Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

"A little girl Rubbin' on the bowls make you float around make your lovin' strong"*

After 16 hours of workshop with the queen of kundalini (Gurmukh Khalsa), I have been trying to relieve this experience in writing but it is very difficult to render what I felt during and after. Kundalini, perhaps even more than any other form of yoga, must be felt as words cannot make it justice. So, this post is a personal journal reflecting on my initiation to kundalini. I was a complete novice to the practice, and I was very curious to explore it as it is one of the most ancient forms of hatha yoga springing from the tantra tradition. Besides, I had read so many good things about Gurmukh that I had been longing to study with her for quite a while.

We all agree that yoga is ONE, despite the many schools and styles. This has certainly been my truth up until this past weekend. Kundalini is quite different. The main peculiarity is that you can't get away with a *yin* approach to it. In other practices, if one day your energy level is down and you feel lethargic or soporific, you can decide to take it easy and be more gentle with your body. In kundalini you are in or are out, i.e. you can rest without feeling a loser but asking to yourself: is the the mind or the body asking me to give up? OR you are in as you don't have choice but to hold the poses.

For an inexperienced student it may feel like an endurance test, but the effects are immediate and powerful. This is perhaps the other main difference from other schools. Kundalini touches the most inner buttons of our nervous system... and unblocks. The exercise directed to heart chakra made me cry tears of joy. At some point I felt electricity raising up through my neck, inebriating my head and I felt our collective energy perforating the roof. Nobody looks the same in a Kundalini class and yet I felt part of a unity as we drew our energy from one another through chanting, counting and our presence.

Because each exercise is hold for such a long time (11 looong minutes), it becomes a repetitive but not mechanical movement. In the same way a mantra is repeated 108 times to become pure sound of the universe, the movement becomes pure energy and you feel expansion and connection to the infinite. The practice becomes deeply meditative as your mind is fully focussed and content. This is a sensation I have experienced with other styles of yoga after years of practice, but in kundalini it feels catalysed - or maybe I am simply more receptive these days thanks to my regular practice and my philosophy studies.

Gurmukh was great at energising us through praise and encouragement but was also skilful to keep us grounded. To reach enlightenment the scriptures profess that the energy should raise from the base up to the crown of the head and beyond. But before reaching full liberation and union with god, one need learn to master the energetic channels through a balanced practice. Therefore, it is vital to keep the energy moving up and down from the root to the head chakra and back. The anus chakra is important as it keeps us rooted and purified -- it is through this chakra that we eliminate. The second chakra is the most creative one as it is where we conceive and express our erotic sphere. Although we need all the chakras to have a well functioning body, the heart chakra is often considered the most important one and sometimes the hardest to release.

Each of the five sessions with Gurmukh was different and creative but all of them were structured in the same work/play balance: the first part was rigorous and committed, the second part totally liberating. The dancing side of Kundalini is how I think each yoga class should end: expansion from stabilising action; freedom from structure. We danced freely shaking our entire bodies and forgetting who we were as if we had just stepped onto planet earth for the first time ever with the universe still within us. We concluded the weekend in glorified hippie fashion, joyfully dancing the Beatles songs and hugging each other in a big circle. I felt like in an angelic rave, surrounded by pure beings, in a Sunny Sunday morning in a bright colourful loft of bohemian Primrose Hill.

I found it physically hard, so hard I could hardly climb the stairs at the end of it. By Saturday night my body was trembling and my mind all over the places. On Sunday though I felt calm and really happy. I am not sure it will be my preferred teaching style, but I would love to have the opportunity to practice it again to deepen my understanding, if nothing more, and I will definitely incorporate some elements into my personal practice and teaching style.

* Red Hot Chilly Peppers, Falling into Grace with You

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