Bali in 15

Style: Kundalini
Teacher: Jasvinder Kaur
Studio: Rama Lotus

The yoga of awareness. After a day of recharging, absorbing sunshine and doing nothing else, I'm ready to get back on the mat. Tonight I'm going through the looking glass, following the white rabbit to another Kundalini yoga. In the world according to Yogi Bhajan, nothing makes sense to me. Up is down, down is up, inside is out. The laws of physics no longer apply. Common sense no longer exists. After I unroll my mat I'm a bewildered combination of Alice and Dorothy, at a tea party with the Hatter and the March Hare. Anyone going too deep with no compass is in danger of getting lost forever in this fairytale land of Oz, never to be seen or heard from again. With that said, I'm off to see the Wizard.

I'm not gonna lie. It's eccentric. At first glance at least it's fairly baffling. First of all if you thought three Om's were bad you've never met Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo. The mantra roughly translates to "I call upon Divine Wisdom" and is usually said with a high degree of enthusiasm. If I didn't mention, it can get a little spiritual. And let's not even get into the Long Time Sun finale. It's a pretty intense cringe-fest. Right now though I'm like a lab technician, studying my reactions under a microscope, noting their nuances and subtleties. Like, what is it to feel awkward? Where does that come from, what's its consistency, its density. I want to understand these chemical reactions, to study their foundation, their source, their growths and offshoots. I see my experience from a third person perspective, my life laid out on a sterilized operating table under glaring white artificial light. I am impersonally dissecting and analyzing my internal combustion.

The kriyas of Kundalini yoga are a far cry from the structured, physical asana practice that most people are used to. The twitching and shaking through the positions, the rapid pace of breath - at first it's both perplexing and indecipherable. It's basically a caterpillar on a mushroom blowing smoke-rings. Admittedly, the further I travel down the rabbit hole of yoga, pranayama and the intricacies of breathing, the less bizarre the kriyas appear. Really they're essentially just rapid exercises that are enhanced when timed with the breath. The freaky side of the story is that they're apparently spontaneous movements that the body might go through of its own volition. Stay with me. With the awakening of the kundalini energy, the body may experience some interesting side effects. Known as kundalini rising, the most commonly used metaphor is to imagine a coiled hose when the water is suddenly and forcefully turned on. It would reel and twist and thrash around. Kind of the same idea. Out of the blue the body could burst into dramatic gestures or vigorous physical theatrics, maybe even accompanied by uncontrolled vocals. It's said to be embarrassing when it happens in public, but that the easiest way through is to let go and surrender to the experience. The choreographed kriyas practiced in kundalini yoga class are said to have been handed down by yogi masters, replicating their own spontaneous bursts that eventually led to their own awakening. From what I understand, it seems like it's the body recalibrating its own energy intake and doing whatever it needs to do physically to allow for access to a higher degree of energy. Maybe it's increasing its own threshold, its own limit on how much energy it can compute. Or something.

The swastika from the other day has been demystified, if only slightly. Thankfully, and contrary to my initial suspicions, it wasn't on display as a socially awkward proclamation of white power. Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates back to the Neolithic period in Ancient India but have been used by virtually every ancient culture in recorded history. The symbol remains widely used in Indian religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and was once commonly used all over much of the world without stigma. Still not totally sure how it fits into the context of yoga, but I have a lot to learn. Entering final savasana I'm half expecting to hear the lollipop kids bust down the door and drag me away, down the yellow brick road in a straight jacket. With a click of my heels the adventure has come to an end. There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home.


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