What I learned in my first Kundalini yoga class

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  • I usually spend my Saturday mornings sweating it out at a vinyasa class. It’s very physical with pumping music and forearm planks. I love it!

But after a tiring week, I recently decided to try something different and take a Kundalini workshop. I had touched on this practice before and knew that there was some chanting involved.

I admit. I do love a bit of chanting.

When I walked into the room, the first thing I noticed was the teacher dressed in a white gown and a turban. Most of the class wore the same outfits and sat on white sheepskin mats.

It was a yogi culture shift and initially I felt a little out of place with my red leggings. But to clear things up for Kundalini newbies like me, the teacher explained that turbans aren’t mandatory to practice Kundalini.

I learned that some Kundalini yogis cover the head to control the sixth chakra, the Ajna Chakra. They are believed to hold the energy in and help meditation.

Wearing white is said to expand this chakra, as white is made up of all colours on the spectrum. As for the sheepskin mats, I still don’t know what the story is with that one…

Kundalini yoga is based around a series of kriyas – a combination of postures, breath and mantras that move the energy in the body. Each kriya has a different effect on parts of the body, the mind and the spirit and together they contribute to awakening the whole being.

I'm sure it's actually much more complicated, but as I said, it's pretty new to me…

I’ve been working kriyas into my classes warm ups ever since, as I really appreciate the impact they have on stoking the energetic body and on targeting specific areas, at a physical and deeper level. And I have been delving a bit deeper into them during my senior yoga teacher training with Frog Lotus.

Kriyas aren’t as dynamic as flows in a vinyasa class and there are no sun salutations, but they certainly send the energy buzzing around, as I was about to experience.

A bit of imagination is needed to visualise the next bit….We started sitting, eyes closed, with one leg tucked under and the corresponding arm raised in the air in a tight fist, as if holding onto a bar on a train, while taking slow deep breaths concentrating first on the left nostril, the ida nadi, or moon energy channel and then switching our awareness to the right nostril, the pingala nadi or sun energy channel, while working with our bandhas.

From here, we went through two hours of seemingly gentle poses, but combined with pumping ‘breath of fire' breathing and repetitions of squats and leg raises between 21 and 42 times, my energy was whizzing around.

Some poses were coupled with traditional chants such as ‘Sat Nam’, which can mean ‘truth is my identity’. Others employed mudras such as sahaj shankh mudra, where the hands are clasped with thumbs aligned.

The best was yet to come. We lay down on the floor tucked under blankets for a one hour savasana…yes, one hour…while the teacher played the gong, sending deep vibrations around the room. Then she sang and jangled chimes around the room…it was magical.

The class ended with the chant, Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung, a healing mantra that can mean ‘Sun, Moon, Earth, Infinity: All that is in infinity, I am Thee'.

By that point I loved my yogi culture shift and stopped wondering about the sheepskin mats.