A couple of years ago I walked into a Kundalini yoga class almost by accident. How does one do something ‘almost by accident,’ you ask? Well, it goes like this…
A friend of mine was telling me about this yoga teacher she had practiced with, named Jai Dev, who taught ‘Kundalini’ at a small studio tucked up in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California.
“Have you ever done Kundalini Yoga before?” she asked me.
“Totally! I mean… I think so. Yes?” I replied. Turns out I’m a terrible liar.
My friend smirked at me and told me I should go and check it out.
“Taking a class with Jai Dev is like having your own personal yoga coach. His classes are powerful and he’s refreshingly down-to-earth” she urged.
Now the truth was that I’d heard about Kundalini. I was a long time Hatha practitioner and Kundalini was starting to build buzz in the yoga world. However, as a certified and habitual skeptic, I took one look at those turbans, white flowy clothing, and the smiles plastered across their faces and every single ‘cult-y, quack-y, car alarm’ in my brain went off at once. The ‘kunda-loons’ I called them.
First of all, I’ve spilled salsa and/or coffee on every article of clothing I own. I’m not cut out for white anything. Secondly, my parents were part of something called the ‘The Fellowship” (not like Lord of the Rings) back in the early 80s . Their disdain and disillusionment with any type of spiritual community had become a deeply ingrained dogma of my own. Yep, I had a dogma against dogmas. Go figure!
Maybe because I was new to town and desperate for community or maybe because I wanted my new friend to think I was cool and open minded- I can’t say for sure exactly what the reason was, but in that moment I made my decision to go and try it out.
So, a couple weeks later, I sheepishly walked through the doors of Wild Mountain Yoga, in Nevada City, CA.
The reason I say it was ‘almost by accident’ is because I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. Every expectation about what I thought Kundalini was going to be was shattered within the first few moments of my very first experience with it.
As if he could read my mind- or maybe just the look on my face- Jai Dev immediately asked the class who was brand new to Kundalini Yoga. A few of us reluctantly raised our hands to half-mast. Right then, he launched into this charming anecdote about a new student who had once walked into his class a few minutes late and nervously blurted out, “I’m like… a level zero!”
With this one simple story, I could feel all the tension in the room begin to dissipate immediately. Jai Dev had just expressed, better than us beginners probably could ourselves, exactly how we were feeling and he made us feel like we were in good company. I started to get the sense that I was in the presence of a true teacher- the kind you hear about but rarely ever meet.
From there, Jai Dev jumped into a 15-minute lecture about the nature of the mind, how my thoughts didn’t have to control me, how my navel was really a lever that could be pushed and pulled in a way that could make me more vital, more confident, and more… real. As he deftly wove in wisdom teachings from the Dalai Lama, Maya Angelou, Chris Rock, and the lesson he learned from his basketball game last Sunday, all 25 of us students sat silently captivated.
With the exception of drinking any Kool-Aid, I was ready to do pretty much whatever he was about to ask me to do.
And do, we certainly did…
For the next 75 minutes, we vigorously waved our arms in every direction imaginable, we made sounds like monkeys, we sucked air through an imaginary straw until the room glowed like… like I don’t know what, but the room was f*&^ing glowing, ok?!
At the end of class I laid down onto my back, and into a pool of my own sweat, while Jai Dev wafted the celestial sounds of his Sun Gong over our luminous bodies and tranquil minds. I don’t use this word lightly, but it was truly a majestic experience.
So, WTF is Kundalini Yoga?
In a world seemingly filled with fluffy spiritual types and cautionary tales of scandal, it’s a totally fair question and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure how to answer it. However, since that first class, I’ve spent the last 3 years passionately determined to figure it out. In that time, all I’ve come to know is that it makes my life better. Kundalini makes me kinder, more thoughtful, and more intuitive. I feel healthier, more confident, and sincere. For the first time in my life, I can say that I’m living with a genuine sense of purpose.
So really… who cares what it is? My skepticism about Kundalini Yoga has been alleviated by the very real experiences I’ve had with it during my practice and throughout my life.
It took me some time to get over my preconceived notions I had about the beards, the turbans, and the ‘all white everything’. I still don’t do any of those things but no one has ever made me feel like I had to, to be a real yogi. The truth is that every Kundalini class with Jai Dev I’ve ever been to has had me check my ego and my dogmas at the door. This practice doesn’t require faith nor does it require a religion or even a desire to be ‘spiritual’. As I heard Jai Dev say once, “the spiritual path is really just another term for the way of human maturity.” I love that about this practice- it’s inclusive, accessible, and always meets me exactly where I am.
I didn’t know what I was looking for when I walked into that first class a few years ago, but what I found was something that has deeply transformed every as aspect of my life. I may not be able to tell you exactly what Kundalini Yoga is but there is one thing I know for certain… if you go into it with an open mind and heart and you stick with it even when it’s hard, it inevitably and undeniably works.