Kundalini Yoga: A love letter
Updated: Jan 4, 2019
It’s 5 am on a Sunday morning in the middle of January. I, along with 40 other Kundalini Yoga teacher trainees are sat, spines straight, eyes closed, waiting in silence for the recitation of Japji to begin. This morning we find ourselves in the cavernous converted barn, usually reserved for weddings, instead of the Elizabethan manor house we normally live and practice in because there are too many of us to fit. The sub zero temperature outside means it’s not much warmer inside; the barn is not insulated. We can just about see our breath in the low light of the huge space. My thin mat is proving poor protection from the freezing cold floor and I find myself wishing I had a sheep skin like some of my friends’. But then Japji begins and I get lost in the lyrical rhythm of the words. This is how the Aquarian Sadhana begins. After Japji, we tune in with the Adi mantra and then launch into the kriya for the morning’s practice. By this time, I am very grateful for the opportunity to move. Heat begins to spread throughout my body as the stiffness from Saturday’s yoga and the cold begins to ease. After the yoga set, we relax in savasana for a few minutes – just long enough for the cold to seep back in but I don’t mind because my favourite part of sadhana is about to begin: long morning calls. We chant the mantra seven times in seven minutes and even though I have hardly moved in that time, the cosy feeling in my body and the space around has become like warm honey. Now we move our mats, blankets and sheep skins closer to the front of the room where my teacher, Benjahmin,is setting up his harmonium and guitar. He begins to play the first of the six mantras that make up the playlist for the Aquarian Sadhana. I think, this one is my favourite, but then I find myself thinking that about the next one and the next – you get the idea! The penultimate mantra is my favourite. As we move into virasana (hero pose) I reaffirm to myself, this time I will remain in the posture (sitting on my left foot with my hands in prayer) for the whole 22 minutes. Benjahmin plays the opening cords and my heart melts as the weight of whatever I am about to shed from my being thaws, ready for release. I begin to sing and cry. As the music builds so does this indescribable feeling in my heart, like all the love and all the pain that exists is exploding in waves of ever increasing mass and energy, crashing into every cell and every thought and every breath. Half way through I have stopped singing to allow the intensity of the experience to be experienced. The boundaries of my physical self have disappeared as I merge with the space and the other souls around me and the sound of the naad. All thought has stopped. I am no longer perceiving in the language of words but in pure feeling only.
And now comes the awareness that has been lurking at the edge of my consciousness since I came to the mat two hours ago. I know something new, not with my mind – it’s not a thought so much as a sensation firmly lodged into my being: there is no suffering without purpose. My mind wakes up, pulling me back into thought. It begins to question the veracity of this new knowing, failing to reconcile it with reality. And now my mind gives up in the aftermath of overwhelm, as I sink once again into feeling. What this knowing actually means (to me) is the topic for a separate blog and is a knowing that continues to unfold daily. It’s been one thousand two hundred and seventy two days since that day and the absolute certainty that this knowing is true is still as strong now as on that morning three and a half years ago. It is as if, in that moment, an entirely new operating system was downloaded to my consciousness, changing the way I would experience the world for ever after.
What is Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan?
A quick Google search will tell you the following:
It is the yoga of awareness
It prepares the body to release Kundalini energy, life-force energy, coiled at the base of the spine. This energy travels up the primary energy channels, merging with the crown chakra and brining the temporal finite essence of self into union with the infinite eternal essence of the cosmos
It incorporates pranayama (breathing practices), kriya (yoga sets comprised of static postures and dynamic exercise), meditation and mantra (chanting)
It is not a religious practice, however, does incorporate elements and teachings from the Sikh and other major religions
It prepares the practitioner for the challenges of the Aquarian Age (which began in 2012) by toning the nervous system and rebalancing the glandular system
It embraces seva, selfless service, as one of the highest forms of yoga
What is Kundalini Yoga to me? It is the above-list and so, so much more. To me, Kundalini Yoga is the yoga of opportunity. It is an invitation to know yourself – the light and the shadow – in equal measure. It is an opportunity to be healed and liberated from the unintegrated trauma we all carry with us. Unlike some other modern day spiritual paths or self help programs, it does not promise that freedom will be challenge-free. I believe this is why Kundalini yoga is still a fairly niche path – it pokes and provokes as much as it elevates!
Above all, Kundalini yoga is the yoga of connection. Connection to the truths of the universe, to all life on earth, our communities, our families and last but certainly not least, to ourselves. My teacher Guru Dharam once said, Kundalini Yoga is a blueprint for an experience of you but how you manifest that experience is entirely down to each individual. Embrace this challenging and unique path with commitment and heart and the prize will being knowing yourself in this lifetime. And when you truly know yourself? Well, the possibilities are endless!