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Snake charmed

December 10, 2009

I debated over whether I should even post about Kundalini without frequent visitation and research.  After I took my first class last week I was confounded by the drastic differences  from other yogas I  had experienced.

After a few days to simmer on my experience, I decided to start piecing together the puzzle that was Kundalini yoga. First stop, the internets. Have you heard of it? It’s great for such things as face-stalking or research since the death of libraries. Oops, did I pronounce that too soon?

On the surface there was nothing terribly confusing about Kundalini Yoga East as it sells itself as a yoga and meditation center. Something to which I am certainly no stranger at this point. While I was locked out of the studio with some fellow practitioners I was made aware of the very different method of yoga I was about to take part in.

With Kundalini Yoga there are 6 things you can expect with each class: 1) Adi Mantra, 2) Pranayam (warm up), 3) Kriya (warning: not asanas), 4) relaxation (much needed), 5) meditation, and 6) closing blessing (a catchy little song). I wish that someone had enlightened me on the format of class, but alas, I’m not sure it would have clarified much for me as the class can take on any one of some 1000 different variations as taught by Yogi Bhajan.

Yogi Bhajan, like most Gurus, came to the US in the 1960s and established the Kundalini Research Institute in New Mexico in 1971.  Although this form of yoga is in the “Raj” or “classic” tradition, to me it seemed anything but as I’ve done mostly hatha/vinyasa classes that are asana based. The “kriya” or the main body of the class to me was just bizarre but very very interesting. Instead of a series of postures (flowing or no) there was a series of sets in various durations of movements that ranged from 11 minutes of leg lifts to 2 minutes of kicking our own buts and chanting in a shoulder stand. I think I’ll have to research the true purpose and philosophy behind asanas now, because out of curiosity I searched “kriya” and found it to be “spontaneous movements resulting in the awakening of Kundalini energy.” At which point I then needed to look up “Kundalini energy”and found that to be “an unconscious, instinctive or libidinal force or Shakti envisioned as…a sleeping serpent at the base of the spine.” What would I do with out Wikipedia?

The “kriya” is the longest portion of class, or if it is not it certainly seems that way. There were many mantras being chanted, but on my first night of Kundalini I had made up my own. It went something like this: you have got to be KIDDING me.  I must add the disclaimer that I was pleased, enchanted and drawn into this practice…but 11 minutes of leg lifts?  I’m not sure I’ll ever recover. My hip flexors and abdomen are currently duking it out for most pained part of my body…oh wait…that was until I took the “double chaturanga class” today and now my arms are vying for the title.

According to Vinnie, the darling teacher that I was lucky to have, no classes are ever exactly the same…and most classes are not as strenuous as his. I’m absolutely fascinated by this aspect of Kundalini yoga. The fact that I could leave a class feeling like I was just steam rolled, or participated in an a WWE match one day and walk out floating on clouds and glittering with pixie dust the next day is intriguing.

Alright Kundalini, you’ve got me. I’ll bite. What’s next?

 [Image via: Muslimbidayuh]

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