There is a fire burning from within.
I learned this yesterday at my first Kundalini Yoga experience.
Kundalini relates to a form of primal energy that resides in all of us. In Hindu tradition, it is also known as Shakti, which, citing directly from Wikipedia, means “power” or “empowerment”, and is the primordial cosmic energy. It is said that this energy resides at the base of the spine, and it is accessible to all of us. But it needs to be awaken. Folklore represents this energy as a coiled serpent, tucked in its cave, sleeping and undisturbed.
This idea of a serpent as representation for the energy led me to some interesting thoughts. For one, given my Christian background, the serpent represents evil. Wasn’t a serpent culprit for luring Eve to eat from the forbidden fruit? On the other hand, as I kept researching the concept, I learned that a similar representation of Kundalini can be found as the universal symbol for medicine, depicted as a winged stick with two serpents wrapping the shaft. The stick symbolizing the vertebral column, as Shakti rises up, awaken from her slumber. Interesting, right?
So, as I scheduled my weekend classes, I noticed my local yoga studio holds a practice every Sunday. I was not ready to book the full month, but I was curious enough to dive into my first class. And I did.
I stepped into class with an open mind. I took my spot, and waited patiently, stretching my legs and warming up the hips. We were six students in total. The teacher had a calm and gentle approach, and she began by explaining how the class was going to unfold.
“Kundalini Yoga focuses in one specific area to work in each class. Today, we will work with the Circulatory system. And when we talk about circulation, I want you to think about all the systems that move stuff around your body. Yes, the blood flows through your veins, carrying all the nutrients down to your cellular level, but there are also other functions in your body that circulate things like waste, and air flow. Today we will work for this flow to have its natural course.”
We started with breathing exercises. Fast, sharp breaths, followed by fast, sharp exhales. We did a good five to ten minutes of these exercises, and one could feel the warmth coming up from the center. The class continued, and we did different types of yoga style positions. The difference with vinyasa being that there was no flow between poses. We did each exercise independently from the other. There were chants, and mantras repeated, and a specific concentration required to hold the poses longer than one is used to.
At the end of the class, there was a meditation. But, as the meditation took place, we had to hold our hands extended on our sides, with specific mudras in each of our hands. We had to repeat a mantra that reads like this:
Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, Wahe Guru, Wahe Jeeo (which, after finally remembering what the mantra said, I found the translation as “The ecstasy of consciousness is my beloved”.)
At first I took it as just a final exercise, as the weight of my arms started to burn every single muscle. With my eyes closed, I dropped my arms to my lap, as an attempt to relieve the pain. I am not sure if I was the only one who dropped the arms, but the teacher then said, “Bring your arms high again. Resist the temptation to give in. Face the struggle.” Those words. Face the struggle. As the mantra continued, I suddenly felt a burning sensation in my eyes. Tears started flowing, and I couldn’t stop it. It was as if somehow I understood the whole practice, the mantras and everything.
Afterwards, as we were wrapping up our matts, the teacher made herself available to answer any questions. I had many, but I needed to process. I left the studio feeling so calmed and centered. The warmth of the class stayed with me the whole day on Sunday.