A little blast from the past

This evening I attended a tech session on Kundalini Yoga, one of the various styles of yoga currently taught in the US.  Kundalini can seem like one of the more “fringe” (or dare I say “cult-ish”) kinds of yoga, and I get the vibe that certain people in my yoga teacher training program do not appreciate Kundalini much at all – but to each her own.  I actually took a few Kundalini classes many years ago (at a now-defunct studio), and really appreciated the beautiful, positive spirit of this style of practice.  But, I didn’t really know much about Kundalini (apart from my experience those several years ago) so I was interested to learn more about the crux of this yoga style/”denomination”.

Tonight’s teacher was really very good.  She brought a handout (a super-easy way to initially “win me over”), and while half of the content on the handout was more marketing copy than anything else, the piece of paper did include some helpful items.  After a 5-minute discussion on the very basics of Kundalini, the teacher led us through a 70-minute class, essentially moving us through one of the literally thousands of kriyas (routines) that comprise a Kundalini “curriculum”.

Many of the movements in Kundalini yoga are very similar to most every other style of yoga; Kundalini has its fair share of downward dogs, and cat/cows, and sun salutations, and so on.  However, Kundalini also has many poses/postures/movements that are pretty darn unique to this yoga style; and tonight’s teacher said that she wanted to expose us to something new, instead of something most of us likely already know; so she put us through a not-crazy, but certainly not “mainstream”, yoga sequence.

The teacher encouraged us to practice with our eyes closed, so that we could focus more on the internal feeling of the pose instead of the external appearance; and so that we could better coordinate our movement with our breath.  I’d estimate that I spent about 50-60 minutes of the 90-minute class session with my eyes closed; and I rather liked it.  [A slight {but relevant} aside: My yoga studio doesn’t have mirrors (which is semi-unique – most yoga/dance/Pilates studios have a full mirrored wall) because my teacher training program is also more concerned with doing a pose properly through internalizing the correct movements than by relying on external “crutches” like a mirror.]

Okay, back to the tech session.  As we went through the various kriya movements, the teacher explained about some of the more “unique” aspects of Kundalini that people often wonder about.  (For example, “Why do Kundalini yogis only wear white?”  [Answer: It helps keep energetic boundaries clear.])  But she also gave us ample time to practice in quiet, so that we could also work to unify breath, body, and mind.

I’ll be honest: I wasn’t a big fan of the first half of the class.  To me, it felt more like Pilates than like yoga.  (And I am not a fan of Pilates at all.  Yes, they are very different – at least, they have been in my experience.)  However, after the first 20 minutes or so, we transitioned into movements that, while still not feeling like any “yoga” I’m familiar with, did feel more yoga-esque; and I liked them more.

At the end of about 50 minutes of movement (and semi-intense breathing), we did about 5-10 minutes of chanting. The same verse, over, and over, and over again.  Interestingly, I was okay with this chanting.  (You may recall from past posts that I don’t usually like/appreciate chanting.)  Perhaps tonight was different because the teacher explained the purpose and intention of this chant.  (Some yoga teachers just announce, “Okay, let’s chant blah-blah-blah”, and that’s it; we don’t really know why we’re chanting.)  Or perhaps tonight’s chanting felt more “okay”/acceptable because it wasn’t directed to some specific deity.  For whatever reason, I was able to just chill out with the chanting.

This session’s teacher also discussed chakras.  Again, I usually bristle when the topic of chakras come up in a yoga class.  But again, tonight chakras seemed to be okay.  The teacher explained the chakras as energetic wheels that we want to get spinning in the same rhythm and speed for maximum positive effect in our life; and our breath, and yoga movements, and chanting all help facilitate the spinning in unison and harmony.  In my mind I could analogize this with all of the gears on a water-powered device needing to move in the same way in order for efficient operations to occur; and the wind (breath) and the water flow (yoga asanas) and the vibrations of the water molecules themselves (chanting) all facilitate that successful conversion of liquid to electricity (i.e., the conversion of something seen and appreciated [water; our bodies] to something not literally seen, but perhaps even more appreciated [electricity; positive universal spirit].

Now.  I doubt I’m going to voluntarily begin to chant mantras while visualizing my chakras; but at least I’ve had the experience of being able to engage with these activities in a neutral way, instead of feeling full-on resistance when exposed to them.  That’s certainly progress.

At the end of the class, the teacher sang the “Long Time Sun” song – this is the way every Kundalini class closes.  The lyrics to this song are quite sweet, and the teacher had a *beautiful* voice (she’s an actress who has performed at the Guthrie); so I left the session feeling very calm and content.

Many years ago when I took my few Kundalini classes, I thought the style was interesting, and great for some people, but just not quite a good fit for me.  Tonight, I left this class with that same feeling.  I now intellectually know more about why Kundalini and I aren’t a perfect match; but I also appreciate that I “knew” this way back then.  Tonight was a great lesson that my instincts, gut, soul all *can* be trusted.



About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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