Kamini 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.
What 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.
Find more of her words of wisdom inarticles posted at KaminiDesai.com.
Linda Sechrist is a senior staff writer for Natural Awakenings. Visit ItsAllAboutWe.com for the recorded interview.