The power of Kundalini yoga and a simple hip opener

Maya Fiennes DVD - Kundalini Yoga to Detox & DestressToday is the 30th and final day of the Reach Out Challenge. On day 28, I thought that since it was nearing the end I should step it up a notch, and I hoped that I could meet the challenge of Kundalini yoga. OMG!

A friend lent me a Maya Fiennes DVD—Kundalini Yoga to Detox and Destress—a long time ago, but due to the whiplash I was recovering from, I didn’t try it at the time. Kundalini yoga can be very vigorous, and works with the spinal channels (called nadis in Kundalini yoga) by moving the spine rapidly in evey direction throughout the course of the practice. In my injured condition, that type of movement was out of the question. But now, I hoped that with 27 days of daily yoga practice behind me, the body was prepared and I would be able to do the practice safely.

I don’t know how long the total class is, because I didn’t make it that far, but I did the first 45 minutes. I definitely got the kundalini rising—I felt energized and in an ecstatic state of bliss when I sensed into my experience in the pauses between movements. There were challenging moments when it took a lot of effort to keep going, but the teacher’s coaching at those times helped me through. And it’s the pushing through resistance that opens up stuck places in the body, allowing energy to move there. This is certainly a factor in the bliss experience. Breath too, of course, helps to get the energy flowing and altered states to occur. There was an open-mouthed breath of fire that I’ve never done before, which actually has an interesting cooling effect in the mouth and throat. Even though I didn’t have the time or endurance level to finish the whole class, I felt the benefit right then and there, and was looking forward to trying again another day.

The class was a detoxifying practice, and after I did it I took the pre-dinner supplements for the herbal detox I’m doing (to break the sugar habit). Well let me tell you, there was a huge release of toxins from my body shortly thereafter! I felt quite sick for a while there, and couldn’t finish my dinner.

Yesterday I went for a run, and it was one of those effortless runs where the path sped under me and I didn’t know who was doing the running. It was quite blissful, and in fact the whole day had been great. I wondered if it was the sugar detox, and release of all the toxins. I didn’t really think about the Kundalini yoga and how that might be affecting me.

After the run I decided to do my regular yoga practice, so I could really stretch out my leg muscles. (Every yoga class has a particular focus, and when I do other teachers’ classes, they don’t have the full range of stretches my legs like when I’ve run). As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been doing my practice since 2003. It’s based on Sara Ivanhoe’s Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies, and I’ve added particular physio stretches that help prevent running injuries, and a few basic runners’ stretches. This is the practice I taught in the Chirunning and Yoga workshop. Anyway, my body knows this practice, and I know my body through this practice. I know how it feels in different poses, and what the limits are in each movement.

As I’ve mentioned at other times during the Reach Out Challenge, I’ve been noticing little shifts in range of movement, new body awareness, and new awareness of subtleties of poses due to the learnings from new teachers. But my practice yesterday blew the previous gains out of the water. I could not believe how much the range of movement in my shoulders had increased! In the side bend it felt a little different, but in extended side angle I really noticed it—my shoulder rotated inches further than before! It was amazing. Working at a computer all day, I have a lot of stiffness in my shoulders. The Kundalini yoga class opened them right up, more open than they have been in a decade of aging and stiffening. Wow! Now I really can’t wait to do the class again.

Spacecruiser Inquiry by A. H. AlmaasThe final part of the story about Kundalini yoga happened last night when I was doing phone inquiry with a friend from the Diamond Approach. It was open-ended inquiry into my experience in the moment, and I started with closing my eyes and sensing in my body. I immediately noticed a sensation of two cords spiralling at the base of my spine, twisting around each other. The ida and pingala nadis! I spent the next 20 minutes scanning up and down my spine, sensing how the energy was spiralling up, continually, around and around, and spiralled right out the crown of my head. Kundalini rising! The spirals seemed to shine a light of curiosity, interest, and affection on all the cells of my body, as they twisted around and around, shining the light in every direction, over everything. Even now when I sense inside the spiralling movement is there. The energy just keeps rising and rising, going out through the top of my head. I can sense it until about 8 or 12 inches above my head, and then it moves beyond my range of sensing. I wonder if it is supposed to keep doing that? Since I didn’t do the end of the Kundalini yoga class, maybe I missed the step where the doorway is shut again? I definitely have to try to make it through the whole class to find out. Plus to keep these channels open, now that I have tasted the fruits of natural energy and bliss.

In my last entry I mentioned Jesse Enright’s Smart Yoga Tip: Pelvic Decompression, and I decided to try that when I went into tree pose during my practice yesterday. Again, unbelievable! My hips rotated outwards farther than they ever have before, and with such ease. It felt like they could actually start pointing backwards! But there’s more to the story of this benefit, because I used the tip again this morning. I was sitting doing my morning meditation, and felt a familiar pain in my left sacroiliac joint. Darn! After such a great day yesterday, why was this happening? I don’t know what made me do it, but I just had the idea of expanding the position of the hip bones outwards, to stretch out the pelvis a little. I did this, and suddenly I was sitting in a much more solid way than I ever have before. And the pain in my SI joint disappeared entirely! Wow. Could it be that all these years I’ve been compressing the joint because of the way I sit?

It felt very weird to take such a wide seat, with the hips spread further apart than usual. The first concern was about body image, and that I would look fat. At 6:00 in the morning, alone in the dark, doing my meditation, I was worried about looking fat. What a disservice our culture has done to women. F$%k! I had learned to sit in a way that would make me look thinner, and it has been giving me chronic pain for years. Another mysterious learning from the practice of yoga.

Today is the last day of practice, and then the challenge is over. Thanks to my friends and family who have pledged 50 cents or a dollar or even two dollars a day for the 30-day Reach Out Challenge. The total pledges is now at $285 dollars! Almost at my goal of $300. If you haven’t done so and would like to sponsor me to raise money for Yoga Outreach, you can use the online donation link. Or phone me at 604.251.6337 or send an email to kyrempel [at] gmail [dot] com. For those of you who are pledging by cheque, I will be calling you soon to collect your pledge money. Thanks!

Another divine yoga week

Giant pumpkin on doorstepSince my last entry I’ve had another seven chances to expand, learn, and grow through my yoga practice. The Reach Out Challenge has been a gentle invitation into new beginnings on the mat, especially in combination with the one-month membership to My Yoga Online.

In the past week I’ve repeated the Short Hatha Flow class, done several of my own practices, and tried these new classes:

Developing Internal Balance – with Carolyn McManus

Grounding Breath Yoga Flow – with Kreg Weiss (co-founder of My Yoga Online). This is the most gentle class I have found yet. Nothing hurt when I did this class! And I really enjoyed the different breathing practices. Truly a class for slowing down the pace and getting in touch with deeper reality. I liked the way Kreg suggested the possibility of getting in touch with our true nature once the mind had quieted. I hope that many people benefit from this class.

Trick or treatSmart Yoga Tip: Pelvic Decompression – with Jesse Enright. A helpful mini-tutorial about the muscles in the pelvis and their role in holding everything in place as well as allowing opening in the hips.

Sea Side Yoga Flow – Michelle Trantina (co-founder of My Yoga Online). Is that Vancouver I see in the background?

I continue to make new discoveries in my regular yoga practice as a result of the learning and exploration in the classes with the other teachers. I find that when I do my own practice at my own pace, I have more time to explore and deepen into the pose than in most of the classes (except the restorative yoga classes, of course!). I have a new appreciation for the luxury of taking my time in a pose and seeing how far my muscles want to stretch. In the past I have gotten into the habit of just holding the pose for 6 breaths and then moving on, because that is my routine. But often my muscles want to stay a little longer. So doing the restorative classes really opened up the invitation to hang out in a pose. Plus needing to do a full 30 minutes, rather than rush through my practice to be done in 10-20 minutes, is a support to take more time in the poses.

Pumpkin with candySince Halloween fell during the past week, I thought you might like to see pictures of the dear little pumpkin I carved. This was the first time in years that I had a doorstep to put a pumpkin on. By 7:30 I’d had 42 little goblins to the door, and all the candy was gone. I hope you got lots of tricks and treats!

Three more days until the challenge is over. Thanks to my friends and family who have pledged 50 cents or a dollar or even two dollars a day for the 30-day Reach Out Challenge. The total pledges is now at $285 dollars! Almost at my goal of $300. If you haven’t done so and would like to sponsor me to raise money for Yoga Outreach, you can use the online donation link. Or phone me at 604.251.6337 or send an email to kyrempel [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks!