Back in 2011 I was in the kind of downward spiral that can take you under forever or spit you back out with the possibility of turning it all around. A chance purchase of a $20 Groupon led me to a Kundalini yoga class. I had no idea what Kundalini was, but I figured ten classes for $20 was a good bet. If I didn’t like the studio, no big financial loss. Instead, I found a lifeline.
Kundalini was nothing like any yoga I had ever practiced. The breathing techniques gave me pains in my collarbones; the postures could be exhausting; there was some chanting; there was a gong at the end of the practice. After that first class I was hooked. I left wanting more.
A Kundalini class is built around “kriyas” or motions designed to support all aspects of our being. A kriya can be motion or a series of motions designed to clear and support our physical, emotional and spiritual systems. There are kriyas for strengthening the adrenals, the lungs, the kidneys, the immune system. There are kriyas to help release anger, boost our courage, loosen knotty places in the subconscious. There are heart openers and mind openers, stretches for the spine and for the spirit. The purpose of all this is to release the energies stored in the root chakra, using it to empower the entire energy system.
I’ll never forget one of those first classes. The teacher had taken us through a vigorous heart opener and then had us do the breath of fire in camel posture. All of a sudden I was overtaken by a huge desire to scream, an impulse I dreaded giving in to. How could I let loose and scream? How could I not? There were only three of us in the class; the other two students were teachers of mine. I figured if I did let loose they would understand, and if they didn’t well, that was on them. I was there for my own well-being. If that meant giving in to the urge to scream then I had to trust what my body was signalling me to do.
I screamed and screamed and screamed. I felt green poison geysering from my chest. It felt completely awful and totally wonderful, much the way throwing up is awful and yet you know once all that yuck is out of you, you will feel so much better. That class was a turning point. Whatever I released that morning made room to begin the healing I so badly needed.
Over time, I grew stronger. My collarbones adapted to the “breath of fire,” and I began to enjoy how contracting and releasing the muscles in my abdomen powered up my lungs. My abdominal and neck muscles began to support me in a challenging stretch, each session a few seconds longer.
This summer will mark ten years of my Kundalini practice. It remains a lifeline. Over time the practice has enabled me to turn my life around, one breath of fire at a time.
Photo by Mimi Ditchie licensed by Creative Commons. “Star Trails Over the Alabama Hills”