3 Things I Learned From My First Experience With Kundalini Yoga
The Kundalini yoga day-long retreat that I recently attended at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in the middle of Muir Woods can be perfectly summed up by one of my favorite quotes: “The cure for anything is salt water. Sweat, tears or the sea.” We sweat during the Kundalini yoga practice, warming up our bodies with our breath, we cried during a moving “rebirthing” practice, and hiked down to Muir Beach to dip our toes in the ocean. It was a perfect day.
Liya Garber, the amazing teacher who hosted the retreat with her partner Jason, led us through a beautiful day that included Kundalini yoga, meditation, breathwork and chanting in a yurt bright with light and full of colorful yoga mats and meditation pillows; an organic lunch straight from the Green Gulch farm; meditation outside on the farm in a bed of fresh, fragrant chamomile; a hike down to the Muir Beach; and another Kundalini yoga session with a gong bath and essential oils.
This workshop, open to all levels of yogis, encouraged us to deepen our connection with ourselves, others and the beautiful nature surrounding us. There were 30 people that represented eight different countries in attendance, many of which had never tried Kundalini before, including me. This is what I learned:
1. Kundalini yoga is different.
Kundalini yoga is not like a typical yoga class you find at your gym or local studio. We didn’t do a single down dog, which might surprise some yogis who are used to vinyasa or hatha-based yoga. Actually, asana (yoga posture) was just a small part of the practice. So what exactly is Kundalini yoga and what do you do?
“Kundalini yoga is a powerful ancient practice that helps us elevate the mind by clearing the subconsciousness,” Liya explained. “We are reconnecting and communicating with our inner intuition. In Kundalini yoga, we practice pranayama, meditation, asana and chanting. This sacred combination is very powerful and activates the glands, cells and senses.”
The theme of the day was letting go of old patterns that no longer serve us and replacing them with new, healthier habits. “We are habitual beings and we have gained habits in our childhood that are not serving us,” Liya said. “The way to shift and reprogram our mind and habits is by adding new ones that will take over. Kundalini yoga and 40-day meditations empower us to break a pattern. The consistency and passion allow the life force energy to increase and create a momentum to shift.”
2. It’s normal for emotions to get stirred up and you may even shed some tears.
During the workshop we practiced a kriya called "conscious rebirthing," which was a wild experience. Liya led us through the practice and let us know beforehand that we may find that tears start to flow. During the kriya practice nothing seemed to come up for me at first, but immediately after we finished she instructed us to come to child’s pose, and that’s when the floodgates opened! The tears came right out. But it wasn’t a feeling of sadness; rather a feeling of release and peace came over me. I have never experienced anything quite like that before!
“This kriya empowers us to clear the fears we took on at the time we were in our mother’s womb,” Liya said. “It is very special to clear what does not belong to us. The tears we all experienced is part of the release and represents the inner child's understanding that it is time to clear these fears and connect to the true self.”
3. We are already whole and healed.
Liya shared with us some wisdom from her older brother that I really loved: Even though we do all of these practices that help us let go of old patterns or habits that we don’t need, we are actually already whole and healed.
“In Kundalini yoga we believe that, at the soul level, we are all perfect and pure,” she said. “The challenge is with the mind and our sense of identity. I always keep reminding myself and students that we are already perfect and healed; we just need to remember it by clearing the mind.”
Liya followed up with our group after the workshop and challenged us to commit to a 40-day meditation practice. “This will break any negative habits that block you from the expansion that is possible through the kriya or mantra,” she said. She invited us to do the Sat Kriya for 3 minutes a day every morning after some warm-ups and tuning-in 3 times with Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo for 40 days straight. She also created a private Facebook group to offer us support and a place to share our experiences with our group. This offer of support was such a loving touch that I appreciated.
The week following this workshop, I slept better than I had in a long time. I also had a lot of emotions come to the surface. Whether that was related to the practices we did or not I am not positive, but either way the experience and energy that we cultivated together left me with a new perspective that I am still exploring and beginning to integrate into my life. When I shared my experience with Liya she said the work we did was very deep and it is very normal to feel emotional and to allow the emotions to move and clear.
Practice with Liya
Liya, who has been practicing Kundalini yoga for 10 years and teaching for four and a half, is an incredibly strong-spirited yet soft woman who brings amazing wisdom, and humor, to her teaching. Her laugh is infectious and her eyes looked like crystals! I absolutely loved her and look forward to practicing with her again.
Liya’s next workshop, Living your Destiny, will take place on September 10 at Yoga Tree in Berkeley. She will be teaching the workshop in collaboration with Sat Santokh and Prabunam Kaur, the parents of Sanatam Kaur. The day will include Kundalini yoga, satsang (a sanskirt word that translates to “gathering together for truth” or “being the truth”) and chanting. For more information on the workshop, click here.
“Teaching workshops, classes or immersions is so deep for me because the opportunity to touch and connect with so many people at the same time, rise up, elevate and connect with each other. I feel I live my destiny and this is what I need to do right now in my life,” Liya said.