Navdeep Gill is an Ayurvedic practitioner, yoga teacher and holistic wellness educator specializing in lifestyle consulting. She has been learning and practising the healing arts for the last eight years. A primary focus of her practice is to decolonize wellness, by co-creating and reviving ancestral wisdom for the present day, especially connecting women to ritual as a form of self-care. We asked her about the role that ritual plays in her life.
Some rituals are born out of necessity and others we create to feed new beliefs or challenge ourselves. How did you come to practice your ritual of choice?
Oh, well this is a lonnnnnng story, but I can tell you about how I came to follow my Sudarshan Kriya practice itself. I was 19 years old and my parents signed me up for a course at the local Art of Living chapter and I refused to go because I didn’t trust any information given to me by an Indian adult at the time. Obviously, I ended up going (not without some kicking and screaming), sat through the entire week of what I thought was “really weird shit” at the time and by the end, something in me profoundly shifted, or more so cracked open. I cried a lot and felt for the first time, in a long time, or possibly ever, I could be vulnerable and still feel so powerful with other people in my community, my parents, some peers, elders. I didn’t know it at the time but that was the start of this whole process of meeting myself again and connecting to my ancestors so I could live out my life purpose and do the work they need me to do. It’s been pretty wild so far considering that all that so-called weird stuff is now a very normal part of my every-day and I teach it to others!
*Sudarshan Kriya translates to “proper vision by purifying action” and is a yogic practice that uses controlled breathing to help relax and destress you.
What ritual helps you to be present, meditate or reflect?
Over the years, I have come to cultivate many rituals as a part of my daily life after realizing that I grew up longing for ritual but nobody in my family consciously had anything they were practising or carrying forward unless it was along the lines of certain customs for life events like weddings, passings, new babies and so on. Now, rituals are very sacred for me and I am constantly creating these little moments of divine connection for every cycle, every moon, every day, every night and whenever I feel like I just need to come home to myself again. I have a few daily favourites that always bring me back to my highest self:
I like to simply lay for a moment and look out the window. I just take a few breaths and thank the divine for allowing me to see another day and wake up in a warm bed in a home with family I love. I also take time to thank the ancestors for walking with me for another day. I think it becomes very easy to forget blessings when we’re running after the next thing we want, but waking up another day is a privilege that isn’t awarded to everyone, which helps me honour the preciousness of life.
2-Clearing the space:
After waking, the second thing I do is make my bed right away. I find this helps me set the tone and if everything else seems out of order throughout the day, I look at my tidy bed with my favourite white quilt and I can find a sense of order and peace. Then, I walk over to my altar, open the window if it isn't already open, to get fresh prana (energy) coming in and I light either palo santo or sandalwood rose incense. We release a lot while we sleep, so I’ve made it a point to clear the energy in my room so I can start the day fresh and lighten the energy in my space. Involving my senses in the process of creating my environment especially in the morning is important, everything has to look, smell, feel and sound just right.
My Sudarshan Kriya and meditation practice is one of the most important parts of my daily rituals. It’s a breathing practice followed by a mantra-based meditation which takes anywhere from 30-90 minutes if I include yoga, but ideally, I take 40 minutes preferably first thing in the morning after showering. Because my work is in wellness and rooted in the deep science and spirituality of Ayurveda, this practice is the most valuable to me. The ancients knew what they were talking about and each pranayam, each asana, each mantra has its purpose and unfolding all of that is a magical process.
4- Cards, Crystals, and Poetry
One of my favourite rituals is actually performing a ritual which usually consists of Guru Puja; puja is a way of offering our gratitude to the ancestors, nature, the divine and the enlightened masters who have come before us. It is usually followed by meditating and pulling tarot cards, I have a collection of decks and want to create one of my own soon with some personal brown witchiness to it. I also find writing takes my intentions, dreams and wishes into the universe and makes them more real, giving them power and attention to manifest.
Is there a ritual that you would like to practice more frequently?
Something I am learning more about is rituals of women in India and specifically in Punjab so that they can be revived for today’s generation and passed on. I feel a lot of the wisdom was lost through the process of colonization, the assimilation immigrants experienced and the inter-generational struggle. I want to learn and develop them all, but if I had to choose, I would say more rituals around connecting to and healing my divine feminine energy, whether it’s through beauty, music, dance and/ or nature. I want to make more space for that in my life. I feel like I owe it to all the women before me who toiled through life so I could be here, for their healing and for my own healing so when I am the ancestor I can ensure it’s passed on to the future ones.