Continuing my exploration of different types of yoga, next on the agenda was a kundalini-inspired practice, also from Ekhart Yoga. I spent some time doing Kundalini Yoga quite a few years ago with some Maya Fiennes DVDs, although I never really thought too much about the philosophy behind it or how and why it differs from other forms of yoga. And it is (in my spectacularly limited experience) very different.
According to Yoga Journal, Kundalini Yoga is “an uplifting blend of spiritual and physical practices [incorporating] movement, dynamic breathing techniques, meditation, and the chanting of mantras …. The goal is to build physical vitality and increase consciousness.” Kundalini itself is apparently an energy force that lies dormant at the base of the spine, which is released during the yoga practice. (That bit’s going in the “for further research and experimentation” pile.)
This practice started with chanting a mantra (“Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” which means “I call upon Divine Wisdom”). I’ll admit to chanting that a little more quietly than perhaps I should have done to get maximum benefit out of it, as I wasn’t alone in the house and felt a little silly doing it. The practice then consisted essentially of sets of often fast repetitive movements coordinated with the breath and with specific breathing techniques, interspersed with periods of slower breathing and stillness. Breath of fire (passive inhales, short strong exhales) was used a lot and keeping the movement and breath coordinated was occasionally difficult, but I guess that’s something that becomes easier with practice.
The practice did feel more disjointed than say a Hatha Yoga practice, as there wasn’t really any flow between moves (“poses” doesn’t feel quite right given the centrality of movement), but that didn’t seem to matter. While I might be sceptical about the whole coiled kundalini energy thing, at least for the time being, I did notice a massive shift in both my energy levels and the nature of the energy I was feeling both during and after the practice. The movements and breath created a pretty intense heat that felt different to that created in for example a vinyasa flow, and I occasionally felt a bit lightheaded, although not in a bad way (if that makes any sense at all). It was certainly an interesting experience.
The outcome of all this is that Kundalini is something that I’d like to incorporate into my regular practice. At the same time, I don’t want to start confusing myself by trying to juggle lots of different styles of yoga, particularly if at the same time as practising I want to go into the philosophy in a bit more depth. What I’m thinking of doing is drawing up a plan for the next few weeks (say four or six) which is largely focused on the Hatha/Vinyasa style that I’m more used to, with some Yin and Kundalini mixed in. What I really don’t want to do is just go back to doing yoga every day without some larger idea as to where I want the practice to take me. In the meantime, today’s practice calls – a nice gentle one for a Sunday afternoon, I think!