Awakening The Nerve Of The Soul
The title of the workshop sounded intriguing: Awakening the Nerve of the Soul, a combination of intensive Kundalini yoga practice and sound healing with Liya Garber and sound practitioner Danny Goldberg. As a Kundalini teacher trainee, I jumped at the chance to do two of my favorite things and see these ancient healing modalities combined. I also enjoy immersing myself in the rapidly growing Kundalini scene, which seems to have finally taken off in the Bay Area and this was a perfect sunny day for it. The Yoga Tree Telegraph in Berkeley is big and airy and painted in light blue and gold hues with peacock feathers on the walls. I arrived to a sold out workshop with yogis mostly dressed in white, as well as first timers and partners and friends who were along for the ride and looked around nervously.
Danny Goldberg was set up in the middle of the room and surrounded by three gongs and other ancient instruments including thirty Tibetan singing bowls. Liya Garber, who taught the Kundalini yoga, was dressed in flowy white garb and also flanked by two gongs. Five gongs in one room, that is a LOT of gong! I was getting super excited.The sound of the gong is one of the most powerful healing tools in Kundalini yoga and said to create deep relaxation, releases blocks, tensions and emotional energy patterns. Its sound is otherworldly, beautiful, haunting, and deeply moving. Although there is no sound in space currently known, if there was, it would be the gong I am convinced. As I often do with this practice, I felt like I was in the right place at the right time.
Liya gave a powerful introduction to Kundalini and explained the benefits of this once sacred yoga technique from India that works with kriyas (sets of exercises), chanting, singing and guided meditations to conquer specific arenas of life. She reminded us what it felt like to be innocent and have the sparkle of a child and invited us to become awakened. After tuning in and warm up exercises, she revealed to us we would be doing a Victory set, one of the most challenging and crazy exercise sets she personally had practiced. Yasss. As an advanced practitioner, I crave and welcome the chance to push myself and test my limits.
After we moved through the usual suspects of yoga asanas (exercises), it was time to stick our tongues out, sitting legs crossed, with our hands on our head for 27 minutes, continuing to rotate our tongues, slapping them up and down and to the sides. This was it -- the typical “Kundalini moment” that pretty much happens in every class, where you wonder if the friends you brought may think you have lost it, judge you or walk out. The moment where you ask yourself how you ended up dressed in white sitting in a room with 40 other maniacs sticking out their tongues wide, panting heavily, smacking their lips and making very strange guttural noises.
It is this sense of vulnerability and openness to be freaking weird, to let go of perception and pretense and to work on your issues in a safe environment with other people doing the same thing that makes this practice so fascinating to me. It ain't pretty. Your shadows will come up. Your vanity may protest. Your baggage gets exposed. Tongue still slapping, the title “Awakening the Nerve of the Soul” now made perfect sense to me. I pondered how powerful this currently exposed muscle, the tongue, truly is, and how much beauty and destruction it can create within seconds. By exposing our tongues, we were exposing our souls and our stories, flopping them helplessly up and down, cascading like an agitated cobra, shaking them out, giving them air and the chance to reboot our system. Kundalini yoga works on clearing the subconscious through targeted exercises like this and it felt like we were all together in a pit of hissing snakes, wrestling our inner demons that were trying to get away from us with no avail.
After the classic resisting period to the hissing snake pit, relief came eventually and the movements became sweeter, lighter, more like a cat licking milk or a child eating an ice cream cone. The longer it went on, the more enjoyable it became, with groups bursting out in random laughter and a lightness entering the space after some shared hardships. The tongue dance was followed by a much needed break in the form of a real life Bhangra dance party. We now moved rapidly with our entire bodies to shake of the stirred energy, with our eyes closed. The saying “Dance like no one is watching” was put to practice and it felt amazing and energizing to work off some steam and have a full blown dance party. Just when we thought we had crossed the finishing line, we were picking partners and discussing “What is your personal strength” with a complete stranger, no easy feat on command.
After two hours of vigorous yoga exercise, some interesting tongue slapping, uncomfortable soul searching and committed Bhangra dancing, it was time to earn our sweet reward and lay on our backs to let the healing sound vibrations wash over us. From my experience, Sound baths can differ from totally relaxing, to energizing, to completely transforming. The pair started softly and we could hear the Tibetan bowls singing, with more and more layers of sound being added, ebbing and flowing and creating a sound sanctuary that was ethereal and incredibly soothing. I often completely lose my sense of time and space and soon I was traveling in a sleep like state while feeling elevated and far gone, while being completely aware of the sunny room and the instruments being played. I was awake but felt transported to another realm, consisting of timeless, melodic, beautiful gardens of sound.
The hour of sound healing was over in what seemed like several minutes and we closed out the workshop with grounding exercises and a healing meditation to deliver us safely back to the outside world and Telegraph Avenue. I felt refreshed and renewed, victorious and confirmed in my knowledge to have found my way, my tribe and my spiritual practice. Namaste, love and light.
Liya's next workshop is on May 22nd at Yoga Tree Telegraph in Berkeley. Link to details here.
To follow Liya Garber on Facebook click here.
To follow Danny Goldberg on Facebook click here.
For a list of all Yoga Tree workshops click here.