I try to go to a new class and experiencing something new every weekend. In the week, I’m quite regular and go to the usual teachers and Mysore practice. A few weeks ago I went to a Kundalini class which was very different from other practices. When I was 18, I travelled with my best friend to India. We stayed for a month and saw large parts of Northern India. It was both a mesmerising and exhausting trip on many levels.
We stayed in Pune and visited the Osho Meditation centre Ashram. During the few days we were there we did 7h of meditation practices per day and got completely immersed in a different world. The Kundalini class I did that day, brought me back to India and old memories of that adventurous trip.
What is Kundalini?
Kundalini is a type of yoga influenced by Shaktism and Tantra. There is a focus on awakening the kundalini energy that is believed lives in the body and make that energy move upwards towards the spine from the bottom and up. It is called the yoga of awareness and includes a practice of meditation, pranayama, chanting mantra and yoga asana. Kundalini can be practiced differently in yoga studios but this is just what I have experienced in my yoga journey.
Osho believed that western people have a harder time to just sit down and meditate. We are not culturally or physically used to sit for a long time to meditate and we also have more stiff hips than most Asian people. For most people it’s just hard to sit still and mastering the mind. He developed a series of meditation techniques during the 1970s to fit a wider audience of people.
The Osho Kundalini meditation is not a calm, still practice as you might think but a very active meditation where you will also sweat. It’s usually practiced in the afternoon or at sunset in India and consists of four different stages, each that lasts for 15 minutes, so a 1h practice.
In the first stage you stand up and let your body shake. Often there is some trance like music to help with this. You should feel the energy move up from your feet and you should be soft, let go and you become the shake. You can have the eyes open or closed.
When hear the gong, you have reached the second stage and are properly warmed up. You dance any way you like to and move in a way that your body wish to do. Eyes can be open or closed but I prefer to have closed eyes. It’s allowing your body and energies to dance the way they want without any judgement from the outside world. There is no right or wrong, just let go.
In the third stage you shall freeze. If you are sitting, standing, lying, wherever pose you are in. Just be still, observing what is happening inside and outside of your body. I remember when I reached this stage, I could feel the sweat dropping down my face, my heart pounding and it was a new kind of stillness.
In the final stage, is when Osho meant that now, we are ready to meditate. So we keep the eyes closed, lie down and remain still for 15 minutes of “real” meditation. It feels a bit funny to do this somehow unconventional practice. Osho meant that in modern life, we have so many layers of who we need to be. To our family, friends, partners, spouses and colleagues. All these layers that we build up over the years and it’s simply not sane.
Some people let go by drinking alcohol or taking drugs, but perhaps that’s not so efficient on the inside. Whilst in the Osho center, I met many westeners who come back every year. Many who are high-level executives for big corporations and they take a holiday retreat every year to just let go, be themselves and shake everything out. It is quite liberating to dance and shake like no-one is looking (and no one does). It’s also not the same as going to a club as again, it’s a social setting. You go to a particular club, where you have to dress a certain way, where a certain music is being played and you are expected to dance in a certain way. For sure it can be fun, but this is different.
I found myself first being stiff and it was really hard to just let go and listen to the body, so unusual to do this! Maybe it was the setting, the clothes and being with all these people doing the same thing. Actually, after a while if I didn’t move I felt really strange as everyone were shaking and there was this moving energy in the room.
It is believed that in the first two stages, the shaking helps to release and melt the energy that has been repressed and blocked. Then we can flow, dance and transform that to something good. A very effective way to let go.
Osho on How to Shake:
“If you are doing the Kundalini Meditation, allow the shaking – don’t do it! Stand silently, feel it coming, and when your body starts a little trembling, help it, but don’t do it! Enjoy it, feel blissful about it, allow it, receive it, welcome it, but don’t will it.“If you force, it will become an exercise, a bodily physical exercise. Then the shaking will be there, but just on the surface. It will not penetrate you. You will remain solid, stonelike, rocklike within. You will remain the manipulator, the doer, and the body will only be following. The body is not the question, you are the question.“When I say shake, I mean your solidity, your rocklike being should shake to the very foundations, so it becomes liquid, fluid, melts, flows. And when the rocklike being becomes liquid your body will follow. Then there is no shaker, only shaking; then nobody is doing it, it is simply happening. Then the doer is not.“Enjoy it, but don’t will it. And remember, whenever you will a thing you cannot enjoy it. They are reverse, opposites; they never meet. If you will a thing you cannot enjoy it, if you enjoy it you cannot will it.” Osho
It was a slightly modified class I went to here in Shanghai. The teacher was a tantra teacher and really tried to get people to let go. The studio I go to though is a quite hard core fitness oriented yoga place. Most Chinese ladies who practice are very fit and interested in the physical aspects of yoga and complicated postures. Again and again the teacher had to remind people to close their eyes. Even this was hard. Then don’t think about shaking! Maybe there is something culturally repressed amongst the Chinese, Japanese and other Asian people?
Culturally, they are maybe not yet as liberated as some western countries. After all, they have had many changes in a short amount of time. For me, I did all the exercises but couldn’t feel the same things that I had done in India that time 13 years ago.
Osho also put together a dynamics meditation that we practiced at 4:30 in the morning. But that is a story for another day.