Meditation (Photo credit: Gurumustuk Singh)
There’s a reason Kundalini yogis don’t usually go the easy route and just say “I practice or teach yoga”. I mean, I’m sure some of us do from time to time, especially when tired, but when we’re on we know we absolutely have to tell the whole truth and that is that we practice Kundalini Yoga.
Modern ideas of yoga can be very limited when Kundalini yoga is so diverse and different from what many yoga practitioners experience in their gyms, community centers and Yoga centers. From what I’ve seen Kundalini yoga is usually practiced in more spiritually minded centers and in studios owned by Kundalini yogis themselves.
Of course it is also practiced in schools, prisons, hospitals, in homes and parks. You can even occasionally find Kundalini yoga in a gym or yoga studio that offers different types of yoga. But I really want to explain what sets Kundalini Yoga apart.
My daughter was an accomplished yoga teacher before she was 2 years old. She led a room full of adult yogis on a regular basis…she knows her Kundalini. So today when she was showing some impromptu yoga to my teenaged cousin my cousin doubted that what she was doing was actually yoga. “I thought yoga was quiet”. My cousin said. “Not our kinda yoga.” I responded. But I don’t know if she understood that I wasn’t talking about my daughters personal brand of spontaneous yoga or a strong lineage of the Kundalini Yoga community.
Another time she saw my daughter doing self-professed yoga and responded “that’s not yoga, it’s just running around.” I explained to her that sometimes in Kundalini Yoga we run around in circles. Later she saw my youngest daughter doing breath of fire and questioned, “what are you doing? Oh, you’re doing yoga?” She’s starting to get it. I taught my cousin a KYoga class once, but it was just a beginner’s Spinal Kriya.
So what exactly is Kundalini Yoga and what sets it apart from other types of yoga? Well Kundalini Yoga is not the only type of yoga that is mind, body dynamic, but in my experience it is the only one that works as fast as it does. Kundalini Yoga is breath-centric. We don’t just breathe deeply…we breathe in completely, extending the breath and do the same with exhales. We focus our breath on our mudras, or internally, we use only nostril breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and different techniques of using the tongue to manipulate our breath. Most well-known is breath of fire. A type of pranayama that has been insultingly described as hyperventilating, but actually expands the breath capacity and is focused in the belly, rather than the chest, it feels freeing rather than restricting.
There are so many aspects to Kundalini Yoga that I cannot write in just one blog post. But most important to the practice is breath of fire. You could practice breath of fire in bed, in the car, while walking, while dancing, in the shower, or you could sit down, with legs crossed for 11 minutes everyday to practice it and you will get joyful results. If you start with the breath it will take you places and that is where I will end this first introduction to Kundalini Yoga. I will return with the other aspects shortly.