Trailblazer: Chrispy Bhagat Singh
Chrispy Bhagat Singh is a Mindfulness and Yoga Educator - trained in Vinyasa Ashtanga, Hatha, and Kundalini Yoga, with a focus on MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction). As well as being a facilitator for Asana and Mindfulness Practices, he is also a Spiritual Intelligence Mentor and an Ordained Rector, and uses these modalities to bring clarity, empowerment and transformation to each gathering. Check out more about Chrispy on his website and click here to see his classes at Wanderlust Austin.
WJ: What aspects of yoga / meditation / spirituality do you bring into your work?
CS: I love to use the physical practice as the entry point for getting into some of the real work - the physical, emotional, mental and interpersonal alchemical change that comes from stepping into the creative furnace of tapas, pranayama and the container of asana. I'm intrigued by the opportunity for change and refinement on all levels and through the facets of many traditions.
I'm really into creating slower, more intentional, devotion flows - physical prayer via devotion in motion. Taking time to be present in what is occurring rather than simply using our practice as another way to flow mindlessly from experience to experience. I like to stop, get slow, drop in, ask questions, challenge and confront, support and allow. It is my responsibility to keep your body safe and challenged in the physical realm; it's my delight and privilege to work into the deeper levels of psyche, shadow and transformation.
I like to keep a foot in each world, to keep it real, to be authentic, and to meet the students where we each are. I'm imperfect, flawed, full of my own faults; I'm not looking to preach or convert, although I can be a little Pentecostal Holy Rollin' in my delivery - I'm looking for a way to engage creatively with those more base experiences and to elevate and refine. That's my continual practice, that's what I hope to offer in my classes.
I'm pleased to also move out of the asana practice to facilitate and offer meditation, and some perspectives on mindfulness. Helping students find a way to use the asana practice or even simple pranayama to create periods of intentional mindfulness. I believe that our greatest undeveloped and underutilized skill is intuition; that through mindfulness, we create more spiritual intelligence, which improves our emotional intelligence. When we can come from a place of understanding and empathy, we create an enormous opportunity to tune into and honor intuition - through this, I know we can make better, more conscious choices, for ourselves and our communities, large and small.
Oh, and let's not forget - I believe in, support and create fun. Be real, this practice is hard, being quiet is hard, doing the real work and showing up day to day is difficult. Worth it, but hard. So, I want to enjoy it, I want you to enjoy it, I want us to engage in the work joyfully, so that it becomes a real part of our lives and not a duty to be endured.
WJ: How did you get involved with the yoga community?
CS: That's a good one! I came to yoga at 40 years old, basically because I told my wife that if she 'left me alone' in my 30s, I could concentrate on my career, that at the age of 40 I would find some physical discipline and get serious about it. Well, then I'm 40, a retired, and sitting around doing nothing - loudly!!
You see, I'm that guy that never played any sports, competitively or even for fun. Growing up, my parents forced me outside; I almost couldn't graduate high school because I was going to fail gym. If you asked me about physical activity as an adult, I'd say that I would ride a bike if my car broke down, I'd walk if my bike was stolen and I'd run, but only if I was being chased! Ha!
So, I lived almost my entire life until 40 in my head, not using my body. I was fortunate that I didn't embody stress from my job, my diet and health were excellent, I just simply had no physical embodied idea of movement or effort or discipline. But, I made that promise, so I finally broke down and went to yoga with my wife. I was that mess who couldn't even do down dog, had my sweatshirt wadded up around my head, I'm sure I panted out loud and just thought - 'this sucks!'
Luckily, I come from a family where I was always told that 'resistance should be met with persistence'. If you're that wound up with something you're engaged. Hate isn't the opposite of love, apathy is; hate means you're really emotionally involved. So, I had such an intense resistance to the yoga that I actually wanted to explore that; so I just kept showing up. Frustrated, pissed, weak, triggered, and engaged. I can't say when - more than 2 weeks and less than a month of daily practice - but I was hooked.
About 3 months later, I signed up for Teacher Training; under that 'deepen my practice' ethos. Make another long story short, I got hired in my final practicum and started teaching the next Saturday morning. I'm so blessed to give back to others the opportunities afforded me by the practice and intentional teachers.
WJ: What's your favorite pose?
CS: I'll answer that this way - Surya Namaskar never gets old. Never. I love it, teach it every class, practice it every practice, and recommend it as the default or minimum basic home practice. I've been trained in the Kundalini tradition, and the very first 'warm-up' Kriya that Yogi Bhajan learned and then taught was Surya Namaskar.
That said, I can't get enough side-bending. any lateral pose that lengthens the side body. I love to be fully extended and then just work the expansion through the interior body via the breath. Just feels so functional, and yet creatively energizing!
WJ: What's feeding your wanderlust today?
CS: Service, service to others, intra-personal and interpersonal work, creating opportunity, developing discernment through challenge, personal growth, community growth, teaching and learning.
I also love urban farming, I'm continuing to convert my tiny 1/5th acre into a sustainable homestead, right in the heart of South Austin. We get leafy greens year round and 3 solid seasons for everything else. It's great to stop and get into the earth and practice the patience of growth, stewardship and discernment - is that sprout the promise of virtuous seeds or troublesome weed?
Gardening and taking care of our place keeps me grounded; I love having a sweet home base to return to from great travels and to invite my world traveling friends to visit! Being involved in growing and creating great food and sharing that with good friends, old and new, that feeds me on every level.
I'm also blessed to have a loving wife and partner who thinks a big trip once a year is vital, so I was fortunate enough to travel Turkey in April, and will be going to Chile and Easter Island for New Years. Straight up Wanderlusting by wandering to the places I've lusted to go my whole life. Then, practicing being there and being present to the experience.
WJ: If you could leave one legacy for your community what would it be?
CS: Well, I'll paraphrase some of my most excellent teachers - if you were in Las Vegas, and you wandered up and sat down at the BlackJack table and the stranger next to you wins, you join in and cheer and clap and congratulate them. You don't curse them out and hate them or blame them, you celebrate for the stranger and their good luck.
That's what it's like for us - we won, we won the lottery - we get to practice. We have the means, the security, the time, the money, the opportunity. So, you can take that and be happy and get to your practice and do it, or you can wail and bemoan and think it's 'privilege' and worry about all of those who don't get to do yoga. win the lottery, do your yoga, and let your yoga be your offering, your work, your grace.
It'll be more than your practice, for your practice will make your more. The effects will come, they will be unseen, undercurrents, powerful and yet subtle, deeply moving. Watch that subtle shift as you move from the orientation of selfishness to selflessness, through your offering of your practice to the world.
As I like to say - "those who can, must; because you can, you must!"
Remove the guilt, don't look for reasons or rationales, or ways to disconnect - bring your imperfections, your unhappiness, your malaise, your dread, and work it, work it, work on it, work it out, work inward to understand.... and of course, give thanks and praise!