Kundalini Yoga and the Use of ‘Recreational Drugs’
“If you have to be addicted to something, be addicted to doing sadhana daily. Otherwise, addiction is not a source of freedom. And you are not free by taking drugs. The neurons of the brain will become feeble. You will lose your nostril pituitary sensitivity. You can never smell the subtlety of life. You’ll always be dragging your life.” Yogi Bhajan
Kundalini Yoga and drugs don’t mix. This is one of the first things Yogi Bhajan taught. When he came to Los Angeles in December of 1968, he witnessed the height of the self-destructive behavior of the hippie drug culture. He was appalled by the tragedy that addictions and drug use brought into people’s lives.
Many of his first students came to his classes high. He was quick to instruct them that combining Kundalini Yoga with recreational drug use was unhealthy at the least, and could be dangerous. According to yogic thought, drugs interrupt the natural flow of the energy of the chakras and the aura, and put strain on the nervous system to compensate. In addition, the drug-induced high and the powerful energies released from the practice of Kundalini Yoga can get out of control with unpredictable results.
At the time, drugs seemed the only way to attain the high that was longed for, the only way to pass through the doors of perception into experience. He reminded his students that the strongest mood and perception altering drugs were endogenous—we produce them in our own internal biotech factory—our bodies!
“Although many drug users thought of Kundalini Yoga as another way to get ‘high,’ Kundalini Yoga is a way to becoming the higher self. It is getting out of pain, subconscious turmoil, and boredom. It gives you energy from within that cannot be given or created by any outside substance.” Shakti Parwha Kaur
Drugs like cocaine prevent the parasympathetic nervous system from doing its job. Marijuana severely affects the functioning of the brain. It is like running an engine without oil. It interferes with spinal fluid circulation. It also lowers testosterone levels and reduces the number of connections between neurons in areas that affect memory and motivation. It attacks the nerve centers in the spine. The entire nervous system—all 72,000 nerves in the body—are damaged. Whenever the brain is affected by drugs, its usual control of the expansion and contraction of the brain hemispheres is destroyed. Then whether the person is using more drugs or not, that brain hemisphere can expand at any time. People get spaced out, forget what they are doing.
Yogi Bhajan knew that by practicing Kundalini Yoga, his students would not only experience an even higher ‘high,’ but they would be repairing their nervous system and brain. It’s not a temporary ‘high,’ but a permanent spiritual experience with no damaging side-effects. He said it would take three years of doing Kundalini Yoga and eating a healthy diet to repair the damage that drugs had done.
Yogi Bhajan never told his students to stop taking drugs, but he pointed out the effects of taking them, and he gave simple things to do as an alternative:
“When you feel the urge for a stimulant, take seven long deep breaths, holding each inhalation to the maximum. Or do Breath of Fire. It is the most powerful remedy! If you do a half-hour of Breath of Fire every day, there are a lot of troubles that you can keep miles away.” Yogi Bhajan
Fortunately, it’s never too late to try to improve conditions. By practicing Kundalini Yoga you have begun to mend and repair, heal, and strengthen your body and mind.
If you have taken drugs, you can get rid of the after-effects by doing sadhana every day.
“Many people who stick to sadhana have been found to be totally clear of the effects and abnormalities created by the use of drugs.” Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher Training Manual Level 1, p. 250
Yogi Bhajan reached out to all those young students who had fallen into drug use. He inspired and guided a SuperHealth program in Tucson, Arizona, for many years in the 1970s and 80s. He consulted with programs in Boston, Moscow and elsewhere. He shared many techniques to help with detox and recovery from drugs and alcohol: yoga, meditation, body treatments, special nutritional guidelines and food supplements, counseling and more.
Pure diet, vegetarian foods and special medicinal foods are signatures of Kundalini Yoga therapies. Change the nutritional and herbal support of the body and you change the energy signature of stress. It is like giving a helping hand, or an infusion of hope, to every cell of the body.
Examples of foods that help remove the impulses and irritations from the body are:
Basil and Fennel Tea: Make a combination of basil and fennel to help relax the nervous system and reduce impulsiveness.
Onions, ginger and garlic: combined and eaten three times a day— 1/2 cup at a time—steadies the nerves and eases digestion.
Fresh juices: a good combination is 8 oz. of carrot juice and one half to I oz. of garlic juice. Sip it a bit at a time. Your body responds to the quality of the taste as much as the components of the food. This combination changes your feelings from negative to positive, increases your immunity and supports the liver.
One of Yogi Bhajan’s students Story By Donna Quesada
A student asked me about my opinion of inebriants.I’m sorry? I couldn’t hear him well.
Like marijuana, he said, softly.
Oh. I support legalization, I said, matter-of-factly.
No, I mean for spiritual transformation, he said. Ohh.
He described the blissful feelings and the state of communion he had recently experienced while high on marijuana. He said he had felt a sense of oneness, a loss of self and a heightened sense of awareness, while inebriated.
He is a good student, and I appreciated the trust he had in me. I took my time in responding.
It can give the illusion of a mystical experience, I said. But it’s just that; an illusion. And it comes at a high cost, I continued. Because he is an exceptionally intelligent and curious student, I went forth. Part of the illusion is created through temporary suspension of the left-brain dominance we’ve all been nurtured on – that part of us that is driven by critical reasoning, problem solving and formulas, and by an inexplicable need to prove stuff. So, for a moment, with that overbearing part of us at ease, you feel less like competing, and instead, more in touch with others. You feel more receptive, and more in tune with your feelings and instincts. You feel less driven by that need to figure it out and be right. You’re even fine with the unexplainable. It feels blissful.
But a genuine spiritual state is found in presence. It’s not found in some magical place. And the irony is that when you’re high, you cannot sustain your attention long enough to be present. You cannot be mindful when you’re high. Heck, you can’t even sit up straight when you’re high. Thus, the ironic conclusion is that you end up preventing the very spiritual state you’re chasing. Spiritual practice is defeated by getting high.
True spiritual practice is practice at being here. So, inebriated, you rob yourself of the opportunity to develop the kind of discipline that you not only can turn to at any time, but that nurtures within you the ability to maintain this state of mind. You rob yourself of the profound sense of peacefulness and composure that comes from sustained presence. Inebriated, rather than develop a sincere acceptance of what is, you merely feed the desire to run and hide from life. It is a high cost indeed.
By turning to inebriants, you also nurture a dependency. You become addicted to what seemed at first, like a magical feeling. Because the feeling was temporary, you have to continue using, in order to find it again. They call it “chasing the dragon” in the context of harder drugs, but even with the less-scary stuff, you find yourself ensnared in the same trap because you will have deprived yourself of the ability to find contentment through your own efforts. You’ll be looking for it on the outside, just like so many others who rummage forever in the garbage bins of the world’s many cheap thrills, and only develop addictions along the way – they gamble, they drink, they overeat, they have affairs, and they watch porn and none of it takes them anywhere worthwhile, except to the shrink.
Balancing the brain is a good thing. Dislodging ourselves from the tyranny of the left-brain is a much-needed thing in this society. But how beautiful it would be to nurture that inner harmony through your own true discipline! That’s a real high! That’s what meditation does: it fixes the brain. Like other forms of yoga and moving forms of meditation, as found in the martial arts, it brings about the harmony that comes from opening up into the softer world of the right-brain, from opening the heart center and releasing that deeply ingrained habit of proving, accumulating and competing, at any cost. But all practical function is thwarted when you’re high. Thus mastering these forms of moving meditation would be difficult, at best.
I then reminded my attentive student of the film we saw in class on the life of the yogis in India. Do you remember when they talked about the “fake yogis?” He remembered right away. They were the ones who smoked hashish.
How Understanding Addiction and the Pituitary Gland Hooked Me on Kundalini Yoga
By Ek Ong Kaar Kaur Khalsa
Back in the Stone Ages, or the early 1990’s to be exact, I was a recent college graduate suffering from insomnia. During that time in my life, I dressed all in black, was involved with grass roots activism and regularly attended CODA meetings. CODA, for those of you who might not know, is a 12-Step program for people who have loved ones suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. It stands for “Codependents Anonymous.”
A friend of mine told me about the 3HO community in Houston where these “yogis” got up at 4 a.m. to meditate. Since I was not sleeping anyway, I drove to the center one morning on a whim. A tall guy with a beard said, “Welcome,” in a booming voice when I walked in. The morning sadhana involved shoulder stand, plow pose and lots of breath of fire. It was my first time doing Kundalini Yoga.
In the weeks and months ahead, I kept coming back for sadhana and for regular Kundalini Yoga classes. But I remember the moment when I really got “hooked.”
One of the teachers, Guruatma Kaur, gave a class on Yogi Bhajan’s teachings about addiction. It was a subject that touched me in a very personal way, so I decided to go to her day-long workshop. Guruatma created this great drawing, illustrating the soul and its relationship to the pineal and the pituitary glands. She described how the pituitary gland was the master gland – how it regulated the glands of the entire body. But the pituitary needed to take its orders from somewhere. Through meditation, the pineal gland secretes and creates a golden chord with the pituitary. This, in turn, causes the pituitary to function in such a way that the entire body comes into harmony with the soul. Then a person can begin the process of self-control…in essence, gaining the ability to live to their True or authentic self.
However, if the pineal did not talk to the pituitary, then the pituitary would look for something else to give it “orders.” Every addictive substance – from sugar to alcohol to drugs to sex to video games – stimulates the pituitary. This, she explained, is where Yogi Bhajan said addiction originated from: the lack of communication between the pineal and the pituitary.
This particular teaching was so powerful for me that I become instantly and completely enamored with Kundalini Yoga and Yogi Bhajan’s teachings.
Yogi Bhajan taught a wide range of tools and techniques to understand and help people heal themselves of addictive tendencies. The program is called “SuperHealth.” I think many people struggle with addictive or at least compulsive behavior on a regular basis. Some addictions have very light social consequences. Where would Starbucks be if people did not crave their morning cup of coffee? Some addictions have incredibly severe social consequences, including losing one’s family, freedom and even one’s life. But the common thread among all addictive tendencies is very simple: does your pituitary talk to your pineal?
This spring, there is a wonderful opportunity in Espanola, New Mexico, USA to learn about Yogi Bhajan’s SuperHealth program first hand. Mukta Kaur Khalsa, who was trained by Yogi Bhajan, directed SuperHealth—distinguished as a specialized hospital in Arizona for many years. In February, she will offer a Specialty Training on this topic. For those who would like to learn and teach others about the SuperHealth techniques, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
It is important to remember that Yogi Bhajan began his mission with the flower children of the 60’s, who were using drugs to expand their minds and find God. Yogi Bhajan’s message was so simple. Drugs are a drag. There is a more natural way to go. His first teachings on yoga, diet, meditation, and lifestyle were designed to help these “seekers of truth” break away from the false stimulation of drugs. He wanted them to re-establish the inner-dialogue between the pineal and the pituitary: between the soul and the personal identity. Everything that got built came from that foundation.