How Kundalini Yoga Works for Our Whole Person
With the Kundalini Intensive starting this week, I thought it might be relevant and interesting for me to share my thoughts and interpretations about the technology of Kundalini yoga, how we practice it and how it can be of great benefit to you, physically, mentally and spiritually. I can attest personally to how beneficial this yoga can be as Kundalini came to me at a time when I most needed it; when my own anxiety and depression became too much for me to handle on my own. This was about 15 years ago. I had suffered much of my life already with minor anxiety and depression with some bouts that were worse than others but had never really examined what the causes were or how I could prevent the worst of my disease. At exactly the right moment, when things were very much out of balance, a free class of Kundalini yoga was offered at my place of work and I began to attend. After just a few short months, I noticed some changes right away, with a greater ability to handle stress and release tension. It was about this time that our Kundalini teacher was organizing an advanced/teacher training, bringing in her teachers from LA’s Golden Bridge. I knew without so much as a second thought that this would be important for me, to more deeply experience and practice Kundalini and begin my own journey to better health and as a teacher for others who suffer. I hope to share with you my thoughts and experiences with the benefits of a complete yoga practice, the chakra system and its connection to our mental, physical and emotional planes, and how the technology of Kundalini works with the nervous/spinal and glandular systems. All of these are inter-connected and in my basic layperson’s explanations I will hopefully shed some light on what these connections are and how they can benefit you too.
When I talk about a complete yoga practice I am referring to the fact that in every Kundalini class you will work on not just yoga postures or breath-work or meditation, etc. but each class will include all of the above. Our kriyas or yoga sets have poses with breath-work and sometimes mudras (hand work), will many times have mantras as a part of the set and a meditation will be likely be included within or at the end of the class. Much of the time, we will choose a set and a meditation that works specifically on different areas of our energy system, be it the lower chakras (Chakras 1-3) to work on elimination, creativity, stress resiliency, etc., or the higher system (Chakras 4-8) to work on lung health, compassion, metabolism and intuition and spiritual connections. Here is an example of a full class plan, which we will be practicing on our second day of the Intensive:
Tuning in with the Mantra (Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo): This is done at the beginning of every Kundalini class and is meant to bring us to the present and connect us with the lineage of teachers who have brought the practice of Kundalini to us. It is meant to protect us and connect us to the highest source of wisdom.
Yoga Kriya/Set of Poses: Gururattan Kaur’s set for Strengthening the Navel Center, Elimination and Digestion, and for Balancing and Distributing Creative Energy. This is a fairly long set that has poses that focus on Chakra’s 1-3, begins with some acupressure and breath-work, includes 12 poses and ends with several minutes of deep relaxation (also typical at the end of a set).
Meditation: Kirtan Kriya with mantra Saa Taa Naa Maa which translates to Infinity/Beginning; Life; Death/Change/Transformation; Rebirth, and a mudra which begins with Gyan Mudra but goes through each finger and thumb connection on each part of the mantra. In other words, thumb/first finger (Saa), thumb/second finger (Taa), etc.
End Class with Long Time Sunshine Song and Sat Nam (I am truth)
May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you, guide your way on
As I mentioned, this class plan will be working on the lower chakras defined by Kundalini. The philosophy and ideas behind chakras came from the Vedas, an ancient spiritual text originating in India in the 1500s, which exhibits an understanding of the connection between science and spirit, and body, mind and spirit, and our quest to be fully self-aware. It has been written about and used since then in various traditions and is used today by many forms of yoga, including Kundalini. In Kundalini, we talk about the existence of 8 chakras, each located within a part of our physical body and outside energy field, each associated with physical, mental and emotional aspects, starting with the first at the base of our spine, moving up through our bodies, with the 8th in the energy field that exists directly outside our bodies. Gururattan’s set for elimination and creativity works on the lower system, including the first chakra, root, which is associated with elimination, personal security and family connections. Our second chakra which is located in the area of our pelvis and is associated with our sexual organs and glands, personal relationships and creativity. And, our third, which is found in our diaphragm area and is associated with our relationship to self, our liver and kidneys and our adrenal glands. The poses we will use to work on these areas are body drops, frog, stretch pose, and more. Find out more about the chakras, what they are associated with and what poses and kriyas are used to work on these areas at 3ho.org.
Kundalini yoga is also unique among other forms of yoga as well, because of the focus on our spine/spinal system/nervous system and its connection to our glandular system and vice versa.
Each one of the chakras or energy areas is also associated with parts of our spine and glandular system. The glandular or endocrine system is in many areas rooted in the nervous system and the fluids released by the glands provide feedback to our brain and affect our neural processing. Reproductive hormones affect the development of the nervous system as well. The glandular system includes the ovaries and testes as well as the adrenals, thyroid, thymus, pituitary and pineal glands which function for the body to secrete important fluids to balance our body’s rhythms. These rhythms can be easily out of balance and create many problems with functions such as metabolism, fertility and emotional balance. Our poses, mantras, mudras, etc. focus on the health of these organs, keeping things in balance by working on the energy of these systems with a focus on the area of the spine and nerves in that area that, as I have discussed, are connected to the glandular system. I will not claim to be a human anatomical or medical expert and so the explanations you have seen here are from my own study, readings and experiences with the practice and training in Kundalini. In the upcoming weeks, I hope we can discuss and experience this practice together and with that have a greater understanding of it all, and of course, better physical, mental and emotional health!
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