So I tried Kundalini Yoga...
When it comes to my mental health I'll pretty much try everything and anything. I'd most likely draw the line at electro shock therapy, although I have actually heard that for some extreme cases of depression it works. I watched a documentary just recently about an American woman institutionalised in the UK who could not remember who she was. It was devastating and the staff at the hospital were having a really hard time figuring out what had happened, what was wrong with her and how to treat it. In the end they tried electro shock therapy and her transformation was astounding. Quick too. So, I'm not knocking it, it has it's place in the field.
My newest trial was for something a lot less extreme, although my experience with it has left me bewildered as to what really happened in the yoga studio on Monday night. I had been planning to try Kundalini yoga for a long time. I've tried just about every other form, Iynegar, Hatha, Yin, Nidra and my favourite - Vinyasa, Kundalini was something new. I first discovered Kundalini through listening to Laura McKowen and Holly Whittakers HOME podcast. Holly talks so fondly of it and how it has profoundly changed her life that I've been desperate to give it a go for at least 6 months now. There are very few places in Auckland that do classes but I found one and booked myself in on Monday night.
Kundalini is a much different practice from Vinyasa or Yin. It is known to be an awakening style of yoga and from deep meditation, regular practice can bring on enlightenment and bliss. It's Chakra based going from the base of the spine to the Sahasrara Chakra at the top of the head. There are fast movements specific breathing techniques and chanting mantras. And, from what I have learned from others, it can vary quite vastly from class to class, teacher to teacher. What I do know for sure is that for me, it was powerful, in the most unexpected way.
I went to the gym before class. Mostly because there's nothing I love more that doing a hard, sweaty class and finishing the night with some relaxing yoga. So I was clean from a hot shower and really chirpy when I made it to the studio. The receptionist and teacher were lovely and made me feel comfortable with tea and blankets. I explained that I knew it was a different type of yoga and that I was prepared to give it a go even although I wasn't sure what to expect.
I took my place, seated on my blanket and listened to the teacher explain our first move. We were cross legged, and in a fast motion we had to inhale as we pushed our chest out and exhale as we pushed our chest back in and curve our spine to the back of the room. In, out, in out, in, out - pretty fast. It didn't take long before I felt my lip tremble and then almost immediately the tears fell. Streaming uncontrollably down my face and onto my clean T-shirt. I had on a pretty scarf my Mum had sent me for Christmas and to avoid disturbing the flow of the class there was nothing I could do but wipe my snot onto it. I pulled myself together and managed the other fast moving poses to move on to the chanting and the meditation. We sat in a goddess like pose and chanted the sounds - Ram Ma Da Sa Sa Sa So Hung, over and over to the sounds of a choir and flute track. I managed three rounds and then I sobbed through the rest. I had no idea what happened, I hadn't felt sad before I walked in and sat down but, sitting there listening to the chant and the 7 other people around me gently singing, I was a wreck.
I was thinking about my Dad, who's gone. I think about him almost everyday but recently, much more softly. Without the agony and the grief from the beginning. Yet, in the class it was stirred up so intensely, it could have been the day after it happened. I thought about what it would have been like to have had him in the class with me. That if I'd known about yoga, meditation, exercise, oils, therapy, all of my hocus pocus, all of my reading, I could have saved his life from depression. But I didn't, I couldn't and I can't. My tears continued to drip onto my lap and the flute playing on the track shattered my heart into pieces. My dad played, so beautifully too. It was and still is the hardest instrument for me to listen to, it probably always will be. Our teacher asked us to send our loving healing light to someone, and I wanted to send all my loving light to him, Dad, to bring him into the class with me. To show him there was another way. But I couldn't so I cried some more, I tried to blow my nose incognito into my scarf but the teacher saw and nodded gently towards me. In the end I realised there was someone who needed my love and light and so I let it go and sent it to her. Hoping that it wasn't just my imagination, something really quite powerful had just happened to me and that she'd feel it too.
After class I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I wasn't relaxed at all. Something inside me had been shaken up to the surface and I was physically and emotionally drained from it. I continued to cry all the way to my car and for a while before I moved it to drive away. My head hurt, my neck and thighs hurt and my heart…oh my heart.
I guess I wanted something different. I wanted an experience that was going to complete my endorphin high and instead I got hit right where it hurts. I have work to do obviously, on finding out why Kundalini did this to me and how I can channel this particular form of yoga to my advantage. Because, something shifted in me on Monday. Something woke up. I can't imagine the power it might have if I allow it to shake me up a little more.
I'm prepared to give it another go, but for the next few days I'm happy to go back to my downward doggies for a bit.
At ease x