…how to prepare so you can feel at ease
Getting to yoga for the first time can be nerve-wracking. I used to suffer quite badly from social anxiety so I understand how tough new situations in public can be, so here’s a guide to help you feel less intimidated or confused.
What to expect
Fitness or flexibility is not necessary
Kundalini Yoga is wonderfully accommodating. It is often referred to it as ‘yoga for people who think they can’t do yoga’ but also yoga for more experienced yogis who seek a more comprehensive and spiritual practice. You don’t have to be fit or flexible to partake. The practice is not competitive, as you practice at your own pace. There are plenty of modifications so there is always something you can join do. You’ll learn to be kind to yourself and not judge yourself which is already something useful to take away with you off the mat. There is a large emphasis on the breathe, so if you can breathe, you can already do a lot of the yoga. We generally practice with our eyes closed so no one really pays attention to you apart from you…
The class format
- We Tune In by chanting Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo and then Warm Up to begin dissolving tension.
- Next comes the user friendly yoga set or Kriya which is a special sequence of moving, breathing, dynamic stretches, held stretches, hand positions, body locks and chanting. The Kriya ignites, builds, releases and integrates energy in the body in a very specific way. The Warm Up and Kriya is the more Yang, masculine, active part of the class.
- Then we switch gears for the Yin, feminine, receptive part of the class. We lay down on our backs with a blanket or cover-up cosy, to relax, restore and rejuvenate in Sivasana. Sivasana, or Corpse Pose is glorious. It’s said to be the most important yoga posture because this is when ‘yoga’ happens – the integration between body, mind and spirit. You might wander off mentally or spiritually, or bask in the physical feelings of relaxation and expansion and positivity that yoga has bought you.
- After gently coming out of the Relaxation Zone, depending on how long the kriya was we may finish with a breathwork or chanting Meditation.
- Finally, we close.
You’ll journey through the complete practice of yoga
Kundalini Yoga is a comprehensive form of yoga that uses the 84 yoga postures of Hatha Yoga. Yoga postures (Asana( is one of the eight limbs of yoga. In KY we also practice the other seven limbs which are Pranayam (Control of breath), Dharana (Concentration), Pratyahar (Synchronisation of senses), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (Awakening). The Niyamas (purity, contentment, puritifation, study and devotion) and Yamas (non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-possessiveness and sensory control) I’m afraid are down to you peeps..
The breath is super important
Kundalini Yoga is known as being yoga for everyone because of it’s emphasis on the breath, and since we can all breathe we can all pretty much do Kundalini Yoga. Breath is the link between body and mind, conscious and unconscious, inside and outside. It directly affects the health and vitality of every tissue and every cell in the body. Changing the breath has immediate effect on the nervous system. Learning to use your breath allows you to change your energy level, ability to focus and concentrate capacity to respond well, and be at ease. It changes our bio-chemistry, lowers sucrose and serum cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate; balances secretion of hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters throughout the body; and works through both current and accumulated stress.
We generally practice with our eyes closed
In yoga, nourishment and expansion of your internal world is key to experiencing the same in your everyday life. Watch me long enough to understand the exercise or meditation, and then try to close down your eyes and continue. We are working towards a very elevated state, and working with the eyes closed allows our brain to not get distracted.
We use mantra and chant
In Kundalini Yoga we use a lot of mantra, science of sound. Sound vibration is the glue that holds the cosmos together. We chant to vibrate and stimulate various glands in the body. Chanting is not about your singing voice. It’s wonderfully heart opening and enlivening, and great for your health.
What to Wear
Wear clothes that you feel comfortable in. You don’t need anything figure hugging, in fact it’s better if your belly can relax a bit. Joggers and a t-shirt are fine. Wearing white definitely lifts your energy which is always a good mood enhancer, but it’s not imperative. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t depending on my mood. I don’t usually wear a turban as this is a personal choice, I’m Indian so I have an indian take on this) but you can if you feel inspired.
We practice in bare feet
Our feet have tiny receptors on the bottom that will not be able to touch the ground with socks or shoes on. Bare feet also prevent slips and falls.
What to Bring
An extra layer for Sivasana (conscious relaxation) and Meditation
When we lay on our backs to relax in Sivasana Pose, the body cools down, so it’s good to be warm and comfortable. Therefore it’s recommended to bring an extra layer or two, such as a blanket, shawl, jumper or socks to help keep your mind relaxed and present. You will fall asleep at least once, we’ve all done it! You’ll know after the first class whether an extra layer or two will bring you extra comfort.
A bottle of water
Most of us don’t drink enough good quality water and you definitely need it in yoga as your body expels toxins and garbage out into the bloodstream which needs water to be whisked away.
When you first try yoga, it makes sense to borrow a mat. If you decide yoga helps you in your everyday life, you might wish to consider an inexpensive personal mat for your practice. Kundalini Yogis typically sit on a Sheepskin rug as it provides an insulation between the yogi and the magnetic pull of the earth. The thing that prompted to get my own mat back in the day, was that it started to feel a bit icky using one that wasn’t. I wouldn’t borrow someone’s trainers to go running, so why was yoga any different? My first mat was an eco rubber one for outdoor yoga since I love being outside. I then upgraded to an organic cotton mat. Both mats are still going strong. Buying a yoga mat is a pretty smart move. It’s your own hygienic, personal mat (important for the cold and flu season!) and kind of feels like a magic carpet rug every time you roll it out and plonk yourself down. If you understand the concept of vibration too, the mat will start to hold your own so just the very act of sitting on it will get you in the yogic connected zone the moment you sit down. It’s a feeling hard to describe.
How to practice yoga
The aim is to Be Here Now
Tune into your breath, your body sensations and you will automatically experience a calmer mind, an open heart and expanded horizons.
Sensation is the language of the body
Try to pay attention to your physical sensations. This might include heat, cold, lightness, heaviness, tingling, different frequencies of vibration, expansion. If you don’t feel physical sensations, feel your breath coming in and out of your nose. Practice sensitivity. Your awareness to the world within you is linked to the world outside you.
Always be comfortable
Almost anyone can do Kundalini Yoga with the right modifications. For example, if you have problems sitting cross legged, supports such as a block or cushions can be very helpful to elevate the hips. You shouldn’t be uncomfortable if you have the right modification. Slowly uncover what works for you by experiencing and asking for guidance.
If you can’t do a posture for whatever reason, don’t wish to chant, or need to rest, continue with long, deep, breathing. Inhale the breathe down into your core and puff out the belly, Exhale by drawing in the belly towards the spine to squeeze the last bits of air out of the lungs; repeat.
Listen to your body, it knows best, cultivating awareness of what is right for you in the present moment is part of yoga. Pushing yourself will result in injury. Build up your nervous system slowly. Choose a modification if you can’t do the full posture. Work sensibly to your edge. Less is more, choose quality over quantity. Don’t forget the Yin part! – dropping into non-doing in between the exercises. If you need to hang out for a bit longer in between exercises, then do what’s right for you! Yoga is about unfolding. It’s about you and you. It’s not an olympic sport. Oh, hang on..
Eat light before class
Wait about two hours after a big meal, one hour after a light snack, and if you are super hungry have a piece of fruit.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity!
Kundalini Yoga is strong. You are about to awaken a potent force within yourself, so you won’t need drugs or alcohol in the mix. Probably not afterwards either, as I quickly found when I started the Kundalini Yoga journey!