Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Sat Nam and Welcome in!
You can go to ten thousand virtual places to find excellent answers to this question on our information superhighway, so I write this for the person who has not done that, who is just interested in trying this form of yoga, and wants an answer.
Kundalini Yoga is a traditional form of yogic practice. It incorporates all that yogis do in one 90-minute session. You will tune in to begin your practice, you will learn to breathe in ways that will change your body and brain, you will chant or sing, you will warm up the spine, you will work hard for a few minutes, you will lie down a bit, experience a short gong immersion, and then you will come sitting up and chant Sat Nam to close. You will learn things about yourself. Then you will have tea and get grounded before heading out. You will use mudras (holding the hands in a specific way) mantras (repeated strings of words, to quiet the mind) and learn a bit of the Gurmukhi language, an Indian script based on the Sanskrit, but simpler.
The exercises are fixed; we as instructors do not make them up. Some of the exercises are like calisthenics, some are seated but dynamic, some are standing postures; sometimes we do traditional poses, like Archer Pose. We don't use the Sanskrit terms, so beginners find it easy. These sets of exercises are like a recipe. Each set, which can have one pose, or many poses, is called a “kriya” (meaning whole action) leads, if practiced diligently, to a specific outcome, such as strengthening the lower body, or developing intuition, or expanding the aura. A kriya, done with affection and an open heart, for 40, 90, 120 or 1000 days, will affect you in amazing and specific ways.
You will have some challenges, you will have some fun. You will feel elevated. If you're open to it, eventually you will feel all the feels, actually. All the feelings you have been suppressing will come up. Thoughts you have been longing to process will come up. This is why this is referred to as The Yoga of Awareness. You are setting aside time to spend quality time with your self, and all that s/he is...
Kundalini Yoga is meant to be done everyday; it is called The Householder’s Yoga, because it is meant to be done by regular people who have homes and jobs and families and responsibilities. We offer classes to teach you how to do a kriya, to teach you how to meditate, to teach you how to perfect your breath control and posture. The real yoga comes when you decide to do the practice every day, at home, ideally first thing in the morning. This is called your "sadhana." It is your daily, personal practice.
What about the "As Taught by Yogi Bhajan" part? Kundalini Yoga was not taught openly until Harbhajan Singh Puri, renamed Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, renamed Siri Singh Sahib, and called Yogi Bhajan (8/26/29 — 10/6/04) by his friends and students, began to teach yoga here in 1968. He began teaching this form of yoga, along with Sikh mantras and other meditation practices, in California, to help young people reach the states of elevation they had been looking for to Wake Up. (Tune in, turn on, drop out was becoming a mantra…and yogis know much better mantras!) He opened ashrams and created a LOT of teachers. His legacy is really fascinating and...dark.
Since 2018, just after we graduated from our KRI training, Mike and I have been becoming aware of the scandals surrounding Yogi Bhajan and his organizations 3HO, the Kundalini Research Institute, Akal Security, White Tantric Yoga, etc., and have begun to distance ourselves from many of these organizations, with some exceptions such as the recording label, Spirit Voyage. Until the dark underbelly affecting these organizations is dealt with, we will continue to simply pivot away from any elevation of Yogi Bhajan and those teachings we find to be questionable. We have chosen, as of this writing, to continue to teach the kriyas and meditations with which we have had personal, direct, life-enhancing experiences. Kundalini yoga as we teach it, was arranged, much like a flower arrangement, by this man Yogi Bhajan, but flowers were not made by the arranger. The arrangement of postures and meditations is beautiful and amazingly effective in this practice. While we see the darkness in the hand that delivered the flowers, we cannot despise the flowers. Yoga is not owned by any one teacher. Yoga, like a flower, belongs to us all; it is our birthright.
With our past and current training from the Raviana school of Kundalini Yoga, we no longer strictly adhere to KRI teaching methods, or to the understanding that Yogi Bhajan is a man to look up to. We follow our intuition based on our yogic knowledge and personal practice, and we follow Ravi Singh and other Masters when we have questions.
So, to come full circle, what can a person expect from a kundalini yoga class (any school) that is different from a “regular” yoga class easily found in most studios (there are perhaps a dozen other yogas)?
That answer requires a look into what is Kundalini, and I will save that for the next blog entry.
Thanks for watching, Sat Nam,