Workout We Love: Kundalini Yoga
This form of yoga is meant to bring a heightened state of awareness filled with light, understanding and creative energy.
Photo By Melissa Jacobs.
Kunda what? When a colleague first mentioned kundalini, we thought she was talking about pasta or a new kind of martini. It couldn’t be yoga, because we’d done every kind of yoga under the sun. Or so we thought.
Kundalini was brought to the United States in 1969 by Yogi Bhajan. Not surprisingly, it first took hold in California. Kundalini’s poses and breath of fire are designed to unleash energy held in the body. “Kundalini rising” is a heightened state of awareness filled with light, understanding and creative energy.
It’s hard to believe that Main Line studios would indulge in anything quite so hippie-dippy. Then we tried a kundalini yoga session led by holistic guru Lance Isakov, owner of Berwyn’s Village Wellness. As gong vibrations moved through our bodies, we found ourselves lying on the floor in a dream-like state, head-to-toe with 15 strangers. First, we learned to breathe.
Different from ujjayi, kundalini’s breath of fire utilizes steady, deep inhalations and exhalations that fuel other forms of yoga. “It’s an inhale, holding the breath, then a few sniffs of air to create more space in the lungs,” says Isakov. “Then you exhale powerfully to push out the breath.”
Isakov led us through different poses, including a seated, spinning, almost rhythmic spinal twist. “It opens the endocrine system and energy pathways in our bodies,” he says. Other poses and gestures—like wrist shaking—were equally unfamiliar. The movements were directed at certain joints and organs. Kundalini incorporates Ayurvedic philosophies, says Isakov. Then came the gong.
Billed as a “sound journey,” the gong session began with our bodies in something like savasana, yoga’s closing corpse pose. Once we were comfortably situated on our backs, Isakov began to strike his gong. Isakov has had it since 2004, and he went through special training to use it. “The body’s chakra system mirrors the gong,” he says. “The black center is the heart. When I strike up and down the gong, I’m moving around the chakras, clearing the mind, cleansing the nervous system and invigorating the body.”
Isakov describes the gong as “a shamanic journey instrument.” That sounds like malarkey—until you feel it reverberate through your body. “It’s like tuning forks creating vibrations,” says Isakov. Laying that still for that long seemed impossible, but 30 minutes seemed to pass like three. After Isakov roused us, he led us in a rendition of “May the Long Time Sun Shine Upon You.” Depending on whom you ask, it’s a Scottish or Irish poem or prayer written Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band and released in 1968. The song ends every kundalini yoga session.
We stayed for another kundalini tradition. Yogi Tea is a warm blend of cardamom, clove, ginger, cinnamon, pepper and honey homemade by Isakov. (Find the recipe here.) The famous Yogi Tea company was founded by none other than Yogi Bhajan, kundalini’s founder.
While we can’t claim to have achieved kundalini rising, the session was a great way to end a month, a season or a year. The experience left us feeling happy, calm, centered and excited to continue our wellness journey into 2020.