OM… in the flow

kundalini540Recently, a woman I met 18 months ago, & whom I really like & respect, asked me what I got out of doing Kundalini yoga, what got me up in the  morning to practice. You see, in addition to taking classes, I do practice on my own, with the help of a book I bought.  So I’ve been thinking about that a lot.

Part of it is the physical exercise, of course. & this type of yoga is perfect for me in that it’s quite active. Those of you familiar with other types of yoga know that they mostly involve fairly static asanas (aka poses). In Kundalini yoga, on the other hand, you are often moving throughout the exercise. The other thing that’s different is that the asana, whether static or active, is held longer, sometimes for as long as five minutes! Of course, during that time, if you need to, you can come out of the pose, rest, & then go back into it. I have been excited to find I can now do poses that I couldn’t a year ago; my body is definitely becoming stronger  & more limber. Flexibility has always been an issue for me, so this is gratifying.

One of the hardest things for me when first doing Kundalini is that many of the asanas are done in what’s called “easy seated pose.” This is sitting in what is now called pretzel style (the non-PC term of my childhood was Indian style). I recently apologized to my teacher for giving her grief about that term “easy” in one of my early classes – even as a young child, sitting like that was never  comfortable for me! With the help of a pillow (& another sign of progress: I recently had to buy a lower one) I can now sit like this quite comfortably & for quite some time, but it was really difficult at first.

Most other yoga styles in the West really focus on the asanas, the physical piece of the practice. In truth there are other aspects of yoga that are also very powerful. Prana, or breath work, is one aspect of yoga that Kundalini includes, & that I love. Often during an asana,  we do what’s called Breath of Fire. It is a panting breath, through the nose, and you really draw in your tummy muscles as you powerfully exhale. It’s highly detoxifying and intensifies the effect of a pose. Alternate nostril breathing, where you close off one nostril on the inhale & the other on the exhale, is another example of prana that is used in Kundalini yoga.

And of course, the mantra/meditation piece of Kundalini yoga is what first brought me to this practice. Chanting on a regular basis has brought me so much! So much peace, so much joy, so much ease. I feel like I don’t have to struggle any longer with life. It truly is amazing. I have a sense of flow, something I’ve witnessed & wondered at in a few friends over the years, but which I’ve never felt before. This is quite recent, within the last 3-4 months, I’d say… new enough that I’m still wondering if it will last.  More & more, I’m settling into this fresh sense of well-being, learning to trust the universe at a level more profound than ever before. What a blessing!

The goal of Kundalini yoga is the free flow of energy through the body’s chakra system. All the asanas, breath work, chanting, and other activities are put together in such a way as to put you on a fast track to achieve this goal.  In my experience, it works!

Winter Thoughts

christmasChristmas has long been a tough time of year for me… ever since my mom moved us out – left my dad – at this time of year. She was a school teacher & the holiday break was the only time that worked for her. I was eight going on nine. That on top of my aforementioned upbringing as a Unitarian (i.e. not much indoctrination in the whole Christian thing) has made me a bit of a Scrooge. I’m not into decorating – though I do love Christmas lights, especially in the snow! – nor do I support the rampant consumerism that this time of year brings out in people. The thing I DO love about Christmas is the music.

I grew up in a fairly musical family. I started singing in our small church choir at age five, along with my mom & my nine-year-old sister. Some of my earliest memories revolve around harmonizing with my sister, especially at Christmas, on all the old carols. Of course, we were quirky, even then; Marni & I would sweetly sing “Silent Night” to the oohs & aahs of all gathered, then purposely sing off-key on the last note! Anything for a laugh, right?

Here’s one of my favorite Christmas tunes from one of my all-time favorite groups, for your listening pleasure: 

It’s not an old standard, & I think you might enjoy it~

Now,  informed not only by my UU community  but also by the rituals of my pagan pals, by my yoga practice, I view this time of year as an opportunity to go within, to spend time alone and think over the past year, the changes I’m undergoing, and where I want to be next year at this time.  In a special New Year’s Day yoga class in 2012, I wrote a letter to myself stating my goals for the upcoming year;  the teacher mailed the letter to me in February. Powerful! One of my goals was to write more… & look, here I am!

There is, of course, value in going within at any time of the year, but this dark time seems to be especially productive, at least for me.

Look for more thoughts about Christmas & this time of year coming up soon~

Hello world!

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Writing has always been so much fun for me, so I figure it’s high time I start a blog! I’m working on believing that other people DO want to hear my voice, that I have wisdom (i.e. heart jewels) to share with the world.

Connection to spirit has been a challenge for me… raised a liberal Unitarian Universalist, I’ve come late to prayer. & the prayer form I’ve chosen to use is not Christian but from the Eastern tradition of Kundalini yoga. We’re talking mantra here, folks, chanting. & yes, it’s basically prayer… can you tell that was a tad difficult for me to wrap my head around? It just works for me – mostly it’s sung & I love to sing… I cannot begin to tell you what a shift I have felt in myself – & thus my world – in the past couple of years! Well, actually I can begin, & so look for upcoming posts w/more details~

Oh! & lagniappe… I got into this type of yoga for the chance to chant, but guess what? My physical body has undergone amazing changes too. Isn’t life funny?