There’s a reason why Kundalini Yoga is referred to as the Yoga of Awareness. But what is Kundalini Yoga? This practice channels energies of the body and mind to exercise, expand and awaken the soul through the conscious use of breath, movement, static and fluid postures, eye focus, mantra and sound. Although it is considered an intense practice, don’t expect a Vinyasa flow or sweat session. This type of yoga features repetitive movements, performed in a specific order, a certain length and number of times. With a heavy focus on meditation and mindfulness, you can also expect periods of reflection in between poses. Chanting, singing and mantras also make up a significant part of this method to bring trapped energy up through the 7 chakras ultimately out of the crown. Beyond a spiritual release, the various pillars of yoga infused in this practice work to balance and strengthen the nervous and glandular systems, increase lung capacity, and purify blood.
An ancient practice, Kundalini yoga was held sacred for thousands of years and finally introduced to the western world in the 70s. Specialized sequences exist, some developed to target and treat specific energy blockages and can vary on degree of intensity. Kundalini is a universal mental and physical activity that expands beyond the yoga realm. It can serve as a successful coping mechanism during stressful or transitional periods for anyone without a traditional yoga background facing the ongoing challenges of life from the workplace to the home.
With it being a relatively structured and spiritually stimulating style of yoga, we are only scratching the surface here. It's best to turn to your local yoga studio or trusted online platform for a more comprehensive guide.
What to Expect
Prepare by silencing all distractions, wear loose clothing and have some water nearby. Consider keeping a blanket nearby for cover during meditation or relaxation. Anyone with pre-existing conditions should consult with their physician prior to starting a new exercise program.
In general, a session generally starts with chanting a mantra in order to tune in or connect to the power of the practice. There are many existing mantras to choose from, common ones include Adi Mantra “I bow to the subtle divine wisdom” or Sat Nam “I am truth”. Followed by a warm up with light rotational movements to stimulate the spine and pelvic floor. Next, dial up the intensity with a series of postures paired with breathing techniques referred to as Kriyas. These can be personalized to a certain part of the body for example warrior poses for the legs/glutes or cobra and twists for more spine work. Between each pose, a minute or two is reserved to focus inward. The choice of breathwork can also be tailored such as the Breath of Fire for more core engagement. To learn more about it and other styles, check out one of our past blog posts covering breathwork. After the set of Kriyas, it's time for relaxation and meditation then a final mantra. Close the practice with singing and possibly more chanting.
Reasons and Health Benefits
Holding long poses builds strength in the muscles and even intense breathing exercises like Breath of Fire engages the core.
Deep breathing or long slow breaths have been known to lower blood pressure and pulse rates thus reducing symptoms of hypertension.
Pairing breath and movement on a regular basis improves cognitive functioning, boosts concentration, focus and memory retention.
Exercising the core and diaphragm through breathwork and postures in turn improves metabolism and digestion.
Special sequences can boost your mood, mental clarity, and put you in a blissful state by increasing levels of serotonin (the happy hormone).
On the flipside, other sequences can be triggering. They are meant to slay the ego by revealing areas where growth or change is needed. Pushing your buttons to bring you to a higher state of awareness through personal transformation.
During and After your Practice
Drink lots of water and pay attention to your mental, emotional and physical states. Listen to your body and only do what works for you. Consider incorporating what you experienced during your session into daily life and thanks for learning about what Kundalini Yoga is.