I don't want to demystify Kundalini yoga too much. For me, that exotic mystery that Kundalini yoga holds is part of what draws me to it. I like the white clothing and the music and unfamiliarity of it all. It's mystical.
I'm not sure I'm really qualified to be explaining Kundalini yoga in the first place, but bear with me and I'll try to give you my best explanation in my own words of what I have come to learn about this unique style of yoga.
As a New Yorker, therefore, a natural skeptic, I was little unsure about this unusual style of yoga when I first came across it. Hearing that it was thousands of years old- made it a little easier to swallow. Knowing the proven benefits of all styles of yoga made it even easier to swallow. But... the chanting. Why the chanting?
Chanting is not something familiar to us Westerners. It feels like of strange and awkward- like being asked to sing a song out loud when you don't really know the words or the melody. Before I could get even "kind of" comfortable with chanting I needed to know the answer to the following questions...
Why do we chant/use mantras in Kundalini yoga? And why do we do it in Sanskrit?
There ARE answers to these questions! Answers that made sense to me. So here goes...
Mantra literally means "to vibrate the mind". Chanting is believed to stimulate the 84 reflex points located in the hard palate of the mouth. Stimulating these reflex points is believed to stimulate the hypothalmus gland (which is located in the brain and is responsible for our emotions and behaviors). Stimulating the hypolthalmus gland, in turn is believed to stimulate the pineal gland. The pineal gland (also located in the brain) regulates body temperature, appetite, digestion, circulation and sleep.
Additionally, the hypothalamus gland controls metabolic
activity and helps us maintain healthy fluid levels and properly
metabolize fats and sugars. Stimulating the pineal gland is believed to make the glandular system secrete- and when it does it creates a relaxed feeling of bliss.
So, is there any scientific proof behind chanting?
There is- according to ISKON news:
"One of the biggest studies of its kind, presented to the American
Heart Association last year (2009), found patients with coronary heart disease
who practiced meditation and chanting had nearly 50 per cent lower rates
of heart attack, stroke and death compared to non-meditating subjects.
Another study last year of students at Georgetown University found
that chanting helped lower blood pressure after three months of regular
Okay, so why do we chant in Sanskrit or Gurmukhi? Why not English or another language?
These languages have more vibrational qualities than other languages (like English) and these help stimulate the glands to open up your energy. Sanskrit and Gurmukhi are also used as a nod of respect for the origin of our yoga practice.
So, I hope that demystifies Kundalini yoga just enough for you to try it for yourself. If you feel calm, relaxed and peaceful when you're done, you might just want to try it out on a regular basis. Yogi Brent's video will be up on Monday. It will be a wonderful 11 minute first introduction into the chanting and breathing of Kundalini yoga.
Namaste and Happy New Year to you all!