« Elegance is when the inside is as beautiful as the outside. » Gabrielle Chanel
My interest was drawn to the workshops given in English on August 1 and 5, 2017 by Jiwan Shakti Kaur and Satya Kaur at the European Yoga Festival because of their connection with a theme that is dear to me: the relationship between the Inside and the Outside.
Our clothes express this relationship. Sometimes they dress us as a second skin, sometimes they express our opinions and feelings. Sometimes, their meaning for others escapes us.
What about Style and the Infinite and how does it express itself through the Image? And how can we ensure that we deliver through our look the « right » message, the one that serves us?
The first « Dress-sense » workshop explores these issues. In the second one, we will seek in ourselves the style that suits us.
At the European Festival, I met very different women. They have, as Jiwan Shakti and Satya, exceptional backgrounds. In forest 5, the yogis sit down in a circle in what looks like a clearing. The passers-by will by-pass the circle during the two hours of each workshop.
Participants found themselves there because of their common interest in clothing, whether it be dressing oneself or dressing others. The act of dressing obviously covers much more than the need to protect the body, our identity being expressed in our more or less controlled clothing choices. The path is sometimes long and complex towards Simplicity. The issue is important not only on a social level but also on a more subtle level. Our clothes would therefore influence our happiness and our success. Elementary my dear Satya Kaur and Jiwan Shakti Kaur? Rather the result of experience and rich life paths.
At the first workshop, Satya arrives dressed in a set of trousers and kurta of red cotton. In these first days of the festival, she represents the Red Tent, meeting place and female « laboratory ». A multicolored fancy scarf partly covers her hair that took silver reflections. His golden eyes are what you see most.
Jiwan Shakti wears an immaculated sporty outfit made up of trousers and a cotton shirt, with a turban that makes her look like a merchant of the tales of Nasreddin, all ears out. Completely dressed in white, she dared a yogi masculine-feminine total look and is wearing black-framed spectacles in front of a make-up of incomparable precision.
With them we will « speak rags » and surely, once again find out that God is in all things if we know how to look at them. We will metaphorically make rags our trains and our veils of princesses. Strong female majority in these workshops, but not absolute majority. The men who come are interested in expressing themselves and show much concern.
The personal presentation of Satya and Jiwan Shakti comes here rightly, their respective journeys involving questions and changes in « clothing strategy ». Both have come to the conclusion that our clothes are our business card.
Satya Kaur finds her way in Kundalini Yoga at 22 years and follows the path without failing for 23 years. At 46, she learns that she has breast cancer. At the announcement of the diagnosis, she abandons everything that constituted her previous way of life and begins a therapeutic work. She then enters a phase of self re-discovery. After this de-construction episode, follows a re-construction process, during which she re-introduces each element consciously after careful examination, which applies to her clothing choices, which become very free.
Jiwan Shakti Kaur, too, experienced great turnarounds. This Italian-American has worked 25 years in show business, evolving in the world of Actor’s Studio in New York. Actress herself, she then leads an image-oriented life while having the spiritual life of a fervent Catholic. In such a context, she soon realizes that the relationship between our appearance and our identity can be conflicting. When Kundalini Yoga enters her life, she feels at first perfectly at ease in her new outfit. The conflict between the « inside » and the « outside » seems to be overcome. However, she quickly realizes that she does not recognize herself completely in this dress code and decides to appropriate it in a way that corresponds her. She will dress in white when teaching without adopting the Indian style and tie her turban in her own way, a way that, she comments, is perceived as more « normal » in everyday life.
Once the presentations are completed, the following questions come up:
- How to project through clothes what we deeply are and thus be in accordance with the philosophy of Yoga?
- Is our appearance consistent with what we have come to this earth for? Does it express the result of the lessons we have learned?
- Do we master the effect our appearance has on our surroundings? In other words, is this effect intentional?
- Does our way of dressing reflect the person we are today?
And more generally :
- Do we manifest who we really are?
A first element that balances these questions is the time factor: by progressing into life, we perfect what we are and how to make ourselves known. We reflect the self-knowledge and self-confidence that has grown. What we are expressing is becoming more and more personal.
As far as clothing is concerned, even if we are not interested in it, or if we pretend that it does not matter, we still express something.
Satya brings up the example of holes. Whether due to wear or lack or even fashion (jeans …), the nothingness of the holes of clothing has an energetic significance. When we are wearing such clothes, our energy is no longer centered. These holes break the thread of the energetic tissue. As in Tantra, the thread must not be broken.
Why is this important?
- 92% of communication is non-verbal (to communicate we mainly use our body – and our clothes – 57%, voice 35% and language 8%
- everything is vibration, including clothes
- as Boris Vian said, « since we are always disguised, then let us so much disguise: in this way, we are no longer disguised! « . Let us play our role on the great scene of life. We are not going out in the open.
- we are not free when we only yield to the dictates of society or fashion, which sometimes weigh very heavily.
Jiwan introduces the striking example of the integral veil. In some countries such as Saudi Arabia, access to higher education is subordinated to the wearing of the hijab that completely covers the face.
The face and body of the women who wear it are totally concealed and they have no choice but to look at the world through two layers of veil, deprived of the expression of a personal social identity, just because they are women. Jiwan Shakti shows us the hijab and after her, a few participants dress in this garment, making the sensory experience of this deprivation, trying to understand how the human can live and develop under this mask …
Satya, on the other hand, evokes Gandhi, who began to make his clothes with the wool produced in a traditional way, which he was weaving and weaving himself, after he realized that it was not enough for him to wear tweed to be treated as an equal by the English. He wanted to restore his freedom to his people, beginning with « … being the change he wanted to see in the world ».
So clothes reflect what’s going on inside and out. It’s up to us to know what clothes we want to wear … Because in the face of the almost hysterical superabundance of very cheap textile products, we can only wonder who is financing these very low prices? It’s up to us to reflect or try to pretend that nothing has changed.
But whatever we do, the Age of Aquarius is running and also brings, along with its positive aspects, confusion, individualism and lack of guidance. In the clothing industry, there is no longer any real reference. Again, polarization is regressing, globalization is advancing. Some have decided to make virtually everything they wear, including their underwear.
This is not new, but worth mentioning: the couturiers and craftsmen, who are cheered every year at the European Festival Bazaar – Dharma dressing, Atcha Milega for France and many others – are there to change the deal.
The guide to this journey to which we are all invited is the invitation to express our true identity – Sat Nam – which is at the heart of the teachings of Kundalini Yoga. What do they recommend?
Kundalini Yoga and Dress Style
The materials: exclusively natural plant fibers like cotton (the « flower of the earth »), flax, silk, but also new materials such as hemp, viscose, bamboo, coconut. As for the leather, it isolates, blocks the natural flow. « Wear it if you need an armor, » says Satya. Wool is warming and protective.
The colors: one refers to the system of the chakras and their symbolic.
- Yogi Bhajan advocated wearing white outfits, especially to teach. He wished us all recognizable. White represents light : it is the color that best reflects the sun’s rays. All the colors are included in white. There are many shades of it: off-white, snow, ivory, marble, mother-of-pearl, milk, lilies, cotton … White is associated with purity – and mourning in the East.
- Black is not a color. It takes and keeps what comes from the outside like, for example, the heat. Black is associated with elegance and depth. It does not reflect any part of the spectrum of visible light, instead it absorbs light.
- In a certain way, the brain distinguishes the primary colors. Indeed, wearing a single color conveys consistency, a unique vibration, a strong aura, a relaxing effect (it is easier a message to process). On the other hand, color mixes represent energies, moods, a more complex hormonal « game » and longer a message to process. If there are several colors, the message is fragmented, the aura will be upset. It is advisable to avoid mixing colors if the energy is low.
The turban: the hair is part of the electromagnetic field. They are our antennae. Combing them up raises our energy upwards. When wearing a turban, the bones of the skull are adjusted, and we are more focused. The turban line gives a strong arc line, better projection and better non-verbal communication. The others perceive more clarity in us when our forehead is clear.
The belt and the pants : Yogi Bhajan was a Sikh; he advocated wearing a wide belt and a wide pants called Kashaira – both part of the traditional Sikh costume – for more strength and control.
The shoes: in the yoga practice, we do not wear shoes, for better connection to the earth. We get our vitality there.
Like white garments and natural plant fibers, monochrome floating garments strengthen the aura.
What to do?
Many of our habits stem from prejudices that come from the past (culture, family, personal history, etc.). Let us give ourselves the opportunity to renew what we represent and open a new space, suggest Satya and Jiwan.
Let us find a balance between the desire to be noticed, to seduce and a certain forgetfulness of self in the service of others.
Let consistency serve the person we want to be among the others. It is necessary for our social life and deserves to be sought for our happiness and our prosperity.
Quality or quantity? What do we really need? Let’s open our suitcase and check that our clothes match the person we are today. Let us go beyond categories, styles. Let’s listen to Shakti, let’s find out who we are and what gifts we have brought back from other lives and what are our gifts in this life. Are we serving our highest Self, our true Self? To discover it is to discover who we are.
With Satya and Jiwan, let’s look at this equipment that makes so much for our exchanges with the outside in our social and private lives. Whatever our choices are, let us be aware of their impact. Let us make sure that our equipment is suitable for the journey we want to make.
A personal point of view
In the times of Gabrielle Chanel, it seems to me that elegance was a matter of adjustment and unveiling: one took the time to sew press studs to reveal only intentionally; secret bridles prevented the bra straps from showing themselves … It was not a matter of showing, but of revealing.
The choice is vast at the European Festival and I opt for these workshops because my work has an effect on the image of others. As a seamstress, I design and make clothes and accessories. My work reflects the desire and need of others and I wish to qualify myself to do so in as conscious and appropriate a way as possible. I would like to understand what it means to choose a particular material, fabric, shape or color. The best way to do this learning is to work on my own image.
Thanks to the first workshop, I discovered that my original way of working, from childhood, fabrics and embroidery, is related to war and its destructive consequences. I have the soul of a repairer. War created holes, not only because of its violence, but also because of the great deprivation it caused. The fabric of clothes has often lost its integrity just as families have been amputated, condemned to survive their dead. Energy flows were savagely interrupted. Letters have not arrived or arrived too late. With my maternal grandmother, I learned to resume. On the other side, after the bombings, one had to start all over again and follow the pattern.
It is from the technique of resuming that restores the missing fabric that I found a personal way of embroidering, collecting and collecting fabrics and pieces, repairing the fibers, which meant telling a story. I started to write and when I wrote, it was always this technique that showed. Untill today.
It is the one that is most natural to me.
I like recycling. By virtue of this principle, we can create mixtures, a mesh between the past era and the one that opens up to us. Being in agreement with what we are will be more and more crucial in the future, because confusion will only withdraw at this price.
Sewing is making the future.
During the second workshop, during the kriya, I visualize the unexpected velvet that may have dressed me in my dreams or in other lives. A fabric that is both soft and thick, sensual and evoking the fur and animality in me, yet refined. I am surprised to be confronted with this exceptional material and which really evokes other ages: velvet is little worn … fragile, precious … ambiguous because its silks catch the light by zone. The velvet is illuminated. Luxurious. Surrans. The velvet is changing as the sea.
The experience of Satya and Jiwan teaches us that any change of image corresponds to a change in the level of consciousness. Imagining what could be the changes ahead is an effective way to learn how to master our image, to create our personal look consciously.
The many tips received promote a real awakening about the subject. So many promises of a conscious and generous production: to dress people supposes to have with them a certain affinity. Just as we need a project for ourselves, we do one project for the other. We are deeply attached to the idea of essential equipment but continue to accumulate clothing, accessories and jewelry. One of the treasures of Kundalini Yoga is to bring this collection back to basics. Durable objects require more maintenance but also provide more satisfaction.
A few days after the Dress Sense workshops, I visited the Christian Dior Museum in Normandy. While on the market the sizes are no longer reliable and the fabrics have lost all diversity when they do not circulate incognito, I found the polarized world of Dior and brought back the evocation of well known or less common fabrics: cotton, cotton velvet, silk velvet, velvet, silk, silk fault, satin, cashmere, wool, brocade, taffeta, organza, gazar, tulle degraded, organdi, crepe, twill, nylon, flocked, canvas …
The inheritance provides benchmarks and structure and makes one dream.
Yogi Bhajan introduces with Kundalini Yoga the return to a fundamental degree of simplicity that makes more space inside us to create and renew.
Over time, the dress code has become less stringent but as a result of Yogi Bhajan, our teachers remind us of it in essence through their outfits: yes, we can only adhere to this authenticity if we teach Kundalini Yoga. Anyone with them will find their example inspiring. There are many ways to live and celebrate color, shape, beauty. Everyone finds his way to this celebration.
Change is possible if you really want it and this is the essence of the message of these summer workshops. We can go beyond the obstacles, and simply, find ourselves.
Satya and Jiwan rely on their experience to encourage us: this life is the best chance we have of being ourselves.
« Kriya for a renewed self concept », 29/11/1988, in The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, 2008
Jiwan Shakti Kaur (Sungalaa – Germany) www.sungalaa.com
Satya Kaur (Quinta do Rajo – Portugal) www.quinta-do-rajo.pt
European Yoga Festival www.3ho-kundalini-yoga.eu/fr/evenementsactivites/festival-europeen-de-yoga/
Fédération Française de Kundalini Yoga (FFKY) (for more information about Kundalini Yoga) ffky.fr
Kushwant Kaur (Asfodela – France)
© Francine Leseney, octobre 2017, text and translation.