From punk rock to ancient beauty elixirs, a young yogi wunderkind raises the collective kundalini of Los Angeles.
“The biggest yogic beauty secret of all is self-esteem,” proclaims Guru Jagat in opening remarks to 50 women, who sit mat to mat on a Sunday afternoon at the RA MA Institute for Applied Yogic Science and Technology in Venice. “If you really think you are too fat, too thin, too old, too whatever, that’s your projection, and that’s exactly how people will see you.”
The idea that our neuroses can age us prematurely is news to some but an obvious truth to the growing group of regulars in attendance at RA MA’s women’s workshops. Ageless yoginis dressed in flowing white cotton (white increases radiance), and with skin that quite literally appears to glow, guide a high-energy group of 20- to 60-year-olds, here to practice kundalini yoga, replenish with health elixirs and collect ancient yogic beauty prescriptions as doled out by RA MA’s ravishingly radiant founder, 34-year-old Guru Jagat. This cherished teacher is no new-age cliché, with her vast knowledge of kundalini teachings, wicked sense of humor and penchant for Rick Owens tunics and high-top sneakers. She’s also one of the world’s youngest senior kundalini teachers—her spiritual name bestowed by the late Yogi Bhajan himself, the man responsible for bringing kundalini yoga to the West. Guru Jagat’s mission is to bring all these ancient teachings—beauty secrets included—into the mainstream. In December, she also launched RA MA Records, a recording label that pairs kundalini mantras with punk rock, rap, reggae, electronic and other musical styles. Famed ’80s girl band The Go-Gos are among artists slated for the label’s next release.
Kundalini yoga is gaining popularity worldwide as an effective antiaging technology with its combination of physical postures, breathing techniques, mantras, mudras and meditation to strengthen the nervous and glandular systems. Not surprisingly, Los Angeles is the epicenter, with kundalini studios Yoga West, Golden Bridge, Nine Treasures Yoga and now the staggeringly popular RA MA Institute for Applied Yogic Science and Technology, which has become de rigueur among Venice hipsters, hard-core yogis, athletes and celebrities who follow the studio’s master teachers. While the spiritual element is key, kundalini is not religion-based—it’s a nondenominational and measurable technology for uplifting the body, mind and spirit. Harvard Medical School is currently conducting a five-year study examining the effects of yoga and meditation on chronic stress. One test group practices kundalini yoga, chosen for its emphasis on meditation. Guru Jagat smiles and shrugs: “Yogis have known this for thousands of years,” she says, “but it’s very helpful to have science behind it.”
After an inspirational, albeit spicy talk (Guru Jagat’s delivery is lively, to say the least) and an intense yoga set to balance the “tattvas” (elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether), more time-tested beauty advice is revealed—cold-water showers to flush the capillaries, specific asanas (postures) for weight control and youth, hair washing with oils instead of shampoo, massaging the skin with ghee, yogurt baths, recipes for golden milk made with turmeric (a natural anti-inflammatory), and the special spice-infused yogi tea that is a staple in the kundalini beauty regime.
Four hours later and already feeling uplifted, the group as a whole is looking decidedly different. We’ve swapped our neuroses for the kind of radiance you can’t find in a bottle or at the dermatologist’s office.
By Blair Saint.
Photographed by Columbine Goldsmith.
Makeup: Sarah Uslan @ Jed Root.