I do not believe in miracles. I rely on them.
During this past winter - the toughest winter of my life, I was seeking something, anything - to soothe my wounded heart. I had watched my mother dwindle down to 100 lbs and finally lose her twenty plus year battle with cancer, and in the months after, I gained twenty pounds - without changing my diet all that much. I felt horrible. I had not only lost my mother, but I had lost the part of myself that I had always known - the runner, the triathlete, the get it done girl.
It felt like I was carrying a backpack of bricks around, because I was. A few year's worth of emotional struggle had taken up residence in my body. And I couldn't run away anymore - as I had done before. My entire adult life had been spent training for some event - which culminated in completing an Ironman (a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and a marathon - 26.2 mile run). I lost all desire to push my body in this way anymore.
When I didn't want to exercise, ski, or do my regular power yoga class, I knew something was wrong. Certainly, I was sad. I lost the most important woman in my life, but this was something more. At this point, I had been feeling "off" for 2 years, and my symptoms had only worsened this winter. I was not only freezing when everyone was comfortable, I had low reserves and even lower tolerance for anything that depleted what little I had. What made it worse, I didn't look sick and explaining what was going on was difficult - even for a very expressive person like myself.
As I explained to my concerned husband it wasn't a matter of didn't want to. I couldn't even push myself want to do the things that used to love - like swimming, biking, and running.
I finally saw a doctor in January, and in March, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroid. Hashimoto's is the autoimmune and most common type of hypothyroidism in the US. One in eight women are afflicted with hypothyroid, and the reasons I have learned are complicated (more to come on this - because I had to truly educate and advocate for myself on this one. I would not have been diagnosed if it wasn't for my own work. As most mainstream doctors, don't always look beyond the TSH [thyroid stimulating hormone], and there is so much more to it than that).
I found Kundalini yoga in a desperate search for light many years ago - but after several classes, I stopped going. It didn't click then. Fast forward to this winter, the signs leading me to this mysterious yoga couldn't have been any clearer. I felt as though I was being led there.
I fell in love the beautiful music long before I had ever done my first class.
When I attended my initial class this time, I had no idea what to expect. But I knew I was in the right place. We must have done all of the things I’ve come to recognize as parts of every Kundalini yoga class. We must have tuned in with “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo”. We must have done a kriya (a series of yoga poses that have a specific action) and meditated. We must have sung the Long Time Sun song at the end. None of that is what I remember.
I felt as if the walls that I’d constructed had started to collapse.
And I felt good - really good. I was once again - JOYFUL, despite several tears I shed during that first class. Just as I had when I had done my first yoga class when I was twenty-two, I said to myself, I want to do this type of yoga for the rest of my life.
So I kept going back.
Kundalini Yoga, according to Yogi Bhajan, the spiritual master who brought it to the West in the 1960's; is the yoga of awareness. It was designed to be quick for people who don't have all day to meditate, and who want to relieve stress, heal, and transform - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He believed that we would need this yoga even more so as we entered what is called the Aquarian Age. The tumultous time considered after November 11, 2011, where the demands on our brains and nervous system would be so great, we would need a system to deal with these challenging times.
Kundalini yoga aims to enhance our intuition, strengthen our energy field, and bring forth our creative potential. And nothing has shifted my energy, expanded my heart, dissolved inner resistance, and helped me safely release pain as this practice has. Its benefit have taken me way beyond all the other forms of yoga that I have practiced.
I was looking for answers. I was looking for community. I was looking for peace in my heart.
I found all of that - and much more. I knew within a month I wanted to teach this type of yoga. I am also truly lucky that there is large, devoted Kundalini community about 30 minutes from my home, including several musicians and well-known chant artists (Snatam Kaur and Ajeet Kaur) and long-time teacher and artist Hari Kirin Kaur Khalsa, author of the book Art and Yoga.
Although not fully a physical practice, some of the poses can make you sweat. Actually Yogi Bhajan is quoted as saying "Sweat and laugh every day." Our minds are notorious tricky - and our monkey minds will tell us we've had enough during the more challenging sets. It's an esoteric practice, as it's gotten me out of my comfort zone on several occasions. I just love the weirdness. Seriously, being in a forward fold pose and screaming as angry as you can for 3 minutes straight will definitely bring up some strange emotions (even giggles). Especially if you are like me, and not really in tune with that part of yourself.
It's a place where you don't really care what you look like. It's about how you feel. Although I have fallen in love the tradition of wearing a turban. It is somewhat of a container for my wild mind.
All aspects of yoga are combined in a single class - centering, breathing (pranayama), mantras (magic words), mudras (hand positions), meditation, movement, subtle energy, chakras, chanting and so much more, which make it a very fast and effective practice.
As the late yoga master Pattabi Jois said, “Practice and all is coming.”
Any practice done with awareness and breath is a spiritual practice.
With all paths in life, everyone takes different roads to find themselves.
Kundalini yoga is a beautiful practice to come to and experience it all.
Keep up. Keep up - all the teachers say in class.
The miracles in your life are waiting for you to see them.
May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you, guide your way on.