- Fern Olivia
Why Kundalini Is the New Vinyasa
The term Kundalini means “a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine”, often portrayed as a coiled-up serpent. Though traditions have changed throughout the years, the current form of Kundalini yoga is seen as more spiritual than some strictly sweat-it-out classes, with mantras as a central part of the practice, along with complex breathing patterns and repeated movements. The class preview clip above with instructor Sarah Kline is just one example of how Kundalini can invoke awareness into our internal energies and help to positively beam them to the rest of the body and to the outside world. Here to shed a little more light on the trend, our friend Fern Langham, herself a teacher of Kundalini practicing in Venice Beach, California.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Vinyasa yoga class, one that has solid adjustments, a flow and an attentive sequence. Give me an upbeat throwback playlist with Whitney Houston and Fleetwood Mac, and I’m all in. I’ve studied Vinyasa for years with the brightest teachers at Jivamukti Yoga in New York, and received my teacher training in this beautiful lineage. It’s a practice that I love to come back to again and again.
But there is something very powerful about the Kundalini practice, which is why I’ve committed to a daily kundalini sadhana—or daily morning practice—and have noticed a new powerful ability to magnetize opportunities into my life, and I’ve recognized the same ability in the lives of my clients and fellow practitioners. What is Kundalini? Let me explain.
A ROYAL YOGA
Kundalini is a Raj, or royal lineage. You may also hear it called a “technology,” as you’ll hear my teacher, Guru Jagat, founder of the Ra Ma Institute of Applied Yogic Sciences, describe this potent practice. Guru Jagat is trailblazing the forefront of the kundalini revolution: “Kundalini yoga is so accessible to anybody. It literally has more mass appeal than any other type of yoga, because anybody can do it – and by that I mean people in peak physical condition all the way to paraplegics can do some form of the yoga. This [points to white turban, an essential Kundalini symbol] has kind of kept people from it, but at Ra Ma we’re working to debunk it without watering it down or apologizing.”
But turbans in LA are becoming a fashion statement: if you notice a flock of women walking into Whole Foods in LA wearing all white with a sheepskin rug in their tote bags, you won’t bat an eye. You may have noticed more airy cotton tunics replacing tight black spandex, and here’s why: Kundalini is the new Vinyasa, and you’ll be next to fall in love.
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF KUNDALINI?
Kundalini yoga works on the nervous and glandular systems through the technologies of pranayama (breath work), asana (movement), mantra (chanting), mudra (hand placement) and meditation. These are the five pillars of Kundalini technology, according to Harmanjot. This powerful and particular practice was taught by Yogi Bhajan (who taught Guru Jagat in New Mexico and is credited with bringing Kundalini to the U.S.) to strengthen the mind and intuitive capabilities. The word “kundalini” literally means awareness and manifesting the hidden potential of that awareness. In the yogic tradition, kundalini energy is portrayed as a coiled serpent lying dormant at the base of the spine. To raise the kundalini, we awaken and enliven this creative energy, expand our awareness and tap our infinite potential.We are all in some way asleep and need to awaken to our true selves. Often, we are called to awaken suddenly. An awakening call can come as a form of disease/dis-ease, accident or heartbreak. Such a call often comes as pain. However, the touch that brings awakening, the touch from our soul speaking to us, is one that often brings us to a deep spiritual practice.
THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY: A SHIFT FROM BOOT CAMPS TO INTROSPECTION
Our culture is shifting. We are gravitating away from zombie-like, reptilian ways of living and moving. Instead of a boot camp mentality, we are becoming more interested in becoming introspective and receptive, and becoming our own warriors rather than marching in a line, sleepwalking to the beat of someone else’s drum.
This change of pace and the demand for inward-looking practices means that many of us are transitioning to a Kundalini, to go even deeper and amplify ourselves to a whole new space after years of practicing Hatha (movement-based) lineages such as Vinyasa yoga.
In a recent interview in Yoga Journal, Guru Jagat explained, “in this age – from 2012 on – these teachings will become more and more relevant. People are going to need something that’s effective at helping relieve some of the pressures that are on us in ways that have never been on humans before the Technology Age. Many people are crumbling under these new pressures, and Kundalini Yoga is a science that directly relieves the system on all levels.”
NEW? THIS IS WHAT YOU SHOULD EXPECT
Typically, a Kundalini yoga class begins with rapid movements of cat/cow to warm up the spine and activate the movement of cerebrospinal fluid, and then breath of fire – rapid breath in and out of the nose to stimulate the deep release of stagnation and toxicity in the emotional and physical body.
Depending on the kriya (sequence) you may experience meditations where your arms are lifted or in a particular mudra (hand placement) for an extended period of time, or asana such as camel bends, leg lifts and push-ups, jumping jacks, or shaking and dancing to loosen anger, doubt, and fear.
Expect to do poses for longer than you’d want to do them on your own. Why? You’ll get past that threshold of comfort—and this is how the layers begin to peel away and you begin to strip down the stories you’ve told yourself about why you can’t get x desire, x goal. You ultimately strengthen your radiant body so you can become that magnet for prosperity, careers, relationships, and the body that you so deeply desire. This article is also a great place to start if you are new to the practice!
BENEFITS: WHAT PRACTICING KUNDALINI 1-2 TIMES PER WEEK CAN DO
As a new practitioner, it’s important not to get caught up in what you think Kundalini should be. Focus on your experience: you’re entering a gathering of enlightened saints, high-vibrational souls. Show up, do your best, and come back again, again and again. You will absorb more from the practice than you realize.
1. Kundalini yoga wakes you up, literally. It activates your pineal gland, our connection to our higher guidance.
2. It strengthens your intuition so you live in a space of trust rather than like a zombie in a world of pain and numbness.
4. You will replace insecurities with security. Through specific breathing exercises and mantra, you can design and commit to a daily practice with grace that will literally reprogram your subconscious patterns!
5. You can become a magnet for love, abundance and prosperity. By strengthening your radiant body through specific kriya and sound current, you will naturally attract and sustain the relationships and wealth you deeply desire.
Give it a try—we’d love to know what you think. And if you want to receive a complimentary clarity session and a free meditation with me, just download it here!
Fern Olivia Langham, founder of Thyroid.Yoga™, is a LA-based instructor and wellness expert renowned for her artful approach to self-healing. Through her own journey recovering from Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism, Fern Olivia combines her extensive knowledge of yoga, meditation, breathwork, mantra, holistic health, and plant-based alchemy into a one-of-a-kind integrative approach. She has helped hundreds of men and women overcome their struggles with thyroid and hormone imbalances and you can learn her practices on her brand new MindBodyGreen video course. Fern Olivia will take you on a journey to empower you to create daily rituals that will support your sustained health and vitality. You’ll learn about the root causes of thyroid symptoms, and how to self-heal using the practices of yoga, meditation, breath work, mantra and holistic lifestyle rituals.
In addition to her MindBodyGreen video course and one-of-a-kind Thyroid.Yoga™
Connect with Fern Olivia on instagram @fernolivia and Facebookfor powerful resources and inspiration, and be the first to know about her upcoming Thyroid.Yoga™ teacher training program in LA and Australia, as well as her life-changing retreats.
Editor's Note: This article is republished from Charlotte's Book with permission from the author, Fern Olivia. Learn more about Fern in our Q+A articles with her: Breaking Out of Fear and Showing Up and Experience Grace, Guidance, and Wisdom.