It was my first time in an actual yoga studio, so as one could imagine my tensions were running high. I chose to go to The Karma Yoga studio in Cambridge. I decided to come here because Karma Yoga has a firm belief that yoga is for everyone. Their website describes their openness to help practitioners on all levels, to help them find their own inner power. I simply loved that idea, to find my own inner strength as opposed to someone else doing it for me, or giving me strength. As I walked through the doors of Karma Yoga, my mind was bombarded with all sorts of questions such as: “What if I can’t do any of the movements?” Am I going to be embarrassed? Will I be that one guy in the class that needs help? Not to mention, my girlfriend Emily was with me, who loves yoga, and she’s very flexible. So of course, my worries for embarrassment were doubled. The first thing we noticed when we walked in was the smell of the tea bar. We were preparing to partake in a Kundalini yoga class at 4:00. When I was searching through the Karma Yoga website and looking at all of the class descriptions, Kundalini was the one that jumped out at me. I knew that I wanted a practice of yoga that emphasized on bringing parts of me together. So when I read that through the process of Kundalini my mind, body, and spirit become integrated, I wanted to feel that feeling of the total self, the “universal self.”
Emily and I were directed to our selected yoga studio. We arrived early, so we weren’t surprised to see the room empty when we walked in. It was a huge room, high ceiling, smooth wooden floors, and a closet with yoga mats, blankets, and pillows. We piled our jeans and jackets in the corner of the room, removing our cell phones and wallets. Emily checked her watch, and the time read 3:58. We looked at each other. Where is everybody? Our thoughts asked. Before we knew it, it was 4:00 and our instructor walked in. We watched as she retrieved a yoga mat and blanket from the closet, and set up in front of the class.
Emily and I mimicked her, and then our instructor closed the door to the room. Then there we were, my girlfriend and I were the only ones in the class. My thoughts were mocking me more than ever, because now I would have so much attention on me. I didn’t like it, but I was here to learn and perhaps overcome this sensation. Our instructor’s name was Sahaj Kaur. She has seventeen years of both Kundalini and Hatha yoga experience, and she first started teaching yoga back in 2000. She was dressed in all white, with a turban around her head. My intimidation meter sky rocketed when I first saw her, because my assumptions made her out to be a hardcore yogi. But she spoke, with a smile, and her voice filled with such grace and appreciation for those who wanted to learn. She said that she was dressed as a Sikh. Although she admitted she was not really a Sikh.
Sahaj asked us of our past yoga experience. Emily replied she’s done Vinyasa for a year, and I of course said I’ve done about a month of Hatha Yoga. Sahaj then explained that Kundalini was different than Hatha. While their goals to find balance are similar, Kundalini has an interesting twist on its philosophy. First, Sahaj asked us if we ever heard of a man named Yogi Bhajan. The name seemed so familiar to me. Emily looked at me and whispered, “your tea.” Of course! I thought. Last semester I had a horrible virus, and Emily got me a brand of tea called “Yogi” Echinacea Immune Support. I hate swallowing pills so it was an amazing alternative. Sahaj continued, stating that Yogi Bhajan introduced Kundalini yoga to the united states in 1969. He came here to train those who wish to teach it. Through his teaching, Yogi taught many how to relate to themselves and their spirit.
Sahaj said Kundalini focuses on the idea that there is a coiled up “snake” at the base of our spines, and as we do the Kundalini movements, the snake wakes up and moves up our spines. If that wasn’t interesting enough, as the snake flows upward, it passes through what Sahaj referred to as the seven chakras.
These chakras are sources of energy lying dormant in our bodies, and they affect different parts of our lives. The first chakra is at the base of the spine, the root. It benefits our sense of security in the world. Continuing up on the spine, the second chakra deals with sexual insecurity. Awakening this chakra allows a healthier sex life. The third chakra is in our stomach, working on our core strength. The third chakra helps on take control of their destiny. The fourth Chakra is close to the heart, focusing on love, and our feeling towards others. The fifth chakra is located in the throat, of course dealing with communication and expressing ourselves. The sixth chakra is our third eye, that point in-between our brows on our foreheads. The third eye is our intuition, a different sort of sight. Finally, the seventh chakra, located on the tops of our heads, is our spirituality. Our connection to the soul, and all souls, because we are all one soul, according to Sahaj.
One thing we repeatedly did throughout the class was the pranayama breathing. She had us doing it for minutes. It was extremely tiring. Emily, who has asthma, did not enjoy the technique one bit. I recall Sahaj walking over to her as we were lying on the ground, and telling her to breathe naturally. She told her to find her own rhythm. I of course was blowing air out of my nose left and right with no end in sight! One of my favorite and most amusing movements was the frog pose. I got a real burn out of it, but it felt really good. We crouched down so that our knees are at a 45 degree angles from our bodies. Then we lifted up our heels, each resting against each other to provide support. Then we placed our fingertips lightly on the ground. That was step one. In this pose, Sahaj said in an amusingly monotone voice, “Don’t I look like a frog?” For some reason I laughed so hard on the inside because of the way she said that. For the next step, we would straighten our knees, and look down, keeping our fingers on the ground. Then we would bend back into the frog stance. We would go back and forth with this at a rather fast pace. We did this twenty-six times, then took a breather, and then did it again for twenty-six more times with a total of fifty-two. Sahaj exclaimed:
“If you can do this fifty-two times, then you are alive. But if you can do this one-hundred and eight times, then you are truly alive.”
I wondered what she meant by that. I suppose I felt accomplished after completing fifty-two of them, but I never doubted my being alive or not. I will definitely have to try it on my own free time, and see if I can do one-hundred and eight, and if I can get a sense of what she meant by that.
Looking back, I cannot say that I awakened all of my chakras. I feel certain that I have awakened my first chakra, because I began to feel very secure and grounded in the moment. Any feelings of embarrassment I was worrying about earlier, I didn’t seem to care about anymore. Even when Emily would display her flexibility, I didn’t get jealous, or feel inferior. I was comfortable with everything. I cannot say I felt any change for my sexual health, so my second chakra still remained dormant. I did feel in control as the third chakra claims to do when awakened. As for my fourth chakra, I did not feel any different about my feeling towards anyone else, not that that’s a bad thing. I also admit I couldn’t tell if my fifth chakra was awakened at all, because I’m always able to express myself when I get the chance. The sixth and seventh chakra’s however, the intuition and the connection to the soul; I think I did feel something. I think I woke them up for a few minutes. I think I could sense them during our deep relaxation. One relaxing procedure in the class Sahaj had us do was to lie on our backs, and let our arms rest at our sides. She plugged her iPod in the speakers, and told us to relax. She said we would be hearing the sounds of gongs, and to relax with our thoughts.
The gongs were loud, monstrously loud, and yet I found them to be peaceful. I was just lying there, accepting every noise that came rushing to me, and felt totally at peace. Like my mind was somewhere else, hovering above my body. If none of my chakras were awakened, I think that I would have my hands clamped to my ears. But for some reason, I was finding peace in all this chaos. Emily however, had the exact opposite reaction. She felt it sounded like more noises than a peaceful sound, like pots falling off of a shelf, instead of them sounding one after the other. It wasn’t steady, it wasn’t predictable. She tells m in her vinyasa class, all of the music had an easy to find rhythm or beat, that she did not find in the gongs. This made it a lot more difficult for her to meditate to the gongs. When we talked about it afterwards, she said that she needed order, not something chaotic. If she couldn’t predict her music, how could she calm her mind? I found it very interesting, and I truly discovered what a person can find out about themselves through meditation.
I have no regrets with my decision to practice Kundalini yoga. It was a positive experience both for my mind, and my soul. It’s simply something to think about and be aware of. Do we all really have chakras? The idea to me is so spectacular and fantastical, I love it. Yogi Bhajan had an effect on my life before I even knew who he was! Strange coincidence? Or a path leading to my destiny?