If you've ever taken a Kundalini yoga class, you know it's a pretty big departure from standard vinyasa flow sequencing, or what many of us have come to recognize as "yoga." But that doesn't mean it's not every bit as transformative. Kundalini refers to an energy coiled at the base of the spine, and the exercises practiced in class are meant to awaken it, in turn, activating mind, body and spirit. In place of Sun Salutations and Warrior II's, there's chanting, pranayama breathing and repetitive movements, all designed to help you access a higher level of consciousness. L.A.-based practitioner Hari Simran Khalsa grew up in India in a family of Kundalini yogis. Naturally, she learned to love the practice and eventually became certified to teach it (she even teaches at Alo HQ!). Eager to learn more about the magic behind Kundalini, we asked Hari to help demystify it. She talked to us about her personal experience with Kundalini, the misconceptions around it and her advice to those who want to get the most out of their practice.
For those who don’t know, will you tell us what Kundalini is?
Kundalini yoga is also known as the yoga of awareness. This technology precisely and consciously combines breath, mudra (hand postures), eye focus, mantra, body locks and postures to balance the glandular system, strengthen the nervous system, expand lung capacity and purify the blood. It brings total balance to all aspects of your being. It is a wonderful practice for those living a modern lifestyle to help them feel clear, focused, calm and steady in a relatively short period of time.
How did you discover Kundalini?
I grew up learning and practicing Kundalini yoga. From a very young age I was doing Downward Dog and long deep breathing. I really discovered and experienced my love for Kundalini when I was a teenager—it helped me deal with the emotional pressures of growing up. As I continued to develop my practice, I began teaching it publicly, and as I witnessed the profound positive changes it was having on people, my love for the practice grew even deeper. I have had the privilege and honor to teach Kundalini for more than 10 years now. It has enriched my life and continues to support me in many ways.
What benefits does this yoga style offer that set it apart from other styles?
Kundalini yoga has many benefits, some of which are similar to other forms of yoga, like feeling more calm, relaxed and clear. What makes Kundalini so dynamic and diverse is that it will give you a profound deep experience every time you practice it. Kundalini works quickly to reset the nervous system, which is key for a healthy mind and body, so that one is able to handle the pressures of modern living.
Typically, a Kundalini class incorporates things like chanting, breathing exercises and quick, repetitive movements. How do these all work together holistically?
In Kundalini yoga we practice what are called Kriyas. A Kriya will include postures, breathing techniques, mantras, meditations and deep relaxation all put together very strategically to achieve a specific result. There are Kriyas for everything from balancing digestive troubles to healing emotional fears. These Kriyas help balance the physical body and clear the mind to bring in more focus, calm, health and vitality.
What are the common misconceptions about Kundalini?
A common misconception about Kundalini yoga is that it can be too intense. This misconception just reflects the high energy and direct impact of the practice—Kundalini is safe and effective. It is a very healing, relaxing and rejuvenating form of yoga. The beauty of Kundalini is that each person has an experience of their own. Some days the practice may feel more intense depending on what someone is working through in their life, and some days it can feel like the most blissful thing. However, with daily practice, the values and benefits are clear. You will consistently feel more calm, confident, clear and bright.
Is there anything you do outside your practice to enhance your Kundalini?
There are many things one can do outside their practice to enhance their experience of Kundalini. Developing a yogic lifestyle is one of the best things to do for any yoga practice. This includes being in nature at least a few times a week, eating a healthy diet and surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family. Developing a home practice will also allow you to keep up with your life and responsibilities in a positive and calm way.
What advice do you have for first-timers or people who may have taken Kundalini before but really want to unlock their full potential?
For anyone who has not taken a Kundalini yoga class before, I encourage you to try it. There are no levels and all are welcome. It's for everyone to do and benefit from. My advice is to be open and willing to experience the yoga. As with anything new, you may question it and not fully understand what it is all about, but I guarantee it will help you feel better if you commit to doing your best. For those who want to enhance their practice, I recommend starting a home practice outside of the group class. It can be as short as a 3-minute meditation to start. You will get to really experience just how effective Kundalini is and the gifts it can bring to your life and your loved ones.
To keep up with Hari, follow her @hari_simran_ayurveda and visit her website.