I Hate Kundalini Yoga

I don’t practice Kundalini Yoga much anymore. I did it in college a bit, one of the few yoga centers in Eugene was a Kundalini Yoga center, complete with a Guru Granth Sahib. I thought Yogi Bhajan was amazing, and got to hear him speak in 2000, when I spent the week at Casa De Guru Ram Das. They kicked me out, eventually, which is a small point of pride, but I wish that I had done something more exciting to deserve it. That is another story. As my practice evolved, I gravitated towards vinyasa, and then yin. Kundalini fell by the wayside. My studies in ayurveda led me to the conclusion that I would be best served by grounding and calming practices, instead of kriyas that sought to force energy up my spine through any means necessary.
I got an email from the wellness center down the way the other day, saying that there was a Kundalini Yoga teacher visiting from mexico, that she was offering a class, and it was ten bucks. I didn’t have any other plans for saturday afternoon, and decided to walk over and participate. I walked over as mindfully as I could. I have been reading The Miracle of Mindfulness By Thich Nhat Hanh, and have been redoubling my efforts to keep my mind in present time awareness. Its been a while since I’ve read any TNH, and I forgot how much I liked him. I might even ask my meditation and/or yin yoga students to give the book a try. So, I was walking, aware that i was walking. Then I was sitting in class with everyone else, aware that I was sitting in class with everyone else. I was ready to put my body in shapes, and be aware that my body was in those shapes.
Practice began, and I was enjoying well enough. Ong Namo, Guru Dev Namo. It had been years since I chanted that. Rolling my hips open, Breath of Fire, many long minutes of leg lifts. Then I got grumpy. A voice in my head, one that is often convincing, told me, “I hate this. I hate this. I hate kundalini yoga.” I was aware that there was a voice in my head that was hateful. I was about to agree, to defer to the opinion of this voice. But then, another voice countered, “So what?” Yeah. So what? My body felt good, and my breath was flowing, and the hatred seemed pretty unsubstantiated. I went on back to practicing, the So What mantra spinning round the stupa of my mind. Inhale So, exhale What.
The voice came back, it sounded younger this time, brattier, “I hate Kundalini Yoga!”
“Why do you hate it?”
“It’s Hard!” The voice whined, if it had feet, it would have stomped its feet.
All I could do was offer a little internal shrug, explain that the yoga practice was going to continue, and that the voice was certainly welcome to vacate the premises should it so desire.
So, that’s pretty much it. My back got a little tight after that, which also tempted me to slack off, but I decided that it was a pranic thing, and that by being mindful of the way that the energy wanted to move through my body, and practicing in a way that would support it would be the best thing to do. I think it worked. Class ended, and I was aware of it ending.
So, class was good. I liked it. I doubt I’m going to go full turban or anything, but I think I’ll work it into my regimen a little more often.
I know that its standard mindfulness jargon to discuss how we are not our thoughts. Its not uncommon for meditators to have a thought that they identify with, and then through practice have the insight that the thought is not them, and certainly not aligned with their highest aspirations. Its not even new for me. But, Its a good thing to remember, especially because thoughts can also come wrapped up nice and tight with a collection of unpleasant emotions. Thought have one way of convincing us, and emotions, another. Just like the book title suggests, getting enough space to see them for what they are is nothing short of a miracle.
The brat was endearing, in its way, and it certainly felt good to relate to him with a bemused attitude and a firm hand. Brats need discipline. And I’m super fond of my new mantra, “So What?” I think I’m going to get a lot of milage out of that one. Today wasn’t the first day that I was confronted by a bratty voice shouting opinions that are both urgent and irrelevant, and I can’t imagine it will be the last. I’m glad I’ve got a response, and I am aware that I am glad.

Q & A, Healing Sciatica

Someone asked how they could use yoga to help with some sciatica that they started experiencing during their pregnancy.
Having never met them, this is what I felt like i could safely offer.

most generally, sciatica is caused by the irritation, compression, and/or inflammation of the sciatic nerve.

see, the sciatic nerve comes down the vertebrae and weaves through the pelvis, it passes under a part of the pelvis called the sciatic notch (bone). then it travels down through the glut and the hamstring.

often, what can happen, is through alignment, tension, injury, etc, is that the notch rubs against, or crushes the nerve. this is irritating. also, if there is a possibility that the nerve can get squeezed by the glute and the hamstring pushing, or being stuck together.

the best thing to do it to create space in the jammed areas, and be really mindful of your not making it worse by doing poses that jam up the area.

some poses that might be useful:
*pigeon pose while lying on the back, you can do it the normal way, if your hips are really open
*pascimottanasana with the knees deeply bent and the spine straight, to peel open the tissues in the back of the legs and butt. deeply bent knees, really really
*try putting two straps around your hips, pull one to the left, and pull one to the right. this can help open the pelvis nicely. you can keep them on while you do your practice, and it might support you nicely
*twisting triangle
*easy locust pose that will strengthen the low back muscles

avoid
*deep forward folding with legs straight
*deep backbends that jam the sacrum

hope it helps.

Thoughts on Sri K Pattabhi Jois

My month has been full of celebrations. There have been several Birthday parties, many of them milestones. Rhoni Groff and Steve Clofine turned 60, Dharma Mittra turned 70. I’m not sure how old Bhagavan Das is, I wasn’t at his official party, but we did chant for him at David Newman’s Kirtan at The Chopra Center. All of these people are spiritual significant, all of them lineage holders in their own right, all of them giants. It felt good to be able to honor their lives.

And then came the news about Pattabhi Jois. He was ninety four, and died at 2:30 pm, India time. It was heavy news. I don’t teach Pattabhi’s Ashtanga Vinyasa, though I do practice the primary series, at least parts of it, quite often. Ashtanga was the first vinyasa class I had ever taken, it had all been Kundalini, beginners Iyengar, and ‘ecclectic’ (hippie) yoga up until then. I didn’t even really know that the teacher was teaching a sequence. I just thought that they figured all those jump throughs would be fun for everybody. They sure were fun for me, and my 20 year old body. I didn’t figure it out until later.

So later, I found vinyasa classes, and ashtanga classes, and my practice started to get really inspired. I learned about Krishnamacharaya, Jois, Iyengar, and Desikachar, and how most all the yoga that I was doing, no matter how it was evolved or modified, could be traced back to them.

We sometimes take it for granted that we practice yoga, or even that we practice a certain type of yoga. We might think, “of course I practice yoga, what else wouls I do?” , or even, “of course I teach yoga…”. We forget that we stand on the shoulders of giants. If we have these opportunities, this outrageous abundance of teachings available to us, this increasingly enlightened sub-culture, it is because those before us have done great work.

Sri K Pattabhi Jois is one of these giants. His steadfast devotion to his practice and his teaching sets the bar for us all. His easy willingness to give of himself inspires us all to be generous. His social works shows us that yoga doesn’t exist in a vacuum, or hidden away in a cave.

Just like Guruji, we all have a responsibility to flow yoga into the future, to make sure that those who seek its refuge are not left wanting.

So, I could go on like for a while, but i think I will leave you with just two more things.

First, a quote I saw on twitter from a teacher named Darren Rhodes.
He Says: ” Just as the moon lifts the tides of the Oceans, Pattabhi Jois raised the tides of Yoga for one and all: he is a Moon among men

Second, a slideshow I found while googling around, quite moving, with a nice George Harrison Soundtrack. Here!!

Sarah Power’s New Book, ‘Insight Yoga’

I haven’t read it yet, because it just came out, but I am very excited to curl up with some tea and delve into Sarah’s written word. I having spent many hours at Sarah’s feet. I find myself consistently astonished and amazed me by Her lucidity. Her ability to describe the spectrum of human experience and the profound importance of simple spiritual practice inspire me greatly. When sitting with her, however, I am able to hear everything she says only once, she invairably goes on to another idea soon enough. It may be one of her ways of teaching impermanance. Im my stubbornness, and my desire to stay with the truths she shares a little bit longer, I have no doubt that I will cling to my copy of ‘Insight Yoga’, and read it again and again and again. I feel very comfortable recommending that you do the same.

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