Empty Spaces & Tiny Pets: My First Sat Nam Rasayan Experience
Cover Photo By Casey Horner
By Sarah Schultz
"Shuniya means zero. The moment you become zero, then all powers will prevail through you." -Yogi Bhajan
After practicing yoga for the better half of a decade, savasana has easily been the hardest pose for me to master. The silence, the stillness, the space to surrender: I’ve not been able to access it consistently. Let me flow through sun salutations and play with inversions—but meditation? It has not come quite so naturally.
When I was invited to attend “Heal Your Life from the Inside Out,” a Sat Nam Rasayan® workshop, I knew it was connected to Kundalini Yoga but knew little beyond that. Held at Berkeley Yoga Center, a space brimming with sunshine and buzzing with energy, this four-hour practice opened my eyes and heart to a powerful healing modality that transcends the asanas.
For thousands of years, the technology and techniques of Kundalini Yoga were kept sacred and secret, passed down only in the oral tradition from master to chosen student. Yogi Bhajan, a Master of Kundalini Yoga, challenged this tradition in 1969 when he moved to the United States. He brought Kundalini into the public eye, stating that he came to the West “to create teachers, not to gain students.” One of those teachers was Guru Dev Singh, the founder of the School of Sat Nam Rasayan®.
Sat Nam Rasayan®, which translates to “deep relaxation in the true identity,” is an ancient healing art in which the healer locates and releases blocks for their client from the state of shuniya, or zero. To reach shuniya, you must hold awareness of everything—every sensation, every sound, every thought. "Then allow the resistances to change and/or release as you continue to hold your state of awareness. Resistances can be distractions, differentiation of sensations, preconceptions, conditions, boundaries, or limits,” according to the Sat Nam Rasayan® website.
The action associated with this healing is quite simple. The ‘client’ lays down on their mat or rug, and the ‘healer’ gently places a hand on the body (typically the arm), or there may be no touch at all. Then, the healer creates a sacred space by entering a divinely meditative state—shuniya.
We spent the afternoon alternating between being healer and client. Guru Dev Singh calls clients ‘tiny pets’ (like ‘guinea pigs,’ but a more adorable turn of phrase). I had the opportunity to be tiny pet to Mahan Kirn, who at age eighteen became the personal assistant to Yogi Bhajan. A gentle soul with a strong magnetic force, and living proof of the restorative power of yoga, she placed a hand on my arm and entered shuniya as Jeffrey Cohen guided the room.
Here, something shifted. I found myself comfortably straddling conscious meditation and unconscious sleep, a profound first for me. I felt a lightness, unaware if it was coming from within, from Mahan Kirn, or the actual rays beaming through the windows. Subtly but surely, beliefs, blocks, and emotional aches started to melt away.
Mahan Kirn led the group next. She spoke of allowing, then emptying. Accepting, then emptying. A few days later, I unpacked the experience with Siri Kirtan, a massage therapist, healer, and empath. “As a bodyworker, we often take our [metaphorical] toolkit and try to assess what’s going on with the other person. Sat Nam Rasayan teaches us how to not do that. As the healer, you’re not doing anything … so you lose the ego. And you understand that the healing already exists within the other person. You sense sensations without relating to the story. Then you empty it, and complete it.”
Adi Manet Kaur, a Kundalini Yoga teacher-in-training, healer, and empath described her state of shuniya as arriving at an indescribable state of peace and tranquility, with nothing to do except notice. “Empty is the space of self-awareness. From the 'zero-point' I can access self-healing, transformation, and calmly support my inner zen while radiating this lovely state of acceptance to the universe. I believe Yogi Bhajan would consider this a 'win-win' situation,” she says.
The event wrapped up with Seva Simran Singh Khalsa guiding us through energizing breathwork and mudras, which tied a balancing bow on the day’s deeply relaxing package.
I operate from this mindset: You can’t pour from an empty cup. I spend so much time retreating, then refilling, then reengaging. But this practice, along with the poignant guidance of the three teachers, showed me the beauty of empty, of being zero. I walked out of class empty, but ready to pour.
With lightness and laughter, Jeffrey Cohen hosts Sat Nam Rasayan® workshops at his home in Alameda, CA.
Mahan Kirn is a Los Angeles–based meditation guru, global yogi, and healer. She has created two programs Three Min Start®, a series of meditation techniques to quickly balance oneself and de-stress that works for anyone, regardless of age or physical ability; and Mah Bound Lotus® for healing and mental clarity. Learn more about her work here.
Seva Simran Singh Khalsa is a Kundalini Yoga teacher who is deeply immersed in the Bay Area Kundalini Yoga community. Find a class and learn about his multi-modality healing style here.
To find out about more events at the Berkeley Yoga Center visit: berkeleyyoga.com.