One of the most common results of this past 2 years in reflecting upon the COVID Pandemic has been the collective experience of fear, separation, limitation, and isolation. In addition, job loss, compromised education, economic instability, and unexpected loss of loved ones has created a psychological environment prime for chronic anxiety and depressive conditions for people in all stages of life, from young children to the elderly. Oftentimes during the darkest hour of desperation, one is more inclined to consider applying somewhat unconventional methods to seek safe, sustainable relief.
To many who have a regular yoga practice, seeking to gain relief from mental health challenges by way of one's practice makes complete sense. However in a culture that often turns toward pills, quick fixes, and celebrity endorsed gimmicks, it seems unlikely to consider that something as simple as adding a regular practice of yoga can bring life-changing transformation to rise above depression, anxiety, disease, and health challenges. It seems too good to be true that something so simple could make such a profound transformation in one’s health and quality of life.
I have been practicing yoga for many years. I started with a vinyasa flow and hatha yoga, through which many shifts unfolded in my life. Mostly, in creating flexibility and a deeper connection to my breath along with a relief from stress and anxiety. A few years into my practice, I was introduced to Kundalini Yoga and it was a complete game changer. When I connected with people who had a regular practice of Kundalini Yoga, it was evident to me that there was something unique that they uncovered within themselves from participating in the practice. There was an aura of peace and contentment about them. I sensed they were tapped into something that allowed them the ability to see and experience life from an elevated perspective.
The practice of Kundalini Yoga works to enhance our experience of living as human beings through applying some foundational elements of the practice: movement, (also known as kriya), breath, sound, and meditation. The combination of these elements serves to bring us into a balanced and harmonious state of being. They enhance physical health by clearing the energy channels of the body, oxygenating the blood, purifying the organs, activating the glandular system, reestablishing balance, and removing impurities from the body. This process also has a profound effect on the experience and quality of the mind and the emotional system. A consistent practice brings us to a state of optimum health and serves as a preventative process to maintain health of mind, body, and spirit through the course of one’s lifetime.
The unique combination of repetitive movements followed by periods of stillness in Kundalini Yoga serves to re-educate the nervous system. It is believed that much of the physical and mental disease in our lives is rooted, at a foundational level, in chronic stress. Chronic stress is evidence of an imbalance of the autonomic nervous system, which is composed of two parts: the sympathetic (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic (rest and digest). In our modern world we are overstimulated, and the nervous system is chronically activated in a state of “fight or flight”. This chronically activated state becomes habituated within the nervous system, glandular system, and the mind itself. We find ourselves unable to relax, stressed, anxious, and exhausted.
When we are unable to relax, the balance of the nervous system is lost and the body becomes addicted to adrenaline, the hormone that facilitates the fight or flight response. Digestion, healing, and sexual functions, which are related to the rest and digest process, are consistently compromised and disabled. Breathing is chronically shallow and disease soon sets in when we are in a habitually activated state. If these issues go unaddressed at their foundational level, the tendency toward mental dysfunction, sleep disturbance, depression, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, digestive issues, and chronic disease increases.
In addition to the profound benefits brought to the nervous system as a result of a regular Kundalini Yoga practice, the practice has also been touted to bring relief to symptoms of: PTSD, addictions, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, insomnia, chronic fatigue, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and anxiety.
Kundalini Yoga serves as a re-education process for the nervous system and thus brings relief to the aforementioned issues. The practice of Kundalini Yoga reestablishes a stability and resilience in the nervous system and promotes a balanced expression of glandular secretions in the body, not just the ones that support the stress response, but also those that support relaxation, connection, digestion, sexual functions, wellbeing and balanced sleep cycles. At this level of rebalancing the life force is revitalized, the blood is oxygenated, the organs are refreshed and purified, the muscles and tissues are able to heal and renew at a quicker rate, the mind is more balanced, the emotions are stabilized, harmony is reestablished, and the whole manner of our being is renewed and upgraded. We can begin to thrive.
One of the most widely recognized studies that exemplifies the power and benefit of Kundalini Yoga is detailed in a study conducted on one of the most popular Kundalini Yoga meditation techniques called Kirtan Kriya. UCLA, U Penn, and the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Organization (ARPF) have all conducted studies on the profound healing and preventative benefits for the brain as a result of practicing Kirtan Kriya. Conclusive evidence was established detailing that participation in Kirtan Kriya meditation for 11 mins a day for 11 weeks resulted in: improved memory, reduced stress and anxiety, enhanced brain blood flow, down-regulation of genes that cause disease, up-regulation of genes that promote immunity, improved sleep, and improved sense of clarity and spiritual wellbeing.
To this day, one of the most mysterious and unexplainable outcomes of the practice of Kundalini Yoga that still amazes me is how reclaiming balance and health at the foundational level of our being in this way so deeply opens us up spiritually. There is an awakening of the heart and spirit that occurs when we bring balance to the nervous system, glandular system, and physical body. This reminds me that through the maintenance of our health and employing self-care through mindfulness and yogic practices we can begin to understand what it truly is to be spiritual beings having a human experience.
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