I haven’t practised yoga in a few years and have had every intention of returning to the practise that I was once addicted to. So, when I received an invitation to attend a Kundalini yoga session at Sydney Kundalini Yoga Collective, I jumped at the chance.
I had little idea about what happens in a kundalini yoga class. I only knew it had a lot to do with breathing and less to do with the postures which are specific to other forms of yoga. However, I wasn’t prepared for the vast difference between kundalini yoga and the yoga which I had practised in the past.
The first thing we did was sit on the floor in a circle and the teacher asked to think about what we would like to manifest in our lives and what we perceived as the blockages that were preventing us from achieving this manifestation.
I was stumped. What do I want to manifest in my life?
All I could think of was peace. After spending the previous six weeks tending to my husband following a serious bike accident which saw two of those weeks spent in hospital, all I craved was some time to just “be”. I wanted to stop feeling anxious and worried about my husband’s health. I wanted space for myself to just breathe and I longed for a heart and mind that were free of guilt and angst.
Was this what the teacher meant about manifesting? I wasn’t sure.
And what about the blockages? The only blockage I could see was: myself. I was the one who wanted to be super-wife. I was the one who felt guilty when I couldn’t do more to alleviate my husband’s pain or when I went home to sleep in our comfortable bed knowing that the only relief he would get was not found in sleep but in the heavy doses of morphine he was taking.
Listening to other people in the class talk about their own issues/desires/dreams I felt safe to reveal my own thoughts. And it was comforting. I felt like I had known these people my whole life. It felt safe.
We moved onto a meditation which included what Kundalini yoga is most famous for: the breath of fire. And what fire it was!
The breath of fire involves sitting upright and pumping (or pulling) the stomach towards the spine on the exhalation and releasing it out on the inhalation. It’s fast, it’s hard and it produces a LOT of internal heat. As I breathed through the meditation, I was amazed at how hard something as simple as breathing can actually be.
Moving through the meditation and breathing, my mind shifted from feeling the physical sensations of heat and accompanying sweat to suddenly being at peace with myself. Just focusing on breathing meant I had no room in my brain for feelings of guilt and anxiety. There was nothing but me and my breath and for those few minutes I found myself exactly where and how I wanted to be: at peace.
Feeling serene after this meditation, we moved to our kriya. A kriya is a series of postures, breath and sound that work toward a specific outcome. The specific outcome for each person is different and we were encouraged to keep our manifestation desires in mind as we worked through the series.
Who could imagine that simply lying on your back doing very simple exercises while continuing with the breath of fire could be such hard work. I exercise every day and I work hard but this was entirely a new type of exercise for me. My brain couldn’t make the connection between a resting posture (lying down) and the amount of exertion I was experiencing. All I can say is that my stomach muscles got more than they bargained for in that session.
We moved to chanting and this was where I felt a bit uncomfortable. We were encouraged to repeat the words of a chant which might have been in Sanskrit. The chant was accompanied by music that got progressively louder while the teacher chanted louder along with it, encouraging us to do the same.
I stayed reserved for the first minute or so, not daring to participate because … you know… it’s not really my thing. But I eventually loosened up enough to give it a go. I can see how it can be quite hypnotic and appealing and the teacher did make the experience very exciting as the music and chanting built up to a crescendo.
Unlike the breathing however, I couldn’t get into chanting the way I knew others in the class were. For me, the chanting was about saying words I couldn’t pronounce or understand and which held no real meaning for me. So as much as I tried, the chanting did not bring me peace and made me feel awkward and unsure of myself.
Despite this, the kundalini yoga experience came at a perfect time for me. It gave me the opportunity to just “be” and created a sense of peace that I so desperately craved after the tumultuous weeks I had just experienced.
Thanks to Jo from Sydney’s Innerfire Community for the invitation.
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