my first kundalini yoga experience
I have long been interested in kundalini yoga. In teacher training, we have done some kundalini meditations as taught by Osho, but this is not the same as the esoteric style of yoga called kundalini.
In a nutshell, kundalini yoga is a system of physical and mental techniques designed to elevate individual consciousness to recognize our oneness with all that is. Methods employed to do this are kriyas (physical “sets” systemically designed for specific aims, from releasing anger to stimulating sexual energy to developing intuition), chants (all kundalinis chant), meditation, and pranayama (control of prana, or life force, through the breath).
The class was led by Rainer Perry, who has been teaching a donation based kundalini class at Reflections Yoga on Saturdays for several months. But since I’m in teacher training all weekend, I haven’t had the chance to try it out. So when I saw the studio had added a new Tuseday 6pm class with Rainer, I jumped to try it.
The class started with the “tuning in” mantra (chant) that Rainer said is how all kundalini classes begin. We then moved in to some hip circles, “pelvic drops” (literally raising your pelvis off the floor a few inches then dropping it down, to release stagnant energy in the lower chakras), and some heart-opening arm flaps (open your arms wide and press forward from the heart on inhale, exhale strongly through the nose as you pump your arms down towards the midline of the body). In no short time, I was sweating like a beast. Between the breathing and the strange, uncustomary body movements, it was a physically challenging practice but nothing like traditional asana practice. We didn’t stand on our feet even once (all kriyas were done either sitting or lying down).
After pelvic drops, Rainer said we would now go into a kriya to bring the energy up from the lower chakras. This was some sort of arm pumping movement with a specific mudra (hand posture) for healing. After about 4 minutes of this kriya (all kriyas are timed), we were allowed to rest in savasana, and I absolutely did feel the energy circulating in my 3rd (solar plexus, seat of personal power, energy, self-acceptance) and 4th (connection between our physical and astral bodies; forgiveness, trust, empathy, compassion, connection) chakras.
We did a few more kriyas, including a very intense one that had us holding our elbows behind our heads and bending from the waist, opening our heart centers as much as possible, then bending down to come as close to the floor as possible, as quickly as our energy would allow, breathing in and out with each movement, for about 4 minutes. This one was tough and I felt my face grimacing and the sweat pouring out. But as the kriya progressed, it did become easier.
Here is the interesting thing about kundalini (I can say this because of my experience of letting go of the physical body in the other kundalini practices we’ve done in teacher training): if you give yourself to it, if you can break through the physical pain-body and the mind’s attachment to the weirdness, pain, or discomfort of what you are doing, you will enter a zone where the breath animates the body and the effort diminishes. It may only be a 5 second period where you are in this fluid state, but that is enough for the body to directly experience a new way of being where breath, not will or mind, is the animating force. Such experiences also re-pattern our nervous systems, which all yoga practice will do.
Our practice ended with a lovely chant of “Wahe guru, wahe jio” which is another common kundalini chant that closes most practices. It means “the ecstasy I feel when I go from dark to light.” I also found out from Rainer that “guru” means one who drives away darkness so that light can enter. “Gu” means “darkness” in Sanskrit and “ru” means the destroyer of that darkness with spiritual light. Then Rainer told us that we may experience heightened sensory perception after these kriyas, which although designed to awaken the sexual and creative energy of the lower chakras, also awaken our senses. He said food may have more flavor, sounds may be more pronounced, and we may feel everything at a deeper level. He also said our sexual energy will be heightened and if we engage in sexual activity within the next 24-48 hours, we will feel it and so will our partners.
Despite talking candidly about sexual energy and the lower chakras in a class of only female participants, Rainer did not come off as creepy or inappropriate at all. His approach to the material, which he is clearly a devotee of, was free of any baggage or agenda. I asked him how he went about choosing sets for each class, as he told us there were hundreds of kundalini kriyas. He said it depended, based on either his intuition or what seemed right for the day, or what day of the week it was (different energy for Mondays than Saturdays, for instance) or what lunar phase we were in. He said it usually worked out that whatever kriyas he would choose would be what his students would need to work on, so he had learned to trust his intuition. He said that six years ago, when he began practicing kundalini, he had no intuition and was blocked from his feelings. Now he says he uses his intuition all the time. He explained this to us as simply knowing without knowing how or why.
I am returning to my intuition which is a gift I abused somewhat when it would be so powerful, I began to ignore it because I did not understand how I could “know” things without proof. Contact with skeptical individuals who would demand that I be more “grounded” and live in “reality” and not be so “emotional,” as well as years of ignoring my feelings and intuitive insights led to the faculty shrinking. But it is returning as I am more conscious of this faculty all human beings have. It was validating to hear Rainer speak about his own experiences in the realm of intuition.
As strange as kundalini is, I know I will be back because I have realized I need these types of practices to keep stripping away the layers that have accumulated through this lifetime and many previous. Kundalini does awaken energy within the body, which may be experienced as pulsing, swirling, warmth, tingling, or light. Once this energy is awakened, if you tune into it, you strengthen your awareness of your inner body, the part of you not connected to mind.
It is this subtle body that is one of the portals to awareness of our interconnectedness. The energy of the inner body is no-thing, yet everything. It is space and emptiness from which anything can arise. To observe it is to relate to yourself in a different way, as an energetic being that is impacted by other energetic beings, collective energy of sentient beings, and collective energy of things and processes. Once the knowledge of our energetic being-ness begins to take root within you, it is impossible to relate to others simply from their outer layer of personality and mind. The inner nature of living beings is the way in which we truly connect at a deep soul level, the thing we all thirst for: connection and merger with something so far beyond what we are in our physical disguises. What we connect with when we connect with our inner body, which allows us to connect to the collective inner space, is nothing less than Source itself, the thing from which all life arises.