Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1929, she moved to Los Angeles with her mother and brother in 1943, graduated as Valedictorian from Hollywood High in 1947, attended UCLA, and married at 18. She gave birth to a son at 20 and was divorced at 22.
Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, the “Mother of 3HO”, was Yogi Bhajan’s first student in the United States. She went on to make a huge contribution to the phenomenal world-wide growth of Kundalini Yoga. Her books have been read by many and countless beginners have benefited greatly from the teaching techniques which she helped pioneer and propagate.
Soon after she met Yogi Bhajan in 1968, he told her that she had been a student long enough; that she should be a teacher, and that he had come to “train teachers, not to gather disciples.”
She acted as his personal assistant, secretary and chauffeuse and within 2 months she was teaching Kundalini Yoga at YMCAs. She took many notes at his early classes, notes which would later be printed as “Sadhana Guidelines”.
When Yogi Bhajan began his lecture tours, Shakti took over his classes, which were held in Los Angeles and at Claremont College in Pomona. She served as his Executive Secretary and held that post for over 30 years. In 1974 she was ordained as a Minister of Sikh Dharma.
Shakti Parwha Khalsa is the author of a number of books. Probably her best-known is KUNDALINI YOGA: The Flow of Eternal Power. She has also written Kundalini Postures & Poetry, Marriage on the Spiritual Path and Heroes, Saints and Yogis. She started teaching Kundalini Yoga in 1969 – specializing in teaching beginners. At “Masters Touch” courses, she trained teachers how to teach beginners. Her books and teaching have made a large contribution to the development of Kundalini Yoga in the United States.
She liked to sing the song “Accentuate the Positive” at gatherings. Listen to her singing here.
Here’s an excerpt about Shakti Parwha, as told by Adam Skolnick (LA Yoga) and published on Mr. Sikhnet on April 13, 2007:
Before Guru Singh and Gurmukh Kaur, there was Shakti.
Shakti Parwha Kaur Khalsa, the first Kundalini Yoga teacher in America not named Yogi Bhajan, is a tiny elder with boundless energy. Born in 1929, she explored spiritual realms long before the Beatles met the Maharaja. Her seeking led her to cultish communes and astrologers, to Sufi celebrations and Vedanta lectures, and finally, on Christmas Day, 1968, to her teacher.
At the time she had been a single mother her entire adult life. Shakti worked hard and held waitress jobs at the Beverly Hilton and at the now defunct Pump Room in the San Fernando Valley. She met Yogi Bhajan at the East West Cultural Center. He could tell something disturbed her.
“Your son’s in trouble, isn’t he?” asked the tall, olive-skinned stranger with bright eyes.
Intrigued, she came clean. Her son, a recent army recruit, went AWOL and had been missing for weeks. Yogi Bhajan gave her a mantra meditation to chant daily for an hour before sunrise ( Long Ek Ong Kaars).
“If you do this, your son will be okay,” he advised.
Shakti, not the typical 1960s forty-something, was no stranger to chanting, but the handsome yogi’s Ek Ong Kar mantra provided the most potent spiritual experience of her life. In the early morning darkness her energy aligned, her heart blossomed. Shakti had found her sadhana. Within days her son phoned and with Yogi Bhajan ‘s guidance, Shakti negotiated a discharge without legal repercussions. She was hooked.
For the next several weeks the pair was inseparable. Yogi Bhajan arrived in LA nearly broke, with nothing but the clothes on his back. Shakti became his de facto guide and personal assistant, stretched his turbans and drove him everywhere, all the while absorbing his teachings. She helped arrange yoga classes in Alhambra, North Hollywood, and at an antique shop on Melrose that became the Guru Ram Das Ashram, where she, the Beverly Hills cocktail waitress in nylons, practiced shoulder to shoulder with patchouli doused, bead laden flower children. One day at the North Valley YWCA, Yogi Bhajan guided his students through the beginning of a yoga set and told Shakti, “Now you teach the class.” She was too stunned to protest as he walked out, and she had no choice but to teach. She hasn’t stopped since.
For 35 years Shakti has taught Kundalini Yoga to beginners, and, despite being 75, does not plan to stop. Her Saturday morning beginner classes at Yoga West remain popular, and she is quick to explain to new students that yoga’s goal is not a perfect body or unshakable health. “Awareness is the ultimate goal,” says Shakti. “Flexibility is desirable, health is important, but awareness enables students to discover their true identity as an expression of the divine.” She keeps her classes simple so that students can slowly become comfortable with the nuances of Kundalini Yoga and still experience benefits. She emphasizes that the most valuable lesson is deep relaxation. “When we teach people how to relax, they can come back to that tranquility when stress arises. It’s so simple. The thing is to value the [deep] breath and know that God breathes in everyone and is always available.”
Her drive to spread the teachings that have helped her find inner balance and peace is legendary. She was Yogi Bhajan’s right hand as he built the nationally known 3HO Foundation from the ground up. She is also an author. Her first book, published in 1996 Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power is the definitive text on kundalini fundamentals. Guru Singh called it “the bible.” Her third book – this one an astrological guide written in verse – is in her agent’s hands. Shakti also recorded a mantra CD, was a contributing editor for Aquarian Times , a Sikh minister who performed weddings, and she facilitated the powerful meditation practice known as White Tantric Yoga.