Kundalini Is Trending—Here’s What You Need to Know About The Mystic Yoga Practice
By Michelle Pellizzon
August 2, 2017
I walked into my first Kundalini class on accident.
Attempting to fit in some type of workout around 1 p.m. on a weekday is challenging—even in a place like Los Angeles, where fitness is king. Desperate to do some type of yoga, I found the only class on the schedule: Kundalini Yoga.
Suffice it to say, I was not prepared for what I walked into. But after one session, I was hooked. I loved how inspired and energized the chanting and meditation made me feel.
And every class I’ve gone to since has been completely surprising, different, and magical. I’ve sat through sessions where we shook, chanted, sang, repeated the same arm movement for 11 minutes straight, and even walked around the room like elephants on all fours. Yes, it was a little strange. But the one through-line I’ve found when I ask people about their Kundalini practice? It seems to awaken some sort of inspiration and magic in them.
The History of Kundalini
Called “The Yoga of Awareness,” Kundalini-style yoga is unlike other traditional asana-focused yoga practices. While a Hatha or Vinyasa class revolves more around moving through certain poses, a Kundalini class involves a lot more breath work and meditation.
The origins of Kundalini are unclear, but historical records suggest that it’s been around since around 500 B.C. The writings we do have on Kundalini make it seem like the practice was more centered on the science of energy and spiritual philosophy instead of a physical practice. Teachers would recite their spiritual visions to students, and guide them through their own visions. Eventually, this gave way to a more physically embodied practice that involves repetitive movements to reach a trance-like state. Kundalini exercises are more like a moving meditation than physical exercise.
What to expect from class
Leave your expectations at the door! In a Kundalini class, the teacher at the front of the room is the expert. To become a certified Kundalini teacher, you have to go through extensive training and study—these people know what they’re talking about. Part-philosopher, part-yoga instructor, part-spiritual teacher, they’ll lead the 75- to 90-minute class through traditional Kundalini meditations and chants.
There are thousands of different kriyas, or chants, in Kundalini practice. Each is meant to help with a specific issue. That could be something physical, like shoulder pain, but most of the time it’s more emotional or spiritual. One of my favorite kriyas is a heart-softening chant—it’s supposed to help you forgive and become more emotionally available, and the movement involves opening up your arms to the side rapidly like you’re getting a jolt of electricity through your heart. Yeah, it’s intense. But I like it.
What to wear and bring
If you’re going to class for the first time, wear light colored clothes; in the Kundalini tradition, white garments open up your aura and extend your energy out to others. And don’t be intimidated when you go to class if you don’t know what’s going on—remember that everyone started as a beginner at some point!
At the end of class, you’ll likely feel buzzy, glowy, and even a litle bit light-headed. Chock it up to Kundalini vibes, or the intense breath work that you’ll do in class. Be sure to drink lots of water, and pay attention to how you feel in the hours directly after your class.
There are small pockets of Kundalini communities in cities like Los Angeles and New York. It can be tough to find a Kundalini class if you’re not in a big city, but trust me, once you find one it’s so worth attending!
Michelle Pellizzon is a certified health coach, holistic nutritionist, NASM-certified PT, healthy living expert, and the U.S. Senior editor of Sporteluxe. When she's not writing, you can probably find her running the trails of the Santa Monica mountains, trying to meditate, or searching for the best coffee in LA.