new_health (2006-48)

Panting for More

Kundalini yoga has sex appeal, sort of

by Wendy C. Smith

An interesting thing happens when Kundalini yoga is mentioned. People kind of act like there’s something taboo about it. “Oh… Kundalini…,” they say. There seems to be this notion that Kundalini has something sexual going on. How titillating! Anyhow, I heard that a Kundalini yoga class for women was being offered and I thought I’d go see what all the fuss was about.

The class was being taught by Ajeet Khalsa. Her first career was modern dance, which took her to New York and England. Somewhere along the line, she became interested in yoga and, in 1989, met Yogi Bhajan at a yoga camp in Florida. (Yogi Bhajan is a well-known teacher and one of the first people to bring Kundalini yoga to the Western public.) Ajeet’s introduction to him turned into formal studies, which continued until his death in 2004. She was certified with the International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association in 1995 and moved to Knoxville in 1996. Ten years later, Ajeet says she’s “happily still in Knoxville, being a mom to my 10-year-old son and celebrating 10 years of inspiring the southerners to do Kundalini yoga and meditation,” which is what Yogi Bhajan asked her to do upon moving to the South.

Ajeet’s Knoxville practice focuses on total balance. She tries to teach her students how to become aware and to get in touch with the whole self through transformative changes, the awakening of the chakra system, subtle energy fields, awareness of the infinite self and living the Kundalini philosophy of a healthy, happy and holy lifestyle.

Kundalini yoga itself is a discipline of meditative techniques and movements that focuses on psycho-spiritual growth. It is of Hindu origin and is the activation of life force through the different types of life energies that a person is believed to have. Different sets of Kundalini exercises work the different types of energies. The Kundalini technique is designed to stir the life force in the first or root chakra and raise the Kundalini energy up the spinal column passing through and activating the eight chakras as it rises. The first chakra is located at the base of the spine and others run straight up the spinal column, culminating in the crown chakra, which is on the top of the head.

Like other yoga classes I’ve attended, her classroom was pretty warm. The practice of Kundalini is done in a slightly elevated temperature to help the body loosen up. We put our mats on the floor and sat cross-legged with our palms on our knees, facing skyward. The first thing we did was chant “Ong Namo Guro Dev Namo” slowly. Ajeet translates this to “I call on the divine wisdom.” Nice way to begin class. (Besides, anytime I do anything athletic, I need to call on divine wisdom. I need all the help I can get.) Kundalini is the noisiest yoga I’ve tried. Mantras and chant are a big part of the class. And at one point, we were in Cobra position loudly panting with our tongues out. (Cobra position is one of lying belly down on the floor and then resting on the forearms, raising the upper body while keeping the head and neck aligned.) This particular exercise was interesting because I felt like my whole body was being oxygenated. Believe it or not, it was actually difficult to pant for several minutes.

Although there were a few postures that I recognized (like Cobra), the majority of the Kundalini postures that we did in this class were new to me and seemed rather Pilates-like with a lot of core-focused exercises. These exercises deal a lot with the first (root) and second (sexual) chakras and their energies, life force and primal energy. Ajeet says this is one of the reasons that many Westerners think of Kundalini as sexual. However, the idea is to take these energies and move them up through the body to the crown of the head. The movement of energy through the higher chakras and the opening of the higher chakras is said to mark advanced spiritual enlightenment. To tell the truth, I found the class very energizing. Too bad my boyfriend was out of town—just kidding. In all seriousness, I felt feel quite vibrant after this class.

The whole class was based on a Kriya, which is a series of exercises with an intended result, such as activating or nourishing one of the different types of energy mentioned earlier. Because of these core-type exercises, my stomach was getting a bit tired by the time class was finished. We ended class by singing “May the longtime sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within guide your way on, guide your way on.” Although this is an old Quaker song, Ajeet referred to it as a universal mantra that anyone can understand. What a great way to end any class.

Ajeet Khalsa teaches total balance Kundalini yoga in classes and private sessions. She can be reached at (865)584-3864.