The first half of my life was heavily influenced by organized religion. Although my parents did not subscribe to any particular doctrine, they felt it necessary for my sister and I to go to private Christian schools. Plus, my Spanish heritage practically required us to be baptized Catholic and go through our first communion (complete with Catechism classes, fluffy white gowns, and Sundays regularly spent in Mass). By age 16, I knew that it was not for me. I had too many questions that were left unanswered by the church and became increasingly bewildered by any mention of church, God, and prayer.
Fast forward to 2013, I’m living in Santa Cruz and deep in the trenches of Chinese medicine school. I had spent over the past decade passively studying other religions, beliefs, and philosophies, but moving to Santa Cruz exposed me to a whole new world of teachings and healing modalities. Despite having a yearning for spiritual connection, I found that none of it resonated deeply for me. I hit an emotionally rough patch in my life, and knew that my prior mode of operating would not provide the peace I was in serious need of. Out of sheer desperation, I laid in bed and prayed for the first time in my adult life, “Please, guide me. Show me what I need to do. I can’t do this myself.” It was nothing short of a miracle what transpired over the next month. Books practically fell into my lap (this one in particular had a profound effect on my outlook on life). I had an acupuncture treatment from one of my teachers that provided me the sleep I desperately needed, and an herbal formula that restored the physical energy I was lacking. On three different occasions (when I see/hear things in multiples of at least three, I have learned to listen!), I had seen people dressed from head to toe in white (including white turbans). This piqued my interest, especially when I saw a woman dressed this way coming out of the yoga class that was before the one I was going into. After looking at the schedule, I saw that the class was “Kundalini yoga”. I had briefly heard of Kundalini, but had never tried it despite my decade long practice of Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar, and Ashtanga yogas. I signed up for a class later that week and was instantly intrigued. First off, let me preface all of this by saying this: Kundalini yoga is weird. There is a lot of chanting, weird poses, and contorting your mouth to “pant like a dog” or “lion’s breath”. I noticed that my mood was substantially better after that first class. I felt lighter, more peaceful, and eager to try Kundalini again. During my third or fourth class, I experienced something I had never before felt, or had even heard of for that matter. The kriyas (series of postures, chants, and breathwork) were strenuous that day, and as I leaned back into Savasana, I felt my heart burst open. It was the most raw, intense, real sensation I had ever felt. It was as if I was the Universe, and the Universe was me, and everything was pulsating with love. I laid there, paralyzed, tears streaming down my face, and feeling true joy and bliss for the first time in my life.
From that moment, my life was transformed. Shortly after, I learned that my experience was a Kundalini awakening. Kundalini is a Sanskrit word that means “coiled snake”. The theory is that we have an innate, life-force energy that is harnessed at the base of our spine. That energy can be awakened through Kundalini yoga. Over the next year, I would spend every Friday night in class where we would do Kundalini kriyas (postures, poses, and breathwork), meditation, and kirtan singing. My regular practice brought me peace, joy, and vitality. Of all the spiritual practices, teachings, and techniques that I have come across, this has been the one that I found that helps me connect with my Higher Power, allows me to be my authentic self, and fills me with an overall sense of peace and well being.
Don’t get me wrong, it is hard work. Sometimes in middle of a class, I’ve had the urge to quit because of the kriyas were so grueling, physically and emotionally. Kundalini yoga is said to have powerful healing effects. I’ve heard of people reversing their diseases and structural ailments through the practice of Kundalini yoga. It can also help sharpen your intuition, strengthen your energetic field, and increase energy. One of profound benefits that I have experienced through my own personal practice is it has amplified my power of manifestation. In the last several years, I’ve had people say to me on numerous occasions “Bianca, you sure are lucky [in regards to some of the things that have happened to me]”, but I know that it is not luck. It has been my hard work and dedication to this ancient practice that has been the catalyst for the things that have transpired in my life.
Although Kundalini yoga has transformed thousands of lives, it might not be for you. There are thousands of other spiritual practices, religions, and philosophies that might resonate better for you. Being open and willing to try what WILL work for you is the best advice I can give in regards to spirituality. But if you you are interested in trying it out, here is a wonderful class by one of my favorite teachers in Santa Cruz, Charanpal:
I am happy to announce that Milkweed and Alchemy is hosting a Kundalini yoga class Sunday mornings from 9-10:30am! Coco Herda is leading the class and offering such a incredible addition to the San Luis Obispo spiritual community. Please contact me for information, space is limited.