Why Kundalini Yoga Might Be The Perfect Match for Mind, Body and Soul
Jenny- Lee Masterson on how Kundalini yoga can be the style of yoga that suits our busy lives.
How did you first become interested in yoga?
My aunt is 80 years old and is a yoga teacher. As a result I was always around it growing up. I would be sitting a certain way and she would comment on it in relation to yoga. At about 17/18, I started attending yoga classes that she would teach. Things that she used to say to me about breath have since stayed with me and I take them into my own class now.
I lived in New York for a period and that is when I really saw that it helped me as I found all of the energies there difficult. When I hit my 30’s, I decided that I wanted to go deeper into my practice, I wanted to find a style that would help me to do that.
A friend of mine introduced me to Kundalini and I actually started by looking at youtube video. I used to skip past the chanting parts because I didn’t want anyone to hear me chanting and to think I was bananas or had joined a cult. So initially, it was just the physical side of things. When I started to attend proper Kundalini classes I realised that the element of training the mind was just as important. I decided I want to take my practice further and at that point I decided to do an intensive one-year training in it.
What is Kundalini and how is it different to other yoga?
Kundalini works on the energies in your body. We don’t focus as much on alignment. In my mind there is no such thing as perfect alignment as everybody is shaped and built differently. We work on the energies and on the meridians.
It’s almost like acupuncture in a sense. You can hold your arms up in the air for 3 or 5 minutes. We are looking to move the energy, as when it gets stuck in the body it can cause disease and discomfort.
Through breathing techniques we work to clear any blockages that exist in any of your channels, so that flow begins to happen more easily.
There are not a lot of warrior poses or downward dogs. In Kundalini you can spend the entire class sitting, moving your arms up and down and you will work up a serious sweat. It is really very powerful. Some exercises you will do for 5 minutes and they can be the equivalent to an hour in another form of exercise.
It’s all really about training the mind. If you think to yourself “ I am going to hold my arms up for three minutes”, you’re negative mind will kick in. It’s about training the mind and giving it a different message, like telling yourself that you know you can do it.
Is it a physical work-out, can you stay fit from it?
You can stay very fit from it. You can tone, you can get serious abs from it. It depends on what you want. It is a very transformative practice. After a while, you can’t but notice other things will start to happen for you. What you are doing is purifying the body.
There is a saying in Kundalini; “ Don’t come to get anything, come to get rid of everything.”
We hold onto too much. If you are experiencing pain in your forearm during a pose, see if you can persevere and breathe through it. You might find that it will disappear and you have let go of whatever was causing that.
You are working stuff out of the body. We are trying to get rid of the memories and pain that the body is holding onto.
People are stressed in the times we live in. Kundalini provides us with very simple tools to deal with this. None of them are hard. It’s very meditative, but you will definitely sweat.
Are there certain aspects of your life that it has helped?
I am still a human. Things still freak me out. It’s like brushing your teeth. If you don’t do it every day, decay will set in. It’s like that for me with yoga. If I don’t manage to even fit five minutes in during a day, I can find things becoming harder.
It has helped me have discipline in my life and given me something that supports daily life. I find if I am not practicing, things creep in.
When I lost my Dad, I had been practicing yoga before that and it helped me. I look at things differently, I could see it as a beautiful thing. That is just the way I look at it, but it can be a beautiful thing.
Teaching yoga for me was inevitable.
Was there a moment when that sense of inevitability kicked in?
I was doing acting and yoga at the same time. I was training in both. With acting there is a lot of self-doubt and self-critique. You are always looking for praise for your work. I had this, and then at the same time was training in yoga, which is all about stripping the ego away.
I would be onstage berating myself, feeling I wasn’t good enough and wondering why I was doing it. I really do admire people who can go for it. I wanted to hear people telling me I was great.
I remember rehearsing a monologue one day in front of three people and going to places that I never thought I could. Once I achieved that and had done it, for me, I didn’t need to go on. I released it was okay for other people who are better to go on and do it.
I had to let go and go through a journey with the associated ups and downs. With acting, when was I ever going to be good enough?
When I am teaching, people come up and say ,that was a great class, but they are really giving themselves that. They are really giving themselves that experience by allowing themselves to go there.
I just love to teach. It was inevitable.
What does your daily practice look like?
I love getting up early in the morning, when it is quiet. It really is the perfect time for meditating, when everything is still. I always start with the breath of fire, for at least 15 minutes. It really gets the system going. Depending on how much time I have, I will work out the spine and try to get an overall body work-out.
In Kundalini we have thousands of meditations and breathing techniques, so I am always researching. I sit and do them and then bring them into my classes to teach.
Do you find meditation hard?
I was very determined. In Kundalini, you either have a mantra, a mudra or a breath technique. It’s rare that you are sitting there doing nothing.
I recently started meditating with a group for 45 minutes once a week. It’s hard , but at the same time it’s brilliant because what I find with meditation is that you are aware that your right hip is screaming at you, or you might have a few minutes of bliss, but you learn to not associate with the bliss part or with the pain part. You learn to just sit with it all and experience it.
It is just really interesting because you start to know how your mind works. Some days I love it, some days it’s really difficult.
I really think it is so important to put aside part of your day for meditation. It’s allowing you to dump what is going on in your head.
In Kundalini we have a mantra. I think of it as a washing machine for the subconscious mind. You don’t have to know what it means, but the more you repeat it, the more it can help to get rid of the other stuff we fill our heads with. It creates space.
It’s all a lifelong process. You’re never done. People can’t believe that I have a tight right hip. I am clearly still hanging onto stuff that I have to get rid off. We all have imbalances. No one is sorted.
My yoga practice has taught me to be conscious of everything. The thoughts that I put into my head, the food that I put into my body, how I talk to people, how I allow them to talk to me. Yoga has definitely made me more conscious of all of these things.
Do you have any tips on techniques that people can incorporate into their New Year.
Get to know breath of fire. .
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