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What is kundalini yoga?

Α woman sitting in a cross legged yoga pose. PA Photo/iStock.

By Prudence Wade

Need to mix up your at-home workouts? Alicia Keys is just one celebrity who spends time doing Kundalini yoga.

In a new cover story for InStyle, the singer spoke about her emotional awakening during a trip to Egypt, while “more spiritual epiphanies came later at a meditation and yoga retreat in LA,” explains the interviewer, “where she learned the Kundalini technique that she still practices daily.”

Keys isn’t the only famous practitioner of Kundalini – Russell Brand is a huge fan of the technique and has posted plenty of his practices on YouTube.

So what exactly is the Kundalini technique, and how could it benefit your body and mind?

If you’ve done a regular, non-Kundalini yoga class before, you’ll be familiar with how amazing it can feel when the practice is over and you arise from savasana, the final resting pose. It’s a moment to feel peace and calmness – and this is what yoga teacher Neeta Naidoo says you can get throughout a Kundalini practice.

Naidoo teaches all types of yoga, including the popular hatha style, but is also trained in Kundalini and describes it as having “very instant benefits” and “healing properties”.

“When you practice Kundalini, the awareness and the feeling of being balanced and relaxed is reached in a shorter time,” she explains. “You come out feeling refreshed, energised, [with] a sense of calm and peace.”

So how do you achieve this almost instantaneous calm that so many of us search for? “With Kundalini, the postures are repetitive,” Naidoo explains. “It’s constantly moving, like an automatic rhythm of movement; then breathing; then chanting with mantras.” Take the yoga movement cat-cow: in Kundalini, Naidoo says, you could use this exercise as a warm-up and repeat it 21 or 56 times: “You just keep going, and then you add the breath.”

As with all types of yoga, breath is incredibly important in Kundalini – but it’s even more powerful than you might be used to in a hatha or vinyasa class. “Kundalini yoga has something called ‘breath of fire’,” says Naidoo, which is a rapid and repetitive exhale through the nostrils – newbies might find it makes them dizzy, but it’s used to help centre your practice.

Within Kundalini, breath is used alongside physical postures to help you “withdraw from your senses”, notes Naidoo. “When you withdraw from your senses, you come to a point of staying focused” – and this is where the meditative element of Kundalini comes in, which is thought to help reduce stress and calm your mind. It also offers an opportunity to let go of thoughts and feelings that aren’t serving you, to become more “emotionally balanced”.

Naidoo says: “If you’re balanced emotionally, you have stillness and calm, you can react better in life, you can deal with situations in life, you can lead a more balanced life – it goes on and on.”

While there are plenty of physical benefits to Kundalini too – it’s great for your spine if you’ve been slouched over a desk all day for instance – it’s particularly beneficial for what it can do for your mind. Naidoo notes the “energising of the body and the relaxation of the mind that takes place,” as well as “a shift in our consciousness that we don’t get in anything else we do”.

 



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