I received a question about Kundalini on Instagram, and was going to respond, but thought I would share it here so everyone could benefit.
I’ve practiced Ashtanga, Yin Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and your general all purpose variety what you’d get in a gym yoga. I’m not a teacher of any of those lineages, but have practiced all kinds of yoga for decades.
I’ll share how Kundalini and “typical yoga flows…that stretch and breathe” are the same and what I have found to be different: is how we begin class, how we end class, the chanting of mantra, and how long postures are held. More on that later.
Breathing. We call it Pranayam. Pranayam is conscious awareness of breath. In every Kundalini class whether it’s the One Minute Breath, Breath of Fire, Alternate Nostril Breathing, or any of the other ways in which we are consciously segmenting the breathing, it’s an integral and consistent part of a Kundalini practice, and class.
Stretching. We absolutely stretch within Kriyas (Kriyas are a prescriptive set of postures to achieve a specific outcome: releasing anger, increasing intuition, withstanding external pressures, immunity boost, etc.) We even have something called the Life Nerve Stretch (or a Seated Forward Fold).
A class consists of Tuning in, Pranyam, a Kriya, a Meditation, Deep Relaxation (sometimes a gong bath), Tuning Out and the Long Time Sunshine song.
What I have found to be totally different from other yoga classes is how we begin class and how we end class. There are more differences that I can address in another post. I didn’t include them all here, like why we use mantra, why some postures are different (in look and length of holding), and different eye focus or attention. I’m sure there are even more than that, but I’ve got to parse this up or you’ll TL;RL me. Here we go!
We begin class with tune in. We say the Adi Mantra: Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, three times. There is a way we chant it, some words are held longer than others, and there are varying pitches. We say the mantra on one breath. Inhale and start again. Our eyes are closed and focused on the third eye space or brow point. This focus on the third eye, applies pressure to our pineal gland. Activating this gland is said to invite an increased sense of intuition.
This chant is our connection to the Golden Chain. The Golden Chain is the link to all other teachers that have come before us and all that will come after us. If you think of a chain, it is only as strong as it’s next link. Kundalini is a tradition of passing the wisdom of the yogic technology from teacher to student. As practitioners, we hold this lineage sacred and dear to our hearts. Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo means I bow to the creative wisdom, I bow to the divine teacher within.
There is another mantra said for protection after the Adi Mantra called Mangala Charan. We say this three times. As we say it, we imagine beginning a shield of protection to our left, moving to the backs of our bodies on the second line, the right side of our bodies the third, and then the front of our bodies on the last line. Ad Guray Nameh, Jugad Guray Nameh, Sat Guray Nameh, Siri Guru Devay Nameh. I was taught that it’s a teacher’s choice whether to chant this along with the students at the beginning of class, or just have the teacher repeat it to themselves as a protection from the class.
I bow to the primal wisdom.
I bow to the wisdom through the ages.
I bow to the true wisdom.
I bow to the great unseen wisdom.
In my classes, I prefer to include it with my students. I want my students to feel empowered in the work they are doing, and to also actively participate in the protection of any negative feelings that may come up and be processed as a result of this deep work.
After we finish class, we sing together. More on that here:
Kundalini is the yoga of awareness. While we are doing this work I think it’s important to have all the protection you can. One would think it would be protection from external energies, and while that’s always something to contend with, I am always sure to remind students that we can be our own worst enemy. As we cross the vast and unfamiliar landscape of our souls it’s helpful to provide a cover, a safe place, for what may be unearthed within, to emerge.
We wear white. I’ve written about this before, but a quick refresher. As Kundalini practitioners we can wear white as a way to expand our aura an extra foot. Our aura is our protection from negative influences.
This doesn’t mean that you will be turned away if you’re not wearing white. Not at all. Some choose to wear white, while others don’t. Kundalini is not exclusionary in any way. Come as you are, but come. Coming to class at all is 90% of any practice.
We wear a headwrap or turban. I’ve spoken about this too! A lot. Because it gets a lot of attention. Read more about it here.
My Kundalini practice has opened me up to a world of spirituality that’s inclusive of my witchier practices (tarot, numerology, crystals, manifestation work, spell work, lunar proclivities, astrology, etc.). You can go to church and practice Kundalini, you can go to temple and practice Kundalini, you can sleep in and practice Kundalini, you can believe in nothing esoteric at all and practice Kundalini.
Kundalini has become a way of life, as in, I see and respond to life through the lens of Kundalini teachings, lectures by Yogi Bhajan, and my teachers, both from Kundalini Yoga Teacher training, and those teachers that I’ve sought out, like Jai Dev.
On a personal level, Kundalini is different and special and sacred to me because it’s the quickest, fastest acting change agent in my life. I’ve written about the effects of saying one mantra, or practicing one kriya does, just as recently as the last post.
We are in a time where external pressures are SO great. So much is expected of us, demanded of us, from our families, communities, jobs, social constructs, relationships, even ourselves. Think about how you are being pulled, compartmentalized, pushed, and prodded for information, answers, explanations, thoughts. Not to mention the day to day upkeep of our physical bodies that are trying to support us through and keep up with the million-changes-and-thoughts-a-second that our brains can process (mostly without our knowing).
A consistent Kundalini practice helps you to be able to withstand, meet and maintain all of the demands while also preserving your truest self in the process. Isn’t that all you can ask for from any spiritual practice?
I am in the process of fine tuning a new offering that combines Tantric Numerlogy and Kundalini Yoga with a guided add on. Think of it as me being the Kundalini Sidekick in your pocket. I am also working on a Tarot post for you and part two of this post, they will be out in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
If you have any questions for me, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m happy to share what I learn as I go.
May this serve.