Updated: Aug 25, 2020
It's best to start with the answer to an even simpler question; what is yoga? In the west, yoga has become somewhat typified as lycra-clad Lululemon wearers balancing acrobatically in tropical destinations, telling the rest of us to #liveyourbestlife. I think positivity is a great thing, though I do wonder how many of these posts inspire, and how many scare people off yoga altogether.
It's wonderful to celebrate what our bodies can do, but also to remember that in yogic texts, the physical body makes up only ten percent of the totality of a human being. The rest is called the subtle body, or the energetic aspects of our makeup. In the image above, you can see the coloured lights or chakras, localised centres of energy that are found at key points along our spinal column and our cranium. These are often key points that the physical systems of the body meet, for example our endocrine system, which starts with our pituitary gland in the base of our brain (the purple light or crown chakra) and ends in our sacrum; (the red light in the image or root chakra.)
Yoga means UNION. The union of physical body, energetic body, mind and spirit. It is based upon a non-dualistic cosmology, which means the mind and the body are one. This is at odds with how the western world has perceived the mind and body since the French philosopher Descartes first claimed 'Cogito, ergo Sum.' (I think, therefore I am.)
The practice of yoga is designed to remind us of the inherent synchronicity between our mind-bodies and our spirit with the universe, and to help us become more conscious or aware of the subtler aspects of our existence. It raises our consciousness, which essentially means we can start to become aware of the patterns we have become entrenched within over time, and work to change them if they are no longer serving us.
Kundalini yoga is designed to do the same, except it is like taking the bullet train for your journey, instead of the tram. For this reason it has been irreverently called 'the Ferrari of yoga.' Though the technology is thought to be 40,000 years old, It is a lesser-known style of yoga because for many years it was kept a secret in India, practiced only by Brahmin (upper- castes) and royalty, until the first of the Sikh Gurus, Guru Nanak, decided to give the technology back to the people and encourage ordinary householders to participate in this style of yoga.
Kundalini utilises asanas or postures in sequence called kriyas, breathing techniques or pranayama, mudras (hand postures) dristis (points of focus for the eyes) and mantras (repeated affirmations) to revitalise the systems of the body, to allow us to nourish our bodies and let go of anything we don't need, and to become more aware of our innate capacity to heal our bodies. This is only the beginning of the benefits of regularly practicing kundalini yoga.
Despite its quirks, it has captured my attention, because as a long time practitioner of yoga, changing to this style was a powerful experience for me. Right from the beginning, I was able to feel energy, see colours, feel pressure and temperature changes in my body. I have also felt euphoric and blissful, an experience echoed by other practitioners I have spoken with. In my daily life I feel more alive, more filled with vitality and sensitivity to energy, and more able to tackle the challenges of everyday life with grace.
This is why I became a teacher of the practice. Kundalini is the technology to help us all in this age, the Aquarian age. We could all use more inner strength and resources to draw from, and this is where I find mine. Don't take my word for it, come and experience it for yourselves!