Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, is a unique and distinctive style of yoga, which differs in many ways from most forms of modern yoga. Kundalini Yoga offers unique ways of practicing, involving breath work, dynamic postures, chanting and meditation. Kundalini Yoga teachers wear white clothes and often wear head coverings while they teach. We almost always play uplifting mantra based music. For a beginning student this can all seem a little bit strange. However, many new students experience results- physically, energetically, emotionally- very early on in this practice. Kundalini Yoga “works” quickly.
Kundalini Yoga practices work on the physical body via the nervous system and the glandular system. There are also specific sets of exercises focusing on different internal organs and bodily processes. For example, there are yoga sets to strengthen the lungs, to support kidney function, and to work on the digestive system- to name only a few. This is just a small selection of what Kundalini Yoga works on. The physical body is one of the many aspects of the human being that this yoga works on.
The teachings of Kundalini Yoga view the human being as a complex multi-faceted being. There are teachings on all aspects of the human. Rather than viewing an individual as made up of body and mind, or body, mind and spirit- Kundalini Yoga teaches that we are all made up of 10 bodies, including physical, spiritual, mental and energetic aspects. Kundalini Yoga also has teachings on the 8 chakras, (we view the aura as a chakra), and of course includes teachings on Kundalini energy. Kundalini energy is the energy at the base of the spine that can be stimulated to offer energetic and often blissful experiences. Contrary to some accounts, Kundalini energy is not dangerous. Kundalini Yoga is safe, and gentle for practitioners of all levels.
Kundalini Yoga is unabashedly spiritual- however spiritual belief is not required for this practice. Anyone, whether they are spiritual, religious or not, can benefit from these practices. Yogi Bhajan the master of Kundalini Yoga emphasized the importance of the discipline of daily spiritual practice. In my experience it is the discipline that makes the practice so impactful, rather than spirituality- or religious belief. It is the discipline of practice that allows for shifts in consciousness, in emotional states, that strengthens resilience and improves health and well-being.
Kundalini Yoga has been described as the yoga of experience. Everyone’s experience will be completely unique. When I began this practice I found it very strange- and often frustrating. This yoga is known for bringing up and clearing a lot of “stuff”- anger, sadness and stress are often released. The practice can be very challenging in this way- and yet can deliver experiences of personal empowerment and well-being. Many practitioners find classes to be both energizing and relaxing.
What to expect from a class?
Each class begins by “tuning in” with the mantra Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo. This mantra translates to “I bow to my own internal wisdom, I bow to my own internal teacher”, and prepares the student for practice. After a gentle warm up the class will be instructed through a yoga set- known as a kriya. Kriyas involve both static and dynamic postures, as well as breath work. During the kriyas we mentally recite the mantra Sat Nam, meaning true name. This is a tool to focus the mind. Most often eyes are closed throughout the practice to maintain an internal focus. After the kriya there is a deep relaxation- followed by a meditation. There are hundreds of kriyas, and meditations- and so each class will be unique. Some classes will be quite physical- while others will be more meditative. Some meditations involve chanting or mantra recitation- while others are silent- or even guided. Class always closes with chanting one long Sat Nam. This mantra, in addition to being used to focus the mind during practice, is also used as both a blessing and a greeting. Many things can happen in a Kundalini Yoga class. Things can get wild and wacky- with jumping or dancing- sometimes chanting or singing and sometimes wiggling and laughing. Kundalini Yoga is challenging and is also a lot of fun. Experiences will always vary. I have heard students describe the practice as relaxing, energizing, frustrating, healing, balancing, and even psychedelic. Most do agree that whatever the experience, Kundalini Yoga “works”.