When I looked at the schedule for the Austin Yoga Expo, I had one main objective: To try new things that I’ve shied away from before. I think it’s too easy to keep going back to the familiar because it’s comfortable. At an event like this, I see so many people go to a style of class they already practice or find a teacher they already know. What’s the point then?
One style of yoga I’ve never really understood was kundalini. The all-white clothes and big beards kind of freak me out, to be perfectly honest. And actually beards in general (especially hipster beards!) scare me. What I did know about kundalini going in was based on being in an ashtanga class next door: a lot of chanting and gong work, which carried through the separating wall.
So these were the notes I jotted down after the class:
Breath of fire
Flex your spine
My shoulders hurt
If you’re wondering about the last two, I did find myself feeling uncomfortable – even a little nauseous – during the breath work, which also had us holding our arms up for quite some time. My shoulders were burning!
As part of the breath work, we would retain (aka hold) the breath for a few counts after doing rapid breath of fire (aka panting through your nose). I remember holding my arms up during this time and feeling that horrible tingly feeling of losing circulation in my hands and shoulders. I didn’t know if I’d pass out or throw up or if my limbs would crumble into a heap on either side of me. That must be part of the bodily and mental awareness the teacher talked about.
We practiced almost the entire time with our eyes closed. You’re supposed to internally focus on your 3rd eye, which is a point between and above your brows. I got a little cross-eyed, but I guess with my eyelids closed, no one could see. It’s probably better that way.
Additionally, there was discussion about chakras and moving energy either up through your body or down. I’m not all too familiar with chakras, so that’s a different workshop or class for another day.
It really is an experience that is so different from a more asana-based practice. I mean, someone might as well have told me to go put on a bikini and stand at the corner of a busy intersection while trying to find enlightenment. I felt so out of place. Kundalini isn’t really for the people looking to get a hot bod or a good workout as part of their yoga practice. But it certainly challenged me in ways I haven’t quite fully processed.
We ended the practice in savasana with waves of gong vibrations taking over the whole conference center space. The concrete floors and rigid walls made the sound carry and resonate even stronger. That was maybe the coolest part. I was taken to a different world in those few moments, letting the swelling waves of vibration wash over me.
I don’t know if it gave me any kind of “rush” to sign up for more immediately, but at least I got a glimpse and think it has its time and place. For those of you who practice kundalini regularly, was my first experience typical?