What is an empowering woman? Immediate words that often come to mind are attributes like strong, courageous, genuine, and influential. But when you look up the actual definition of 'empower,' it means to make someone else stronger and more confident; to give power to another. That is what an empowering woman does above all else - she instills power, strength, and confidence in others.
We are surrounded by so many incredible women at KiraGrace, and we want to share a piece of their stories and characters with you in the hope that they will empower you the same way they've done for us. We will be highlighting different women who inspire us, challenge stereotypes, and are just, well, fabulous!
For our second issue of this series, we are getting personal with a woman in our local San Diego community - Sheel Seidler. The amount of service and sheer love this woman pours out into the people around her is jaw-dropping. Sheel, aka Jai Guru Sheel, is an advanced Kundalini trained instructor, founder of Kundalini With Sheel, former attorney and doctor of law, writer and storyteller, loving mother, and wife to Peter Seidler (part owner of San Diego Padres). This woman is the REAL DEAL.
After attending St. Edward's University where she received a Bachelor's degree in rhetoric and writing composition, she went on to the University of San Diego School of Law where she received her law degree. She had a successful law career as an attorney, but left it when she became pregnant with her first child to focus on her growing family. Sheel now has two beautiful daughters and is bringing the powerful practice of Kundalini to San Diego through her teachings. You don't have to live here to practice with her! You can also practice with her online at kundaliniwithsheel.com.
With so much on her plate we are extremely grateful we could steal a bit of Sheel's time to answer a few questions about her daily inspirations. We filmed this video on Instagram Live, but if you missed the live film, you can catch the video and transcription below.
KG - When and why did you decide to leave a more traditional career path and embark on your journey in Kundalini?
Sheel - I really enjoyed being an attorney until I didn’t. I would get up early and go to a spin class and go to Starbucks.... and then I got married, my identity started to shift and I enjoyed being home more and when I was really into my law career, I really wasn’t home that much. I just started organically becoming domesticated and it started to just feel like there was tension, and this urge to be a mom and how I wanted to be a mom, the energy I wanted to have as a mom. It wasn’t going together. Not to say that you can’t do both, but I found that at the level I was functioning, having the option to step back, I was very blessed to have that. And then at the same time that all of this was happening, even though I practiced vinyasa and hot vinyasa for 15 years, I stumbled into a Kundalini class pregnant and I was like, “What just happened?” That kind of took hold as I was stepping away from my legal career. From my first Kundalini class I knew that this was a path for me, I didn’t know I was going to become a teacher, but I knew that me and Kundalini were going to be like that (crosses her fingers). Here we are, 7 or 8 years later, and Kundalini is still a part of our household.
KG - Can you explain the philosophy behind kundalini?
Sheel - Kundalini is within many of the schools of yoga, it’s a royal yoga, and it was kept hidden until this man Yogi Bhajan brought it to the west. What makes it different is that it’s a diamond – it has all the facets of all the schools of yoga. It has breath work, meditation, mantra, and movement. So if you go to a yoga class that we consider normal, there’s movement, maybe a little bit of breath. Kundalini has all of those happening all the time. And the purpose of Kundalini is a little different as well: it’s to activate the soul-body. The soul-body is your authentic identity; it’s all about getting it to rise up. The analogy is of waking up a coiled snake that gently rises up the spine through all the chakras and then out into your life. It’s liberated. A soul being liberated is the whole purpose while living, not waiting until after you leave your body. It’s in your body, liberated. Knowing who you are, also giving other people the permission to do it, too.
KG - You've been sober for over 14 years. Why did you choose a sober lifestyle? How has it changed your life? Does it ever still get hard?
Sheel - I’ve actually been sober 15 years! One day at a time. I had alcoholism. It’s a disease, and I react differently than other people. I get in a lot of trouble... there’s definitely no soul rising if I’m drinking or using drugs. There’s no recreational aspect to it, it’s spirit killing for me. I think because my soul-identity is of a yogi and being connected to my spirit—so tethered—it was a point in my life that I liken to a pilot light in your oven, when it goes off, it’s really hard to get back on. At the moment, I was partying a lot in law school and I just felt like my pilot light soul was flickering. I had a moment of awareness that I’ve got to do this, I started going to meetings. I’m going to try this for a year, I’ll get healthy, lose some weight. But then something amazing happened, I started to realize who I was and the journey is one day at a time. There are definitely some things I have missed out on—like when low carb beer came out I was like “AHH!” And vaping…But I’m sober, I don’t do anything, and I’m like dang! (laughs) They didn’t have that 15 years ago.
KG - Do you feel more connected to your present being sober?
Sheel - Oh absolutely. I have these sober belly laughs. I’m sure I laughed when I was drinking but these are different. They’re rooted in a real moment of joy versus something that is muffled or muted. It makes me way more present. I’m really glad that my husband and kids know this me.
KG - How has yoga helped you in your road to recovery? What else has?
Sheel - It’s kind of counterintuitive. You would think it would be a big building block. What I’ve found is that a lot of people in the yoga community will seek me out and ask me about getting sober because yoga does not treat alcoholism. I see people that get up at 3 am and go to Kundalini things and then they binge drink for a month and it becomes a yo-yo thing. It does fit in for sure, but it’s not the centerpiece of my recovery program. In the 12 steps, there’s the 11th step, which is sought through prayer and meditation, to improve our conscious contact with your higher power, and that’s where my yoga and meditation fits in super nicely. It’s just part of the puzzle, but you can’t stay sober just doing yoga. It won’t solve your problem.
KG - Your husband Peter is
San Diego Padres' largest stakeholder and managing partner of the Padres.
What's it like being married to such a powerful man and how do you express and
allow your own power and leadership to shine?
Sheel - That’s a really good question! He’s my husband; he’s not powerful to me (laughs). He’s my best friend and he inspires me. It’s nice to have someone of that caliber of consciousness to run ideas against. When it was time for me to open my yoga studio, it was delicate balance because even though he is a very seasoned business man and I’m sure he would see some of the stuff I was doing and was like “ughhhh” but he had to put up with it because we’re married, we’re not business partners. So it is a balancing act, you know I don’t compete with my husband. It doesn’t matter what he does, I’d be a biggest fan of that too. At the end of the day, we’re just partners who try to help each other live a full life and be happy. We love sharing our life together. It really doesn’t matter what he does, but it’s super cool that we get to go to a lot of baseball games. I’m not going to lie, that’s awesome.
KG - You both have supported many outreach projects in the San Diego community - what are some of the projects nearest and dearest to your heart?
Sheel - Well, recovery programs for alcoholism obviously, we both support. My husband has always been supportive of my recovery; he’s very compassionate for those going through that journey. I have been part of this recovery home called Turning Point, it’s in Golden Hill, it was established in 1970, and its been helping women in San Diego get sober and you can stay for a year. It’s an amazing program. We help them, and also my husband is super involved with the homeless population. There are a lot of groups that help with that issue around town and he has been working in the middle of that issue for a few years now. The Lucky Duck Foundation is one place he works through. He meets every Tuesday with different business leaders solely for this issue, so definitely that’s important to both of us.
KG - Who is your biggest inspiration?
Sheel - I think my biggest inspiration was this man, his name is Guru Nanak, and he was the first guru in this kundalini lineage. The more I read about his teachings, he was a feminist, a poet, a yogi, a father; he was all of these wonderful things. Some of his basic teachings are just so simple and mind-blowing; just about becoming one with the universe and connecting with your spirit inside which is what kundalini is about. Just disregarding the labels and remembering we’re all a soul having a human experience. From that starting point, start living your life. I love his philosophies.
KG - You also go by Jai Guru Sheel, were you given a guru namesake?
Sheel - It is kind of an interesting thing. If you start teaching kundalini you start doing the trainings, or even if you’re just called to do it, there is a service that you can get a spiritual name. That’s your vibration when you teach because you want to be a clear channel when you teach kundalini, you don’t want to have an agenda. This is a space where the student connects with their spirit. It’s not about you worshipping me. It’s interesting because all the names come from Gurmukhi, this language that I grew up with, because I grew up in the Sikh religion. I actually have one of those names because I was born with it. Jai means victory and Guru means darkness to light, and when I am teaching kundalini seriously I want people to have an experience of darkness to light.
KG - What is the most essential part of your day?
Sheel - Definitely my sadana, your daily practice, whatever it is. I am committed to a daily practice; I’m actually on day 898 of a certain practice. I do something everyday, but I’m trying to do 1,000 days of this one thing. I feel dirty if I haven’t done it at this point. It’s a lotus pose where you go behind your back and then you grab your toes and lean forward and your forward is on the ground and you do that for thirty-one minutes and I can’t begin my day without it. I’ve calculated I’ll be at a thousand around July 15 th.
KG - What has challenged you the most in your life?
Sheel - I’m really sensitive, I’m a cancer so I think when I’m doing all of these yoga practices, not letting my emotions bring me down. I’m the kind of person that without diligence and paying attention to my spirit and using breath work and stuff like that, I could sit under my covers all day long and not live my life. It’s hard work for me to just get out there; you know I have that alcoholism. I want crutches; I want something to shield me from the present moment. So I think that’s my biggest obstacle, and luckily kundalini helps me deal with it, but it’s hard. Women, we’re all emotional, and just being like I don’t want to deal with this. You know I drop off my kids and I look like I rolled out of bed and I probably did! ( laughs) I’m like “F it!” Putting on some good mantras on the way to school and being like “Let’s just do this!”
KG - How would you inspire those looking to follow a similar path as you? With both kundalini and/or those thinking about leaving one career path for another?
Sheel - You’ve got to do it! There are a lot of women that I hang out with. You know I’m 40 and I’ll be 41 in a little bit. A lot of women in that age who have kind of done the same thing, where they flipped the script. I love it! Even Yogi Bhajan who brought kundalini to the west, he was a father, he worked as a customs officer in India, and at 38/39, he flipped the script and was like “I’m going to go teach yoga in the west”, and he came from money with an established career. There was no reason for him to end up where he did, but he had to answer the call. I think it’s why we’re here; we’ve got to experience ourselves. All yoga schools are about self-realization. Any path of yoga you’re on, you’re going to start hearing messages of different pivots to make with your life. Listen to them, because it’s awesome.
KG - What are you looking forward to in your new chapter at Buddhi Yoga? And Kundalini with Sheel? Are those separate or two different things?
Sheel - Yes, they are different things. Kundalini with Sheel is my online platform, I’ve realized my mission is to connect with women and give them a doorway to enter this kundalini practice. It’s sometimes very inaccessible and I wanted to create a space online where women can try this in the safety of their own home, this weird practice. I put two to three experiences up fresh a week; they’re timed with what’s going on in the planet. They’re not meant to stay there forever, you keep moving on.
Buddhi Yoga is an amazing yoga center in La Jolla. It actually is run by two women, they’re 40 too. They’re yogis, moms, and entrepreneurs, which is my jam. Their community is amazing. I teach there in person on Saturdays and Mondays, and they believe in this practice, they gave me amazing time slots. Usually, kundalini is relegated to these odd times, but the women around here, they need this. I feel really grateful that I ended up there after I closed my studio.
I’d love to practice with you, and I have a closed Facebook group to go deeper into people’s journeys. I share more real stuff on there to encourage women because kundalini will bring up stuff and it’s nice to have a safe space.
KG - What do you want your students to take away from their practice in your classes?
Sheel - That they are so loved, supported, and free of obligation. It’s so much bigger and beyond anything they can comprehend. The universe has a vested interest in people realizing their true identity. I think of the analogy of the lotus rising out of the mud. The universe wants to feel the lotuses, and when we start to live our lives authentically, just walking into a room with our energy, it starts to pop up little ideas on people. It’s energy, causing them to think maybe I’ll do this today, something they wouldn’t have done, and it’s like dominos. That’s what I want. The most joyful thing we can do is just be ourselves and let other people be themselves and I want that ripple effect to be happening with the kundalini practice and spread more joy in the world.
KG - How do you like to
relax and unwind?
Sheel - The fact of the matter is I really love hanging out with my kids. And when I go somewhere else to unwind, I don’t really enjoy it. So I’ve found that I created this little art room in my home, where we can get really messy, and we have watercolors and I put on music. We end up having weird conversations about unicorns and planets and how the world works. I’m always just so relaxed in those moments. I have two daughters, the youngest is 3, and the older one is turning 6. The 6 year old is starting to read, she’s figuring out the world. Jupiter is her favorite planet, which makes sense because she’s larger than life. The younger one is like “without gravity we all float away.” But they also tear my hair out. But we’ve created this space, and for some reason doing art is just very relaxing for all of us.
KG - What is one of the
achievements you're proudest of?
Sheel - Being sober, you know, nothing is a guarantee, but 15 years of that feels really good. My marriage and that commitment, I’m very proud of. Being a mom is just something that I try to be my best in that. Not the best mom, I don’t even know what that means, but just being present and letting these little souls express themselves, besides things that might put their little souls in danger. I try to accomplish that goal everyday.
KG - What are Sheel Seidler's Golden Rules to live by?
Sheel - My golden rules are don’t smile if you don’t mean it. When you smile you’ll light up the room. But don’t always have a pasted on one. I’ve learned in recovery, the art of breaking boundaries. I haven’t mastered it by any means, but I think it’s something that I want to make sure my girls know. You’ve got to protect your spirit rising and protect others. You’re doing a disservice to others if there are always boundaries. But those are two things that really make my life better.
KG - Anything else you’d like to share with us today?
Sheel - I’m just really grateful to be a part of this project. I love what you guys do. I think two months ago you had those amazing pants that went to helping women in India. I love that about you guys, that really was beautiful.
Thank you. Sat Nam.
If you enjoyed this blog, check out our others like: "Empowering Women Series: Sianna Sherman," "Empowering Women Series: Octavia Raheem," “Empowering Women Series: Christina Sell", and "The Art of Aging Gracefully: Issue 2."