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What exactly is Kundalini yoga?

Gong in a yoga studio

Ever wondered how Kundalini yoga differs from your usual Vinyasa or Yin-style class? Kundalini teacher Trish Whelan helps us understand a little more about the ancient practice and what to expect in class…

Living in the city and being constantly bombarded by technology, societal pressures and stress it’s no wonder that Kundalini yoga is fast becoming a popular class on the timetable to help slow us down and find a little more inner peace.

With many of us feeling drained as we struggle to keep up with the relentless pace of modern life, did you know our nervous system is taking the biggest hit? So what are Londoners doing to get their steady state back? Say goodbye to your usual sun salutations and get ready to embrace the power of your breath.

Where it all began

It was Yogi Bhajan who first brought Kundalini yoga to the west in the late 1960’s. Until then it wasn’t publicly taught in India due to its power and potency. During his time in LA, Yogi Bhajan met a number of spiritually seeking hippies, immediately recognising that the highs they were attempting to find through illegal highs could be achieved naturally by practicing the principles of Kundalini yoga.

How it works

Kundalini yoga is an ancient practice combining meditation, mantra chanting, physical poses (asana) and breathing (aka pranayama), which when combined have the ability to bring about profound transformation. The focus is to move stagnant energy up from the base of your spine to stimulate your body and nervous system.

It’s less about the shapes you make on the mat and more about working deeper to reconnect with your own energy. Trish Whelan (pictured above) from Soul Adventures who has been practicing Kundalini yoga for 10 years explains how it’s been the most powerful catalyst for change and happiness in her life.

“I had my first Kundalini yoga experience while away on business in LA in 2008 after a friend blackmailed me into trying a class! With a strong Jivamukti practice at the time I promised my friend I would give the class a go. The rest is history! I thank my friend through the ethers at least once a day for introducing me to the practice.

“I instantly felt like I’d experienced healing, I felt connected. The whole experience was pretty visceral for me and I ended up hanging out at the yoga studio afterwards instead of taking my planned shopping trip.”

Kundalini yoga brings us back to connect with the true essence of ourselves, helping us to manage life a little easier and to feel better. We have deeper, more meaningful experiences when we practice Kundalini yoga as it opens up the pathway to our inner self.

So what you can expect from a Kundalini Yoga class?

Firstly, you’ll feel a lovely energy in the room. You’ll be led on a journey that will challenge you in ways you may not have experienced before. Remain open. Whether you love it or hate it, you are guaranteed to feel something!

In a typical class you will practice ‘kriyas’. A kriya is a series of postures, breathing techniques and sounds that work toward a specific outcome. There are thousands of kriyas and each one focuses on something specific, for example, a gland, an organ, a chakra, your spine or your connection to the divine. The teacher will have chosen a kriya for the class and off you go.

During a typical Kundalini yoga class, you’ll tune into the golden chain lineage of teachers, you’ll warm up, practice the kriya or kriyas (which often include breathing exercises) and meditate. Towards the end of class you’ll then lie down and dissolve into peaceful calm and blissful surrender; often the Kundalini teacher will be playing a gong.

The teacher will likely be wearing white and a turban – don’t let this put you off. It’s simply to honour the Kundalini tradition and to protect the crown chakra.

So now you know what to expect! If you’d like to experience a Kundalini class in the city and fully immerse yourself in the experience, why not book onto Trish’s Explore Your Soul workshop on Saturday 30th March at RE:Centre in Hammersmith. 

Leave a comment below if you’ve been to a class before. We’d love to know what you think!

Kat x


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