" The power of Kundalini Yoga lies in the actual experience.
It goes right into your heart and
extends your consciousness
so you may have a wider horizon
of grace and knowing the truth." - Yogi Bhajan
Gillian Shapiro shares her personal story about finding and embracing one of Yoga’s most enduring and transformative practices. In this post we explore the Kundalini lineage, explain and demystify its practices, and learn of the vast healing potential inherent in consistent practice.
When I moved to NYC from NJ in 2009, I was on a quest to find a yoga style (and yoga studio) that resonated with me. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for by name but I knew what I wasn’t interested in and that was a purely physical practice.
It had to be balanced, offering a practice to support the whole being – including emotional and mental wellness. I checked out at least ten yoga classes around the city, dropping into classes from a variety of traditions and was disappointed, that is, until I finally checked out a kundalini class at the request of a friend. Wow, I had no idea this practice existed and it “checked all the boxes” as a complete mind, body, spirit practice that offers much more than a strict asana-based practice. It is a prescription for life and invitation for self-growth and transformation, using meditation, breath-work, unique postures, mantra and the gong! That was it, I was hooked! WAHE GURU!
Kundalini yoga is the yoga of awareness and that awareness is of our self, and connecting to our true nature. It is both an art and a science. It's an art because every body's poses will be unique to their body; there is no "perfect" pose and frankly, some of the poses are unique in and of themselves! It's a science because it is a technology that works on many levels. It boosts the immune system, strengthens the nervous system and works the glandular system when practicing its postures, meditations and breath techniques, in every class. It is a technology that works fast; its effects are immediate. I feel different after my practice, every single time.
Consider it like cooking a favorite cake recipe! We need to gather the ingredients in the right quantities, mix them well and bake them for a certain length of time in order to create a cake that is delicious and ready to eat. In a class, the recipe we cook together is called a "kriya". Instead of flour and sugar, the ingredients are breath, movements, sound and meditation, and all elements are practiced for a certain length of time, for optimal effect. At the end of class, the result (the "cake") is a calm mind, relaxed and strong body, strong nervous system and immune system, and an open heart, ready to give and receive love. Delicious!
Here is a Q&A to help describe the practice and what to expect in a class:
Q: What is kundalini yoga and what can I expect in a kundalini yoga class?
A: Kundalini yoga is the yoga of awareness. It is a physical, mental and emotional body practice. It is different from a typical yoga class. Expect to sing, chant, meditate, move in unique and different ways than you might be used to as part of a kriya (see below), and to deeply relax. Also expect to be provoked – physically, mentally and/or emotionally. That’s part of the process and it’s where change can happen. Come if you are ready for inner growth, transformation and to get in touch with your most authentic self. Stretch your comfort zone on the mat and in life. Longer classes include a gong bath, a reset switch for the frazzled nervous system.
Q: Do I need to be flexible?
A: The only flexibility needed is of the mind; come with an open mind. You do not need to have a flexible body to reap the multitude of benefits from this practice.
Q: What is a kriya?
A: A kriya is a set of exercises when done in a specific order and timed, will produce a particular effect. This is the part of class when we practice asanas (poses), but there may also be breath work and/or meditation as part of a kriya, too, so it varies greatly. There are many kriyas in this tradition so each class is different. There are kriyas to address every body system, the chakras, energy system, mental or emotional state you can imagine, for example: to strengthen immunity, work on the kidneys, liver, brain/memory or respiratory system, balance the chakras, increase intuition, release anger, fear, stress, anxiety/worry, help break addiction cycles and habits, alleviate menopausal symptoms, increasing creativity and so much more. This is a small sample. Truly there is a kriya for anything that ails you as a human.
Q: What are the benefits of this practice?
A: The effects of practicing kundalini yoga are immediate. It’s both an art and a science, a technology that works fast. You can expect to feel differently at the end of a class compared to how you felt before it. Kundalini yoga strengthens the immune system, calms the nervous system, and benefits the glandular system. Every class impacts these vital systems at a minimum.
Q: Will I sweat or get a workout in class?
A: Each class is different so in some classes you will sweat and get a very challenging workout and in other classes, it’s more meditative than physical. It varies. Note that the physical aspect is but one aspect of many in a class. Also, there are no handstands or headstands in this tradition.
Q: Are there levels, or beginner’s classes?
A: No, there are no levels; all levels practice together. A total beginner can practice with someone with years of experience in the same class and both get value out of the class.
Q: What about alignment?
A: Kundalini yoga is not a hands-on practice, but know that as the teacher we will watch you to make sure that you are safe and always offer modifications of poses so that they are more accessible to every body.
Experience Kundalini for yourself in a class, workshop, or private session. Beginners welcome; show up with an open mind, ready to participate in your own healing. Contact Gillian at email@example.com for more details. For more information on the practice of kundalini yoga, visit www.gillianshapiro.com.
Gillian has practiced Kundalini Yoga since 2009 and completed her KRI 200-hour teacher training in NYC in 2012. She loves this style of yoga because it embodies authentic living, compassion, love, and facilitates inner growth. It is an ideal way to stretch our comfort zone. Gillian was certified in Grief Yoga TM at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Feb. 2019, which is a unique blend of yoga styles including hatha, kundalini and others, utilizing movement, breath and sound to help support those who are grieving a any kind of loss we humans experience. Gillian plays the gong in kundalini classes, workshops, group gong baths and private, personalized gong therapy sessions to quiet the mind and expand consciousness. It can be very soothing to the frayed nervous system, an antidote to the stress of life. Her classes focus on trusting our innate wisdom and having an authentic experience that may lead to increased awareness of self and inner growth. Gillian also practices Reiki and herbalism and offers herbal wellness consultations and classes. She holds her MBA from Rutgers University.