The first time you go to a Kundalin Yoga class you might be taken aback. What you experience might not be what you’d expect from a yoga class at all.
I always encourage newbies to be openminded and to allow themselves to have an experience. To not get hung up on what they think a yoga class should be. Kundalini Yoga is all about the experience. And the experience can be life changing.
If you’d like to “know before you go” and understand the basics of what exactly is going on in a Kundalini Yoga class and why, then read on…
The word Yoga means ‘to join together’ or to ‘yoke’. In the Yoga Sutras – Yoga Journal Patanjali defines yoga as the, “Quieting of the mind into stillness”. Different types of yoga will use different tools to achieved this quieting. Joining together the self with the higher self. Yoking the mind, body and spirit. That’s one of the things that I love about yoga: there’s a form of yoga to suit everyone.
Kundalini Yoga is a very wholistice type of yoga. So yes, you’ll do physical postures that will make you strong, and yes there will be quite a bit of attention paid to the breath or pranayam as it’s called (the science of altering the breath to create a specific state of consciousness) but you’ll also engage with other tools used in yogic traditions for thousands of years to ‘yoke’ or create a state of ‘yoga’, specifically chanting mantra and meditation to name two.
Kundalini Yoga is all about moving energy. Changing your state of consciousness. So you might find yourself doing movements that might seem a bit different. Plus in addition to the musculoskeletal system you’ll be working with your neurological, glandular, lymphatic and circulatory systems.
You probably won’t get through a single Kundalini Yoga class either without the teacher mentioning Yogi Bhajan and encouraging you to to “keep up”. He is the man who brought these ancient teachings – the kryias, pranayam, chants and so on – from India to the West in the late 1960’s and he liked to remind his students that they needed to “keep up in order to be kept up”.
Unfortunately Yoga Bhajan left his physical body in 2004 but these amzazing teachings live on to support us by providing a means for us to relax, calm ourselves, create a sense of well being, keep us physically healthy and help us get in touch with our own spirit and the collective consciousness of the universe.
So what can you expect during your first class? Kundalini Yoga classes generally follow the same format:
First, we “Tune In” with the Adi Mantra – Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo. This essentially “changes the frequency of your being to tune you into a higher vibration. Think about it. What have you been tuned into all day? Your own thoughts? Getting cut off by other drivers on your way to Wegmans? Listening to the news? Talking to colleagues who are unhappy about their jobs?
Tuning in gives us an opportunity to center us, to “change the channel” as it were. Tune into our higher self and the higher vibration of the universe.
In some classes you might follow the Adi Mantra with the Mangala Charan Mantra: Aad Guray Nameh, Jugad Guray Nameh, Sat Guray Nameh, Siri Guru Devay Nameh. This is a mantra of projection and protection. It essentially surrounds us with a bubble of protection as we practice.
Next there’s pranayam – breathing exercises that change our consciousness. This could be deep breathing, or other pranayam, for example Breath of Fire, Sitali Breath or Alternate Nostril Breath.
The physical movement part of the class follows starting with warm ups and then you’ll be lead through what’s called a Kryia. Kryia means “action”. Each kriya is a set series of physical exercises (some kriya can also have pranayam, chants and meditations integrated with the movements as well) that brings about a specific state of being or works a particular part or system of the body.
Kundalini Yoga is very prescriptive. So if you are having trouble sleeping, there’s a kriya for that. Want to strengthen your spine? There’s a kriya for that? How about improving circulation and opening the lungs? There’s a kriya for that. Want to open your heart center and bring more love and compassion into your life? You guesses it, there’s a kRita for that too.
There are literally thousands of kriya that work with what you’d like to unravel or reveal from within yourself. So each Kundalini Yoga class might follow the same format, or there abouts, but you could potentially go to a different Kundalini Yoga class everyday for the rest of your life and no two classes would have been the same.
After the kriya we relax. Everyone comes down onto their backs into corpse pose or savasana. So we work hard in Kundalini Yoga but we relax hard as well. In my classes I play the Gong during final relaxation which is a wonderful way to be surrounded by healing energy, align the The Chakra System (energy centers in the body), strengthen the glandular system and clear garbage out of our subconsciousness. Plus relaxation allows the hard work of the kryia to take hold in the mind, body and spirit.
Next we sit up and meditate. Did you know that the physical component of yoga was developed to help us to sit for longer periods of time and meditate? Kundalini Yoga meditations are also prescriptive. There are meditations to heal you and others, to help you sleep, to increase your self confidence, to clear your subconscious, to learn to let go and trust, to overcome addiction and depression and so much more.
After mediation we sing the Long Time Sun and then we chant one or perhaps three long Sat Naams followed by a blessing and then we close the class.
Since I’ve been practicing and teaching Kundalini Yoga I’ve felt much more connected to myself and my own creativity and I’ve become much more accepting of myself and others. The practices have helped me tap into amazing amounts of energy of self-love. Plus going back to defining the word yoga as to “yoke”, think about it: what exactly are you yoking the mind, body and spirit or the self with the higher self to in a yoga class?
Are the participants of a yoga class self-contained satellites orbiting within themselves? Or are they tapping into the interconnected nature, spirit or higher consciousness of the universe? Is that why yoga feels so calming and so good?
Kundalini Yoga is very open about tapping into the flow of the universe. About connecting to the generating, organizing and destroying energy of all things. About feeling your creative force as a continuation of the flow of creativity of the whole universe. About connecting to spirit.
So why not come and give it a try? If you have any questions just ask. I’ll be happy to explain it all. I teach at Mandala Moon Yoga in Marcellus, NY, near Syracuse, at 6:00pm on Tuesday nights. If you are unable to come to my class don’t hesitate to still get in touch. I’d be happy to put you in touch with other Kundalini Yoga classes and teachers in your area.
Peace and light,
Liv Avtar Kaur