In our crazy world more and more people are tuning in to the ancient practice of Kundalini yoga to keep them grounded and more at peace. Every good reason too, as research is showing the benefits of Kundalini's powerful meditative and breath-controlled kriyas for treating a range of health complaints from depression and anxiety related disorders to heart problems and memory lapses. So much so that the US Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation points to one of Kundalini's mantras - the Kirtan Kriya (see below) as a way to improve brain function, focus and memory.
I first experienced Kundalini's magic in Hong Kong about 10 years ago with the enigmatic LA-based Maya Fiennes. "Kundalini,” she explains, “is the mother of yoga. It is the oldest form of yoga that works with the body’s raw energy and if not practiced correctly, is easily misused.” In essence, it's a symphony of movement with breath, meditation, music and, once attuned to the practice, quite deep thoughts. The belief is that once combined these modalities awaken latent energy (or kundalinii) that rests on the chakra at the 4th vertebra of the spine (to be precise) and guides this energy up the body to deeply empower the system. And now more than ever before it seems to have found its vibe as people are searching for answers.
LA-based Guru Jagat is the latest face of kundalini and one of the youngest senior Kundalini teachers in the world. She is the founder of RA MA Institute in Venice, California and Palma in Spain and is enjoying an almost cult-like following. Her first book, Invincible Living came out earlier this year.
She says that Kundalini is the quickest, most direct and accessible way to activate our own path to invincible living. “All of our breaths and these little practices that we do are basically stimulating the hypothalamus, the pineal and the pituitary glands," she explains. "They secrete very quickly and when that happens, you start to feel more alive, and more clear-minded,"
Kate's Kundalini journey
While I don't practice Kundalini often enough, I am trying to incorporate it into my regular yoga practice, following my hugely inspiring experience with artist and yogi Gemma Billington in the wilds of Co Kerry. When practiced under expert guidance, the exercises are seriously powerful and have left me feeling emotionally recharged amazingly grounded. And for the majority of us the real beauty of this type of yoga is that you don’t have to run off to a cave to meditate or spend hours sitting in silence to realise its inherent essence - you can be you, and it can be done anywhere as long as it's a relatively peaceful space.
As my children constantly complain about my very poor memory, I have been practising this kriya daily for almost 2 weeks now, and while I honestly haven't seen a major memory boost as yet, Billington assures me that it will come after 40 days (minimum). While I'm as busy as everyone else, I'm not using lack of time as my excuse, and I am finding 11 minutes in my day to practise and truly am enjoying it.
Here's how I do it.
- Sit in a cross-legged position or other comfortable sitting position on the floor or in a chair with your spine straight and rest your hands on your knees in gyan mudra (pointer finger and thumb touching).
- Inhale deeply and begin to chant aloud the mantra: Saa - Taa - Naa - Maa.
- On the syllable Saa, press the index finger of each hand to the thumb; on Taa, touch the middle finger to the thumb; on Naa, touch the ring finger to the thumb; on Maa, touch the baby finger to the thumb. Continue these finger movements throughout the exercise (use enough pressure so that the fingers blanch slightly).
- The complete kriya is 11 minutes so chant the mantra aloud for just under 2 minutes, continuing the chant in a loud whisper for another 2 minutes. Next, say the chant silently and internally for 2 minutes (x2). Then say it in a whisper for 2 more minutes. Finish by chanting aloud for 2 minutes.
- To finish, take a deep breath and squeeze your body into to your core, reaching your arms overhead in prayer position. Exhale, drawing your hands to your chest in prayer position.
The entire meditation takes 11 minutes - I use the guided version by Nirinjan Kaur on Spotify. if time allows, try the 30-minute (or thereabouts) practise - just try it.
Gemma Billington is planning Kundalini retreats at her serenely peaceful home in Co Kerry. Watch this space for further information.