she lifts her second foot off the ground and places it on the cable. Suddenly the cable comes to life vibrating furiously as her partner repeats the same process. Desai and her partner, both suspended two feet off the ground with no visible means of support except each other.

Surrounded by “spotters” whose job it is to catch the duo if they fall, Desai and her partner inch slowly along the v-shaped cable. The further they go, the further apart their bodies are. As they lean on each other for balance, Desai urges her unsteady partner, “Look into my eyes, look into my eyes! Breathe, don’t forget to breathe.”

After moving halfway down the cable course, the two lose their balance and are caught by spotters. A round of applause and congratulations wash over Desai and her partner as they recount the difficulty of staying focused during a stressful situation, remembering to breathe and the challenge of relying on someone else. Someone who was a complete stranger four hours earlier.

This exercise is just one of many hand-and-feet-on learning experiences incorporated into Desai’s Inner Skills for Success workshop at Yarrow’s retreat facility. Desai, Director of Wellness at the Augusta facility, has directed similar programs for the past nine years in more than ten countries. Following a morning of meditation, breathing and exercises, instruction on self-imaging and personal reflection, the cable-walking challenge is designed as a test of what participants have learned. Staying centered and at peace is easy when challenges are few. But when a stressful situation, like the above exercise, occurs, can centering and peace be maintained?

“The first thing people forget to do during the exercise is breathe,” Desai said. “Their thoughts are consumed with fear of falling, fear of failure. Instead of breathing deeply from the abdomen, they take short, gasping breaths with their lungs. The more stressful the situation, the shorter the breaths.”

Desai said the first step in reducing stress is to be aware of the body’s tension. “The complete breath-from the abdomen, is vital to the reduction of stress and overall health,” she said. “We can literally change our emotional responses by breathing.” Desai said human beings are born with the knowledge of proper breathing. Observe a baby, and you will see how their abdomen rises and falls with each breath. “As we grow older, we forget how to breathe properly,” Desai told participants at the recent workshop. “That’s why one of the first things I want to teach you today is how to breathe from your abdomen.”

Desai said deep breathing has a distinctly rhythmic pattern to it, an upward flow from the abdomen, through the lungs and out the mouth –similar to an ocean wave. Proper breathing techniques are an integral part of the relaxation process Desai said. “In order for relaxation to work, you need to break the train of everyday thought and slow down the activity of the nervous system,” she said.

Desai said the whole body benefits of relaxation include the following:

  • Improved ability to regulate glucose--particularly crucial for diabetics.
  • Strengthened immune system.
  • Reduction of constricted air passages--particularly helpful for asthmatics.
  • Reduction of chronic pain--from backaches to tension headaches and migraines.

Desai said defining ourselves by what we do, as opposed to who we are, is a major cause of stress. “Defining ourselves by what we do is a choice,” she said. “There is nothing wrong with this choice. However, when it is not balanced with a healthy sense of being, who you are outside of what you do, it can lead to stress—a sense of loss, confusion and loss of identity when it is gone.”

Desai said the workshop helps participants realize how they may be creating imbalances and stress in their lives. By identifying “doing” habits, such as “my work is who I am,” versus the “being” pattern of, “my work is part of who I am,” change can begin to occur. The “doing” philosophy comes from our minds, Desai said. “To access the whole of who we are, we need to drop back into body and feeling. Then, and only then, can we achieve a true sense of inner peace. Inner peace that will allow us to be successful in whatever we choose to do.”

Kalamazoo Gazette
Monday, July 3, 1995
By Thea Lapham

Stop struggling with life and start living it