What is Kundalini Yoga?
(Adapted from www.3h0.org)
Kundalini Yoga was brought to the west in 1969 by Yogi Bhajan. His job was to teach his students to become teachers and take it to everyone. Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is also known as the Yoga of Awareness. Its focus is on self-awareness and delivering an experience of your highest consciousness. The technology of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is a science of the mind and body, to elevate the spirit, which has no boundaries, no discrimination. Therefore it is for everyone: universal and nondenominational.
What to expect in a Kundalini Yoga class
Each class will consist of breath work (Pranayama), a series of warm up exercises, a Kriya (set of predetermined yoga postures), a meditation and relaxation.
Breath work (Pranayama)
Pranayama is a conscious lengthening of inhalation, suspension and exhalation of the breath. Prana is our universal life force, it comes into and out of the body with the breath. Various breath patterns (Pranayama) are used to access prana. Breath patterns (Pranayama) can manipulate the breath in various ways, such as lengthening or shortening inhalations, suspensions and exhalations, as well syncopated breathing (short breaths on inhalations and or exhalations). The effects of Pranayama on the body and mind can be profound, noticeably shifting mood and energy. Pranayama often is combined with mudras (hand positions) as well as mantras to achieve specific results.
Warm up exercises
These gentle exercises prepare the body for the Kriya to come. Warm up exercises generally consist of warming up the spine, stretching the legs, and shoulders.
The word kriya means action. It is an action that leads to a complete manifestation like a seed leads to a bloom, a thought into actuality, a desire to commitment.
In Kundalini Yoga, a kriya is a series of postures, breath, and sound that work toward a specific outcome. Practicing a kriya initiates a sequence of physical and mental changes that affect the body, mind, and spirit simultaneously.
There are kriyas that support the liver, balance the glandular system, make you radiant, stimulate the pituitary, increase the flexibility of the spine, and much more. Each kriya has a different effect, but all work on all levels of your being.
Using the angles and triangles of the postures, fueled by the prana of the breath, re-tuned by the repetition of mantra, and concentrated by eye-focus and body locks, you are physically different at the end of a kriya.
Meditation in Kundalini Yoga contains specific, practical tools that carefully and precisely support the mind and guide the body through the use of breath, mantra, mudra, and focus. The range and variety of meditation techniques in the Kundalini Yoga tradition is truly extraordinary. Yogi Bhajan passed on hundreds of meditations tailored to specific applications. There are meditations that reduce stress, work on addictions, increase vitality, and clear chakras, to name a few. While there exist many, many styles and approaches to meditation, what sets this approach to meditation apart is its precision, effectiveness, and practicality.
Savasana literally means corpse pose. Lying on the back, arms out by the sides palms up, and legs gently apart with feet falling to the outside, the eyes are shut and the breath is long and deep. The entire body is relaxed into the ground, releasing tension in any area of the body.
Savasana decreases heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and general levels of anxiety. It increases energy levels, boosts memory and stimulates the ability to concentrate. It gives you a more easy sleep and brings a general sense of well-being.
Savasana is often called the most important pose in yoga. The practice of yoga informs the body of neuromuscular changes. Savasana, allows the body to rest in order to integrate and accept these changes prior to re-entering back into normal life. This is especially important for the nervous system. In Kundalini yoga in particular, enormous stress is placed on the nervous system in a controlled way in order to strengthen it. If you do not rest and give the nervous system time to integrate these changes, but instead jump straight into normal life activity, your nervous system and your neuromuscular system become too tightly wound and you don’t derive maximum benefit from your practice.
In fact, savasana is considered to be the most difficult of all yoga poses to master, because complete relaxation of body and mind is incredibly difficult to achieve.
Spirituality: A quote from Yogi Bhajan
“Spirituality is facing yourself with a smile when life confronts you. Everyone whether a king or queen, pauper or beggar, lover or deserter, attorney or accused, is going to be challenged in life. One thing you cannot escape is challenge. Whether you challenge the challenge or you give in to the challenge that is what decides your spirituality. Is your spirit higher than the challenge so you can face it? It is simple. If your face and your grace do not give in to the challenge, you are spiritual.”