The first thing a person usually notices when walking into a Kundalini Yoga class for the first time is that most people are wearing white, their heads are covered, and they are sitting on sheepskin rugs. These are accouterments to the practice that one may or may not choose to include. Above and beyond all of that, the suggestions I will offer to enhance your experience are in fact qualities, not items. These qualities will assist in cultivating an environment of evolution from within and allow you to make the most of this sacred practice we call Kundalini Yoga.
In Zen Buddhism there is a term called Shoshin, which translates to “The Beginner's Mind”. This is the first of the three qualities to bring with you to class. To operate with a beginner’s mind means to see and experience phenomena as if it is being seen and experienced for the first time, with acceptance and curiosity, unadulterated by past experience, expectation, preference, resistance, or fear. To approach life in this manner allows us to derive all the nutritional and educational benefits from an experience without the baggage of past experience, or future projection.
In the practice of Kundalini Yoga this quality serves to benefit us greatly. In many ways some of the work we do in class may seem “out of the ordinary”. Rarely if ever are we employing traditional asana postures. Instead we employ kriyas, which are a combination and variation of movements, postures, mantras, pranayama techniques, and meditations. The kriyas serve as prescriptions (for a lack of a better word) to move and clear energy blocks, detoxify organs, balance the nervous system, charge the pranic life force energy, and create an environment primed for spiritual evolution. Frequently, students will be moved to tears as an old emotional energy block releases, or experience an altered state of consciousness that changes their worldview. All of this is facilitated by a non-judging, beginner’s mind.
Secondly, in order to rise above the polarities of the mind into a higher state of awareness, oftentimes we need to stay the course and apply focus and discipline to “poke, provoke, and elevate” ourselves. Traditionally, in yoga we call this tapas, which is the fire of transformation. Discipline serves to cultivate deeper attention, focus, and heightened awareness.
In 2017 it was stated that statistically the average attention span of an American adult was 8 seconds, and is further narrowing due to the abundance of information presented to us since that statistic was generated. In the same point of reference it was stated that a goldfish has a nine second attention span. (No specification as to whether this was an adult goldfish or not, but does it matter?!) The practice of discipline enables us with the energy, willpower, and fortitude to focus and act in alignment with our best intentions for ourselves and others, to rise above the myriad of distractions and stay the course of progress, evolution, and high alignment.
Very often discipline can be taken too far, perhaps precipitated by a deep lingering lack of self-love, self acceptance, or desire for perfection. In mind or action a person can push themselves beyond discipline for progress and evolution into a destructive form of discipline which depletes the body, the life force energy, and the balance in mind, body, and spirit. This brings forth the third, and in my opinion most important, quality: self-love.
Many years ago, I most certainly forced my way into the category of over-disciplined. I saw my body as an ill-performing machine that needed to be perfected, taught a lesson, and brought into alignment by sheer force and will power. What I lacked in love for myself, I made up for in punishment to my body and ultimately my spirit, too. This forceful, unloving treatment was founded on the belief that I was nothing more than a body with a mind. A body and mind with limitations, imperfections, and shortcomings that left me feeling that I always needed tweaking, perfecting, pruning, and constant re-branding.
Once I started practicing Kundalini Yoga, I came to experience an aspect of myself that ran deeper and transcended higher than the limitations of my body and mind. I came to know the subtler aspects of my being that have little to no affiliation with the body. I came to experience my energy channels and energy centers, my auric field of energy, my vibrational sound current, my intuition, and ultimately my soul. For discipline to be serving to one, it must be rooted in self love. That part of ourselves that allows the soul to serve as mother, or father, watching over the body and mind as a child in the way a loving parent would, encouraging ourselves to move beyond false limitation and self-deception while also employing balance to not evoke harm to one’s self; finding equanimity, harmony, and sustainability. This is the energy that allows for evolution. Without love, the opposite of evolution occurs.
I consider Kundalini Yoga to be the abstract art in the large palette of the yoga spectrum. Sometimes the approach to healing and transformation in the practice is beyond logic, reason, and the mind’s ability to comprehend and decipher. However, on a subtler level of energy, intuition, and consciousness it is easily understood and integrated. I encourage all who approach this practice to lean into the differences present in this style and employ the three qualities I suggest: a beginner's mind, discipline, and self-love. In doing so you are apt to find a practice, technology, and art that awakens a depth of self and awareness beyond current understanding.