Being bicoastal has plenty of perks, but the constantly shifting schedules can be a little unsettling. Luckily, I have a secret weapon… a way to get my mind right, no matter which coast I am on or what city I am in. My trick for staying grounded no matter what life throws at me? Kundalini yoga.
I discovered Kundalini yoga a few years ago in New York through my now friend, Valerie Oula of Modern Ritual NYC. We met when I was sussing out her incredible reiki energy and crystal-infused candles for an article, and she invited me to try her class at Golden Bridge - one of the original Kundalini studios in both Los Angeles and New York. I was in the midst of a breakup and ready to try anything to regain my center of balance. I had NO idea what I was in for, and the wild experience turned out to be just the centering I needed. An hour and a half of of heavy breath work, some chanting and gong-ing later, I felt lighter and more clear headed than I had in months. Halfway through the class I experienced a crazy tightening of my mouth that I could only guess had something to do with how much I had been repressing during this stressful time. Whatever the case, the effect was instant and powerful. Different from any other practice I had experienced. I was hooked.
I asked Valerie whether she’d heard of such things, and she explained that “people have all kinds of different experiences. Some see colors, feel heat, others burst into laughter or tears…it’s all energy moving.” In fact, when she took her first kundalini class she confessed to feeling deep anger triggered by judgement. Several years later, she would recognize that resistance as the beginning of a major internal shift and she gave up her 15 year career in production and casting, to become a teacher.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE TRYING KUNDALINI
WILL THERE BE CHANTING?
Yes. I know this can seem freaky deaky for some people, but there’s scientific proof that vocal projection can stimulate your Vegus nerve and affect your vibrations. There’s a reason that singing in the car feels so good! The sounds are easy and repetitive, so they’re simple to pick up. However, there is no shame in staying quiet until you feel comfortable participating.
WHAT THE HECK IS THE VAGUS NERVE AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?
The Vagus is the longest and most complex of the cranial nerves, and one of the main ways that the physical body links with the brain and your emotions. Many of the deep, rhythmic breathing and gentle movements of Kundalini are designed to stimulate the Vagus nerve leading to decreased anxiety, better digestion, reduced inflammation and intensified orgasms among other things. Um, ok!
IS IT SIMILAR TO VINYASA YOGA?
No. While there are corresponding mudras or movements to go along with the spoken mantras, the bulk of the physical work here is breath work. Every class and teacher is different, but for the most part I don’t consider my Kundalini classes to be a physical exercise as much as a mental one.
IS IT CULT-Y?
You saw Wild-Wild-Country, those people did Kundalini, and they were cray! But don’t worry, practicing Kundalini does not make you one of them. They were extremists, and just like most Muslims aren’t terrorists and most Christians aren’t Klan members, they were a group under the influence of a very manipulative man. Valerie teaches Kundalini as taught by Yogi Bhajan, and nobody is required to wear, believe or do anything that doesn’t feel natural.
Today, Golden Bridge NYC and Los Angeles are both closed, but there are still plenty of resources in both cities, as well as at home.
WANNA GIVE IT A TRY?
NINE TREASURES (with the founder of Golden Bridge, Tej)
Valerie has a few short easy kundalini meditations and classes here (there are free trials):
Golden Bridge Global Village has online classes as well.
You can just start getting into kundalini by simply listening to mantra. Mantra can help uplift and shift your mood and your energy and the energy of the space around you.
And you can find Valerie’s playlist on Spotify under: Valerie Saranjeet Kaur Oula