On kundalini yoga

March 4, 2014

“In Kundalini Yoga the most important thing is your experience. It goes right to your heart. No words can replace your experience. Your mind may accept the words or it may not, but your consciousness will not accept just words.”
-Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher Training manual, p. 20

About 2 weeks ago we had a new teacher start giving yoga classes at our yoga centre in Kalamış, Istanbul (annezen), Özlem Ataman. Özlem gives kundalini yoga classes. When she came to our centre half an hour before her first class at our studio on Monday night, I asked her if she could describe what kundalini yoga is so that I could have a short handy description for those who come to us and don’t know what it is, but may want to try the class. Unfortunately, Özlem was unable to provide me with such a handy short sentence. She said it is really difficult to describe. But she did tell me that wonderful things happen to those who regularly practice kundalini yoga. She said that her students say that their friends start asking them what they are doing as they are radiating amazing energy and light, are they getting botox or are they in love? This sounds great! I wanted to join the class then too, immediately! She said that rather than her explaining, the only way she could answer my question was for me to come to the class and see for myself. So, today I went to the 10am class, which is great because morning classes are my favourite. So, what I am going to do in today’s post is write about what I experienced in today’s kundalini yoga class.

Every class has a focus, I think Özlem said there are around 150 possibilities for focus in kundalini classes. Today’s focus was working on energy blockages, especially by working the root lock. You may also know the root lock as mula bandha (here is a good basic article on the root lock https://yogainternational.com/article/view/a-beginners-guide-to-mula-bandha-root-lock). This area is basically the perineum, the muscles of the pelvic floor, which are so important for women for birth but also daily life (and also for men). In everyday language, they are the muscles that you hold when you are dying to go to the toilet but there is a long line and you have to hold! Energetically, it is associated with the base chakra (mulahadra chakra) which is the chakra at the beginning of the spine, the one that is the beginning of the energy flow, so by holding this lock (contracting the perineum muscles), you help direct the flow of energy upwards. This bandha stimulates the nerves of the pelvic area, the endocrine system and the excretory system. Apparently, holding this lock also makes you feel lighter, which may explain why I was feeling so much lighter as I was riding my bicycle home after the lesson!

Anyway, back to the kundalini class. We started by singing a mantra to music, we then did many poses but they were a little different to hatha yoga poses. The poses were with the breath but quite fast and repetitive. These poses were quite basic and felt really good and many were simple rocking and stretching poses. And also, what is interesting, is that the class is done with closed eyes so as to focus more on what is going on inside. You open your eyes only to check the teacher’s position so as to do that pose yourself and then you close your eyes again. Towards the end of the class, we did one meditation where we had to focus on the space between our eyebrows, which we did laying down and then we some more poses. At the end of the class we sung another mantra.

Now let me speak about my feelings. I first discovered yoga when I was 22 years old at university, and have been practising it since then. Despite this, I have never been to a kundalini class. Maybe I was not ready for it until now! The class was an extremely powerful experience. The energy was really bubbling up inside of me, feeling like vibrations, buzzing especially around my throat. I wonder what that means? I felt quite light. As we sang the blessing at the end of the class (‘May the long time sun shine upon you’- which is apparently an Irish sun blessing- and now a ritual farewell in kundalini classes everywhere), I just started crying. I was a little shocked, but this is apparently quite normal at the beginning of kundalini yoga practice. However, as I was riding my bicycle home, I felt I was glowing. I felt wonderful!

Now for a little information and research. Kundalini yoga is commonly called the yoga of awareness. The word kundalini refers to energy and consciousness, both self and universal. Kundal is a Sanskrit word and means coiled up, which refers to the potential untapped energy at the base of the spine (the base chakra). Kundalini yoga was a secret practice until Yogi Bhajan brought it to the west in the sixties. However, it has always been practised by ‘ordinary’ people, meaning those with families, work and responsibilities, as opposed to yogis who renounce society to fulfil their personal destiny through yoga. It is a combination of breathing, mantra, physical yoga exercises and meditation, making it the most comprehensive type of yoga practice. It balances the nervous and endocrine systems and energy. It takes energy from the bottom of the spine upwards to the other chakras. The objective of kundalini yoga is “to awaken the power of the individual to excel- to experience their infinity and fulfil their personal destiny”. (Kundalini research institute http://www.kundaliniresearchinstitute.org/What%20is%20KY.htm)

I was very touched by my experience with kundalini yoga today and I aim to find a place for it in my daily life. Thanks to Özlem for bringing this practise to my awareness.

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