The Healing Power of Kundalini Yoga
In a pre-COVID world I used to go to a Kundalini yoga class religiously every Wednesday night. A girlfriend of mine who I met in Sri Lanka while taking my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training was visiting, and we decided to try a different form of yoga every day that she was here. A tradition we keep to on the rare occasions we can get together.
I had been wanting to try Kundalini yoga because of its strong breathwork techniques. We soon discovered that these were not easy classes to locate. We finally found one that worked in West Seattle’s now closed studio, Inner Alchemy.
The first class shook me a little because it was so different from any other yoga I’d previously done. I was more used to sweating it out in a 110-degree room with 50 mats arranged just slightly off so everyone could see themselves in the 2 mirrored walls under bright neon lights.
Sure I’d been to other, small studios, but the hot studio was so convenient and I knew everyone.
Secretly I knew this wasn’t “my yoga” but it was a great workout, it’s where I found my Yin Yoga practice, I loved the hot room, and it’s where I discovered my passion for breathwork.
If any of you have been to a hot yoga studio you know that they tend to be full of very busy type A individuals. People are ready to focus in and sweat it out.
So when Lexi and I showed up to this one room candle lit studio with no mirrors or neon lights that could hold a dozen people I knew we had walked into something completely different. Immediately people were welcoming us and introducing themselves. Very different from the no talking zone of the hot yoga room.
We were the only ones wearing tight lycra yoga pants. Our leggings weren’t the only thing that flagged us as newbies. Amidst the flowing harem pants and more casual attire, students were laying out soft blankets and custom bolsters they brought from home.
We were offered Mantra sheets and told to just do what we could.
The experience was wild.
It’s very rare that I walk into a situation and have absolutely no idea what’s about to unfold. It helps you stay present. Like a baby exploring the world I was completely immersed in the experience.
The heavy breathing, the Mantras, the odd poses and repetitions. We did hand motions for 11 minutes with our eyes closed while repeating Sa Ta Na Ma (Birth, life, death, rebirth) a common Kundalini mantra. It totally messed with my mind and as my arms fell in and out of remembering what to do I let go of my concentration and just started to laugh.
This was by far the most “WooWoo” thing I had ever done, and I was sold.
Wednesday became the day I looked forward to. The 90 minute class always cleansed my soul, and the community we’d share after as we sipped homemade yogi tea sealed the deal.
I admit, at first the chanting and the community tea freaked me out. I didn’t know how to use my voice to chant, I didn’t have anything to say to these people!
Once I let that wall down I found that the chanting was food for my soul much like singing Silent Night in a packed church on Christmas Eve. By the time Covid hit chanting and mantra had become my favorite part of class.
We all felt a connection that only that kind of collective work can bring. We looked forward to our tea. Circling around to share our experiences and insights during class.
Consistently there were a dozen of us who came religiously. Without judgement we’d welcome the obvious new students and be concerned when a regular missed a class.
I traveled 40 minutes to and from class every Wednesday. I even looked forward to the drive. Tuning up my vocal cords on the way in and chanting on my way home, high from the evenings events.
I had found my people. This was wild. Every class was an adventure, and I was anxious to eat it all up.
I started going to class on Monday and Friday nights at a studio in the Central District put on by Guruyatri to feed my insatiable consumption of the practice. This was shortly lived as the pandemic spread and studios shut down.
I tried to keep up with my newfound community online, but it’s not the same. Sure I can get the practice in, but through ZOOM it’s so hard to connect in the way Kundalini is designed to function.
I have been missing my Kundalini Yoga community a lot lately. The studio I met and fell in love with this group has closed. Sada Simran of Guruyatri, a leader in the Seattle Kundalini community has passed away due to the virus.
Thinking back to one of our teachers, a fierce woman who found Kundalini on her own journey to sobriety. She proudly sprinkles AA teachings into class.
The one I come back to all the time, and has become a motto for 2020 is…
Acceptance is the Key to all things.
There is so much wisdom and comfort for me in those words.
Isolated at home writing I often fantasize about 2020 ending and life going back to normal as the ball drops on New Years Eve signally a fresh new start. Although challenging, I accept this won’t be the case.
Spending time and energy doing mental health texts, calls, and emails to those I care about and receiving dead air in response is hurtful and draining. Accepting those friends and family members for who and what they are in my life instead of the expectations I have put on them is my work in accepting.
Purging out all the “one day I’m gonna” craft supplies and books from my home is work in non-attachment. Accepting that if 2020 wasn’t the year to pick up those things, then probably I never would.
Not being able to see my family this holiday season is a struggle. Accepting that it’s the right thing to do if I want them all to be alive once this is done helps me find peace and gratitude.
Acceptance is the Key.
My morning routine still includes a sun salutation, and I commit an hour of my day to breathwork and meditation. These fill me up and can easily be practiced alone.
I accept that my Wednesday Kundalini ritual is lost in a perfect moment in time.
I accept that growth comes from within. I accept that things often don’t look the way we expect.
Continuing to work with Acceptance is my ongoing challenge. Kundalini yoga brought me to this beautiful message and people.
We may not know where this boat is headed, but with acceptance we can all steer it towards a healthier tomorrow. So we might all return to the communities we miss and cherish with a more open heart and grateful mind.