For most of my adult life I’ve had an on again off again relationship with yoga. I started out with hatha yoga focusing first on Iyengar and then transitioning to Anusara. Eventually I grew bored with yoga and stopped practicing. I studied dance for many years, and yoga felt like all the stretches I’d do before dance class. That’s all yoga was for me: a way to connect to my body through stretching poses. There was nothing spiritual to me about it, and because I didn’t have a particularly strong connection to yoga, it would fade out of my life until I found myself stiff once again, thus bringing yoga back into my life.
Then a little more than two years ago, I found myself at an all time low in my life. I had quit a job I was passionate about (that’s a story for another day) and had no direction in my life. I had no idea how to redefine myself, and my self-esteem was at an all time low. Then one weekend, the yoga studio I was going to had an offering of free yoga classes. I decided to take two classes that were one hour apart. Nestled in between those two classes was a Kundalini yoga class.
I had studied Kundalini yoga for one semester a lifetime ago in 1990. It was on the top floor of a building located on a university campus. It felt more like an attic filled with cobwebs and dark corners you didn’t want to venture into. The teacher was morose the entire time. The experience itself of doing Kundalini yoga was extremely unpleasant. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t drop the class, but I stuck with it and although I never returned to Kundalini yoga, I kept the Kundalini yoga book I purchased for the class and took it with me wherever I moved.
When I found myself with the opportunity to take a Kundalini yoga class for the first time in twenty five years, I thought, “Why not?” From the moment the music started, I was hooked. The teacher, whose energy was uplifting and effervescent, lifted me up. Every single cell in my body said, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” I felt like I had come home. From the mantras that brought peace into my life to all the crazy kriya sets (a series of poses put together in sequential order) I finally felt all the tension and sadness I’d had since quitting my job start to melt away.
I began to have a regular practice. Unlike hatha yoga, Kundalini yoga did feel spiritual to me. Everything in Kundalini yoga is all about connecting to the Divine, raising your consciousness, and discovering your true essence – all in high octane order. I was burning through all the sadness, anger, disappointment, and every other intense emotion I’ve felt throughout my life.
I loved the practice so much I decided to take a teacher training last year so I could deepen my practice. After I completed the training, I began to get even more committed and started a daily practice. Suddenly I found myself having energy to Get. Stuff. Done. I began decluttering my home like crazy. I had so much energy and felt so many positive shifts in my life I decided it was time to teach other people.
As I started to look for a place to teach, I also found myself feeling off-kilter and ungrounded from all the events happening in our country and around the world. I felt a need to connect to the earth so that I could get the support I was desperately needing. I looked for a kriya about connecting to the earth, but I couldn’t find anything in my books or online. I’d choose a kriya so I could continue my daily practice, but nothing was sitting quite right.
About two weeks ago, I signed up for an online yoga program where the teacher would be sharing her hatha yoga practice with us. I thought, “No problem. I’ll keep doing Kundalini yoga and I’ll throw hatha in there occasionally.” Then one day, as I sat down at my mat and began my short kriya set, I was in the middle of a spinal flex when I thought and deeply felt, “I’m not into this. I can’t do this anymore.” I quit the kriya and moved into the hatha sequence.
After that day, I did a mixture of the classes online and I also listened to my intuition about the poses that I wanted to do that day. I tuned in and connected the poses to the earth, drawing her energy up into me. I lay on my back and allowed her to fully support me. I stood in mountain pose and felt my strength as I stood connecting my feet to her, helping me feel grounded and secure.
As I began to connect the earth into my practice, hatha yoga suddenly became alive for me in a whole new way. I found myself being open to trying wheel pose, something I hadn’t been able to do since I was child studying gymnastics. In fact, I thought I’d never be able to do wheel pose again because of shoulder surgery and weak wrists, but I proved myself wrong.
Many of the poses I’m focused on at the moment are backbends and heart openers. Since rediscovering hatha yoga and connecting to it in an intuitive way, slowing down and listening to what my heart is urging me to do, I’ve gone splashing in the ocean for the first time in years, and I even went on a high ropes course and climbed an indoor rock wall, both of which I thought I would never do. Ever. In a million years.
Although this rediscovery of hatha yoga has left me wondering where Kundalini yoga is in my life, I’m ok with letting it go at the moment. If I feel a desire to bring the practice back into my life, I will. In the meantime, I’ll listen to the stirrings of my heart, and whichever way it guides me, I will follow.