I’ve been doing yoga for quite a few years now, but have never had the opportunity to take a Kundalini class. Well, to be perfectly honest, I could have easily taken one during the 5+ years that I lived in LA, but I never motivated myself to do it. Now that I’m living in a Kundalini studio/ashram, I thought it might make sense to give this Kundalini yoga a shot. Coming from a background of vinyasa flow / power yoga, I’ve always been intrigued by but also a little skeptical about Kundalini.
My first class was not a beginner’s class, so hopefully I got a good dose of what Kundalini is all about. Here are some of my first impressions. First, the breathwork was very different than what I am used to in an Ashtanga-based tradition. As the poses got more intense and rapid, we were encouraged in the Kundalini class to breathe faster. In my experience with Ashtanga-based yoga, I’ve always been taught to breathe deeper and fuller, not faster, as the poses become more intense. Another difference I noticed is that in a number of the Kundalini poses, we were instructed to move repetitively and sometimes very quickly. For instance, we did a Badda Konasana kind of pose (they called it Butterfly Pose) and were told to bounce our knees up and down, mimicking the flapping of butterfly wings. In my Ashtanga-based classes, we NEVER bounce our limbs repeatedly in a stretching pose of any kind, I think out of fear of injury. Rather, we sink slowly and mindfully into the stretch, allowing it to open up gradually. I doubt that either way of doing asanas is “better”, since Kundalini yoga and Ashtanga-based yogas are really quite different in their approaches and perhaps even in their intentions.
The main difference with the Kundalini class, however, was the mental aspect. We spent 31 minutes (the teacher timed it) with our arms extended over our heads and our hands in Namaste. The entire time, we chanted “Sat!” “Nam!” over and over and over and over…. Wow, this was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. In addition to my arms and shoulders becoming quite tired, my mind became weary from repeating the same phrase over and over. Eventually, just focusing on the mantra, I found myself entering something of a high-energy meditative state, if there is such a thing. I can’t say that I’ve experienced anything even remotely similar in my years of Ashtanga-based practice. I’m intrigued enough to give Kundalini another shot. I will say, however, that if you decide to try Kundalini for yourself, you probably shouldn’t do so expecting anything like the physically demanding, sweat-your-butt-off kind of yoga that you tend to find in a strong flow style class. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find something else unique in the Kundalini practice that is worthwhile for its own sake.