what is kundalini yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan?
Kundalini Yoga, the Yoga of Awareness, consists of simple yogic techniques that can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter his or her age or physical ability. It is a complete wellbeing system that includes breath (pranayam), yoga postures (asanas), sound, chanting (mantra) and meditation. Yoga is ultimately a spiritual practice that leads to union between our finite and infinite self – knowing who you really are, not just who you think you are.
what are the benefits of kundalini yoga?
- A vital and healthy body – strengthens the nervous system, balances the glandular system (the guardians of health), builds muscles, improves flexibility.
- A balanced mind – through the physical postures, breath control and meditation. Sharpens mental concentration.
- Greater access to your creativity and intuition.
- It makes you radiant, peaceful and strong so that you can meet life’s challenges with grace and poise.
how is it different to hatha yogas (eg iyengar, vinyasa, sivananda etc)?
- There are some postures you would be familiar with if you have done Hatha Yoga, as well as some new ones.
- Kundalini Yoga encompasses and draws from all yogic systems and techniques, not just Hatha Yoga (asana/postures).
- It is said Kundalini Yoga is 25 times more powerful in its effects emotionally and spiritually than any other form of yoga. The knowledge of Kundalini Yoga remained a closely guarded secret until Yogi Bhajan brought it to the West in 1969.
- Kundalini Yoga is more explicitly focussed on tapping into the kundalini energy flowing through the meridians and chakras (kundalini is another name for chi or ki energy). However, all yoga is ultimately about raising kundalini energy i.e. tapping into the energy that powers your body, mind and spirit. You don’t need to know where or what chakras/meridians are to participate or feel the benefits.
- A typical class will start by tuning in with a mantra, a warm up, then a kriya/set of postures done with a specific intended outcome (eg a kriya for de-stressing/balancing adrenal glands), followed by relaxation and a short focussed meditation. The class ends with a short blessing and tuning out with a mantra.
what do I need to bring with me?
A yoga mat, a blanket for relaxation/padding, some water. A limited number of mats can be provided for beginners who don’t own one yet – please book in advance (at no cost).
CAN KUNDALINI YOGA…
Help build my confidence? If you’re a bit shy or find it hard to stand up for yourself or talk in front of groups, Kundalini Yoga can help to give you poise through improved posture, breathing techniques, and meditations specifically for quieting any fearful or self-deprecating thoughts. It helps you feel good about who you really are.
Kundalini Yoga also focusses on building the navel point, both physically strengthening the core muscles in this area, but also connecting this powerful point to our voices, enabling you to speak and be heard, and speak from the heart so that you can connect with people either at work or in your personal life.
Help me manage my stress? The effects of stress on our bodies and minds are extensive – feeling anxious, overwhelmed, premature ageing, low energy/exhaustion, depression, insomnia, poor diet or binge drinking. Stress usually has its source in mental, emotional or physical over-stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenal glands.
Kundalini Yoga helps to relax the body and reduce the impacts of stress hormones by allowing the body to recover more quickly from stress and decreasing long-term damage to it. Kundalini Yoga has specific kriyas for balancing the glands and organs involved in the stress response, and include powerful pranayama/breathing techniques that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to relax and rejuvenate the body, and release your built-in energy supply.
Help me balance my weight? A balanced metabolism is key to balancing weight and Kundalini Yoga contributes to this by stimulating and balancing the glands involved (eg thyroid gland), and by exercising and building muscles, in conjunction with powerful breathing techniques, such as breath of fire, that improve digestion and help to break addictive impulses. The short focussed meditations used in Kundalini Yoga also bring a much greater sense of mindfulness to your life so that you can process emotions (stress, boredom, sadness, anger etc) rather than eating/not eating your way through them, and make better choices for your body and mind.
Help give me energy? Quick fixes like food and drugs actually take away more energy than they provide. Breath, on the other hand, works as an energy store. Huge reserves of energy lie buried in our musculature and glands, ready to be tapped and used – by mastering our own breathing and exercising our bodies.
The nervous system can actually contain and release energy, like a muscle it can be developed, and is directly affected by breath patterns. Your emotions and awareness are sources of energy – directly changing the pattern of your brain chemistry. Good healthy nutrition and conscious eating is also another source of energy and healing. And of course exercise is a great and consistent energy generator. All of these are covered in the practice of Kundalini Yoga.
Help with my posture? A young spine means a young body. So making sure the spine is lengthened and flexed every day is a great way to stay young! Most Kundalini Yoga classes involve warming up the spine as a priority.
All the nerves coming out of the spine communicate with the whole of your body, so each time you twist or flex in yoga, you are also improving the strength of these nerves, and moving the fluid in your spine that feeds these cells and your brain. This also gives you more mental alertness as the brain is bathed in nutrients and oxygen, and waste products are removed.
Help with mood swings? It’s no fun being at the mercy of your hormones. Apart from natural female (and male) cycles, our hormones can get out of balance with stress and poor diet. Kundalini Yoga works with the endocrine system to balance all the hormones in the body that regulate how good we feel, and maintain our health so that we can fight off colds and sickness more easily. Our partners and family are usually happier if we are in a balanced mood too!
Help me access my creativity? Want your brain to be primed for learning, creativity and getting out of old ruts of thinking and feeling? Then a conscious relationship with your mind is what you’re after – rather than being at the mercy of an uncontrolled mind that runs around in circles and drains your energy. The energy is then available for clear thinking and the space to allow inspiration and creativity to flow.
Kundalini Yoga is great for producing profound states of relaxation that access deeper inspiration than that available with our logical mind. Our greatest ideas often appear when we are doing something unrelated, or in the flow of some other activity which tends to quiet the stressed out and over thinking mind.
Help with my memory and mental power? Oh yes. Some very interesting work has been done by a physician and Kundalini Yogi (he’s written two books -The Mind Miracle and Meditation as Medicine – Dr Dharma Singh Khalsa with Cameron Stauth) where a simple Spinal Energy Series plus meditations done regularly and in combination with nutritional therapies have led to amazing recoveries in memory and cognitive functioning. This doctor heads up the Alzheimer’s Prevention Foundation Tuscon and conducts workshops on brain longevity and the use of medical meditations (ie Kundalini Yoga).
Help me change the world and be at peace? Yes. I will let the following quotes answer this (the first by a Chinese sage who wrote the I-Ching Taoist text).
“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself, if you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” Lao Tzu