Senior Tantra Yoga Students at Shri Kali Ashram:
Alex Gersch

Senior Tantra Yoga Students at Shri Kali Ashram

Alexander Gersch

I am from Chicago, Illinois, USA. I have studied fitness, anatomy and nutrition for the past ten years and though I enjoyed it, it always felt incomplete. The result I gained for myself, as well as those I taught, was purely physical. Seeing that mere physical freedom was only part of the equation of finding happiness in life, I began to look into yoga. Through trying many studios and styles of yoga from Kuṇḍalinī to hot yoga to flow classes, I found that many yoga studios were teaching precisely what I was trying to expand from: physical fitness. Sure, many yoga teachers theorized and hypothezied about this physical practice and its effect on the mind, but through my background in psychology, I saw it was merely a super-sensual experience and not really a shift taking place. A lot of questions remained unanswered. I decided India was the only place to search and find a real sense of yoga. Thankfully, it was effortless to find Shri Kali Ashram. Traditional tantra yoga etched deeply into my mind and just felt like an “ah-ha moment.” Without even analyzing, I just organized my trip and went. My family was shocked at how committed I was. After learning this system from Ācārya Bhagavan Shanmukha, I finally felt I was learning something real, valid, and wholesome. This tantric science has given me the information to pursue my own course of happiness and share this happiness and love with others. I will be at Shri Kali from Oct. 2013-2015. Please see my blog to contact me at Tantra Yoga Chicago.


Ayşe Yufkayürek

Ayşe Yufkayürek Facebook

Ayşe grew up in Northern Germany within a German-Turkish family. She has been with Shri Kali since 2011 and divides her time between studying and teaching at Shri Kali, Turkey, and Europe, where she organizes Tantric Yoga classes and workshops. She is a registered RYT 500™ with Yoga Alliance. Ayşe also studies towards a Masters degree in Sustainable Development.

Before Ayşe came to Shri Kali, she had been suffering from an arthritis-like condition in her knees and decided to do some changes in her life. The first change was to quit her corporate job in London and go travelling throughout Asia, which lastly brought her to India and finally to Shri Kali Ashram, where she was looking for a one month yoga program initially. “I remember when I arrived at Shri Kali, I looked at everything out of the framework I had grown up in but quickly realised that if I wanted to get a deeper understanding of myself, the world and the traditional knowledge taught at Shri Kali, I would have to let go of certain thought constructs and doctrines. This was especially relevant in consideration with the knee inflammation I was suffering from, as even though I was on prescription drugs, I still had flare ups and could not figure out what aggravated it. What struck me in the early beginning when I was at Shri Kali was that the information given about life and society resonated with my inner values and beliefs about faith and religion, which I have always been curious about, as I grew up in a multi-cultural environment.”

Ayşe recognised the importance of the Tantric teachings at Shri Kali and experienced its positive impacts in all aspects of her life, in relationship to her family and friends, to herself, and her health. She was able to gradually stop the intake of the drug for her knee inflammation. She says, “I owe this success in the regaining of my health to Bhagavan and his gifted ability to convey to me this beautiful science. Of all my academic studies, educational courses and activities, this is the most valuable and precious information I have ever encountered, as it provides true content through timeless and sustainable concepts that are applicable to every aspect of life. In fact, there is no other place I would want to learn from. I call Shri Kali the ‘school of life,’ as the information given here is relevant to everyone, no matter what age, religion or culture.”

“I was never too much interested in mingling with the Western yoga world. It always fascinates me to see how much people are attracted by it but the modern esoteric vibe did not resonate with me beyond the physical practises. I had a fairly modern perspective on yoga, knew little about its philosophy and nothing about its spirituality. Indeed, I did not think of Tantra as an ancient tradition until I came to Shri Kali. What resonated with me instantly was the ‘down-to-earthness,’ logical explanations, knowledgeable talks about history, institutions, the state of our world and its people, economically, sociologically and psychologically. Information is given openly to everyone who is interested. Bhagavan encourages everyone to engage, interact and express from their true self. People are given guidance but they understand for themselves, rather than learn from a preset curriculum. The setup of the school is very unconventional, which can baffle people at first, but then they experience the possibilities arising in such an open and boundless environment, where you can learn actively from everyone and everything. I have seen many people come and go since I have been at Shri Kali; actually people tend to come and stay long term if they can, or like myself, they come back whenever they can. It takes some time to see through the layers of our conditioning. When I did, I decided that I wanted a spiritual understanding to life, which I continue to live by.”

“I have seen a lot of misery, illness and unhappiness within the Western lifestyle, despite apparent material well-being. I had not known many people, of whom I could say they were truly happy with themselves and the life they were living. This was not the outlook on life I wanted but I learnt that, more than approaching a different life model, it is all about the information you are being given. Learning and living according to a traditional Tantric system is so enriching to my life; I am more balanced, healthy and in tune with myself.”

“Shri Kali and its people continue to impress me. It is my biggest pleasure to share this culture. I see people approaching all kinds of self-help activities but the truth is, there are no quick fixes in life. Tantra as taught at Shri Kali requires a subconscious integration to create new patterns and achieve transformation. Bhagavan is able to convey this spiritual science to everyone who is interested in receiving his knowledge. I feel privileged having met a traditional teacher, who grew up in a Tantric environment, transmitting to me and others the traditional yoga, philosophy and culture. Bhagavan is dedicated to share and preserve this wonderful science for the simple reason of love for humanity.”

“Not only studying and practising Tantra Yoga but also sharing my inspiration and experience beautifies my life, which is really all about compassion and love, which leads us to one thing we all want to be in our lives: genuinely happy! I will be at Shri Kali from Dec. 2013-May 2014.

Ericardo Baldonado

Ericardo Baldonado Facebook

Ericardo/Ricky is of Native American and Spanish heritage. He divides his time between Grass Valley, California, and Shri Kali Ashram. He has trained personally with Bhagavan for 5 years and is well-versed in Tantra Yoga (or the Kaula system) and both the Tantric and Vedic philosophies.

“I continue to return to Shri Kali Ashram to further my studies through the vast knowledge that is accessible there and most importantly, to build myself within a supportive environment. I find that there is too much information out there with different influences telling people what to do, how to be, how to look and even how to think, without any real basis for where it's coming from or why. It's important to question these sources of information and where they stem from. Shri Kali Ashram continues to show me how a wholesome spiritual science can bring true understanding of the inner mechanics of ‘self’, thus, helping me get to the core of who I really am. I chose the Kaula system to culture towards total freedom. Bhagavan Shanmukha shares keys, which allows me to further my studies independently and build personal potentials through love rather than by discipline. I always remember Bhagavan Shanmukha's words, ‘don't keep your happiness waiting.’”

Heather Hager

Heather Hager

I was entrenched in corporate America when I first came to Shri Kali Ashram. For a single product I can write a business plan, design a new product launch, set pricing, project sales and predict overall profit margin in a day. The decision to leave my job, store my belongings and move to India was both easy and profound.

I grew up in New Orleans, which is a city both decadent and spiritual. The decadent aspect consciously effected me as my love of food and cooking. The spiritual aspect effected me subconsciously, eventually making my studies at Shri Kali a rich experience. I understand, on a deeper level, the beauty behind the city's many festivals and traditions: Mardi Gras, the St Joseph Lucky Bean, and King Cake.

In 2010, my father recommended Walt Whitman and I read Song of Myself. I had already visited India once and could see the spiritual and Indic inspiration in his poetry. Once at Shri Kali, Bhagavan Shri Shanmukha suggested I read Henry David Thoreau and my admiration for the American Transcendentalists grew. Thoreau's expression of personal freedom, self-hood and humanity are some of the core principles of Tantric philosophy. I understood how his influence touched so many, including both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. “If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too.”—Henry David Thoreau

Shri Kali Ashram is an ideal environment to develop the skills of looking at life in a realistic manner and then be able to share that with others. I am surrounded daily with people from different cultures and I now see how deeply culture is embedded in all. With this insight, I have developed a broader understanding of humanity and this gives me the ability to see the world more wholesomely. Carl Jung says that it is difficult for people's conscious mind to realize that they are exactly what everyone else is. Being here, surrounded by so many people from around the world, makes that process much easier.

My goal at Shri Kali is to eliminate anxiety and develop my sense of personal freedom, self-hood and strength. With the guidance of Bhagavan Shri Shanmukha, I'm able to relax on a deeper level than ever before. In a comfortable and safe environment, we are all able to look at how we interact with the world and develop the skills to make that interaction as honest and as rich as possible. Yoga, reading, lectures, prāṇāyāma, and puja all combine to develop ourselves subtly and overtly into wholesome, aware and happy human beings. Heather is currently teaching in Denver, USA.

Julian von Loesch

Julian has a BA (Hons.) in Economics from Harvard and a PhD in Mythological Studies with emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and has also undertaken many courses in self-development in search of happiness. He volunteers at Shri Kali Ashram and has trained extensively with Bhagavan Shanmukha in Śaiva Tantrism.

Julian says, “I believe happiness is the essence of the teachings at Shri Kali Ashram. This may sound simplistic to some, but is it? My goal for all the students here is to help them find their unique path to a happy and fulfilled life. In my view, to train yoga instructors means to train people in the art and science of happiness first and foremost. Anyone can teach a technique, and almost anyone can do even advanced āsanas after some time. Bhagavan Shanmukha says that without a foundation, the more profound tantric teachings are meaningless. It is my intention to help those who need it to build that foundation and for those who have it to support them in becoming true Tantrics.” Download Julian's Resume (PDF format). To see this video in German, please click here.

Liliya Ayrapetyan

Lily Aryapetyan

Liliya/Lily was born in Caucasus. Lily has two degrees from Moscow: Friendship University of Moscow (Specialist of International Communications) and Diplomatic Academy of Foreign Affairs of Russia (Specialist of International Relations). She is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish, and Italian languages and has basic knowledge of Chinese. She has worked extensively in consulting for travel companies organizing trips to India and in interpretation internationally. She resides in Galgibaga and has trained for the past few years at Shri Kali Ashram in āsanas and Tantric philosophy. Lily organizes retreats and Yoga Teacher's Training to Shri Kali in Russian. See Shri Kali Russia to contact Lily.

Sampsa Pynnönen and Verna Pelkonen

Sampsa Pynnönen and Verna Pelkonen

Verna and Sampsa were initially drawn to Shri Kali Ashram by the fact that an entire science with all it's aspects according to specific traditions had been retrieved by Bhagavan Shanmukha and was taught as a wholesome curriculum. Since arriving at the ashram, they have both completed the Yoga Alliance® 500™ Hour Teacher’s Training.

“The fact that the school offered studies in Sanskrit and lectures on philosophy, outside merely the practise of āsanas, was what initially sparked my interest,” says Sampsa. “It was enough for me to choose Shri Kali over any other ashram and on arrival it didn't take long for me to realise that the depth of Bhagavan's knowledge would allow me to immerse myself in the tantra and yoga studies for a while to come and make tantra and yoga an integral part of my life.”

Before coming to Shri Kali, neither Verna nor Sampsa had done yoga before. “I really didn't have any expectations when coming here,” says Verna. “The fact that I hadn't involved myself in āsanas, meditation, or philosophy before coming here never proved to be a hindrance, quite the opposite; from very early on, I was able to see that what was taught here was profound and I wanted to immerse myself deeply to be able to have a true understanding of it all. Before coming here I had studied languages at university and a big part of choosing to come to Shri Kali was that there was an opportunity to study Sanskrit, the ‘perfected language,’ in which all the original texts of Indian spiritualism are recorded. In my opinion, if one wants to study the Tantras and the Vedas, one can't help but study Sanskrit to be able to go to the original texts and avoid the unfortunate misunderstandings and mistranslations present in many current translations.”

“The āsana series that Bhagavan teaches, which he refers to as the Tridoṣa series, is unique among the whole world of yoga. In modern times, especially in the western world, where the science of yoga has been reduced to merely a physical āsana-workout, its original, wholesome effect on the person has been lost. Fortunately, the Tridoṣa series, pioneered by Bhagavan, is integrated into all the other studies he passes to us (prāṇāyāma, bandhas, metaphysics, and meditation). For a person to be wholesome and happy, the mind, body and soul must all be in harmonious coordination. Thus, all the different aspects of the studies here support one another. Staying true to the tradition in which they are based means they all have a solid foundation on which they stand. This is what really fascinates me. And you can definitely feel the effects of it! For me, it was really new in the beginning to ‘let go’ and relax in the āsanas. I would initially push too hard and injure myself, to only repeat the same cycle time and again. However, realizing that it is only when we are truly relaxed that we are actually able to be efficient, ergonomic and intelligent, my whole attitude towards life changed. I noticed that I was able to handle stress much better and that my body was becoming stronger, not by pushing more and more, but by relaxing and ‘letting go’ and allowing my whole self to relax and thus harmonise itself. All aspects of the studies here and the time spent has been immensely beneficial,” says Sampsa.

He continues: “In the world today there are many schools that claim to teach tantra, and even more which teach yoga. However, at Shri Kali, both tantra and yoga are combined according to the Kaula tradition as taught by Bhagavan, the sole traditional school in the world teaching this system. I had come across the term ‘tantra’ before coming here, but honestly had no idea what people were talking about when referring to it. It was only after the guidance of Bhagavan that tantra became an essential part of my life. What tantra boils down to is, ‘Are you happy?’ It is a science devoted to understanding yourself. One can only do it by being utterly honest with yourself. To be able to express wholesomely and happily each and every moment of one's life is not an impossible utopian idea: it is the person expressing from their ‘real self’ in a way which allows other people to do the same also. This is why you need to be honest with yourself, since you are here to live your life, and not that of your parents, your teachers, or anyone else. That's the beauty of tantra as Bhagavan teaches; there are no secrets, no magic or tricks, but the integration of knowledge that has been preserved in the texts and taught to us by Bhagavan.”

It's nothing new to say that modern science, from ‘western’ medicine to quantum physics, has not given us any solid answers (cf. David Bohm, The Special Theory of Relativity [1965]; Fritjof Capra, The Turning Point [1982]). It seems that an ever-growing number of people around the planet are not able to provide answers and are also losing faith in whatever information is out there. “For a long time, I had pondered on the issues of, ‘Who are we, where do we come from, why are we here?’ never receiving any substantial answers from anywhere,” says Verna. “I always felt somehow empty, thinking, how is it that no source anywhere arrives at any solid, definite answers that actually make sense? I was finally able to get answers by listening to the talks given by Bhagavan and reading the tantric texts themselves and fortunately this knowledge rests on a solid foundation. That is, it will never change, there will never be a new ‘theory’ coming in refuting what has been stated before. The knowledge has been as it is and will continue to be so, and that is what to me gives a sense of solace, that I will not have to continue searching anymore. I have found the path and I feel happy and confident to stay on it.”

Having been together already for a number of years, both Verna and Sampsa agree that tantra provides the base factors for building a relationship out of honesty and love and provides both persons with the freedom to express themselves to the fullest (dharma). “By honouring your partner, you are actually able to build yourself. By building your life with your partner, you break down all illusions about yourself, your partner, the world, and all. In the tantras, the feminine is taken as a central concept. Hence, the importance of a meaningful relationship (Dakṣiṇa Marga). Living here has brought us even closer together. In these times when divorce rates are going through the roof and the media worldwide seems to be constantly bombarding everyone that it is nigh impossible to have a truly honest and meaningful relationship, it becomes even more obvious that there is a real need in the world for what tantra has to offer. Again, it is never about any quick-fixes and tricks, but about how truly happy you want to be and do you want to be happy every moment of your life. Actually, if you just allow for trust and intimacy and truly honour the other person, a partnership is built and sustained that allows for true happiness. It is this knowledge and science which we at Shri Kali wish to impart.” Sampsa and Verna are currently studying in Helsinki, Finland.

Tomoko Nakaguchi


To study at Shri Kali Ashram gives me a very deep spiritual path in my life. I was living in the U.K. for a long time and I almost lost the appreciation for my roots in Japan, and more crucially who I am. Initially, I come here for a short-time yogic experience, but now I am on the Tantric path and my life is expanding from my unconscious.

Before coming here, I had gained a 500™ Hour Teacher’s Training Certificate in another school. I thought I knew Yoga, but I become aware that I knew nothing about it since studying at Shri Kali Ashram. Here is a traditional system that I am learning from the original source of Veda. Yoga series at Shri Kali Ashram is based on prāṇic flow and metaphysical concepts as opposed to a created modern sequence for a physical achievement. Through this series, my āsanas have improved very efficiently and effortlessly. Consequently, I am gaining a real appreciation for my body and culturing 'Body Intelligence' as Bhagavan points out. I think this is the beauty of learning by body, not by head. I am studying philosophy from the core of Veda. Reading Divine Initiation (Bhagavan's book on Veda and Tantra) and some traditional Tantric texts teaches me the unchanging principle behind all the changes / phenomena. Another unique point here is that I become able to observe the world in a wholesome perspective. It is very crucial to study the concept of modern physics along with Tantra in order for us to comprehend the difference between a linear mind set and a wholesome life. Through learning Tantra and modern science, I am able to view the world, people and myself more organically and happily.

Learning from Bhagavan is very precious. He understands my culture, fear, mentality, and where I am at in terms of my tantric path. On that point he gives me the right advice at the right time. Here is an authentic guru system that exists.

Very interestingly, I am learning about Japan at Shri Kali Ashram. The more I study Tantra, the more I see the similarity between Tantra and other philosophies in the world. I found it especially in Buddhism and Shinto. Although we have a culture of using words such as prāṇa / ki(気)in Japanese and Consciousness / Mu(無) in Japanese, the authentic meaning and science behind these notions has been lost in Japan, as we follow the modern criteria. Fortunately, I am studying the science of Prāṇa and Consciousness at this ashram. Bhagavan made me realise that many texts on Buddhism in Japanese are based on the last few hundred years' interpretation in the west. It is very ironic and sad that Japanese establish their own Buddhism from an outside resource. I came to the conclusion that here is the only place I can learn authentic Buddhism. Bhagavan encouraged me to study it further. I am now taking a Tantric Buddhism MA course in Koyasan University in Wakakayama, Japan. I am very fortunate that I am exploring the truth of Tantric Buddhism with Bhagavan.

It is very beautiful to share this teaching and see that many people start to explore the meaning of life at this ashram. We all look for a happy life. However, if we are trapped in changing principles, we are lost. When we start to understand the unchanging principle, the life starts to glow. I believe this school would be the turning point in a life time for anyone. My life value has turned and now it is heading for my origin as a real human being.

Bhagavan says: “Yoga is Zero.” I keep practicing, studying and living to drop any unnecessary aspects. Zero = Śūnya = Kuu(空) is the state I would like to achieve. I will be at Shri Kali from Oct. 2013. Please see my website to contact me at Shri Kali Japan if you are interested in attending retreats in Japanese at Shri Kali.


Bhagavan Shanmukha   ||    Shri Ma Kristina
Long-term Students    ||    Eleanor Bartolomeo   ||    Jeana Hickling   ||    Ian Hanover   ||    Sampsa Pynnönen
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