Yoga is such an intimate practise.
It’s just you.
Your mind. Your body. Your soul.
I remember one teacher saying, ‘…it’s so intimate that it can be inappropriate for a group fitness class…’
And he is right. It’s an experience where I can connect with all 3 parts of myself and just be in the moment. In that complete state of flow.
This past week I learnt a new way of being in that complete state of flow. I booked myself into the teacher training of Kundalini Yoga. The Yoga of Awakening.
Do you know that feeling of coming home?
Where you relax into the familiar and all the things that you thought mattered, don’t really matter and you are surrounded by a feeling, or vibration that matches your own?
That was me this week.
Six days after we were initially gathered at 6am on a chilly Vancouver morning, I walked out of our last session. I was one of the first to leave the studio and I came home and napped for 3 hours.
It was the most satisfying nap I have had in a long time.
That deep sleep where nothing can wake you, and yet you are fully aware that you are sleeping.
I felt as though I had some peace, despite the turmoil of my mind of the past few months. I felt a sense of lightness.
So what is Kundalini Yoga? How is this different from other styles of Yoga?
The focus of Kundalini Yoga was bought to the West by Yogi Bhajan® in the late1960’s.
Kundalini Yoga is all about awakening the Kundalini energy. This energy each of us has inside, and bringing that energy from our lower chakras into our higher chakras to create balance.
When our chakras are out of balance, we notice that parts of our lives do not flow as smoothly.
Whether you believe in the chakra system or not, we know when our lives are flowing smoothly. Everything seems to move with ease, and situations where we thought may be challenging, are not. When our lives are not flowing as smoothly, we experience fear, anger and frustration.
Our minds become more agitated and we become ‘stuck’.
The main difference between Kundalini and Hatha Yoga, is that the asana in Hatha, is all about alignment. The flow of Hatha poses is a lot more streamlined.
For example, if you are creating a standing flow, you tend to group all of your forward facing hip poses together, such as Warrior I, Pyramid, Standing L, Warrior III. It’s not a hard and fast rule by any means, however, it is easier to flow between these poses when your centre alignment stays consistent.
If you were to start in Warrior II, move into Warrior I, then a standing forward fold, and back to Warrior I, the flow would not be as smooth as your centre of alignment is constantly changing. There is also the danger of injury.
Hatha is more widely known throughout the world. When you go to a Hatha or Vinyasa class, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Sun Salutations, a few Warrior poses, a bridge or two before hitting the floor for Savasana. In a nut shell.
Kundalini poses are not as concerned with alignment, although there are Hatha poses within the sets. It is up to the individual teacher as cues for each pose. Kundalini Yoga combines postures with mantra and pranayama to intensify the pose. Hence moving the energy.
In my experience, Kundalini classes can vary a lot, and it is worthwhile to try out a few different studios and teachers. There are very traditional studios where you will find teachers in flowing white robes and turbans and their classes do incorporate a lot of seated mantra chanting. The traditional studios also tend to teach the same way, the same series as Yogi Bhajan did back in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
There are also studios where they have taken the foundations and pushed the boundaries, bringing relevance into today’s classes.
In the past 5 years, since living in Vancouver, I have attended a few different Kundalini classes. Some more traditional, and others where the lines are slightly more blurred.
About 18 months ago and I decided to give it another go. It was a Friday night, I felt like a yoga class and the studio closest to home had a class starting within 30 mins. So I went.
Once class started, I realized I should have worn a more supportive bra. We were jumping, running on the spot and creating movements that seemed to belong more into a ’90’s aerobics class than a Yoga class.
This was a class so different to the previous classes, that I was blown away.
In this Kundalini class I experienced freedom by jumping round like a mad thing.
Arms flailing in the air for an extended period of time, opening and closing my hands, a bit of chanting, squats, well, actually a lot of squats! and then dancing to a couple of top forty hits.
This challenged my will power.
I can be a pretty stubborn person and I was not going to let this Yoga class get the better of me! It was an amazing feeling once you sit in a sweaty meditation after the physical poses are complete and you feel this lightness in your body. And a lightness in your mind.
I had no idea that the movements I was making was moving energy, but yet I felt it.
It was powerful. It is also addictive.
And also a reason for signing up for the teacher training.
The training was for 6 days. The first day was from 6am until 11am. We had theory first thing, and then we had a physical class. The remaining days also started at 6am (with a 75mins class) and finished at 9am which was great because it meant I could fit this around my 9-5.
The training also helped me deal with some mentally and physically challenges at my 9-5.
This Yoga helped me gain an understanding of how I approach work, the sheer volume of work, and I can get me through my days, while being productive, but not stressed.
There was also the confidence to have the more difficult conversations with colleagues, where I may have shied away from in the past. My words rang true and authentic and I didn’t possess the hesitation when speaking or the hesitation of whether to speak up or not.
A shift that started about 18 months ago, and has been a work in progress since. This week I felt a sense of ease in this work.
I was able to be present as I worked, and to enjoy the process.
I processed a lot of what I would usually call ‘hard’ or ‘difficult’ tasks, whilst enjoying them. My mindset shifted. The work was no longer ‘difficult’ .
It still gave me the same sense of satisfaction after finishing a task, but it while I was in the middle of the task, that I also felt this sense of satisfaction. All because I changed the way I approached work.
If I could get through a couple hundred frog squats by 6.30am, I could get through anything.
The training taught us the foundations of how to teach a class, how to create structure, but the real learnings begin with how each pose, or each set feels in our own bodies.
How we shift the energy within our own self, and then go out into the world to share this with others is the teaching. How we put our own unique spin on this work.
The teaching of forever learning.
The learning of listening to our intuition, and acting in accordance to our most authentic self.
This post is the beginning of my learnings of Kundalini Yoga. Every time I practise, something new will come up. And I love this. I learn a little something new about myself.
These somethings are not good or bad.
They’re just some things.
This is all my personal opinion and experience. If you are interested in Kundalini Yoga (or any other yoga practise), I highly recommend you conduct your own research. Look online, go to a class or two and form your own opinion.
A word of caution though : Listen to your body. Only you can do that. Your teacher may suggest certain poses, however it is your responsibility to do what feels right for you in this day and time.
But most importantly, enjoy your practise!