Kundalini Yoga 101
I get it, you have been looking at the myriad of different types of Yoga, Bikram, Iyengar, Vinyasa, Hatha, Hot, Power, Buti for instance, and spotted Kundalini Yoga.
What is it? What do I need to know? How will it benefit me?
Well, I have put together a few little pointers for you, including some postures & practices for you. This way, when you boldly walk into that first class you can have the safe knowledge that you do not look like a beginner, (not that anyone would mind that).
The first thing to remember is that ALL yoga is fully inclusive and you will be warmly welcomed into a class with open arms. Nobody is there to judge you or your yogic ability. Yoga is personal and your experience will be different to the person on the mat next to you.
Secondly, don't be put off by the garb. Traditionally, Kundalini Yogi's wear white and cover their heads with material creating head dresses/turbans. The roots of kundalini Yoga are in the Sikh tradition, so many devout partakers let their hair grow and the turban keeps it tidy.
I occasionally cover my head for more of an energetic experience - a strong breath practice can feel more intense when I have a little pressure around my head. In particular, a turban will contain your energy at the third eye point creating a more meditative state.
The head covering also protects the Crown Chakra - a very vital energy point when we are practicing yoga. Yoga is very cleansing to the body and mind, so when you are deep in your practice, it is not comfortable to be picking up others peoples energy, by covering the crown you are ensuring you are protected. Try it - both with and without your head covered and see which feels good.
The white clothes reflect the light and bring more focus onto the face (there is nothing to take the attention away from the face). As the light is reflected and the face shines, according to Yogi Bhajan and the 3ho organisation (https://www.3ho.org/ecommunity/2012/11/yogi-bhajans-words-on-wearing-white) the aura is enlarged. They also state that ‘wearing white is also an exercise in awareness, as it takes more consciousness and care to keep white clothes clean’.
With everyone in white, there is no fashion hierarchy (supposedly although I still am known to admire other people’s flowing, sequined beautiful whites over my old slight greys). Ultimately though you wear what you are comfortable in, I have practiced in and been taught by well known teachers wearing black, so rules are there to be broken.
Kundalini Yoga is 'The Yoga of Awareness'
Pranayama, Drishti, Mantras, Asana & Mudras are all interwoven to lead to a connection with the higher consciousness - fast.
Pranayama, or conscious breathing exercises, are practiced in Kundalini to, initially, connect the mind, body & breath (spirit). Various Pranayama have differing effects and when combined with the movements can create a strong chemical change in the body.
The Drishti (or where you set your gaze during your physical practice) is used to deepen your focus and awareness.
Mantras are incorporated throughout to utilize sound therapy and the sound vibrations within the body.
Asana and repetitive movements are used to release tension from the body and transfer energy around the body to strengthen, stretch and release.
Mudras, the hand gestures incorporated into the yoga, are energy ‘seals’ using the magnetic and electrical polarities in the fingers and hands.
When I first tried a Kundalini 3-minute warm-up, I felt cellularly different immediately.
‘Kriya’ is a sanskrit term which means action or to do. In Kundalini Yoga a Kriya can be a set of exercises, movements or breath practices leading to a general benefit i.e. - ‘Kriya to Open and Calm the Heart’. Some kriyas may have as many as 10 - 11 ‘parts’ or as few as 1.
Here’s What to Expect During a Kundalini Yoga Class
To set you up for that first class here are some practices. To begin by practicing each for 1 minute building up to 3 minutes each.
1. Tune In With a Mantra
Every class will begin with the Adi Mantra. This connects the practitioner to their 'golden chain' of teachers and also becomes a point of reference to connect to each other and still and quieten the mind.
'Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo' I bow to the divine teacher within
This can be chanted as many times as is needed for you to feel connected to your higher self and spiritually aware, however the general practice in group classes is 3 times. I would use these in the following way - the first to ground yourself and tune into yourself, the second to connect to those around you, and the third to connect to the spiritual realm.
2. Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire is a powerful and detoxifying form of Pranayama breathing which heats up the body, inhaling & exhaling through the nose. On the exhale the stomach is pulled up in and in powerfully to expel the air, as the navel relaxes the inhale happens naturally.
This is similar to Kapalabhati in Hatha yoga, through the accent is on the exhale. Aim for 1 breath per second, faster if desired.
This powerful Pranayama (breath practice) detoxifies the body, oxygenates the blood. Being powered by the navel point is strengthens and charges up the solar plexus chakra, the seat of our willpower and determination, enabling us to have the strength and power to continue with the set practice (which at times can be very challenging) or goal of the Kriya.
Due to the detoxifying nature of the breath and the chemical changes in the body, dizziness may occur - this can be relieved by focusing the eyes up to just behind the eye brows and drinking a glass of water afterwards.
When pregnant or in the first couple of days of your period, practice Long Deep Breathing
3. Ego Eradicator
Sitting in Easy Pose (Sukasana/Cross legged), The fingers are bent at the middle knuckle curling in towards the pads where the palms meet the base of the fingers, so the finger tips, rest on the finger pads. Thumbs point towards the sky.
Raise arms straight at 60 degrees above the head. Focusing the eyes up to the third eye chakra begin breath of fire.
This simple but super effective exercise strengthens and cleanses the lungs, opens the heart and with thumbs pointing up, literally plugs us into the higher realms by balancing the two hemispheres of the brain and bringing a mental clarity that quietens the negative mind.
4. Spinal Flexes
In Easy Pose, hold onto the front ankle. Moving the spine through an arch and a curve, focusing on moving the heart centre back and forth. Eyes closed, inhale as you flex the spine forward, exhale as you curve the spine backwards.
Yogi Bhajan once said, ‘you are as old as your spine is flexible’ and being the main ‘messenger’ of the body, communicating constantly between our brain and nervous systems I feel this to be true. A stiff spine can disrupt the flow of spinal fluid, stimulating the aging process and restricting the efficiency of the digestive system.
5. Sufi Grind
In easy pose, hands rest on knees. Circle the spine anticlockwise, churning & grinding the mid spine & abdomen. Inhale as you are forwards and exhale at the back. Half way switch directions.
As with spinal flexes, the mobility of the spine is paramount to our health and an incredible body. Spinal flexes work on the lower spine predominantly and the lumbar region, Sufi Grinds focus on the middle part of the spine.
6. Shoulder Twist
Bring your hands up onto your shoulders with fingers facing forwards and thumbs at the back. Keeping the elbows up and out to the sides, parallel to the ground begin twisting left & right. Inhale left and exhale right.
Vibrate the mantra Sat Nam in your head as you twist (sat left, Nam right). Allow your head to naturally follow the movements of the spine.
This wonderful mobility practice for the upper spine, eases tension and stiffness around the upper back, shoulders and neck. The powerful breath also opens and recharges the lungs, creating an immense energy and strengthening and enlarges the aura, as we churn up the energy around the body.
Standing on toes with feet out at 45 degrees, heels touching and knees bent deeply out to the side, hands resting on the floor. On an inhale straighten the knees taking the hips up to the sky and head low, keep hands resting on the floor and heels touching.
As you exhale, bend back to the starting position lift the head and dropping the hips. Continue rapidly with powerful breathing. To finish come up to stand with feet flat on the floor and take 5 long deep breaths through the nose and feel the energy charging up your legs and into your higher chakras.
This wonderful exercise tones, shapes and strengthens the lower body whilst providing a cardiovascular work out. The energy stimulated in the lower chakras whilst performing the Frogs is then pushed up the spine to connect with the higher chakras.
Begin in mountain pose/Tadasana. Step back with your left foot, ensuring that both feet are flat on the floor. Hold both hands up in front of you with fingers folded back towards you and thumbs face up. Keeping the elbow high pull back the left arm (like pulling back a bow) and hold it with hand by left shoulder and left elbow high.
Focus the eyes on the right thumb out in front of you. Ground down through the legs and feel strong and bold like a warrior. This is great for focus and protection. Try it with both long deep breathing and breath of fire. Switch sides.
This posture is wonderful for building up the strength in the navel centre, promoting willpower, determination and clarity of desire. The focus and mental clarity is improved. Strength in the hips, quadriceps, shoulders and navel and also built up.
The Main Benefits of Practicing Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga is a practice that has been gifted to us to strengthen and improve our nervous system to assist us in coping with the Aquarian age. Over the past 2000 years humanity has been living in the Piscean age, an age of religion, hierarchy and knowledge by the few, however the age of aquarius is an age of great speed, knowledge by many and no secrets. Everything is available to us and life moves at great speed now. We require a strong body, clarity of mind and great compassion to live together and live happily.
Some people practice Kundalini Yoga to cope with the changing times, I practice because it makes me feel good.
One of my students said to me ‘I don’t know what it is Jo, but [after class] I just feel light’!
So how you will feel, I don’t know, only you can answer that. Give a class a go, with all your heart, and see how you feel afterwards - and let me know.
I would love another section here before the conclusion about the 1. overall benefit of Kundalini, 2. what the new practitioner can expect to come away with, and 3. why people in general practice this form of yoga. Please write one stanza per each main point listed here (3 total).
Kundalini Yoga: The Takeaway
When you take the opportunity to try anything new, be it something you are unsure of, or something you have wanted to try for years and years - approach with an open heart and an open mind. The guidance I have provided on here is for you to experience and FEEL! Have a go, connect with your body, notice how you feel and then let us know how it goes.
I hope you enjoy it - I will leave you with this quote from Yogi Bhajan himself -
‘There’s nothing which can be more precious in you than your own relationship with your own consciousness.’
My Kundalini Yoga Experience is available to you right now at just $37 for all 6 modules.
To learn more and join the experience go here