Last year I began a Coaching training through Positive Intelligence with Master Coach Shirzad Chamine (I will write more later about this training and the life changing benefits it brings). The training brought hundreds of coaches, counselors and psychologists together from all over the world. As part of the training we were asked to connect with others in the training and form weekly training pods for the six-month long program.
The training highlights the sabotaging voices inside of us that keeps us in limiting behaviours.
As soon as I knew I had to connect with others to form a pod, I spotted a few sabotaging voices inside of me! One of them was the feeling of having to fit in and be accepted into someone’s pod. I decided to challenge this voice by putting out for exactly what I wanted – instead of trying to fit in to the ‘executive coach personality’, I asked for people interested in spirituality to join me in a pod.
Out of the hundreds of people in the training, one woman responded and we formed the absolutely perfect pod for us – a pod where we could share our vulnerability, our fears and a language of communication that we both understood. This woman was Jody Bartholomew.
Jody is originally from the US and now lives in Dortmund with her German husband where she is a practicing Kundalini Yoga teacher.
I love Jody for her presence and for her willingness and curiosity to explore the workings of the mind and the opening of the heart. I see her as a true, committed seeker and a great coach for those who want to break free from limitations and begin to live from a more open space.
I was overjoyed when Jody agreed to an interview about Kundalini Yoga and the many benefits it offers.
I practiced Kundalini Yoga regularly for about a year with a teacher named Jai Dev and totally fell in love with it. After this interview I am re-inspired and I hope you will be too. Enjoy!
Devi Living – Jody, what do you love most about living in Dortmund? Is there an alternative scene for art, music, or evolving consciousness?
Jody – The scenery in Dortmund is a mix of old historical and modern and lots of nature. For instance, I live on a hill in a smaller neighbourhood and behind our house there are fields and an old, partially working farm.
Beyond that I see leftover steel industry structures that are surrounded by a new concert hall that was built to look similar to those structures. A bike path connects this area with a new, man-made lake with modern housing and restaurants, all of which are built on the old grounds of the steel industry.
A few older buildings in Dortmund have been converted into Art studios and there is a lot of effort put into offering cultural events.
Because of the influx of immigrants and refugees there is a large cultural mix with many of them organising their own festivals – African and Roma to name a few.
Devi Living – You are from the US. Can you describe the journey that eventually led you to Dortmund in Germany?
Jody – I was born in California but grew up in Hawaii. I left in my early 20’s looking for a place where I thought I would ‘belong’ more and wanting to find a wider, open space for myself.
After experiencing living in other states in the US and being in different relationships, I found myself back in California. There I met my German husband. Not knowing that I was about to embark on a super tough challenge, I moved with him to Germany in 1998.
When I look back now, that was the beginning of learning what it means to ‘belong’. I found that belonging is something that we cultivate in ourselves.
My inner critic was so over active – judging me, Germans and the culture I found myself in. I made life pretty difficult for myself.
We lived in different parts of Germany and I made many friends who were also foreign. Dortmund was the last stop where my husband found permanent work.
Devi Living – You are now a Kundalini Yoga Teacher in Dortmund. What standing has Kundalini yoga got in this part of the world? Is it widely accepted or seen as a fringe practice/movement?
Jody – I would say it is definitely a fringe practice! Mostly because it is not offered much and also because it is common that people who are trying it out are not open to the practice. My sense from what participants have said is that many find it too challenging.
Another reason could be that we begin and end with mantras to honour the teachers of Kundalini Yoga and the practice itself. This has a spiritual feel and many people might feel uncomfortable with anything spiritual. I find this very unfortunate. To be spiritual is a natural part of being human.
Devi Living – How would you describe the essence of Kundalini Yoga to those that dont know much about it? What would you say is a defining difference between Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga?
Jody – Kundalini Yoga is an individual practice. How much someone gets out of it depends on how much they open up to it. I would describe it like this – through holding and moving in positions (Asanas) and using different breathing techniques (Pranayama) along with beautiful Kundalini music, energy (Prana) is brought up and moved within us. Between the Asanas there is a short relaxation where we can feel the energy and integrate the effects of each Asana. This is the studio experience that people have but there is much more to it.
Kundalini Yoga is an inner journey and within the practice we can experience and move beyond our comfort zones. Because certain Asanas are both physically and mentally challenging, holding them can bring up negative emotions. I see it as our triggers in life showing up on the mat! When we stick with this process, our ‘negative mind‘ becomes quieter. Gradually, it ceases being the master, allowing us to move beyond the perceived limitations and challenges of the mind.
Through Kundalini Yoga and with a loving teacher, self-healing and self-actualisation are quite possible results.
A defining difference to me between Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga is the role the teacher plays in encouraging personal growth. In my 6 years of experience with Hatha Yoga, I had three superb teachers who did encourage some growth.
The connections I had with my Kundalini Yoga Yoga teachers, who take the growth of their students to a much deeper level, served as role models for much deeper inner growth.
Before the Kriya (a set of practices) begins, a connection is made by the teacher between the Kriya and things we may be experiencing in life.
During the Kriya, the teacher encourages us to step out of our comfort zone and to lift ourselves above the discomfort that the body and mind might be feeling. We begin to experience the energy we produce and connect with our hearts, to heaven and to earth.
It has nothing to do with punishing ourselves and everything to do with stepping into a larger, unlimited version of ourselves.
Devi Living – Can you share with us how you came across Kundalini Yoga and what led you to become a Kundalini yoga teacher? What are the highlights and challenges you have encountered on this journey?
Jody – I had to laugh at this question! I had a really special Hatha Yoga teacher, Sabina, who went through the Journey into Kundalini Awakening Program. She was so ecstatic about the training. I questioned the program because it sounded so ’uncomfortable‘.
Sabina stopped teaching Hatha Yoga and began teaching Kundalini Yoga instead. I really disliked it at first but I loved her! She was so authentic and fully in her heart. To me, she was a real model of how I wanted to be!
Who would have thought that two years later I would enter into the same Journey and train with the same teacher as her, Rama. This teacher was like an angel on Earth! She knew how to support us and when to gently push us so that we would be able to take one more step when it felt really uncomfortable. She celebrated with us when we arrived on the other side of a challenge. I know each of us who participated in the Journey felt her gentle touch intimately and will forever cherish the deep bond that was formed with her.
One of the highlights in the training was a special moment that I experienced. It was a meeting-of-the-soul moment, melancholic and beautiful at the same time. It was a sense of coming home to a place I had turned my back on. Only at that moment did I realise what I had been missing. It was an invitation to return again to the light. I felt my heart completely open.
Understanding what it meant to be humble was another important process I went through.
The challenges were the many times I was confronted with my comfort zones. Some of those I was able to move beyond and others I was not able to. I am a work in progress.
Devi Living – What gems have you discovered in Kundalini yoga that have been of great benefit for yourself and your life?
Jody – Some of these experiences are such an inner intimate journey that putting them into words leaves too much out.
I have gained a true spiritual connection and a great love for myself and my relationship with the Creator… God. I rejected this part of myself for so long. I labeled God as a ‘dominant man‘ and wanted nothing to do with this. But when real love came into being inside of me, I realised it as God, the Creator.
I had a knowing that when I separate myself from this part of me, I suffer.
Another great benefit was that I lay down the need for drama and my need for blaming others and situations for my suffering. It was such a relief to get to that point. I felt empowered. I also discovered that I carry a gift inside of me… to love… to give to myself and to give to others. This has nothing to do with superficial love. This love is powerful and completely unconditional.
We grow up in societies where we are not taught to shine, to truly love and be the unlimited and expansive Self that we are capable of being. This makes it difficult to realise the gift we have within us. If we would realise this, there would not be any need for jealousy, fear, or fighting.
My spiritual name is Har Purkh. It means Gift from God. The teacher who gave it to me made it clear to me – I am the Gift.
Devi Living – What potential do you personally feel Kundalini Yoga has to offer the world and perhaps, especially, to women?
Jody – Kundalini Yoga can offer whole-body and mind fitness training. It can also serve the process of spiritual awakening. This is an inside job. For me this means moving from the head to the heart and from suffering to love. It means learning to take personal responsibility by becoming honest with ourselves and to stop the blaming. It means to forgive, especially ourselves. These values are greatly lacking in our societies.
Being loving is often labelled a more motherly and feminine trait. Kundalini Yoga offers women (and men) a space for celebration of the power of love and the importance of love without any excuses to show it. It normalises love.
My feeling is that in western societies we are fully fixated on individualism and high achieving. We don’t show human messiness or weakness. There is not much room for something as soft as love, compassion, kindness and patience.
Devi Living – If you could put one book about Kundalini yoga in a woman’s hand, which one would you chose?
Jody – If you want to read about the basics, the Aquarian Teacher Manual is a good place to start. You don’t need to be a teacher to buy it.
However, I would first put a teacher in a woman’s hand because Kundalini Yoga needs to be experienced! I suggest to try out teachers instead of books to get a feel for what she has to offer you. I say ‘she‘ because I believe a female teacher has the experience that a woman needs.
There are plenty of online courses that are easy to find and access. Carolyn Cowan on YouTube could be a good starting point.
Devi Living – I know that there is also an artist in you and that you love expressing yourself through creativity. For example, I just love the ceramic teapot you made in this picture! You also make wonderful collages.
You have mentioned the many benefits that can be gained from a Kunalini Yoga practice. What do you see as the biggest benefit of bringing creativity into our lives?
Jody – Creativity is a tool to bring what is on the inside of us into material being. It might fill a need for something as deep as expressing a feeling, expressing a vision or expressing a part of us that needs to take form. Or it could simply fill a need to work and explore with our hands, to craft something decorative or useful.
Anytime we are creative, we activate a part of our brain that is connected with positive feelings. We can ruin this if we get too busy judging what we are making. Mostly it is a positive experience. I believe that the more we play with this, the more we strengthen our ability to be creative in all areas of our lives.
Devi Living’s tagline is – Living on the Planet In Love, With Purpose and In Joy – something that can be easier said than done. What have you found are your best ways to return to Love, Purpose and Joy?
Love – Connecting with myself and with my heart through yoga, meditation or mindfulness practices.
Purpose – Spending time with others who are on their own inner journey and seeking out a trusted person that I can be vulnerable with.
Joy – I am still working on what Joy is for me! It is definitely laughing at myself when I wake up to having taken myself too seriously again – or seeing my funny human patterns. I like music and dancing. The movement of my body to rhythm is very joyful to me. So is having deep heartfelt connections, even short ones, with other women who are on their own inner journey.
Thank you so much for this interview Jody and for the inspiration you bring to others by sharing this! Yes, imagine if we all realise the gift we have within us – to love, to shine, to be compassionate and kind. What a glorious planet we would live on. The best thing is, it is entirely possible! Find that gift within and shine it out in the world for all to see and experience!
To contact Jody, you can email her – firstname.lastname@example.org
To read more about Jody’s teacher Rama and what she offers, here is a link to the German website (you will be offered to have the website translated to english).
Jody mentions Kundalini Yoga teacher Carolyn Cowan – here is a link to a series of videos where Caroloyn talks about the power of mantras.