By Kelly Gonzalez, Fitness and Nutrition Specialist (Kellygonzalez.com)
Although there are many yoga studios in Los Angeles, stepping into Guru’s Gate in downtown Manhattan Beach felt simultaneously whimsical, comforting, and peaceful – just the appeal I seek out when in search of enlightenment and the answer to my yoga question: what are chakras?
On a sunny Sunday morning, I attended owner Lisa Vitta’s Kundalini class. This was my first time practicing Kundalini yoga and I was uncertain of what to expect, but I mimicked the other yogis in the room by grabbing a bolster and blanket to set up next to my mat and took a seat in Sukhasana (easy cross-legged pose), waiting for class to begin.
We started with deep breathing (something I know I need to do more often), followed by chanting mantras to create a harmonious vibration throughout the room, and then assuming various hand positions called mudras. The combination of the three, along with challenging asanas, stirred up many emotions. The interesting thing was the feelings were unattached to a person, place, or thing. Rather, they entered and were released through breath, sweat, and even tears.
Vitta explained that Kundalini yoga is a very spiritual practice that works to balance the chakras of the body, hence releasing emotion. It “helps raise Kundalini energy from the base of the spine upward,” she says, “allowing the energy to rotate around like a river up through each of the chakras, cleansing, balancing, aligning them all up.”
Aligning the seven chakras starts with the root chakra at the base of the spine. Then, the process travels upward to the hips, navel, heart, throat, third eye at the brow, and finally the crown chakra towards the top of the head.
Each chakra is connected to a color and an organ or bodily system. Visually, the chakras are believed to resemble tiny wheels spinning in motion at a desired speed. A chakra that is not spinning at optimal speed is considered tarred, dirty, or blocked, and both physical and psychological issues can stem from malfunctioning chakras. For example, the navel chakra is considered bright yellow and to be involved with self-esteem. It governs digestion, metabolism, and our ability to take risks and get moving.
An imbalance in navel chakra may cause poor digestion, low self-esteem, or depression.
When it comes to balancing the chakras, visualization plays a key role. “I like to start a class with prana (breathing) and have the students visualize the chakras spinning in motion, becoming aligned, getting brighter and brighter,” says Vitta.
Performing kriyas, a group of yoga poses for a specified duration of time and number of repetitions, can bring about physical and psychological changes in the body that can stir emotions and clear blockage. The prescribed time and order is an important aspect of Kundalini yoga.
“The Yogi’s in India would count heart beats to determine how long it took to achieve the desired effect in the body,” adds Vitta. Today we use time, performing a certain exercise like a spinal flexion for 3 minutes.
For a first-timer like me, the duration aspect was a bit challenging, especially for some of the breathing exercises and abdominal-strengthening poses. But about halfway through my journey, I began to feel the effects and started to “let go” as my mind took over and welcomed the challenge.
Whether I was able to open, align, and balance my chakras, I’ll never know for sure. What I do know is that Kundalini yoga helped me relax, stirred up emotions I didn’t know existed, and left me feeling revitalized and renewed. I plan on attending future classes and working towards the main objective of Kundalini, “unlocking human potential to greatness.”
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