Love yoga, full moon rituals, mantras and well, all new age spirituality practises?
Then it’s time to uplevel your standard vinyasa practise and explore kundalini yoga, the latest yoga style making a comeback in the wellness space.
With new age spirituality guru Gabrielle Bernstein and model Miranda Kerr avid devotees of the practise, kundalini—originally made big in the 60s is now making waves in modern yoga circles again thanks to its ability to energise, invigorate and empower both body and mind.
But before we get all ‘woo woo’ on you, let’s talk through the basics of what it is exactly, what makes it different to other yoga styles (think no sun salutations) and how to incorporate it as a morning or evening wellness ritual in times of need.
“‘Kundalini’ refers to an energy coiled at the base of the spine, and the exercises practiced in class work to awaken it, which in turn, activate the mind, body and spirit,” according to holistic yoga site, Alo Yoga. “In place of Sun Salutations and Warrior II’s, there’s chanting, pranayama breathing and repetitive movements, all designed to help you access a higher level of consciousness.”
Said to date back as early as 1000 B.C, it was brought into the modern mainstream by Yogi Bhajan in 1969 and is considered a deeply spiritual practise that’s often referred to as the ‘yoga of awareness’ combining elements of Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion and chanting), with Raja Yoga (practise of meditation/mental and physical control) with Shakti Yoga (expression of power and energy). Also unlike other styles, kundalini yogis wear all white (often long sleeves and pants), which is said to not only brighten their aura but is symbolic of reflecting on the outside what is desired on the inside.
Unlike a vinyasa class that weaves a series of sun salutations (or flows) with standing poses, stretches, inversions and backbends, in kundalini the focus isn’t on moving or contorting the body but is more finely attuned to practising the little things to instil a deeper awareness.
As explained by LA-based Kundalini teacher for Alo Yoga Hari Simrah Khalsa, “kundalini consciously combines breath, mudra (hand postures), eye focus, mantra, body locks and postures to balance the glandular system, strengthen the nervous system, expand the lung capacity and purify the blood.”
The combined practise is then called a ‘kriya’ (think similar to a ‘sequence’). “A kriya will include postures, breathing techniques, mantras, meditations and deep relaxation all put together strategically to achieve a specific result, such as—balancing digestion and healing emotional fears.”
According to Hari, you can expect all the soothing and calming benefits of yoga, and then some.
“What makes Kundalini so dynamic and diverse is that it will give you a profound deep experience every time you practice it. Kundalini works quickly to reset the nervous system, which is key for a healthy mind and body and being able to handle the pressures of modern living.”
“Physically it works to strengthen the nervous system, expand lung capacity and purify the blood too.”
Try: A kundalini inspired ‘Pure Energy’ at home workout with Caley Alyssa available on Alo Moves.
Try: The ‘Gyan Mudra’ (seal of wisdom). Bring the the index finger to touch thumb while leaving other three fingers straight. Gyan mudra stimulates knowledge, wisdom, receptivity and memory.
Try: Shabad Kriya – Yogi Bhajan’s number one sleep aid. Lie back in bed, place your hands in your lap, right hand resting on left palm, thumb tips touching, palms facing up. Inhale through the nose for four counts, mentally saying ‘Sa-Ta-Na-Ma,’ then hold the breath – repeating the mantra for 16 beats. Exhale then through the nose for two counts, saying ‘Wahe Guru.’ Then repeat until you fall asleep.
Try: This calming meditation practise. Sitting in easy pose (sukhasana), bring left hand under right armpit and left hand under right armpit. Curve the fingers right around the body so you can feel you are holding your body with loving care. Allow this mudra to be at the heart centre, resting against your chest to allow you to soften into a sense of security and peace.