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Yoga Newbie: The Indian Origin of Yoga at Kundalini Class

Instructor Leslie Rafferty based the teaching of the class off the Indian Yogi Master Bhajan who specialized in the practice of Kundalini Yoga

My fourth class at Oasis Yoga Spa was Kundalini Yoga. Taught by Instructor Leslie Rafferty, she was the first instructor to shed light on the Indian origin of yoga. She based the teaching of the class off the Indian Yogi Master Bhajan, who specialized in the practice of Kundalini Yoga.

It opened with a meditative chant, titled Adi Montra. She gave us a handout as we walked into the class with the words written down for us to follow along.  I glanced at it, but for me, reading the foreign language was harder than simply trying to mimic the words of her voice on pitch and tone.

There were two parts. For the first she chanted: “Ong Namo, Auru Dev Namo,” which translates to English as, “I call on infinite creative consciousness, I call on divine wisdom.”

The second part reads, “Aad Guray nameh jugaad guray nameh sat guray nameh siri guru day-vay nameh,” which translates as: “I bow to the primal wisdom. I bow to the wisdom true through the ages. I bow to the true wisdom. I bow to the great unseen wisdom.”

I’ll admit it felt strange to be chanting with a room full of people I didn’t know.

Rafferty was very informative. She did a lot of explaining about her style of teaching, and why she taught what she did in class. She explained that each class was based off a specific Kundalini curriculum. For each class she picks the featured topic, but informed us that the actual teachings have been formed a long time ago. Currently, she is working on introducing the seven chakras, and this particular class focused on the second chakra, the third eye, located at eye level. She told us that all the poses and exercises performed in class help to awaken or stimulate that particular chakra.

We opened with stretching, which the regulars already knew, because she performs the same sequence at the beginning of every class. This included several different stretches. For the first, we were instructed to sit with our legs straight; we bent forward to touch the toes to, behind the feet, or at the ankles. Next, we tucked one leg into the opposing leg's knee or further inward closer to the upper thigh if our bodies allowed us to. Following that, we split our legs forming a right angle if possible, and we then took turns bending down to the right leg and then to the left leg, and back again. We repeated this sequence over and over again, until instructed to stop.

We performed breath of fire throughout each of these stretches. Breath of fire is created when pushing air out of our lungs from the diaphragm at the base of the navel, at a fast rate. Quick deep inhales, with powerful fast exhales. It creates a rapid pulse of breathing. It’s quite interesting to hear when a group of people are doing it at the same rate. 

After this, we dove into the main portion of the class. She had us place our hands on our shoulders rotating from side-to-side, followed by reaching our hands behind the neck, where we held the stance. We then proceeded to rolling the head clockwise and then reversed for the counter-clockwise direction.  Next, we grasped our hands behind our backs while sitting Indian style. We then would lean forward while raising our arms behind us and placed our heads on a blanket. The arms stretched upwards towards the ceiling and we’d hold it for a bit. Then while lowering our arms and raising our heads to the ceiling we’d look towards the ceiling with our hands to the floor and held that position for a bit. We repeated this a few times. Next, we did a reverse pillar and we would rotate between lowering the legs flat to the ground and holding the pillar pose, we were doing breath of fire again.

Next up was the most intense portion of the entire class (well, it was for me). We started in a standing up position with our arms outstretched in front, parallel to the ground. We then lowered all the way down into crow's pose, we repeated, continuously. Standing, then lowering to a squatting position with the arms held straight out, then rising up to stand again, and then lowering to crow's pose, over and over, until she told us to stop. By the last one my legs were in pain. Next we did a sideways arch with the arms. We would switch from side-to-side. Finally, we did a small kick with each leg to a Montra where we would chant a word on each kick (sadly, I can’t remember what this word was).

Then she closed the class by singing a song titled “The Long-time Sunshine.” it went like this: “May the long-time sun shine upon you. All love surrounds you. And the pure light within you, guide your way on,” followed by a chant of the words “Sat Nam” which translates to, “true self.”

After having participated in this class, I am curious about the evolution of yoga. I think it would be interesting to learn how close the American practice yoga is to its roots of the Indian practice of yoga. I still think there is a lot more I have to learn about yoga. However, I think I would need to make a big commitment to yoga and incorporate it into my life, and only after a few months or years of doing it might I fully realize how it changes us for the better.

Join me next week, as I sample my final but most enjoyable class, the Vinyasa Flow, but this time taught by Instructor Frank Alesci, a former grade school classmate of mine.

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