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The Yoga You May Not Have Heard Of (And Why You'll Want to Try It)
When most people think of yoga, they think of the flowing Vinyasa style yoga or the sequence of standing and seated yoga postures typically used in Hatha yoga. Few people have heard of Kundalini yoga and even fewer are aware of what it entails. In this article, we take a look at what Kundalini yoga is, how it’s different from other styles of yoga, and what to expect in a Kundalini yoga class.
Kundalini yoga is one of the most powerful and potent styles of yoga for awakening your awareness, tapping into your intuition and expanding your consciousness. Known as “the yoga of experience,” Kundalini yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, is truly something you must experience for yourself. The style of yoga is about direct, personal awareness and experience. Using rhythm, movement, breath, and sound, the practice effectively stimulates and shifts your energy—something you can actually feel in your body. That energy is your essence. The science of Kundalini yoga was developed to give you a direct experience of your soul, connecting you to your highest consciousness.
The Core of Kundalini Yoga: Kriyas
The class itself is multi-dimensional, involving yogic exercises (known as kriyas), breathing techniques, meditations, hand gestures (mudras), and chanting. Kundalini yoga kriyas are coordinated movements, breathing patterns and poses designed to create a specific energetic effect. Every exercise is scientifically structured and intended to have a predictable physiological, energetic, and/or psycho-spiritual outcome. There are hundreds of prescribed sets as given by Yogi Bhajan: kriyas to improve your immune system; increase your metabolism; detox your liver; and to calm your mind, as well as sequences for good fortune; working; mastering your mood; and so forth. Guided by the teacher, who will often not only explain how to perform a particular action but also the effects of the kriya, you will either hold one position while practicing a particular, often rapid, breathing technique or move rhythmically in a pose for a certain length of time given by the teacher (usually three, eleven, or twenty-two minutes).
Emphasis on the Inner Experience
Very dynamic, the practice alternates between active exercises and periods of relaxation, during which you’ll be guided to pay attention to any internal sensations taking place. Well beyond mere physical exercise, the method is designed to work on the subtle body to bring about profound energetic effects aimed at elevating consciousness and promoting feelings of connection and peace. Less concerned with how it looks, Kundalini yoga emphasizes what it does and “experiencing is believing.”
The periods of relaxation between exercises, consolidates the effects of a kriya, allowing the biochemical, physiological, and energetic changes that are occurring to integrate within your body and psyche. You will most likely feel the general buzz of energy stirred up by the actions of the kriya. Over time, as you develop more mental focus, you will become more sensitive to the subtler sensations of energy, i.e. its qualities, how it moves, where it’s blocked, etc. It’s important to allow whatever sensations, emotions or thoughts arise free of judgment.
Every Kundalini yoga class begins by chanting the tuning-in Adi Mantra (Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo, “I bow to the creative wisdom, I bow to the divine teacher within”). The mantra is designed to tune you into the frequency of your highest spiritual consciousness, putting you in touch with your inner wisdom or teacher, as well as connecting you to the link of Kundalini yoga masters, known as the Golden Chain. Chanting mantras, creating an energetic vibrational frequency, is a large part of the Kundalini yoga experience and can be quite powerful.
Dynamic, fun and spiritual, it is a pretty magical experience, taking you on an inward journey so that you can connect with yourself on a deeper level. Also known as the yoga of awareness, the practice of Kundalini yoga and meditation you begin to cultivate greater awareness of yourself on all levels of your being, including your inner resources and gifts so that you can discover the “sacred purpose in your life” and fulfill your highest potential.
Meagan McCrary is an experienced yoga teacher (500 ERYT) and writer with a passion for helping people find more comfort, clarity, compassion and joy on the mat and in their lives. She is the author of Pick Your Yoga Practice: Exploring and Understanding Different Styles of Yoga a comprehensive encyclopedia of prominent yoga styles, including each system’s teaching methodology, elements of practice, philosophical and spiritual underpinnings, class structure, physical exertion and personal attention. Currently living in Los Angeles, Meagan teaches at the various Equinox Sports Clubs, works privately with clients and leads retreats internationally. You can find her blog, teaching schedule and latest offerings at www.MeaganMcCrary.com, as well as on Facebook.