“Kundalini Yoga teaches you the techniques and awareness to say healthy. You gain strong immune, glandular and nervous systems. This foundation gives you energy and lets you deal with the mental and spiritual facets of your life.’ —Yogi Bhajan
Kundalini Yoga, also called the ‘Yoga of Awareness’, consists of simple yogic techniques that can be practiced by everyone. Positive effects can often be noticed right away. It keeps the body in shape and trains the mind to be strong and flexible in the face of stress and change. Oxygen capacity is increased along with blood flow to the glands, resulting in heightened awareness and vitality. Through breathing techniques and meditation, peace of mind can be obtained.
In the Beginning
As a beginning student, participate at a pace that suits your flexibility and endurance. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. It is best to have bare feet to help stimulate the approximately 72,000 nerve endings in your feet.
Each Kundalini Yoga class begins with “tuning in” with the mantra Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.
This mantra means “I bow to the universal wisdom, I bow to the wisdom within.” “Tuning in” calms the mind to be open to guidance, and calls on the Masters of Kundalini Yoga through the ages for protection and guidance during the yoga practice.
Before you “tune in,” notice your state of mind and being. You can increase your self-awareness for observing effects you may experience from your Kundalini Yoga class by checking in with your breath, how your body feels and what you are thinking. It is possible to notice changes in your thoughts and in the way your body feels with just one Kundalini Yoga exercise.
Prana means life force or breath, yam is that which controls it. When you control your breath you control your life – like using the phrase “slow down and take a deep breath” to calm someone. Our lungs are one of our largest bodily organs, but most people use only 1/10th of their lung capacity. During class, unless told otherwise, all breathing is done in and out through the nose. This stimulates the meridian points in the nasal cavity, filters the air and warms and humidifies it. Breath is central to the effects from Kundalini Yoga.
There are two basic breaths to learn in the beginning. Long deep breathing is your natural breathing mechanism. Inhale first by relaxing the belly outward, then filling the rib cage, finally filling the upper chest as the shoulders relax and drop back slightly. To exhale begin from the top, empty the chest, and then pull in the navel towards the spine to press out the last amount of breath. Long Deep Breathing builds endurance and patience.
Breath of Fire is a balanced rapid breath pattern that cleanses the blood and releases old toxins from the lungs, mucous lining, blood vessels and cells. It is an energizing breath that helps to expand lung capacity and boost energy. Breath of Fire is a quick breath, equal on the inhale and exhale, powered from the navel point and solar plexus. The chest stays lifted and still, the movement is from the diaphragm muscle, and it sounds like “sniffing”.
Mudra means hand position or ‘seal’. The ancient yogis knew that different areas of the hand were associated with parts of the body or brain. Each area of the hand also represents different emotions or behaviors. By bending, crossing, stretching or touching the fingers or finger tips in specific configurations you are communicating with the body and mind.
Asana means yoga posture. Kundalini Yoga is known as the yoga of angles and triangles. The use of angles in Kundalini Yoga postures, in combination with pranayama, mantras, and mudras, is one of main reasons that Kundalini Yoga works as quickly as it does. The angles put pressure on the glands to secrete. When a posture is released and the body is held still, the glandular secretions that have been stimulated have an opportunity to circulate freely. The result is a balanced glandular system that has a definite effect on your emotional stability through the chemistry of your body.
Mantras are sounds or words that control the mind and are used during the class. Man means mind. Tra is the wave or movement of the mind. Mantra is a wave, a repetition of sound and rhythm that directs or controls the mind. When you recite a mantra you have impact through its meaning, through its pattern of energy, through its rhythm, through its naad – its energetic shape in time, and through the meridian points it pressurizes in the mouth. When recited correctly, a mantra will activate areas of the nervous system and brain and allow you to shift your state and the perceptual vision or energetic ability associated with it.
Every Kundalini Yoga class finishes with the song “Long Time Sun.” No matter where in the world you take a Kundalini Yoga class as taught by Yogi Bhajan you will hear this song. This song of blessing helps to ground you, integrate the benefits of the yoga and prepare you to resume the activities of everyday life.
May the long time sun shine upon you, All love surround you, And the pure light within you, Guide your way on. Sat Nam.
Devinder Kaur is a certified Hatha and Kundalini Yoga Teacher and is the Owner and Director of PranaShanti