31 May

What is Kundalini Yoga?

I went on retreat about a week ago, the last step in my 200-hour Kundalini Research Institute Level 1 Certification program (sheesh, that’s a mouthful!), which means I am just about as “official” as a yoga teacher can be.  It has been sort of a long road, this training, and I haven’t said much about it here because I never seem to feel like I’ve processed it enough to render a judgment.  And, you know, there’s that whole non-judgment thing.  I will share more at some point – some of the stories are too good not to share – but today, I’m thinking about what to say when people ask me about Kundalini Yoga.  This always feels like kind of a tricky question, and one that I’m getting a lot more frequently these days.  There isn’t a short answer.

In the end, I think the best explanation comes through experience, but not everyone who asks can be talked into going to a class with me (and I even have free class passes!).  So in the meantime, I’ll share this quote from one of Yogi Bhajan’s first lectures in the United States, which came to me today in the Yoga Yoga newsletter:

Kundalini Yoga: An Adventure in Consciousness

Many do not understand the concept of yoga. Some think it is a religion. Some think it is physical exercise for health and some think it is a psychological system. All this is based on a misunderstanding of yoga. Yoga is simply a relationship. The word yoga comes from the biblical word, yoke, which in turn originated from the root word in Sanskrit, jugit. Both mean “joining together” or “to unite”. Yoga is the union of an individual consciousness with infinite consciousness. A yogi is a person who leans completely on the Supreme Consciousness, God, until they have merged their individual self with the Infinite Self. This is all.

Yoga is a technology that expands one’s awareness. It begins with the reality that every human mind has both Infinite and Creative potential. However, this unlimited potential can be limited according to one’s level of awareness. Awareness varies and gives one a variety of choices. To break the unconscious limits one needs a technology. That technology must expand the caliber and capacity of the mind to establish equilibrium to control the physical structure and experience the Infinite Self. The techniques of Kundalini Yoga create an owner’s manual for Human Consciousness. It explores your dimensions, depth, nature, and potential as a human. This is all that yoga means.

From The Aquarian Teacher Level 1 Instructor Textbook.

Hm.  Yeah, that’s all.  Don’t worry about yoga – all it is is just your dimensions, your depth, your nature, and your potential as a human.  No big deal.  (You see what I mean?)

09 Feb

Have you ever been to a yoga class?

If you’ve never been to a public yoga class, let me just take this opportunity to encourage you to give it a try.  Just once.  If you hate it, you never have to go back again.  But just this one time, face whatever it is that’s holding you back, and try it.

The thing is, on one level, yoga is a physical activity – sort of a set of dance steps, if you will.  And in that sense, you can certainly learn to do it on your own, with a book or a video.  I learned Hatha yoga from Rodney Yee, and I’ll still pop in that Power Yoga DVD when I’m looking for a good, sweaty workout that I can get through without having to get in the car and go someplace.

The physical part is just one aspect of yoga, though, and a public class allows you to experience some of those deeper levels in a way that’s tough to get at home (especially if you’re trying to interact with a TV or computer screen).  Going to the class in person is not just about having an instructor there who can correct your postures.  They do that in some classes, of course, but the presence of the teacher and the other students in the room – that’s what’s really special about going to a yoga class.  There’s an energy, a connection that happens in that space that’s tough to describe, but you’ll feel it when you’re there.

I know there are a lot of excuses that stand in the way of going.  Heck, the thing that made me sit down and write this tonight is that I finally got myself back to class after some weeks of dwindling motivation.  I’ve been avoiding it: running on the treadmill at home, skipping class in favor of a nap or going out with some friends, not wanting to fight traffic to get over to the studio.  But then, when I go – pretty much every time – I end up feeling SO GOOD.

Don’t be afraid.  A yoga studio is nothing if not a welcoming space.  Go give it a try.

13 Jan

Kundalini Yoga, Part 1

I sat down this morning to write you something about Kundalini Yoga, and boy, was that a mistake.

I’ve wanted to write about it for a long time – wanted to capture some of my experience over time, wanted to share some insight into what it is, maybe make it a bit less intimidating for people who are on the fence about it – but I put it off and put if off.  Why?  Because I’m still figuring it out for myself.  Because I don’t want to screw it up.  Because it’s kinda kooky.

Here’s what I want you to know at the start: (1) it found me (not the other way around), and (2) it’s had an incredibly positive impact on my life.  I started going to Kundalini almost 4 years ago now, when my new Chicago neighbors invited me to come along with them to class.  I’d never been to a yoga class before, but had spent plenty of time with Rodney Yee and his DVDs – it didn’t take much convincing to try out the class.  But if I had wandered in on my own (and how would that have ever happened, I wonder), I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have come back for a second go of it.  For many months in the beginning, I did it mainly because I was building friendships with Rita and Charlotte, and I was so thankful for the invitation to join their circle.

As for the positive impact, well… that’s where this story gets really big and a bit unwieldy for me.  Where do I start?  Simply put, this practice sustains me.  It’s been the primary tool for my personal growth over the past few years.  I don’t mean it like there was this grand transformation (I started doing yoga and then I found the perfect job/house/partner!) – it’s just… well, life just works better.  There’s more… ease.

That’s my start… page 1.  I hope that helps – that it intrigues you, that it makes Kundalini seem just a teeny bit more accessible, less weird.  More to come…

02 Jan

40 Days

I’ve decided to start off the year with two 40-day commitments.  I’ve done this before, with positive results; along with the habit-forming part of it, I’ve found that it’s a good way to mark a new chapter, to set a new foundation for things to come.  This time, I want to get back to a daily yoga practice (I’ve taken a break due to a sore knee and a bit of burn-out, truth be told) and I’d also like to make writing a bigger priority.  So, with that, my 40-day challenge…

1. Daily Sadhana

Okay, not the 2 1/2 hour kind.  I realize I haven’t said much (if anything) about my Kundalini yoga practice on this site, so might as well just jump in with the crazy and let you decide if you’re into it.   The word sadhana refers to a daily spiritual practice.  Many people follow the Aquarian Sadhana, a practice that takes about 2 1/2 hours, and is usually performed at 4:30 in the morning.  You can read more about sadhana here.

I’ll occasionally practice an Aquarian Sadhana, but it’s typically only for special times of the year – I’m just not ready to commit to the whole enchilada.  Here’s what my daily practice looks like:

– Tune in with the Adi Mantra

– 10-minute warm-up series, which includes stretch pose, a counter-pose where I’m rolled into a ball, and ego eradicator

– 11-minute meditation

I’ll often use the 11 minutes for silent meditation, but this time, I wanted to get back to a prescribed meditation.  I settled on the Sodarshan Chakra Kriya.  Here’s the brief description from 3HO: ‘One of the greatest transformational meditations, the most effective way to clear your subconscious garbage.’  Sounds good, right?  I’ll practice that for 11 minutes, and follow it up with 11 minutes of silent meditation.

Wow.  I had a little more to say about that than I thought I would.

2. Write (here, on this blog) every day

Yes, every day for 40 days.  Huh.  I was going to say, “it’ll be like my own NaBloPoMo, without the ‘Na’,” but apparently we’re doing this every month now.  Who knew?  Okay, well, add that to the list of prompts that will help me along here.  Some of it will be great!  Some of it will not be great!  But like I said, I have some help, which also includes:

No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, by Margaret Mason

Prompts from the Dream Lab class I took over a year ago (I was a bit delinquent in that one, and have been meaning to get back to this work)

Mondo Beyondo Dream Generator questions, available when you sign up for the mailing list (Am I a Jen Lemen and Andrea Scher superfan?  Yes, I am.)

Prompts from my coach, Rachel W. Cole

So.  That’s all I need, right?  Oh, and um, time, and commitment, the willingness to be vulnerable, and something to say.  Just that.  I’ll be fine.  Can you tell that this is way harder than the yoga thing for me?  And this is precisely why I’m ready for the 40-day challenge.

Okay… go!