In an effort to feel more radiant and inspired—trying to get my attitude to match the brilliant blue-sky perfectly springlike weather we’ve been having here in the Northeast recently—I’ve begun incorporating daily doses of kundalini yoga into my routine.
I became fascinated with kundalini several years ago, before Gabrielle Bernstein and all of her spirit junkies thrust it into the spotlight.
(Note: I am proud of this, very much the same way I am about having read Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible before it popped up on Oprah’s Book Club. It’s like, Yeah, I knew this was something before it was actually something! I’m sure green smoothie people feel the same way about Kris Carr.)
Anyway, my relationship history with kundalini is described in detail here. After that class series in 2011 ended, however, I no longer kept up with a regular practice. I find it difficult to follow a solo kundalini practice, mainly because all of the kriyas are to be done for a specific amount of time and it’s a nuisance and interferes with my concentration to continually set/turn off a timer.
Also, some of the kriyas in kundalini are exhausting. If there isn’t someone at the front of the room or on an iPad screen, I will probably not commit to 3 minutes of frog squats while chanting something-or-other in Sanskrit and doing breath of fire.
It is amazing how far a simple “You’re almost there!” or “Keep up and you’ll be kept up” will go. I need that encouragement in kundalini.
I’ve had luck here and there finding decent full-length classes on YouTube. Here are my current go-tos (please share any of your recommendations!):
However, although I crave and enjoy a deep, long practice, I’m beginning to find that just a few simple kundalini warm-ups and meditations interspersed throughout my day offer just as much. I’ll do a few spinal flex exercises, Sufi grinds, neck rolls, and spinal twists, making sure to silently chant Sat on the inhale and Nam on the exhale.
This is one of the key elements of kundalini, the chanting of Sat Nam, along with keeping the eyes closed and focusing on the spot above and between the two eyes as an internal drishti (eye gaze). I find that sticking to this silent chant helps me greatly with concentration; otherwise, I feel like my mind is prone to wandering.
Sat Nam has several translations, but in essence it refers to acknowledging and being our inner truth.
My first kundalini teacher encouraged us to use Sat Nam when stuck in traffic: Vocalize a sharp “sat” (pronounced more like “sut”) that draws in the belly, followed by a relaxed and soft “nam” during which the belly relaxes. Repeat until traffic clears and you feel cool as a cucumber.
I’ve started using it while walking: left foot (Sat), right foot (Nam), left foot (Sat), right foot (Nam). And so on.
Yesterday, I found a great way to incorporate this simple kundalini mantra/meditation into my day: Swinging Sat Nam!
I am always so excited when I find a playground with adult-sized swings. As my coworker commented, “I find it’s impossible to feel sad on a swing.” Seriously!
As my legs pumped back and forth and my face greeted the sun with every boost upward, I realized that this back-and-forth motion felt very similar to spinal rocks along the floor, except now I was flying.
Soon I found myself inhaling Sat as I was propelled skyward, exhaling Nam as I swooshed backward.
I kept my eyes open for a bit then closed them, the outline of the trees illuminated behind my eyelids.
Sat… toes pointed upward. Nam… hair flying in my face.
Sat… heart center expanding. Nam… surrendering to the momentum.
Who knew kundalini would find a place on the playground? My hips ached a little afterward (turns out I no longer have the skeletal structure of a 5-year-old), but I had such calmness and clarity for the remainder of my walk around the park, a sensation I’ve been trying to re-attain for some time.
Give it a try sometime and let me know how you feel.