Kundalini Yoga Experience

Written by Julia Lee.

Naive and completely unaware of what I am getting myself into, I walk into the practice room for my first taste of Kundalini yoga. The room is humid and the heat from the previous Vinyasa class lingers in the air. I find a place for my mat and sit down amidst the buzz and chatter of the yogis and yoginis that will be practicing alongside me that evening. The room is completely packed, and I glance at the fellow to my right, who grins at me and says, 'It's going to be a hot one tonight!' This makes me nervous.

kundalini yoga

The teacher, Gloria, enters all smiles, and an instant hush settles over the room. She tells us to sit in a comfortable position, close our eyes, get grounded. I follow these instructions, which seem simple enough. Suddenly, everyone begins to chant - Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo - words that are unfamiliar to me, and I have no idea what they mean. I mumble along incoherently, pretending that I too, am a seasoned practitioner. She instructs us to bring our palms together and inhale deeply as we raise them overhead, and exhale strongly as we move our hands sharply toward the mat.

Everyone starts breathing, and I am eerily reminded of the sounds of the orcs in The Lord of the Rings. What am I doing here? We get up, and music starts blasting - ABBA's Dancing Queen - and everyone is moving and smiling and laughing and before I know it I'm laughing too, even if I have no idea what's going on. Gloria tells us to grab a dancing partner, and I see these huge, muscular men in front of me holding hands and dancing around gaily and I can't help but break into a cheesy grin.

She tells us to cry out HAR as we punch the air, releasing our anger. I feel strong and empowered. Sweat rolls down my face and back, in a gratifying sort of way. The boy beside me was right - it was a hot class that night. As I settle down in Savasana at the end of class, a smile crosses my lips. I am proud of myself for being brave, for trying something new. (If I had known how sore I would be the next day, I definitely would not have been smiling). I am already looking forward to next week's class.

I was fortunate enough to take part in a yoga teacher training that encompassed a variety of styles of yoga. One of my incredible teachers, Gloria Latham, is particularly well-versed in Kundalini yoga, and my classmates and I were encouraged to take part in one of her Kundalini classes each week. The first time I attended a Kundalini class, I went in with no knowledge or background of the practice, which was probably for the best. Kundalini yoga has a tendency to be presented in an overly fanatic, cult-ish sort of manner. There are those that warn against the practice, claiming it is dangerous and unsafe. There are many Kundalini devotees who wear turbans and dress in all white, and spend many hours of their day practicing sadhana.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the practice, Kundalini yoga is based on the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, a spiritual leader who is credited for bringing Kundalini yoga to the Western world. Kundalini itself is conceptualized as a coiled up serpent which represents a concentrated form of prana or life force, lying dormant in chakras in the body (...a serpent? Coiled and lying dormant within my chakras? The closest I had ever come to anything like this was Cobra pose...). Thus, Kundalini yoga is a set of exercises (kriyas) and mental practices (meditations) that are designed to awaken one's spirituality and consciousness to the universal nature of the soul. Kundalini yoga is sometimes called the yoga of awareness because it awakens the kundalini which is the unlimited potential that already exists within every human being.

Although it might sound a little strange or bizarre, Kundalini yoga is something that really has to be experienced personally. I find that it is an amazing complement to my regular yoga practice. Although Kundalini may not be the right fit for everybody, I encourage everyone to try it at least once!

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