Often referred to as the ‘Yoga of Awareness’ or ‘Holistic Yoga’, Kundalini yoga is a practice fusing several ancient practices and principles to enable the practitioner to manage and manipulate the energetic flow in the body. Kundalini includes the practices of Bhakti yoga (devotion and mantra chanting) Raja yoga (meditation, mental and physical control) and Shakti yoga (the expression and control of energy or power).
A kundalini yoga class can leave you feeling like you’ve been to therapy, done a workout and felt the earth move – vibrationally speaking. Kundalini is a modality by which practitioners can deeply cleanse the nervous system, tune into their inner potential and release energetic blockages or imbalances to find a peaceful life and a balanced outlook. This isn’t just yoga to make the body feel better – this is yoga that can create shifts in every area of your life.
The exact date and emergence of kundalini tantra is unclear, but the practices of kundalini energy manipulation and philosophy are mentioned in the Upanishads (vedic yoga texts) dating back to 1000 BC. The term Kundalini means a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine and often represented by a coiled snake. Practicing Kundalini yoga awakens the kundalini shakti (energy of universal creation) and allows it to rise up through the chakra system along the spine to the crown of the head. Each chakra is a wheel or hub of energy at a particular point in the spine where energy channels intersect. Through practicing asana (physical postures), pranayama (yogic breathing techniques) and mantra it is possible to direct the flow of energy through the chakras to have profound effect on the nervous system, the mind and the flow of life. If you’ve ever felt like a passenger in your own life, kundalini may be what you’re searching for.
The practice of kundlini yoga historically was part of tantric tradition. Tantra means secret mantra and as such, the practice was the preserve of the very few privileged gurus and selected students. The modern presentation of Kundalini yoga that we often see today is a blend of several traditions brought to the mainstream by Yogi Bhajan in the 1960’s. Practice involves the use of Kriyas – yoga ‘sets’ of asana, pranayama, meditation and the use of yogic muscle locks or bandhas to direct energy flow and prepare the nervous system, mind and body for the flow of kundalini awakening and rising through the chakra system.
On wearing white
Traditionally teachers and students in kundalini class wear outfits of all white. The choice of white as the universal colour of practice is that colours have an effect on consciousness. Many holistic traditions refer to colours as being inseparably connected to energy points in the body. The chakra system is strongly identified with colours at points from the base of the spine to the crown. The Aura of each individual presents as colours depending on energy flow and interaction.
White is the colour that represents all 7 colours of the chakra system. By wearing white, we project the auric body further away from our physical form, making the energetic changes of our kundalini practice more profound. Wearing white contributes to the efficiency, profundity and progressive effect of our practice. Having said that…your practice is personal to you. If you feel more comfortable or you feel you have a deeper connection to another colour, you can wear whatever assists your practice.
Bowing to the truth within you
Each Kundalini session (following modern principles of Yogi Bhajan) starts with the process of tuning in. We do this by rubbing the palms together, pressing the hands together at the centre of the chest and engaging in the powerful mantra Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo three times. This is your recognition of the universal truth within; bowing to your own destiny.
What to expect
Kundalini yoga is weird – there I’ve said it. Now that’s out of the way, let’s look at what a typical class will involve. After tuning in, we start the Kriya – a set of postures (some of which may be familiar to you if you’ve practiced other forms of yoga), breathing techniques, muscle locks and mantra chanting (silently or out loud). Kundalini isn’t as dynamic as a vinyasa class – you won’t be getting up and down from your mat over and over – but it is still challenging. We use rapid repetition and controlled movements to channel energy. You will feel this as heat, emotional release, fatigue or muscle shakes (along with many other possible effects). It’s a full body, mind and spirit experience in each session. Classes will close with mantra, meditation or sound experiences.
Join me on Wednesday evenings twice a month to embark on the extraordinary journey that is kundalini yoga. Awaken your divine energy in 2021 and make this year the year you reclaim happiness.
As the nights get longer and colder and the days get damper, the inevitable cold and flu season approaches. Chances are we will all suffer from a seasonal cold; whether it’s a head cold that lasts a few days or something a little more persistent that knocks you back for a few weeks, it’s good to know how you can help yourself to recover.
Waging war on the common cold often seems like a lost cause with most of us resorting to over the counter remedies that allow us to ‘soldier on’ at home and at work. Keeping warm and drinking fluids is good advice, but what if there was something more you could do?
Essential oils have some powerful properties to fight the common cold and can be used as part of a self-care routine that in itself can help you feel much better. Although I wouldn’t recommend casting aside medical advice in favour of home remedies, there are things you could try to complement medical advice that could help you feel better physically and mentally and get you back on your feet sooner.
So what can you do? There are a number of essential oils that have been used for centuries (and proven in modern trials) to combat the symptoms of colds.
Oils you might like to have in your basic care kit:
Cinnamon, clove or rosemary – if mixed with warm water, can be effective as a surface cleanser or room mist to combat bacteria, viruses and fungus
Chamomile (Roman)– excellent at relieving cold and flu symptoms as it has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It also has calming and sedative properties
Eucalyptus (Radiata) – Excellent in fighting respiratory tract infections
Lavender – Excellent calming effects and helps with sleep. Can also be used to treat headaches
Lemon – Has stimulating effects on the digestive system and is great at relieving headaches. Is generally good at uplifting mood and has antiseptic properties (making it great for room mist)
Peppermint – A wonder oil with analgesic, antiseptic, cooling and anti-inflammatory properties. Can relieve mucus and catarrh and relieve headaches
Tea Tree – An all-rounder for cold fighting; antiseptic, antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal. If you find the scent too antiseptic, it can be easily blended with lemon to disguise it.
Thyme (Linalol) – Great at fighting infections or contagious conditions and also at stimulating the immune system.
How to use the oils:
Steam – add up to 4 drops to a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam (placing a towel over the head). This is particularly useful for mucus, catarrh and headache relief. Alternatively, to get the benefits of steam and topical application, add a blend to the bath and soak yourself until you feel relief.
Topical application – a foot or hand massage is a great way to get the benefit of the oils and the relaxation of a massage. Add an oil blend to a carrier oil (such as coconut or grapeseed) and massage into hands and feet before bed. Blend the oils in the following quantity: 5 ml carrier oil, 1 drop of essential oil. 10 ml of carrier oil, 5 drops of essential oil.
Room mist or surface cleanser – Adding drops of a blend (up to 6 drops to 500 ml water, test on surfaces before full use) to warm water and shaking well (in a misting spray bottle) can make for an effective surface cleanser or room mist to clear away infectious microbes or bacteria.
Oil burner – get the benefits of the oils while relaxing in front of the TV or a good book. Add drops of essential oil (up to 5 drops) to 10ml of water and heat in an oil burner (over a candle). The room will be cleansed as well as your airways.
Experiment with blends that appeal to you as fragrances as well as for their cold and flu fighting properties and you will find something that works well for your mind as well as your body. Instead of fighting through and carrying on as normal, take some time to care for yourself through bathing with essential oils, giving yourself a massage or relaxing in a candle-lit room with an oil burner. Colds need not be the struggle that they usually are.
This was my first visit to the Holistic Health Show which is held at the NEC in Birmingham in May each year.
The venue is ideal for this kind of thing so not much needs to be said – lots of space, lots of parking. The parking charge remains scandalous at a £12 flat fee but with free show entry when you pre-register online, you can’t really complain.
Once inside there were goody bags available but it was an immediate bun-fight to grab one before the meagre supplies ran out. As it turns out, it was just a massive paper bag with a cosmetics catalogue inside. I ditched mine as soon as possible as it was a hindrance rather than an help when navigating the very busy show.
The Holistic Health show shares a hall with Hair & Beauty UK. Unfortunately about 80% of the space is hair and beauty with the Holistic Health Show taking up a very small proportion of the event. That said, there were lots of useful stands and exhibitors offering advice, products and workshops. I enjoyed a free meditation session; difficult in the hustle and bustle but worthwhile. There were some great product stands and retailers for aromatherapy in particular.
There was also a free presentation area where speakers delivered sessions throughout the day. I enjoyed a very enlightening session with Cain Leathem of GB Fitness on nutrition and the importance of real ‘personal’ training plan to develop real physical and mental strengths. This appealed to me as I’ve always struggled to gain weight in a health way. I found Cain’s presentation to be genuine and enjoyable.
There was also a large CPD area where sessions could be booked prior to the show and paid for online. A lot of the CPD was very specialised and focused; as a student, I didn’t find this particularly appealing and so didn’t part with my money on this occasion. It might be more worthwhile as a practitioner. Sessions were priced at £15 each but were wide-ranging from therapy for pregnant clients to using essential oils for cancer therapy.
Hair and Beauty UK was an eye-opening experience and was about as far removed from holistic therapy as you could find. I enjoyed looking at some of the bizarre and fantastic treatments in action, but there wasn’t anything that appealed to me in that part of the show.
Unfortunately the holistic side of the show was limited and only took up about 2 hours of my time including the workshop and meditation so it wasn’t a day out. I would go again utilising the free online registration and possibly doing some CPD in the future. It’s not a show that would induce me to part with the £10-£20 on-the-door ticket price however.
The Holistic Health Show is back at the NEC on 20 -21 May 2018