When I first started yoga there were so many tangible changes to both my body and spirit it felt as if my practice were enchanted by magical sprites from another dimension of the multiverse. I left class feeling elated as blockages began to dissipate, and each practice had an impact that palpitated my being and cultivated my soul. I may have been frustrated I couldn’t fold my leg behind my head with a serene look of dignity, but I was encouraged by my improvement and had high hopes of what was to come if I maintained commitment to my mat. The drastic changes of my beginning years eventually got replaced by the subtle nuances of my intermediate years, and I began to realize that although I still adored yoga, my practice had reached a plateau and become almost boring.
Sure, I could sometimes really get into connecting to my back left pink toe, focusing on the knuckle of my middle finger, or bringing attention to my inner lower-to-the left then back to the right then a little left-of-center abdominal muscles, but something about my practice felt stagnant. I had come to a point where I was able to do what I was able to do, and everything else wasn’t even worth attempting. I could hold a crow pose, but was not going to bother with one-legged crow with opposite leg extended. Yeah, a handstand for 20 breaths was no problem, but push up to handstand from uttanansana? I would rather think about dinner. It wasn’t that I had given up, but the leap from where I was to some of these advanced poses seemed so beyond my reach that I wasn’t even motivated to try.
As my vision of what I was capable of started to dwindle, so did the intense emotional and mental element of my practice. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel good after class, but the difference was unremarkable. I no longer felt that yoga gnomes were breathing spirulina-infused air into my lungs while I danced in a coconut-juiced waterfall. Yoga became something I did, not who I was. The transformational element wasn’t as attainable, and I was losing my grasp on the other dynamic components that were once so prevalent.
Until I found Kundalini…
Kundalini is kind of peculiar; I am not going to lie. The teachers wear white turbans and you do movements that can be reminiscent of finding your inner child at an adult exploration class. But once I transcended the idea that I didn’t always have to look or sound graceful, I opened up to the infinite possibilities of transforming my practice.
The Kundalini Kriyas are sets of movement that are working towards a specific intention. There is a Kriya for eliminating tension and pain, one for a healthy bowel system, another for sex energy transformation and so on. I may feel a little funky doing repetitive open legged crow squats with my fingers in a Venus lock, but to know that I am connecting to my essence of self is well worth the potentially embarrassing sounds.
Kundalini focuses on endurance, meditation, and mantra. I held poses for longer than I ever would on my own, or even ever thought possible, and when I came out of it I felt like all my cells had been washed in acai berries. The attention paid to mantra and meditation is how you are able to push past the feeling that your arms are going to fall off if you hold them outstretched for another second longer, and before you know it 26 minutes have past. Because much of the practice is about pushing past limitations I found that I started to dig deeper into my inner self and access parts of my energetic body that has been dormant for years.
Yoga is a lifestyle that, once you commit to it, is virtually impossible to abandon, and Kundalini has enlivened my practice when I needed it most. I am excited for class because I don’t know what to expect, but I do know that I will leave with a slightly new perspective. We yogis are lucky that there are so many different types of teachings for us to explore.
Toni Nagy writes for the blog tonibologna.com, an amazing blog about Toni Nagy and her baby. It was not easy for Toni to get the job writing for Toni, and rumor has it she slept her way to the top. Toni has written many text messages, and has been published by Huffington Post and Salon.com.
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I love this! I became a kundalini yoga fan over the past year, and I find the practice just beautiful. Your description of the poses is hilariously accurate. What I love about my class, though, is that we’re free to laugh and talk and just enjoy being there. Because of that, I experience a greater sense of community in my kundalini class than I have in any other class.
As a Kundalini Yoga teacher, I am thrilled to read how Kundalini Yoga has been a postitive force in your life. Thanks so much for sharing your story… hoping that it may inspire others to try a kind of yoga that, as I tell new students who come to my class, will most certainly challenge your notions of what yoga is… especially if you come from a purely vinyasa-type practice. Sat Nam!! : )
I remember when I first started taking yoga the feeling of “okay, this is cool and all but… I am kind of bored” would set in. I actually decided to mix up my yoga during the week and eventually did include Kundalini. Which I loved! I also started taking a more technical class focused on alignment. Mixing up my practice, and getting to know other teachers at the studio has been a fun adventure stretching me in more ways than one!
I guess that I am odd in that I do not look to my yoga practice to be entertaining.
I find that it is the very repetitive nature of an asana sequencing of poses that lends meditative quality to the practice. Instead of thinking about how to transition to the next pose or wondering what the teacher is going to do as the next pose, I can lose my attention in the experiences of my body, make subtle postural adjustments and I can feel the pose in a different way.
And on the occasion that I do get bored, I can observe the boredom and watch it pass.
well said BeaNs. who said boredom was a bad thing?
Very good point BeaNs. Though I have practiced a daily rejuvenative kundalini kriya as part of my sadhana for 12 years, and have been a kundalini teacher for 9 years, I have come to understand that the essence of kundalini is awesomely found in vipassana sitting, and even perhaps moreso.
In my experience, kundalini is way more rejuvenative for initializing lots of detox and hormonal rebalancing due to its intensity of glandular workout. Kundalini definitely strengthens the intuitive guidance system which is awesome, but the deepest level of the mind remains untouched, placated by mantra and mind-matter olympics. So, it is not uncommon for heavy kundalini practitioners to have a massive shadow side that erupts on a regular basis and is denied!
Personally I have found vipassana meditation, in the traditional sukhasana asana, to be the essence of yoga, and kundalini yoga! So, when I teach, I’m all about orienting students to observing sensations and attitudes, and I don’t teach much mantra at all anymore.
It’s also important to remember that kundalini yoga in the west is not the end-all and be-all of the tantric tradition. It is a particular strain given by Yogi Bhajan, and is heavily flavored with his brand of Sikhism, which is actually quite different than indian Sikhism in some ways…
You can find certified kundalini teachers who are not associated with Sikhs, do not wear turbans, and incorporate mindfulness, they’re out there. Also, there are some great books out there with the spinal flex kriya that you can teach yourself – it’s like cat/cow x 1000, and super healing.
Over the past 13 or so years, I have practiced many different types of yoga. I’ve practiced Bikram, Ashtanga, Hatha, Hot Vinyasa, Warm Vinyasa, to regular, good old fashioned Vinyasa. Just this weekend I took a Warm Yin Yoga class for the first time. I love the fact that there are so many different types of yoga available.
On New Years Day I took a Kundalini Prosperity class. It was very interesting.
Thank you for writing this. Kundalini Yoga is pretty weird. I would imagine that was the way most people viewed yoga in general a few years back though. Isn’t it interesting what “normal” becomes?
In response to the boredom that BeaNs was talking about, I think it’s important to note that while that was the thread that held this lovely blog together, boredom is not necessarily the reason people take up Kundalini Yoga (or any different style).
Much of the benefit of Kundalini Yoga does actually come from daily repetition of the same thing, even though as teachers we don’t teach the same kriya every class (since there are soooo many!). We do, however, encourage students to take a specific kriya or meditation and practice it every day for 40, 90, 120, or even 1,000 days.
The impact that this has on changing our consciousness is truly remarkable. Do one of these practices for 40 days and watch your entire world shift… it’s pretty cool. If you want change that is. =)
Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body that dissolves mental impurity, resulting in a balanced mind full of love and compassion. ..,::
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