Autobiography of a Western Yogini
Below is a raw and revealing biography about the life of Katherine Russ. Not only how she had been practicing asana and pranayama from a young age, but how her birth-given karma gave her no choice but to practice the other 3/4th of Yoga. This true story will give you a glimpse of how she came to experience yoga vidya, or revelations of our unified mind-field, as we have come to understand to be our collective consciousness.
Katherine has always been unusually brilliant. Her first words were not "ma-ma", but a sudden and clear "I love you." while sitting in her high chair. She was easily speaking in full sentences at age 2. She began practicing yogasana and pranayama ever since she was no longer able to continue from a brief period of tumbling and tap & ballet lessons at age six, due to her family needing to budget for her little Sister's arrival.
For five years all on her own, she experimented with both stretching (hanumanasana "Russian Splits" was her first self-directed yoga pose) and breath practices she learned from watching footage on free diving that showed how to extend internal retention to stay underwater as long as one can. She experimented with this exercise in the pool. She also enjoyed watching Olympic gymnasts and simply wanted to possess the agility and movement powers of a cat.
Katherine, age 5 with Father
As she was growing up, she had troubles with self esteem. From a very young age she felt there was something wrong with the world and everyone around her. She just did not know exactly what. It was only a sense of intuition with no basis of factual data findings. She was discouraged from going over to play and bond with peer friends at a young age, due to other parents in Los Angeles having such low standards for raising their children that they would allow pornography to play on their TV while she was visiting.
In light of this, by the time she was eleven, living in Colorado, it was the TV which revealed to her that there is this practice called "yoga" and so was born the revelation that she was already doing it naturally. She practiced with the show "Lilias Yoga and You" every morning before school. As she entered her teenage years, it was very easy for her to act on her feelings of being "alien" and socially isolated, to become solitary and antisocial.
As she grew into a young lady, she began with a journey of body obsession.
Reading a teenage fashion magazine subscription inspired her to work out excessively and severely reducing her caloric intake, she became anorexic, only weighing 70 pounds at one point. She was in denial about it for a short while, but then realised she had developed some very negative side effects like dry patchy skin, and her hair began to fall out more rapidly. It was a disaster that she had to dig herself out of, by studying how important healthy fats are to keep in our diet.
Deep down inside, she just wanted to be accepted, approved of, validated, and find a way to feel good about herself, but she always felt she needed to keep up a "tough" act to feel emotionally safe. From her teenage years to age 20 was a rebellious and depressive "goth" subculture phase, piling on makeup, piercing herself, dying her hair black. She felt like there was no way around sadness and darkness, so she did what she could to embrace it, which even included paranormal experimentation.
This darkness nearly ended up devouring her ability to be warm,
caring, and genuinely loving.
By the time she was nearly twenty-one, she had enough of the overwhelming sense of a lack of reality all around her. She felt like the whole world was nothing but artificial pointlessness, and even briefly thought about ending her life. However, something told her there had to be an alternative to this, so feeling as if Denver Colorado was just not an artistic enough place for her creative mind, she wished to return to her birth state of California. Looking in the free ad site, "The Recycler", she found an opportunity to live rent free to assist an executive.
She called and heard a hilariously irreverent outgoing answering machine message, joking in a very witty way about Charles Manson of all people! Immediately this struck a cord of mischievous glee within her, as she has always felt frustrated with the uptight societal vibrations of propriety and impropriety, what should and should not be spoken of, and how people react to impressions and associations so quickly. She was immediately deeply fascinated and left a voice mail, complimenting him on his hilariously bold message.
The very next day she received a call from him and in their conversations, he revealed himself to be very sharp and articulate, aware of subtleties, learned in psychology, and charismatic. Let's call him "Michael". Michael encouraged her to use complete words like "yes", instead of "yah", she sat up straighter, stopped eating or threw out her chewing gum when ever he called. It turned out he hailed from a white collar family from League City Texas, where everyone in the family attended the University of Huston and most of them became upstanding and well-respected figures in the medical field. He soon began giving her a reason to live like she never before had dared.
My Fair Yogini
Before she moved back to California, Katherine and Michael spoke on the phone for four months, and even these phone conversations began to increase Katherine's personal standards of self discipline. This man taught her to be more aware of her own tone of voice and how it lacked warmth. Despite how crushing some of the realities about herself were that he showed her, she persevered to push through deep-seated anger, apathy, self-defeatist attitudes, and improve.
After four months, she took the train (along with buses, due to a broken up rail system) from Denver's Union Station to Los Angeles. Once she arrived, it became an even more intense experience in person. She soon realised that she had to be very careful about watching what she said and how she said it and not to react in anger and arrogance. He simply would not tolerate anyone to be around him if they chose to hold onto any kind of attitude that was any less than constructive. She was watching how she moved and reacted and watching what habits, desires, and impulses that moved her to seek comfort and refuge in activities that are truly non-vital for a human being's health. This even meant she had to take a considerable break from listening to headphones in order to escape into the attitudinal balm of a musical soundscape. No more seeking happiness through externals. Such realities of how she needed to drop certain behaviors to change her conduct were not so easy to accept, but these things were dawning upon her like the unstoppable rays of the sun.
She did still resist much of his guidance, feeling upset, insulted, crushed, unworthy, cheated, and enraged. He would ask her why she is clinging to behaviors and identifying to things that are not her. When she took a contrived tone of voice or accent, he helped her to see that she was being insincere (not herself). Many things he had told her inspired her to examine life more carefully. Not just her life, but the life and the mind that we all share. She began to think about the totally disposable (irrational) behavioral aspects that human beings all too frequently resort to that she had never before thought of. Why do we resort to all of these irrational behaviors?
"The number one disease humanity most suffers from is low self esteem." - Michael
After several months she realised that she had hit a wall with all of the rebellion and was going nowhere but into more frustration and misery in her mind. She had to admit to herself that she was dysfunctional, in order to grow and develop into more function. She had to identify she was delusional and it was one of the most painful self realisations she had to endure, but once the pain subsided, she recognised the alchemy she was experiencing. Through knowing delusion, we can begin to check for it like a lab technician running tests, in knowing how to run the tests and how to read the results.
Eventually she decided "what will I lose? Will I actually die? So what if I die! I feel horrible, look at me! I am acting horrible, and nothing good will come of this situation as long as I fight against it."
She began to confront the dark, twisted monster that was eating her away from the inside. She took the decisive action to surrender to his guidance in an attempt to see if she could get the destructive feelings and angry self-important impulses she was having to be the thing to die. She even had to change the way she fed herself. All movements had to become more deliberate and smooth. She had to literally watch what she was doing more intently than ever before. All standards had to be brought up. He would tell her that she was weak when she was being weak and she had to take that aboard as loving advice, rather than just some condescending insult. Eventually, he began to tell her that she was getting stronger, when she began to clearly improve. Progress came gradually and through this surrendering to what she told herself was just "an angry old man", she found a loving friendship with a fearless, firm, highly conscious, and good authority. As a result, she began to find a sense of happiness that she had never before known.
"One day you are going to look into that room and realise you don't need any of that stuff in order to be happy.", he said, referring to her material possessions she kept in the guest room she slept in.
Surely enough it happened. One day, Katherine and Michael were sitting in the lobby of the apartment complex waiting for someone, and suddenly something unexpected happened. Seemingly out of nowhere, she began to feel "high", although she had not put consumed a thing to cause this strangely lighter and intoxicated sensation. It was as if the energy she had been unconsciously wasting through "keeping up appearances", being rebelliously contrarian, self important, narcissistically indignant, and defensive had been redirected to the center of her being.
Suddenly she felt more free and aware than ever before. All of reality began to seem slightly more surreal, brighter, with more depth and even possessing a kind of personality of its own. Here she began noticing more subtleties in life, along with what seemed to be almost an unconscious sub context in the spoken word that she found to be revealing of the intentions and underlying thoughts of those around her. Does this sound insane? Of course it does, because here she had broken through the self esteem barrier that is invested in image, impression, and the opinionated judgments of others.
True Liberation Begins Through the Pursuit of Truth in Wisdom Yoga - Jnana Yoga
Katherine suddenly began to experience true self esteem for the first time, which made it easier for her to feel satisfied with herself. "Michael, I have decided that I am actually happy. I am going to throw away my things."
Katherine got rid of around 75% of her possessions, including costume jewelry, thigh high black leather patent leather buckle boots, antique rhinestone jewelry, dressy exotic clothes, and other personal vestiges of her costumed and cosmetic past that she felt she no longer wished to associate her "self" with.
She had grown into an elevated state through making decisively constructive changes in her conduct, so throwing away the nonessential items and flashy clothing she had accumulated automatically became a magical ritual.
So began her journey of experiencing the elevated (spiritual) side of all things. Ever since that day, she has ceased to experience periods of depression that last longer than an hour, self pity, or feelings of fear or insecurity in regard to how others view her as a person. She has learned to understand that condemning statements such as "you are a bad person." are byproducts of the failure to comprehend the true and ultimate self that we all share.
After throwing away all of these personal items to which she had ascribed her self image to, Katherine experienced a powerful and deeply personal result of this "ritual". She looked inside herself later that day, and came to view that there was nothing there. The quality of this "nothing" was so stunning and shocking, that she had no choice but to accept it as truth, infinity, and the ultimate nature of that which we call existence itself. It was like standing on a precipice and viewing not a landscape, but endless space. This experience gave way to a boundless sense of expansion, affirming that enlightenment is not merely a final state, but a continual process of realising, understanding, and actualising that which you never before knew. This all begins with what we call "Self Realisation".
These events led up to even more profound spiritual and supernatural experiences that can be described as "miracles", or disputed as impossibility, insanity, or outright strange, so these details are being reserved to not sidetrack you from the true heart of the matter---that which has motivated the writing of this biography: All of Us.
Before ever entering a yoga studio for the first time at age 23, yogasana already was merely an exercise in challenging breath, strength, focus, endurance, balance, flexibility, and coordination that could be occasionally used as a "circus trick". She was already able to perform bakasana "crow pose" on her own and could easily place her legs behind her head. This Denver studio in which she began practicing in turned out to be the first of a huge national corporate yoga chain.
She began with "level two" practices right away with one of the co-founders of this corporate yoga studio. This gorgeous South African man's classes were packed and many of the students could do far more impressive "circus tricks" than she could. Soon, she was practicing in the studio religiously every second day, and after a month she began experiencing some of the psychic side effects of regular asana and pranayama that result from the clarification of the nadis (main channels in the spine). She felt even more spiritualised, more blissful, and as if she was constantly floating a few inches off of the ground. She soon also discovered that she was not only experiencing her seventh chakra but all the way up to her 11th. This experience of the etheric chakras causes one to not only feel quite literally taller, it gives one an expansive feeling of confidence and truly honourable self esteem, as opposed to a veneer of synthetic superiority.
Now, the question to the every day yoga (commonly yogasana and pranayama) practitioner is, do you experience these feelings yourself? Can you honestly say you are feeling continually blissful and taller than you really are even if you are a bit addicted to shopping, subjectively hate some things/people, continually aspire to have "the perfect body", are constantly hungry for approval and validation, and can not seem get enough pleasure and enjoyment in your life?
Do you need to have a healthy foundation of loving true esteem and thorough honesty that no yoga studio package on earth can buy, or can you get around the other 3/4th of the yoga practice and still experience a sense of self fulfillment that keeps you feeling genuinely good about your life? This question is for you to answer for your self, as well as to know and understand that Katherine is here for you, along with all beings who wish to live and understand life to the fullest, aspiring for the greatest and most fulfilling ascension that we are so fond about speaking of.