A Journey in Kundalini Yoga: DVD Review
Yogis can be so dogmatic, even completely inflexible when it comes to the style of yoga they practice. I know this, because I was one of those die-hard, one-style-all-the-time practitioners for years. It was Ashtanga and Ashtanga only for me – until I couldn’t do Ashtanga anymore.
A hand injury that has forced me to keep weight off of my left hand for over a year now, powerfully nudged me to take a look outside my yoga box. There is truth in the statement that even in injury there is blessing.
For some reason, Kundalini arrived on my radar and it was suddenly all around me. I was reading a Gabrielle Bernstein book and she mentioned it. My stepmom told me her friend taught it! Then, I remembered Golden Bridge Yoga from years spent living in LA. What a shame my rigid Ashtanga practice kept me from exploring that shala. I became obsessed with Google-ing “Kundalini” and watching videos on YouTube. I was relieved to see very little pressure being placed on the hands. It seemed to be a wonderful combination of breath, meditation and asana. As described by it’s guru, Yogi Bhajan, “Kundalini Yoga consists of active and passive asana-based kriyas, pranayama, and meditations which target the whole body system (nervous system, glands, mental faculties, chakras) to develop awareness, consciousness and spiritual strength.”
Then, I recalled seeing Kundalini yoga DVDs from Ana Brett and Ravi Singh that would come up when I would browse yoga products on Amazon.com. Their names and the beautiful images of the lithe Ana stuck with me, ingrained in my consciousness. As I delved deeper into researching the practice of Kundalini and how I could participate, I found Ana and Ravi’s interpretation of this style very palatable.
Yes, Kundalini is the yoga mode in which instructors traditionally wear all white, including a head turban and sit cross legged on sheep skin while teaching. I remember hearing stereotypes about the endless breathing exercises, quirky movements, singing and chanting that is part of Kundalini. I recall judgmentally thinking it was “too out there” even for me!
These elements can also be intimidating to some practitioners, especially beginners, but something about the Ana and Ravi DVDs told me this was a more digestible interpretation of Kundalini. Ana wears more traditional Western workout wear, uses a regular yoga mat and even sports bleached blonde hair. There is a sense of fun and happiness emanating from her practice that I wanted to be a part of so, I decided this was whom I wanted to take me on my Kundalini journey.
I was very generously sent three of Ana and Ravi’s DVDs to give a whirl: “The Body Electric,” “Solar Power” and “Green Energy of the Heart.” I can say without hesitation that these are the most fantastically produced, comprehensive and joyful yoga DVDs I have ever done! The DVDs have a very distinct visual and audio approach. (You can find specific details regarding pose and elapsed time content on most Amazon reviews.) Ana performs the movements onscreen with amazing original music in the background while voiceover by Ravi and Ana guides you through all the “sets,” as the movement groupings are called in Kundalini.
The DVDs are equipped with “Matrix” technology, allowing you to design your own workouts. I really like that “The Body Electric” and “Solar Power” have pre-set options for workouts of different lengths. This is great for days when you don’t have the entire 75 -90 minutes a practice usually takes.
The DVDs are uniform in their presentation of the order of a Kundalini class. Kundalini practice always begins with “tuning” in by singing mantra, “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.” Don’t worry – the words are transcribed onscreen whenever a mantra or meditation includes “Gurmukhi” – the language of Kundalini yoga. Then, you are guided through a nice warm-up set or two before the “Kriyas” or “workout sets.” You finish with a guided savasana and meditation.
The narration is filled with superb instruction, inspiration and tidbits of yogic/spiritual wisdom that will fill your practice with brightness and inspire you to manifest their words!
Kundalini yoga exercises/asanas within the “sets” are very different from the Ashtanga or vinyasa tradition I am more accustomed to. Breath and often “Breath of Fire” (a rapid exhale/inhale through the nose with equal emphasis, no deeper than sniffing) is coordinated with a body movement (instead of mostly staying static in a pose) and for a much longer period than the five breaths I am used to! This makes some of the poses feel very long, but I try to concentrate on the breath and movement as meditation to get through it! I find this element of Kundalini the most challenging for me.
And don’t let my injury fool you into thinking that Kundalini is easy. Not by any means. There is even upper-body work in poses that will be familiar to most yogis like planks and cobras. I personally had to modify due to my hand, but practitioners of all levels will be challenged by the range of poses these three DVDs offer. And if you want more Ana and Ravi – they have 22 DVDs to choose from. I just ordered “Fat Free Yoga” for my next installment!
They also have an excellent website with an index of health issues/FAQs related to Kundalini with fascinating content! I also suggest singing up for their email newsletter that provides an extra dose of their positive mojo, education and yoga goodies!
I have since been to an authentic Kundalini class in my town and was pleasantly surprised to find that the videos are very true to the Kundalini lineage. And, as the teacher and I discussed in class, regarding how long it took me to try Kundalini – perhaps I am just finally ready to receive this lineage now. Don’t cheat yourself out of being open to another style like I did! Learn more about Kundalini yoga and Ana and Ravi at http://raviana.com