Meeting Kundalini


In meditation circles, Kundalini yoga has a big-girl-on-the-block reputation. Something about Kundalini yoga, at least in theory, lends itself to meditation, altered states of consciousness, and bliss.

Wikipedia says this: Practitioners
call Kundalini yoga,the yoga of awareness because
they claim it directly affects human consciousness, develops
intuition, increases self knowledge, and unleashes the unlimited
creative potential that exists within every human being.

Who doesn’t
want to unleash unlimited creative potential?

Armed with this
information and nothing more, I dropped into a Kundalini class this
week in Toronto.

I was nervous.
So was my brother-in-law Clay.

We’re both Ashtanga fans, and we
didn’t know what to expect. (I’m nervous with every new class.
In fact, I’m nervous at my own studio whenever I’ve been away for
a bit. If you have any tips on how to get over this, I’m all

Adding to my
nervousness was the fact that I hadn’t planned on doing a class, so
I was dressed in my clown-stripe pajamas, heavy clogs, and the
t-shirt I’d slept in. I looked as though I’d just made a
hasty escape from an institution of some kind, an escape so hasty there had been no time to find street clothes let alone yoga wear.

hyperventilated our way toward the studio like a pair of shifty-eyed bank
robbers. It’s a miracle they let us in.

Lesley, a vision
of radiant health, dressed in white (is this a Kundalini colour? I don’t know), welcomed us as though bank robbers were the mainstay of
her practice.

We began with
some lovely chanting, and headed straight into the breath of fire. Do you know the
breath of fire? It’s a Kundalini thing. Rapid, forceful
exhalations followed by automatic inhalations. Earlier this year I tried it on my
own, limiting myself to a minute at a time. More than this, my sources say,
and you might make yourself dizzy. I’m able to coordinate
my breath and abdomen for about 20 seconds at a time. After
that, everything goes off the rails into erratic breath and no discernible relationship between breath and body. A steam engine gone berserk.

In Lesley’s
class, we never really stopped the breath of fire. She continued it through
almost every pose, including a series of core-strengthening moves that taught me I have no core to speak of.

Enough. If
you’re a Kundalini fan, I don’t mean to offend with my ignorance.
If you don’t know Kundalini any more than I do, I’ll say this:

I’m completely
intrigued. It wasn’t familiar. It wasn’t particularly
comfortable. But there was a sense that my energy might be mobilized
in a new way with this breath and these asanas. I sensed a connection
between body and bliss that felt promising.

This morning I ordered a
few Kundalini DVDs so that I can give it a whirl in my basement.

Are you a
Kundalini fan? Can you enlighten us? What do you love about it?

Thanks to Lesley
at Bliss Yoga Studio in Toronto. Thanks to Clay for getting me there.
Thanks to yoga for being 1,000 different things, and thanks to you
for the conversation,


Kristin Shepherd is a chiropractor, actor, and speaker (About All
Things Wonderful) in North Bay, Ontario.  Join her on the
and on

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