Kundalini Yoga was brought to a western audience in 1968, when Yogi Bhajan began teaching in California. Before this, Kundalini was only taught in India and was passed down in the guru-student tradition. Although this type of yoga had not previously been offered to the public, Yogi Bhajan felt that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy its benefits.
The Kundalini is untapped energy (prana) at the base of the spine that can be drawn up through the body awakening each of the seven chakras (energy centers). Full enlightenment occurs when this energy reaches the crown chakra at the top of the head. Kundalini energy is often represented as a snake coiled at the bottom of the spine.
Kundalini Yoga asana sequences are called kriyas. Each kriya is preset series of poses that is done with a specific breathing technique. Each kriya is associated with a particular chakra. They may consist of rapid, repetitive movements coordinated with a designated breathing method or recitation of a mantra (chant). In other kriyas, poses are held for several minutes, again with the inclusion of breathing technique and mantra. Often mudras (hand positions) are also an important part of each kriya. In a group class situation, the teacher will typically pick of set of kriyas that will be beneficial to most people.
A Kundalini class begins with a short chant followed by a warm-up to stretch the spine and improve flexibility. The main work of the class is the kriyas. Following the kriya you will have time for a rest.
The class ends with a meditation, which may be accompanied by the teacher playing a large gong, and a closing song.
Kundalini students often wear white clothing and head wraps, but don’t feel obligated to adopt this style of dress when you take class. Some kundalinis also use sheepskins instead of yoga mats. Yoga Bhajan recommended this as a way to separate your body from the Earth’s magnetic pull. However, it’s optional, because even some of the most devoted Kundalini yogis object to this advice on ethical grounds.
Along with our two weekly classes, we have more Kundalini experiences for you to try: Special classes with Kartar Singh Khalsa, a master Kundalini teacher who comes every few months to Santosha. (Check under “special events” to find the date of his next visit.)