My Experience with Kundalini Yoga
During my final semester at college I decided to sign up for a Kundalini Yoga class. I always wanted to take a yoga class, but never had the opportunity. I picked Kundalini Yoga since it fit in my schedule. I knew going in it was a mostly mental/meditative form of yoga compared to the other kinds of yoga as my boyfriend took it the previous year. For those who were curious about Kundalini yoga, here's my experience with it.
What is Kundalini Yoga?
If you already know what Kundalini Yoga is, feel free to skip this part.
Kundalini Yoga is the Yoga of awareness. It makes you more aware of your physical and mental bodies. This is done through chanting mantras, pranayama, meditation, and yoga asanas.
If you believe in such things, the Kundalini is said to be a life force that is coiled at the base of the spine like a snake. Kundalini yoga can awaken it. Your energy body (again, if you believe in such things) consists of energy channels known as nadis, which are small tubes that move energy. There are seven pools of energy known as chakras that exist at the base of the spine, the genitals, just below the navel, the center of the chest, the back of the throat, the center of the forehead, and the top of the head. The central nadi, the sushumna, connects all the chakras together. When the Kundalini awakens, it travels up the sushumna to the top of the head.
So basically Kundalini yoga prepares your body for a Kundalini awakening.
The standard class
The class was once a week for 15 weeks for about an hour and twenty minutes. There were about 30 or so students that entered the college's dance studio. We all signed in, took off our shoes (bare feet required), grabbed mats, and picked a spot on the floor. I being the tall guy was always in the back. The class composed of mostly girls, but there were 6 guys counting myself. If I recall correctly, the instructor was a Sikh. She wore a turban and was dressed in all white. She was awesome, and had a good sense of humor.
The class would always start by us "generating energy" by rubbing our hands together, and then chanting. One thing about Kundalini Yoga is there is a lot of chanting. Being a bunch of "cool" college students, it seemed like many students didn't want to chant or were shy about it (myself included); especially at the start of the semester. As the semester went on, the shyness went away.
We'd then do an energy reading to see how our "internal" energy was flowing. After, we usually did a warm up, which involved some stretching while standing up. After the warm up, we'd do another energy reading and compare it to our initial one.
Next usually involved some kind of breathing exercise known as pranayama. The most common exercise was the breath of fire, where we would inhale and exhale quickly, but evenly (think of a dog panting, but through the nose, not the mouth). Other pranayama included alternating nostril breathing, where we would inhale through one nostril and exhale out the other; and the 10 second breath, where our inhales and exhales were 10 seconds long.
Then we did a Kriya. Kriya in Sanskrit means "action, deed or effort", which is supposed to achieve a specific result. Mostly, these were physical yoga asana exercises. Every week was different. One week focused on preparing the body for meditation, another week was core work, and another week was for healing the body. Compared to other types of yoga classes, this Kundalini yoga class was much more tame in the asana department. The were no headstands, inversions, or legs behind the head. It wasn't terribly difficult (minus core week, that was tough). Some of the poses we did were archer, boat, cobra, rock pose, and easy pose. There were also days where we would slap the floor and clap our hands while chanting "har". To be honest, it looked absolutely ridiculous, but it was a lot of fun.
After the kriya, we would lie on our backs in corpse pose for about 10-15 minutes, and then we'd do a meditation. Like the kriya this also varied every week. Some weeks was meditating in silence, while others involved chanting and moving the hands in a certain way.
After, we'd do one last stretch and ground ourselves. Grounding was done by pounding our hands and feet on the floor. Lastly, we would sing one more chant before putting our shoes on and leaving.
And that was my Kundalini yoga class in a nutshell.
Kundalini Yoga is the yoga of awareness. If you are looking for an epic workout where you sweat and are out of breath at the end, this is probably not the yoga you want. In the 15 weeks, there was perhaps only two classes that were really taxing physically.
Meanwhile, if you want a meditative experience that gets you more in tune with your body, this is the experience for you. Even if you don't buy into the whole chakra thing (I'm skeptical myself), its still a good way to destroy stress and become more in tune with yourself. This class made my stress levels zero when I left it. I felt extremely calm for hours after I left the class. My instructor told us the theory behind chakras and what not, but didn't force us to believe it, or expected us to.
Although you probably won't get a six pack doing Kundalini Yoga, you will learn more about your physical and mental body. I recommend all meditation enthusiasts at least give it a shot.