I'm about to draw parallels between comedian Louis C.K., my favorite Victorian character Jane Eyre, our Saturday Hatha Star yoga class, and camels. Hold on...Read More
Ohm Ma Goodness
It’s been a while since I shared my yoga adventures. Rest assured: I’ve been getting my Satnam on at kundalini yoga every week. I continue to be completely entranced by the variety of ways she directs us to breathe. In the last few weeks, we’ve moved way, WAY beyond the standard breath of fire…
– tongue out, breathe through the mouth
– tongue out, breathe through the nose
– tongue out, ROLLED, breath of fire through the tongue tube
– inhale through the nose, make a snoring sound on the exhale
– inhale through the nose, whistle on the exhale
– inhale through the nose, exhale with canon breath (which is a big puff of cooling air through an O-shaped mouth)
Who knew there were so many ways to breathe?!
Today we did kriyas for the our Muladhara chakra—I know! It totally sounds made up! But is it really any different than “AMRAP” or “man-makers”? (Read my previous post if you need a quick primer on yoga vocab.) Anyway… working on the Muladhara chakra, which was all about being grounded and rooting down into the Earth. There was a lot of visualizing the color red because that’s the color of the chakra. Plus, there was some dancing. Today was super groovy-time yoga, you guys. Don’t judge: I loved it.
Cool Things About Working the Muladhara Today
1. We started by dancing to a sort of reggae song…
… with our eyes closed. I know! Can you even?! For a second, I thought I was in a ’70s sexploitation movie. Then I stopped being a jerk and started listening to the music. The idea was to let our bodies move the way they wanted to move. How often do you do that?! Do you EVER do that? I certainly don’t do it very often. It felt great. I bounced. I wiggled my hips. I shimmied my shoulders. I worked some serious kinds out of my neck. Tomorrow morning, when you get out of bed, put on a song, close your eyes, and let your body move without thinking about it I guarantee you’ll free great by the end of the song. [I liked the song we moved to a lot: “Waah Yantee” by Benjahmin Steele]
2. The kriyas were more mental than physical.
Some days, Robin has us do monstrous core work in the guise of Kundalini: straight leg lifts and holds, V-sits, kundalini lotus. I sweat and pant and shake and try to keep my eyes closed and focused at the point of my third eye, instead of glaring at my perfectly lovely teacher. Today, we did mostly gentle stretching exercises accompanied by chant. The challenge is that they went on forever (and ever and ever and ever). We sat on the floor, with our legs spread out wide in front of us, arms behind our backs with our fingers laced together. Not so bad, right? Then with a slowish steady rhythm, we bent at the hips over the left knee (major hamstring stretch) while chanting Har (sounds like “hud”). Sit up to the center (major ab work) while chanting Haree (sounds like “huddEE”). Repeat to the right. Repeat to the left. Repeat to the right. Repeat for all eternity. Then repeat some more. When infinity wrapped back around itself, we rested — then did it again with a different pattern. Then we rested on our backs. Aaaaah. Until…
“Lace your fingers together over your naval point.,” Robin said. Sweet! That feels comfy, I thought.
“Now stick out your tongue, roll up the sides, and begin breath of fire.” No problem. I got this. You know some people can’t roll their tongues. I wonder what they’re doing right now. Does kundalini scale like CrossFit? Is there some “I can’t roll my tongue mod”? STOP THAT. You’re not supposed to be thinking. Just do breath of fire. STOP THINKING. If you must think of something, at least think “Satnam.”
“Now slowly do a mini situp while you keep up with the breath of fire,” Robin instructed. I’m just going to peek at Robin to make sure I’m doing this right. Yep! That’s it. OK. Sweet. Situps. I can totally do situps. STOP THINKING. Uh, breath of fire is getting harder. My mouth is so dry. How long are we going to do this? STOP THINKING! STOP YELLING TO STOP THINKING. Remember: observe your thoughts. Let them rise and fall like waves around the breath. Breathe… OK. But my mouth is still really dry. SAT-NAM, damn it.
3. Our mantra made me vibrate.
Usually when it’s time for meditation, Robin either plays recorded chants for us to sing along to, or she plays live on her Indian harmonium and we sing along with her, usually in Sanskrit. It’s one my favorite parts of the week. I was always a chorus nerd, so singing with a group of people makes me lighthearted. Hearing my voice blend with the others makes me feel connected to life in a meaningful, visceral way. Today, we chanted just one word — Ma — on a single tone. We had to hold it as long as we could until our breath ran out, then inhale and do it again. Eventually, it was like a chorus singing a round. In the background, a recording of what sounded like Tibetan singing bowls rang out, and then Robin added live gonging to the vibrations. Everything was buzzing, and time became elastic. And groovy. Groovelastic?
4. I accidentally thought of Krispy Kreme and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Throughout the class, we were supposed to visualize a glowing red light around the hip area of our bodies. The jokes practically write themselves, I know!, but I was really trying to focus and visualize my powerful red light, connecting me to the Earth. I thought about growing a glowing red root that extended down, deep into the ground and spread around the world. And then, by accident, I thought of red neon… which made me picture the Krispy Kreme “Hot Now” sign. I know! Totally inappropriate. And then, instead of letting the thought pass, like the rise and fall of waves in the ocean, I thought, That’s just like in Ghostbusters when they’re not supposed to think of anything and one of them thinks of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Which one of them was it? I bet IMDB can tell me. STOP THAT. Visualize being connected to the Earth, not 80s movies! Ma… Ma… Ma… Krispy Kreme… stop it… Ma… Ma… Ma…
FYI: It was Ray, played by Dan Akroyd: “I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay Puft!”
5. I love it, and it works, in spite of my ego.
This post makes it look like I f*ck around the entire time I’m at Kundalini. I don’t! I promise. But I think it’s also important to recognize that meditation, yoga, CrossFit, running, strength training… um, life… is not about doing it perfectly. It’s about showing up, paying attention, and doing it as best we can. It’s called a practice for a reason. I don’t always maintain the focus of a long-time practitioner, but I bring my focus back to my breath as soon as I can. And, really, that’s the point.
Now if only I could stop thinking about Krispy Kreme, I’d be all set. Wishing you a groove-tastic weekend filled with celebratory deep breaths.