by Karen Kramer, DY&OF blogger
Over the course of my 20 plus years of practicing yoga I’ve had only a handful of experiences in a Kundalini Yoga class. Several things about these classes really stuck with me though: A teacher wearing white clothing sitting on a sheepskin rug and a class that consisted of systematic breathing techniques, chanting, gestures (mudras), yoga postures for a very specific amount of time, and the Sunshine Song. Really, what resonated most was the feelings I experienced and the energy I was aware of after my classes. I’m certainly no expert in this style, and maybe you aren’t either, so I felt like taking a closer look to get a better understanding of what Kundalini is all about.
Evidently my perceptions were not far off, according to Jen Grant, a Minneapolis-based, author, speaker, workshop presenter, life coach, self-love ambassador and Yin, Restorative and Kundalini Yoga instructor. She teaches from the Kundalini lineage as taught by Yogi Bhajan, the person who brought this ancient practice and knowledge to the West. Jen’s passion and enthusiasm about the powerful message of love and oneness was contagious as she described the class format and philosophy. Her personal story is interesting as well.
After 30 years of listening to her own self-sabotaging message of self-doubt and ‘never feeling good enough’, Jen had a life-changing moment of realization that she was not a victim in this life, that she could change her way of thinking and believing about herself -– she could choose differently. That moment started her on a mission with a self-love message and business to do what she could to help others know that they are good enough and that they can change the message they give themselves, too.
As a life coach, she describes her style as very similar to Gabby Bernstein’s in that her philosophy comes from a metaphysical point of view and influenced by the book A Course in Miracles.
At about that time, Jen was chosen to attend a retreat in Bali hosted by Mastin Kipp (founder of TheDailyLove.com and guest on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday) as one of 13 women out of 300 applicants. On that retreat in 2013 Jen wrote her first book, Dying to be Good Enough. She describes it as a self-help book meets memoir with personal, significant stories combined with useful lessons to change our message to self-love. (She’s since penned a “girlfriend gift” quote book called Hot Dish for the Heart: little bites of wisdom for a happier life.)
It was at this retreat that Jen heard an important message of love: "Embrace and embody self-love, because when we do, the path to oneness is automatic...If I see love in myself, it’s easy for me to reflect that back and see you as love as well." It’s also where Jen first heard of Kundalini yoga - not really sure what it was other than the overarching message was Love.
This was the beginning of two career paths colliding in a beautiful and soulful way. Soon after her return from Bali, Jen inquired about Kundalini and felt drawn to a Kundalini teacher training that was to begin soon. Knowing that the message was true to her calling, she didn’t hesitate, and, in early 2014, she jumped right into the Kundalini teaching track. She recalls writing in her journal that first day, “Kundalini gives you You,” and “I feel at home!”
As a life coach, author and Kundalini teacher it was as if separate career paths merged in a way that makes utter sense. All are products of the same message and hold fast to her philosophy that “love is the essence of who we are,” and one of her favorites quotes from Yogi Bhajan’s devoted students, Nirvair, “Your right as a human being is a direct connection to the infinite.”
Jen feels she is meant to assist students in feeling more at ease coming into this style of practice which many people don’t understand. It may not seem as familiar compared to other forms of yoga. That can be intimidating for people who don’t know what to expect. Her goal is to make this ancient practice accessible and enjoyable for anyone. She offers the following information about the practice to help us prepare for her workshop at the Dubuque Yoga & Oneness Festival or any class we might attend.
Jen Grant's Kundalini Yoga Basics
Kundalini is called the “Yoga of Awareness.” For Kundalini yoga, Jen feels this mantra sums it all up…”God and me, me and God are one.” She says that the primary focus is essentially to raise your energy up the chakras so you can be aware of your truth and divine being. (Sat Nam) Kriyas are deliberate formulaic sets of postures, with mudras, breathwork (pranayama), meditation, and chanting for specific periods of time. Every aspect is formulated to receive a specific result.
Kundalini is Sanskrit for “coiled snake” depicted as the base pool of energy residing at the base of the spine. Our focus is to raise our energy up through the chakras and connect to our infinite self, for perfect awareness that we are so much more than this physical body. We consist of ten bodies: three mental, six energy, and one physical. The goal is to get these bodies to work together from finite to infinite self. Kundalini Yoga recognizes eight chakras, the eighth is the aura. There are specific chakra "kriyas" (sets of postures) to work with the chakras, to embodying the essence of it. That’s why, as Jen explains, the practice is so deliberate.
“The kundalini experience does not mean you have gone into a deep breathless trance and are beyond this world…It integrates you more fully with reality and gives you a broader vision and sensitivity so that you can act more efficiently.” – Yogi Bhajan, from Kundalini Yoga: The Flow of Eternal Power
Each class according to the Bhajan lineage, the pure form as he brought over from India, has the same components:
*Tuning In – The opening Mantra, calling in past yogi’s, and protection. It’s like a tuning fork for the soul.
*Kriya (set) - In Kundalini Yoga a kriya is a series of postures, breath, and sound that work toward a specific outcome. Practicing a kriya initiates a sequence of physical and mental changes that affect the body, mind, and spirit simultaneously. There are kriyas that support the liver, balance the glandular system, make you radiant, stimulate the pituitary, increase the flexibility of the spine, and many more. Each kriya has a different effect, but all work on all levels of your being.
*Meditation - Meditation in Kundalini Yoga contains specific, practical tools that carefully and precisely support the mind and guide the body through the use of breath, mantra, mudra, and focus. The range and variety of meditation techniques in the Kundalini Yoga tradition is truly extraordinary. Yogi Bhajan passed on hundreds of meditations tailored to specific applications. There are meditations that reduce stress, work on addictions, increase vitality, and clear chakras, to name a few.
*Sunshine Song - “May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surround you, and the pure light within you, guide your way on.”
*Sat Nam – It means “Divine Truth is what we are,” so saying “sat nam” is like “namaste” in other yoga classes.
According to the Kundalini website, www.3ho.org, Kundalini is not a religion. “When we apply the technology of Kundalini Yoga to our bodies and minds, it has the effect of uplifting the spirit. It is for everyone. It is universal and nondenominational.”
Kundalini was kept very secret until 1969 when Yogi Bhajan came to the United States and began teaching it openly to help prepare the planet for a major shift, and as practical steps for young people during the 70’s drug culture recognizing the higher consciousness they were trying to obtain but without the use of drugs. His popularity soared. Many teachers stay true to Yogi Bhajan’s true form as he taught, including Jen.
Karen Kramer is a yoga instructor and festival blogger.