Kundalini Yoga: Africa Rising

October 5th, 2016

Kundalini Africa Rising! Making a Difference Where It Counts

When the South African Government of National Unity came into power in 1994, with Nelson Mandela as President, HIV/AIDS was made one of 22 lead projects in the Reconstruction and Development Program instituted by the new government. The years that followed saw many failures to sufficiently address the massive destruction that the disease had created within families and communities. By 2005 more than 5 million South Africans were infected, making South Africa the country with the highest HIV rates in the world. The government of Thabo Mbeki (President-elect after Nelson Mandela) did much damage to the fight against HIV/AIDS by claiming that HIV does not lead to the development of AIDS. Many activist organizations were created during the decade after 1998, to fight for the national provision of antiretroviral drugs to pregnant women and those who were HIV+. It was during this time, in 2006, that the eldest son of Nelson Mandela, 54-year-old Makgatho Mandela, died of AIDS. President Mandela, one of the first public figures to publicly state that his son died of AIDS, did much to dispel the painful stigma surrounding the disease. This stigma caused many unnecessary and premature deaths of people from AIDS because they would not agree to be tested, fearing rejection and sometimes violence from their communities if they were discovered to be HIV+.

In this climate, in 1996, I began teaching Kundalini Yoga as taught to Yogi Bhajan® to people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The emotional atmosphere in the groups I encountered was fearful; every week someone died, and the people in the yoga community were frightened that it would be their turn next. Every weekend there were funerals. (In Africa, funerals are very sacred and important rituals, and they can last for an entire weekend.) The whole community attended the funerals of those who had died. Every week there were protest marches and rallies supporting the fight for the provision of free antiretrovirals in hospitals and clinics, and when we looked around us, again we saw the whole yoga community there. This electric energy, permeating through the classes that I taught, was amplified by the teachings of Yogi Bhajan and the Naad. People began to pick-up weight, skin lesions began to clear up, and stress-reactions started to reduce.

It was a time of fear and desperate hope and this led to an intense religious response within organizations devoted to the struggle against AIDS. It was this religious fervor that caused people to drop out of the Kundalini Yoga classes, for fear of negating their religious beliefs, and from 60-70 students in each class, the numbers dropped to 5 or 6 people attending.

Teaching to people with HIV/AIDS in Soweto in 1996

African Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Foundation of Southern Africa

It was during the decade following 1996, while working with several NGOs dedicated to uplifting and improving the lives of disadvantaged communities, that I formed the idea of creating a Kundalini Yoga teacher training organization that would focus on dynamic and politicized black youth. I had participated in the youth-led activism in the struggle against apartheid (when I was a youth myself) and witnessed the youth-led struggle against HIV/AIDS. I believed that training the youth to become Kundalini Yoga teachers, in compliance with the guidelines of Yogi Bhajan, would address many issues simultaneously; health, wellbeing, spiritual tolerance, and inclusion on one hand and the problem of massive unemployment of youth on the other. Figures for unemployment are as high as 70% for ages between 15 and 34 years in Southern Africa, and these are also the ages most likely to contract HIV/AIDS and other ills connected to poverty and despair such as drug addiction and turning to sex-work to earn a living.

Hari Charn Kaur

AKYTTSA, African Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training Foundation of Southern Africa, was formed in 2015 with myself and five young South Africans who were the first generation of black Kundalini Yoga instructors sponsored by AKYTTSA. AKYTTSA is dedicated to spreading Yogi Bhajan’s teachings throughout marginalized communities in Southern Africa, through a movement called Kundalini Africa Rising. Kundalini Africa Rising has several initiatives, or incubator projects, that nurture young people interested in training as Kundalini Yoga instructors. One of these projects is called OKYC (Open Kundalini Yoga Classes), weekly classes managed and taught by the instructor-trainees of AKYTTSA. Since its inception AKYTTSA has sponsored 12 young black students in the study of Level One Teacher Training. These 12 students are engaged in running weekly classes in Alexandra (Yoga4 Alex), Soweto (Yoga4Soweto), and the inner city of Johannesburg, areas which are identified as being historically disadvantaged due to apartheid.

Hari Charn Kaur

It is my intention to train youth to the point where they, as lead trainers, can take over Teacher Training in Southern Africa. To date Kundalini Yoga in South Africa has been dominated by white teachers and black people are virtually non-existent in the white-taught and white-attended classes. This situation is being reversed in and around Johannesburg by the newly qualified and inspiring young teachers who are using social media to advertise and discuss Kundalini Yoga. They are attracting many new students who witness the change that Kundalini Yoga is making in the lives of their peers-as-instructors.

Another long-term goal of Kundalini Africa Rising is to purchase a building for an inner-city ashram as there is no accessible Kundalini Yoga ashram as yet in Southern Africa. In order to further our goals of spreading Kundalini Yoga into marginalized communities in Southern Africa, we need an ashram situated in the heart of the city which is easily accessed by those who do not have the means to travel. To reach the goals of Kundalini Africa Rising, we need funding, and so we are appealing to our worldwide community to assist us in realizing our dreams. To assist in making this goal a reality, please contact me at ravi.birthspirit@gmail.com or donate directly at CrowdRise. From Southern Africa to all the people of the world, Sat Nam.


OKYC in inner city Johannesburg – weekly classes



Mandela Day In Alexandra, 67 minutes of yoga taught by AKYTTSA trained teachers Bongi, Fhulufelo, and Emmah.








SPA BLOG: Susan Gwaltney Meditation at Rancho la Puerta

February 16th, 2016

See Susan Gwaltney’s Meditation blog from the Rancho la Puerta web site!


August 23rd, 2015

11 Serious Ways Dehydration Is Making You Sick And Fat

I suffered for headaches for two years and they went away the day I starting upping my water intake.  Upping dietary intake of water has also been shown to reduce cancer, improve mood, improve skin health, promote weight loss, flush out your liver and kidneys, and lengthen your life expectancy.  Drinking more water is one of the best and easiest health solutions out there, and almost everyone is drinking under the daily recommended intake of 3 liters per day.

The key is to catch dehydration before it starts having negative health effects.  When you start getting thirsty, it means you are already dehydrated, so start drinking water right away as soon as your body tells you it is thirsty.

Drinks containing sugar, alcohol, and caffeine can actually dehydrate you even more, so make sure you don’t reach for a soda or a beer instead of giving your cells the hydration it is actually craving.  It also gets rid of feelings of hunger and cuts the cravings for junk foods.  Here are some extremely important health facts about hydration and why drinking more water each day (preferably 2-3 liters) can save your health:

Spa Blog: Healthy Travels

August 23rd, 2015
The Secret Weapon for a Healthy, Happy Trip (and Gut!)
Feel Your Best While Having the Best Time
Traveling is one of the best ways to get away from it all and unwind. But it can take a toll on your stomach. Eating out every day, exposure to foreign bacteria, and drastic changes to your eating schedule can throw your stomach out of whack. You may even experience diarrhea or other uncomfortable issues. Before you reach for over-the-counter remedies that only treat the symptoms, consider a natural alternative that will fight the problems at their root.
Be Well’s GI Herbal Formula supports healthy gastrointestinal microbial balance. It kills bad bacteria in the gut and helps your digestive system maintain balance with a special blend of botanical extracts, including:

  • Barberry extract (Berberis vulgaris)‚ a fast-acting diarrhea remedy
  • Sweet wormwood extract (Artemisia annua) to treat digestive disorders
  • Berberine sulfate (from Berberis aristata)‚ shown to get rid of Helicobacter pylori‚ a bacteria that commonly infects the stomach
  • Grapefruit extract (Citrus paradisi) to treat bacterial‚ fungal‚ and viral infections

One bottle of GI Herbal will last you two months – so you can travel without the worry of diarrhea, stomachaches, and other uncomfortable issues. And remember, a healthy gut contributes to your overall health, wellness, and happiness!

Take Care and Be Well
Dr. Frank Lipman
Dr. Frank Lipman and the Be Well Team

SPA BLOG:David Grier TEDx talk: Hope

August 6th, 2015

International Spa Association Meeting October 19-21, 2015 Las Vegas

July 17th, 2015
Inspiration Can Be Found Anywhere. If You Know Where To Look.
2015 ISPA Conference & Expo | October 19—21 | Las Vegas, NV

What Big Idea Can We Help You Discover Next?



Room Reservations



October 28th, 2014

Southern Africa Yoga Safaris

Welcome to the home of Southern Africa Yoga safaris

We do hope you manage to find something of interest for you.

Please feel free to mail us with any requests as we are able to tailor-make a package for any group of 4 or more.

We offer Yoga Holidays, Retreats, Workshops and Teachers Training (up to 500 hours) courses in and around South Africa.

Yoga Holiday, Varkala, India
12 days of Yoga Holiday in the Ayurvedic capital of India, Varkala-Kerala. Daily Yoga, Ayurvedic treatments, relax on the beach and restore the body, mind and soul!

SPA BLOG: Wellness Warriors!

October 5th, 2014


We ask too little of our bodies

October 03, 2014 By Deborah Szekely

DEBORAH_044_sm.jpgGet moving! Or risk being “convenienced” to death.

For primitive man, constant motion from dawn until dusk was a way of life. Survival depended upon the ability to hunt, gather together as a clan, and to move with the seasons from one watering hole to the next. No debate raged over how much to rest, sleep, or not “wear your self out.” For every generation preceding the last two or three, existence has involved much more necessary movement than now—whether it meant mowing the lawn, bailing hay, walking across the country behind a Conestoga wagon, bringing in wood to heat the house, or scrubbing clothes in the basement and then carrying them out to hang on the backyard clothesline.

Modern life asks far too little of the body. The Industrial Revolution, with its factories, freight trains, and the automobile itself, brought about a slow but insidious decline in movement. Radio, television, and then cell phones and the Internet all lined up to hasten that slow decline into an all-out free-fall.

Babies and toddlers are as energetic as puppies, yet the primary goal of preschool seems to be teaching children to sit still so that they’ll be dutiful, focused students later on. Training for a seven-hour school day begins early. It takes a lot of work to retrain the body—wired as it is for movement—into inactivity. And unless we do something to reverse this, the scope in which we move will become smaller still as the years add up. As we age, there are no young children to run after, and many of us hire someone to cut the grass and shovel the snow. An entire day’s work can be accomplished by moving only the fingers over a computer keyboard.

We get … not lazy, but “convenienced” to death.

It will take discipline and effort to bring movement back into your life. We’veknown for decades how important movementis to health, yet some of us still think of ourselvesas exceptions to the rule. Hardly a day goes by without a startling new statistic confirming that exercise is the cure we’veall been waiting for. Personal experience has taught me that this one choice confers countless benefits, but I shall also cite some of the most recent studies in my attempt to persuade you. At my age I particularly enjoy using science as an opportunity to crow, “I told you so!”

One example comes from a January, 2010, article in The Wall Street Journal, summarizing data on the projected benefits of regular moderate exercise: diabetes would drop 50 percent; high blood pressure 40 percent; stroke 27 percent; recurrent breast cancer 50 percent; colon cancer60 percent; the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease 40 percent. And exercise can decrease depression as effectively as Prozac or behavioral therapy.

Art Kramer, a researcher whose studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign concluded that exercise improves memory, planning, dealing with ambiguity, and multitasking, says, “A year of regular exercise can give a 70-year-old the brain connectivity of a 30-year-old.” Now that’s a goal worth working for!

And the part I like the most? The cells of those who enjoy moderate exercise five times per week showed slower rates of aging compared to people of similar ages who were not as active. “Just 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week,” asserts the May, 2010, issue of Consumer Reports on Health, “can help you lose weight, sleep better, ease hip and joint pain, have better sex, boost your mood, strengthen bones, prevent falls, ward off cancer, improve cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.” In other words, exercise does everything except turn the color of your hair dark again!

* * *

Enough said about exercise? I admit that the word exercise is a lot like the word diet—loaded with prejudice and expectations of failure. This is what I do: Every time I hear the word exercise I replace it with the word oxygen. Oxygen is the key, enabling physical stamina, mental alertness, healthy cell composition, and a strong immune system. Oh, not to mention life itself. Depending on variables like altitude and temperature, you can live for several weeks without food and for days without water, but you can’t live three minutes without oxygen. Most Americans are oxygen-deprived and become increasingly so as they age; studies abound on the connection between oxygen deprivation and dementia.

This is non-negotiable. Walk, cycle, swim, garden, play ball, lift weights or take tai chi, Pilates or aerobics classes—it makes little difference which you choose. Seek the exercise to which you are least allergic. Make it a habit, a reflex, something you do daily without question. Set your alarm clock thirty minutes earlier if you must. A half-hour spent exercising does far more for you than the last half-hour spent sleeping. And if, like me, daily movement doesn’t come easy to you, sign up for a gym class or make a pact with a friend to go walking regularly.

What matters is that you get at least one hour of movement daily, which includes a half hour of accelerated exercise no less than three times a week. I don’t have the guts to look at myself in the mirror when I’m washing my face and brushing my teeth before bed if I have failed to find one hour out of twenty-four to devote to movement. The investment of that hour is so small and the returns are so great.

Regular activity sends the message to my body that I’m still capable of doing what I did at 60 at age 92. Age is reflected in lifestyle. In fact, if you were to give me a running list of all of your physical activities for one week—and the speed at which you do them—I could probably guess your age.

Walking speed alone is an excellent predictor of longevity. “To find out how long you’ll live, find out how fast you walk,” was the lead in a January, 2011, article in Consumer Reports on Health. Try it: The next time you’re walking down a busy street, notice how many people pass you by. If almost everyone is walking at a faster pace, it’s time to step it up. I did this recently, and now make a concerted effort to keep up with the crowd. And I can.

In fact, the next time I’m walking down a sidewalk, I’m going to pass more than my fair share, and I hope you will too!


SPA BLOG- Your Brain on Yoga

May 13th, 2014


This is Your Brain on Yoga

We all know that yoga does wonders for the mind. Even novices of asana, pranayama, and meditation report feeling increased mental stability and clarity during and after practice. Now, thanks to sophisticated brain imaging technologies, neuroscience is proving what teachers and practitioners have known for ages—that yoga and meditation can literally change your brain. But what exactly is going on up there? Take a peek inside—a basic understanding of brain anatomy and function can serve as a handy road map for your inner journey.

The frontal lobe is the hub of higher cognitive functions—including planning, discriminating, abstract thinking, personality, and behavior. The Bihar School refers to the breathing practice of kapalabhati as “frontal brain purification,” due to the rejuvenating effects it has on this area of the brain.

Known as the seat of conscious functioning, the cerebrum is the largest part of your brain. It’s divided into right and left hemispheres. On the physical level, the right hemisphere controls the left side of the body, and the left hemisphere controls the right. On the level of the subtle body, ida nadi (the lunar energy channel) is connected to the right half of the brain, and pingala nadi (the solar energy channel) is connected to the left side of the brain.


The pituitary gland is related to the sixth, or ajna, chakra. Ajna literally means “command center.”

The anterior part of the frontal lobe, the prefrontal cortex, is the most evolved part of the brain and is responsible for positive capacities like concentration, happiness, creativity, and rational thinking. Studies using EEG have shown that meditation strengthens communication between the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain.

Roughly the size of a pea, the pituitary gland is the endocrine system’s master gland, producing and releasing hormones that control growth, metabolism, and the function of other hormones. On a more subtle level, the pituitary gland is related to the sixth, or ajna, chakra. Ajna literally means “command center.”

Neurotransmitters serve as the brain’s chemical messengers, relaying information between nerve cells. Neurological disorders are often the result of a neurotransmitter snafu—for instance, low levels of a neuro-transmitter known as GABA are linked to depression and anxiety. Recent studies show an association between regular asana practice and increased GABA levels.

The brain stem, which connects the brain and the spinal cord, plays a crucial role in digestion, heart rate, and diaphragmatic breathing. Neurons found in the brain stem send a nerve impulse to the diaphragm, which causes it to contract, thereby initiating inhalation.


A 2010 study found that subjects who meditated 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala—which is linked to fear and anxiety.

The cerebellum controls balance, muscle coordination, reflexes, and movement. Asana would be impossible without it.

The limbic system is comprised of structures related to memory and emotion, such as the hippocampus, amygdala, thalamus, and hypothalamus. A 2010 study found that subjects who meditated 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala—which is linked to fear and anxiety—and an increase of gray matter in the hippocampus, which plays a vital role in memory formation.

As the primary visual processing center of the brain, the occipital lobe helps you follow along visually in yoga class. And you can thank the temporal lobe for your ability to process verbal asana cues—it’s responsible for auditory perception.

The parietal lobe is associated with limb movement, understanding speech, and sensing pain. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience in April 2011, brain scans of this region demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can dramatically reduce sensitivity to pain—even more so than morphine.


SPA BLOG: South Africa Spas and Mandela’s passing~

January 19th, 2014

I just got back from 5 weeks in South Africa, where, by the way, the spa and beauty industry are thriving. In Johannesburg/ Sandton, there is an emergence of Thai massage spas, with traditional masseurs, who deliver traditional Thai massage. Fantastic! The salons are located in either shopping malls and/or stand alone properties, but all celebrate the tradition of washing of the feet, slippers, Thai pajamas and a tea ritual afterwards. I had (2) 90-minutes massages that were absolutely 5 star.

While visiting the Drakensburg mountains, the Midlands Meander, and even to Kruger National Park, spas were located or at least accessible in all locations. I celebrated my during during this trip and was treated to a lovely massage at the famous Oyster Box, located in Durban. The spa is gorgeous, with a full banquet in the relax area, steam room, pools and therapists who are well trained in Oyster Box brand. Meaning, as routine they asked the “right” questions about the service, they share the  meaning of the ritual (or their spa brand concept) and ended with a promotion of retail.

During all of this travel and spa treatments, a historical passing occurred, that of the beloved Nelson Mandela. I found out about his passing while in Washington, DC the night before my departure to South Africa. Basically my flight the next day was one of the first flights out… packed with Secret Service Agents, security and press.  I was concerned about what the Johannesburg airport would look like during this time, but  I landed in a quiet and somber place.

It was a very quiet time the entire week I spent in Johannesburg, glued to the news and watching events of Mandel’s funeral services. Even visiting Mandela Square in Sandton, felt quiet and orderly. Piles of flowers were left on the square and a queue of mourners/tourists/locals waited peacefully to have their picture taken in front of his statue, me too. Grocery stores were empty, streets vacant, traffic sparse.

I was unaware that we would pass the “capture place” of Nelson Mandela my drive through the Midlands. I guess I did not fully do my homework, and was surprised at the number of people who roamed through the  rustic museum and grounds (pictures attached).

As a spa consultant, I am always interested in our industry, no matter where I go in the US or abroad, I find myself at a spa or wellness/new age center trying out new services and observing new concepts. But as circumstances unfolded last month, my trip  (even though it was during Christmas and New Years) developed into a different type of participation and celebration~ it was a participation in celebrating a global figure, a man who gave South Africa and its people a chance for peace. And then the country, if even for just a week, became very quiet.

JLDFP_20130512_00169 005 007 009 012 Mandela square