How to Prepare for a Kundalini Yoga Class
Yogi Bhajan once said all you need to have to attend a Kundalini Yoga class is the will to transform. All are welcome! No experience necessary!
- There is no particular "dress code" for a Kundalini Yoga class. (Often you may notice long time students wear white clothes, but not required) Comfortable loose fitting clothing works best.
- We provide yoga mats, blankets, bolsters and even eye pillows or you can bring your own yoga items.
- We suggest not eating a heavy meal 1-2 hours before class. If you must eat something, eat a piece of fruit or something light.
- Please avoid wearing perfumes or essential oils as over the years we've found other students may have sensitivities to them.
- We invite all to participate to the best of their ability. We can always provide appropriate modifications.
- If you are pregnant or menstruating it is a special time so there are some Asanas and breathing practices that are not recommended. We can provide modifications.
- Please note that it is not appropriate to ever come to class intoxicated or on recreational drugs.
A typical Kundalini Yoga session follows this format:
1. Tuning in with the opening Mantra
2. Breathe and Movement/Opening the Channels
3. Main Kriya, a set of exercises
4. Deep relaxation, sometimes accompanied by the Gong
We'd like to introduce to you some practices you will experience in a typical Kundalini Yoga class.
The Science of Breathing
Pranayama, The Science of Breathing
The yogic technology of natural breath is called Pranayama. Kundalini Yoga incorporates conscious the breathing as a practice in itself and through out a class. "Body follows the mind, mind follows the breath" The following are the most commonly used breathing techniques in Kundalini Yoga:
Long Deep Breathing.
Natural Yogic breathing is also known as diaphragmatic breathing. It uses the respiratory system in the most effective and natural manner for relaxation, energizing and improving our meditation skills.
Instructions: First relax the abdomen as you inhale through the nose, then expand the belly,allowing the lungs to fill with air to their capacity. Then drop the shoulders relaxing them continuing to take in the last bit of air. As you exhale let the chest deflate first as the ribs knit together and then pull the navel in toward the spine until all the air is expelled from the lungs. The diaphragm flattens to expand the lungs on the inhalation and contracts to expel the air on the exhalation.
Note: if you are a beginner, you may be breathing backward, that is, pulling the navel inward during inhalation instead of outward. We call it "fear breath" since at some point in our lives we were shocked and we sucked in our breath and "armored" our abdomen. This makes the space for the breath less rather than more.
Benefits: This breath relaxes and calms you even under the most intense conditions; adjusts the aura; increases lung capacity; builds up your endurance and patience, maintaining you in your center.
Breath of Fire
A signature practice in Kundalini Yoga is the Breath of Fire, a rapid balanced breath with equal emphasis on the inhalation and the exhalation. It is excellent to support the asanas and is very cleansing and energizing.
Instructions: This breath is done through the nose with a closed mouth throughout the inhalation and the exhalation. Breathe fairly rapidly (1-2breaths per second), continuously with no pause between inhalation and exhalation. This breath focuses the energy at the navel point. It is similar to Long Deep Breathing, just more rapid.
Benefits: This breath helps cleanse the blood and releases toxins from the lungs and is known to strengthen the nervous system. Note: while pregnant or menstruating, substitute Long Deep Breathing for Breath of Fire.
Instructions: Curl the tongue, (like a taco) resting on and protruding slightly past your lower lip. Inhale deeplyand smoothly through the tongue and exhale through the nose, closing the mouth. For those who cannot roll their tongue, gently rest the tip of the tongue on the lower lip closing the lips around it so you inhale through the tiny opening that results.
Benefits: Very soothing and cooling. Shifts anger and negative moods, helps with fevers and normalizing blood pressure. We have taught folks with MS to do this breath as it helps cool the body which can alleviate some symptoms
How to hold the breath (Suspend)
Breath suspension will make your body operate at a higher level of efficiency. This is a simple skill. Inexperienced students when holding the breath will pull the chin in, tighten the neck and throat muscles and stiffen the tongue. The correct way to hold the breath in or out is to suspend the breathing mechanism. To suspend the breath means to relax the muscles of the diaphragm, ribs and abdomen responsible for the constant flow of the breath.
- To hold the breath in, relax the belly, expand the ribs allowing the diaphragm to flatten. Extend the spine, relax the shoulders. If you feel the need to exhale, inhale a little more to regain control of the breath.
- To hold the breath out, start with a complete exhalation. Pull the navel back toward the spine, lifting the lower chest and diaphragm. Let the upper ribs relax and compress. Finally, pull the chin in. If you have the breath suspended out, and your muscles start a reflex to inhale, consciously exhale a little more to extend the length of the suspension without struggling.
The Science of Body Postures (Asana)
Most Yoga systems include Asana as a part of their practice. In Kundalini Yoga we practice familiar yoga asanas as well as dynamic movement. We sometimes hold a posture or can move rhythmically in and out of the posture.
The Science of Body Locks (Bhandas)
There are certain combinations of muscle contractions, Bhandas, to hold the body steady and still. They also direct the flow of subtle energy and prana in our bodies.
Jalandhara Bhanda, or Neck Lock, is the most common of the Bhandas and really helps in meditation and breathing. A gentle Neck Lock is a default position when sitting in Easy Pose or other cross legged position. The Neck Lock is produced by smoothly drawing the neck and throat back, creating a kind of temporary "double chin" making sure that at the same time the head stays level without tilting too much forward.
Mul Bhanda, the Root Lock involves pulling in the rectum, sex organs (sphincter muscles) and navel point - the lower abdomen, the Umbilicus muscles, all at the same time. This lock can be applied on the inhale or exhale, as specified in the exercises. It helps stabilize the lower spine and manage energy.
Uddiyana Bhanda, the Diaphragm Lock, is normally applied on the exhalation. With the spine extended, lift the diaphragm up high into the thorax and pull the upper abdominal muscles back toward the spine. Gently massages the heart muscles and stabilizes the upper spine.
Maha Bhanda is the application of all three locks (Jalandhara, Uddiyana and Mul Bhanda) all at the same time. When you apply this lock, the nerves and glands are rejuvenated.
The Science of the Sound Current – Mantra
“Man” means mind; “Tra” means to tune the vibration and projection. In Kundalini Yoga classes we use a variety of Mantras that have various affects. We provide Mantra sheets when necessary. We always like to remind students that the body is 65% water and water really responds to sound. We use appropriate music, both recorded and live in class as well as the Gong. In Kundalini Yoga class the Gong can create a marvelous experience used in relaxation, meditation and healing.
Here are the three main mantras used in a Kundalini Yoga class:
ONG NAMO GURU DEV NAMO
I bow to the Source of all, I bow to the Teacher within
This mantra is chanted before we begin each Kundalini Yoga class. We chant this Mantra three times. It connects and reminds us of the Teacher within us, and helps transition from our daily activities to the sacred space of the class.
Instructions: Prayer Mudra, the palms flat together at the center of the chest, two fingers above the notch at the bottom of the sternum, known as the Mind Nerve.
ONG (the Source of all): a nasal sound, vibrating the upper palate of the mouth
NAMO (reverent greetings)
GURU (GU - Darkness, RU - Light): The Teacher, that which brings us from darkness to awareness.
DEV(transparent): The Teacher, within.
THE SUNSHINE SONG
We close each Kundalini Yoga class with this song. It blesses everyone and brings a peace of mind. It is also known as a traditional Irish Blessing. We sing it twice and then chant Long Sat Naam.
May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on
What is real, is my Identity.
This is a Bij Mantra, or “Seed” Mantra and has a profound effect on the subconscious mind. It is also used as a greeting. We chant a long Sat Naam after the Long Time Sunshine song. (It sounds much like "but Mom".)