Yoga is a diverse world. Kundalini, also called “the yoga of awareness,” is designed to give you an experience of yourself. The practice includes combining a variety of breathing techniques with specific movements for results that are quick and powerful. Much of the practice is spent with eyes closed, encouraging participants to go within and forge a connection with the deepest parts of the subconscious.
“You can see results instantly after one class, even after one exercise,” says Gurumeher Khalsa, the studio head at Cosmic Flow Kundalini Yoga in Point Loma. “Even just taking a few long, deep breaths is calming and centering and relaxing. You can come into a class feeling stressed or overwhelmed and leave an hour later feeling much lighter, relieved and happy. I see it all the time.”
The practice is relevant and handy in these times, when it seems each new day brings a new reason for a panic attack. Khalsa says Kundalini Yoga can teach breathing techniques to cope with those situations. The techniques focus on releasing things such as anxiety, stress, fear and selfloathing. Meditations and mantras are used to open up even further and focus on self-healing and connecting with a higher consciousness.
"We do long, deep breathing, because it’s calming, centering, releasing stress and anxiety,” she says. “But it's on a different level.”
The different level is using a variety of breathing techniques combined with other aspects of the classes, including the movement, mantras, and meditation. Khalsa says her 75- or 90-minute classes teach different types of breathing techniques, in-person or over Zoom.
“One breath that is unique to Kundalini is called Breath of Fire—a rapid inhale and exhale through the nose,” she says. “The best way to learn it is to stick your tongue out and put your hands on your navel and then pretend like you're panting like a dog. And it's basically that breath, except just close your mouth and switch it to the nose. And it's really one long, continuous breath, and the purpose of it is opening up the lungs. It's good for releasing toxins and purifying the blood.”
Khalsa says with practice, this breathing technique can offer an overall sense of calmness, and “the things that maybe used to bother you or trigger you just really don't seem to bother you anymore.”
Another technique is called Sitali Pranayama, which involves rolling one’s tongue like a taco.
“And then inhale through that taco tongue and then exhale out the nose,” Khalsa says. “As the name implies, it is a cool down breath, both on a physical and mental level. It is good for releasing inner anger.”
Another is to alternate nostril breathing, meaning using one’s thumb or pinky to close off the right nostril, and then inhaling low and deep through the left nostril, exhaling out the left nostril and alternating.
But, Khalsa says, the classes are about more than just breathing.
“The typical class structure is tuning in with a mantra to connect with ourselves and also connect with the teachings,” she says. Next is breathing meditation, and then the yoga portion, which combines the breathwork with the movement, all prescribed by the Kundalini teachings. The classes wrap with meditation and relaxation, where participants lay out on the ground and take in all the work they’ve done.
“So, really just the overall sense of calmness and overall well being is what you'll experience,” Khalsa says. “And that's just all from putting in the work yourself.”