We were on holiday in Egypt on a yoga vacation. Claire had recently discovered Kundalini yoga with her husband and asked if I wanted to join her for her daily set.
On our first evening we discovered the empty open-air yoga studio overlooking the beach. Claire was doing a 40 day tantric set to open the heart centre, which at the time didn’t mean a great deal to me but I was up for giving it a go.
We started with a bit of chanting and then went on to do a full-on exercise set whilst listening to some energetic yoga music. I was there to join in, get bendy and try something new. But as we lay down for relaxation I was in bits. I was teary, emotional and charged up and I didn’t know why. After the meditation I felt that I had really been through something powerful. Later in the week I experienced a huge emotional shift and from that holiday onward I was completely and utterly hooked on Kundalini yoga.
Kundalini is an ancient form of yoga that was brought from India to the West in the 1960′s by Yogi Bhajan. It focuses on waking the coil of energy at the base of the spine and moving it up through the chakras to the crown (top of the head).
The practice is spiritual, focused and structured. Be prepared to feel energised and buzzy during and after a class. Everyone wears white to open their aura (ah, lovely) and each of the exercises are timed. There's no making it up as you go along. Each set, or Kriya, has been written by a Master and is followed to the letter by the yoga teacher.
A class begins with a mantra – tuning in - this is a beautiful way to open the yogic space. Each of the exercises are dynamic and repetitive. Spinal twists, waist bends and body curls. The idea being, when you move your body, your life moves.
Eyes are often closed. This brings you home to yourself. Unlike other yogas, Kundalini focuses on the inside rather than what a posture looks like on the outside. There is a big emphasis on accepting your body as it is and feeling what it is to be inside yourself rather than trying to ‘do’ something to the body. All guidance from the teacher is given verbally, a Kundalini yoga teacher will not enter a student's auric field and manipulate their posture in class.
Number one – Awareness. Paying attention to what the mind is doing at every point during the class. If you’re thinking about dinner and are not able to be present you aren’t doing yoga.
Number two – Breath. Each exercise is partnered with pranayama. Whether it is long deep breathing or Breath of Fire there is always a breath pattern to each exercise and often the breath will be held at the end, enabling the energy to become concentrated within the body.
Number three – Devotion. Without devotion to the yoga, the daily practice and the teachings you are simply doing a nice aerobic exercise class.
After the Kriya, we have everybody’s favourite bit – relaxation. This enables the body to incorporate the changes brought on by the class. And after relaxation there is meditation. The aim of meditation is to focus the mind and is the real reason yoga came about. Yogis wanted to sit comfortably for hours on end whilst training the mind but they kept getting dead legs. So they began exercising beforehand, so their muscles were nice and supple and they didn’t get pins and needles. Or something to that effect!
Meditation can be tough. I’ve been doing it for years and I still find my mind wandering off to work that needs to be done or bits I need to pick up from Waitrose on the way home. Even now it would appear I am far from enlightened.
I have been in many different types of yoga classes. Boring ones, stretchy ones, challenging ones. Nothing has touched me like Kundalini has. I have experienced emotional, spiritual and physical shifts on my yoga mat that have profoundly changed the way I experience the world and myself. And the parts I resisted in the beginning (I used to feel like a right numpty chanting mantras) I now love and embrace because I know the greatest lessons are in the things I try to avoid.
At the end of each class we chant and close the space with ‘Sat Nam’ which translates ‘the truth within.’ I couldn’t agree more.
Laura Knowles is a Nutritionist, Kinesiologist, and Yoga Teacher at the Balanced Wellness Clinic in Havant near Portsmouth. Loves blogging about the really important stuff - life, love, vitamins and poo.See my profile »