Yogi Bhajan: Toxic, Brilliant, Broken

“Toxic people are not the problem. Allowing toxic people to have keys to your spiritual and emotional house is the problem.”
– Unknown

Yogi Bhajan. I never knew the man, although I did marvel at the brilliant stuff he came up with. He died in 2004 but built a franchise from the ground up called Kundalini Yoga. He was from India and came to America in the midst of the hippie revolution when young people – often shell shocked by mind expanding psychedelic drugs – were restless and looking for something more. The influence of his yogic teachings caught fire as countless followers joined his spiritual domain over the next 50 years.

And then it all came tumbling down.

Not everybody’s interested in the sordid tale of Yogi Bhajan but I see a lot of Yogi B hate-mongering, which is a phenomenon I’m addressing in this week’s video.

Let’s me state right out of the gate, I was never a Yogi Bhajan fan. There was something about a big beefy man in robes with a long white beard that had echos of that “old man” god of my conservative Christian childhood that I quickly fled – once I got to the refuge of college. I only knew of him because some of my work is related to some of his kundalini practices.

At any rate, in early 2020, the kundalini yoga world was rocked by reports of Yogi Bhajan’s on-going widespread manipulation, lies and emotional and sexual abuse when he was alive. It started with a “tell all” book by an early follower named Premka, and then the damns broke with countless women emerging to share similar horrifying stories about him.

It’s true, Yogi Bhajan took advantage of the devotion of so many of his students who followed him, often uncompromisingly. That’s easy to understand – there was a charismatic allure about him, coming from the East, possessing esoteric knowledge that we Westerners see as holding the ticket to transformation. Premka wrote that “finding her guru,” in her words, would be like having her own personal guide through life – an enlightened being who knew the right way to live and who would be dedicated to keeping her on track and safe.

Now Premka, herself, acknowledged how her unhealed childhood wounds of not feeling wanted and her desire to be loved, drove her to idealize and trust the parental role of Yogi Bhajan. Many with unhealed childhood wounds are drawn to the guidance of a paternal or fatherly figure. Back in the day, my own abandonment issues with a absent father played out for me in different ways inappropriately with men. That Yogi Bhajan was seen as a fatherly figure – and a gifted evolved spiritual teacher – was likely very alluring because it held the promise of intimate spiritual belonging… the promise of being Love.

Yet we overlook the fact that as a “holy man” Yogi Bhajan had a shadow side – like so many other spiritual teachers – with unhealed wounds that they hide very well and in Yogi Bhajan’s case – came out in his reckless secret life as a sexual predator.

In the wake of the Yogi Bhajan revelations, there has been a collective emotional upheaval among those who are suffering from his betrayals. There are hard unforgiving feelings of former students who are struggling to move past their anger and hurt. There’s at least one Facebook support group with 6,000-plus members that’s dedicated to the survivors (quote) “who suffered abuses by Yogi Bhajan and/or other leaders, teacher or members” in his organization. And I’ve seen first-hand where someone posts a suggestion for survivors to “move on with their lives,” and there’s a pile-on of insult and name calling to the people who would suggest such a thing. They continue to be steeped in their hurt, their shame, their anger.

No one can walk in another person’s shoes. Or see life through another’s eyes. Yet, the unfairness and traumas that we each experience in our lives can, with training, also be viewed as lessons that nurture our spiritual evolution. In fact, the field of psychology has discovered that suffering is only part of the experience. Suffering caused by traumatic events can become a force for dramatic life change, letting go of the emotions that haunt them, and moving people to find deeper meaning in their lives and inspiring them to help themselves and others. Yes, through deep emotional release work, I was able to free myself of the anger, the anxiety and the depression that plagued me. And that has led me to the very fulfilling work of helping others release their heavy emotional loads.

It’s been established that Yogi Bhajan was a creep. BUT he was a brilliant, innovative complicated creep whose kundalini meditation practices have supported countless people taking their next transformational steps. As I mentioned, in my emotions work, I draw on “revised” practices from kundalini to help people process and release difficult emotions.

What do you think about all this? Maybe you’re not even familiar with kundalini or Yogi Bhajan but, maybe you’re a survivor of a psychic wounding that you now see as a blessing in disguise that helped you move into a more elevated place. Or maybe not. Drop down to the comments sections and let me know. I always appreciate hearing your insights.

I’m Becca Williams and I want you to lead your most magnificent life and I want to help you do that.

4 thoughts on “Yogi Bhajan: Toxic, Brilliant, Broken”

  1. I am convinced I experienced some version of K energy while doing Richard Hittleman’s 28-day intro to yoga asanas 30+ years ago. It was a simple exercise, bending at the waist in widening circles when, wow, it hit me, a surge of energy through my body/spine? I have never forgotten that experience and yet I never pursued a consistent yoga practice after that (due to lack of discipline, work, laziness, etc.) or experienced anything like that again.

    • Hi! In Eastern wisdom this “surge of energy” is called kundalini but in my emotional release work we see it as a life-force that we stir up so we can release “blocked energy”… or in Western science speak, release trauma that is embedded in the body.

      In other words the flow of kundalini = the release of trauma.

      So it makes sense that during your practice you were doing something to stir up that energy and catalyze its flow. It’s exactly what we do proactively in my 8-week masterclass courses. Through various tools (including plant medicines) we nurture and activate a “surge of energy” to move and release this “stuck energy” or “trauma”. My students and clients report all kinds of tremors, buzzing, shaking and even voices. Release is very individualistic and varies widely from person-to-person.

      But this work needs to be done in a very thoughtful manner – slowly conditioning and toning the nervous system otherwise re-traumatization can occur and that’s not productive. This release work needs to be done at each person’s own pace and that’s why we call it self-therapy.

      At any rate, it sounds like your experience made quite an impression. And I’d be interested in whether you remember it fondly or with fear.

      From my experience as an emotions therapist, the most motivated people called to do this emotional release work (moving the kundalini) are wrestling with difficult emotions and are very committed to doing what it takes to not have to live that way anymore. Bringing up trauma so that it can be released is a heavy lift but once you do it, you don’t have to deal with it anymore. I am dedicated to teaching the most efficient and effective tools to get the job done.

      My sense is that you may not be dealing with a lot of difficult emotions tethered to trauma? (We all carry trauma to a lessor or greater extent.) So it’d be intriguing to understand whether your kundalini experience made an impression because it felt good or it scared you.

    • Thanks!

      The biggest incongruity on the whole Yogi B thing is that a learned, brilliant spiritual being is just assumed to have dealt with all his dark shadow stuff.

      Yet, it just goes to show that the first rule (in anything) is to “assume nothing”.


Leave a Comment