Every time I practice I work with my mind. I try to remain focused on the sacred by feeling my breath, by turning my eyes up and in to the third eye, by repeating sat nam (truth is my identity). When distracting thoughts arise, I refocus, reorient to the sacred.
Yesterday, though, when I came to class, the usual tools didn't quite work. My mind was churning over how to fix some pressing problems and on some tasks that I could not put off anymore. Then there was some self-judgment mixed in. Why did I put them off in the first place? What's wrong with me?
It didn't matter that I know better than to be hard on myself. It didn't matter that I know that when I'm hard on myself I only compound the anxiety. It didn't matter because the truth is it's not about knowing better. It's about embodying better.
Yesterday, my mind needed some extra help to embody better. Fortunately, Kathy (Harjot) was teaching the Kriya for All Chakras, and the kriya provided an additional framework for my messy, suffering mind. (Without direction, I contend that most minds will go to messiness and suffering to different degrees.) The kriya provided the focal points of the chakras, energy centers, and I was able to experience my presence, and in presence I found relief.
As we moved through the chakras, with Kathy's inspiration, I used visualizations to make each energy center's quality feel more real, and I used affirmations to remind myself that I (like everyone) am blessed with these qualities.
I wanted to share with you the visualizations and affirmations I used yesterday because they may be helpful to you. I hope these tools serve you when you need them most. I hope they bring you back into present moment awareness, back into an embodied state, when the mind threatens to overtake you.
(If you're reading this and thinking, what the heck is a chakra? No worries. Please check out Kathy's Blog, Floating Along the Chakra Cruise for more background. )
First Chakra, Root Chakra, Sense of Safety
With any exercise that involves the base of the spine (such as pulling root lock, spinal flexes, crow pose, and body drops), visualize thick roots shooting down and out from your base (if you're standing, your feet; if you're seated, your sits bones) and into the rich soil. Repeat to yourself: I am rooted. I am held. I am safe.
Second Chakra, Sacral Chakra, Source of Creativity
With any exercise that involves the pelvis (such as sufi grind or frog pose), envision a beautiful body of water within. Then, see a single pebble drop in its center and see perfect, concentric circles emanate out and out and out. Affirm: I am in flow. I am inspired. I am creative.
Third Chakra, Navel Chakra, Source of Will Power
With any exercise that involves the navel center (such as stretch pose, spinal twists, or leg lifts), see a fire at the belly. See your effort as stoking the fire that fuels your dreams and goals. Say to yourself, I am strong and determined. I persevere. I keep up.
Fourth Chakra, Heart Chakra, Center of Compassion
With any exercise that involves opening the chest or directing energy to the heart (such as cobra, holding the hands in prayer, or ego eradicator), envision a bright sun swirling at the center of your chest. Visualize that sun as melting any and all ice around the heart, any ways in which you've gone numb or stopped feeling. Repeat to yourself: I am open to love. I am love.
Fifth Chakra, Throat Chakra, Speaking Truth
With any exercise that involves the neck or chanting (such as head rolls and head turns and singing mantras aloud), see a lotus flower. Visualize the lotus at the throat opening, opening, opening with infinite layers of petals. Affirm: I speak my truth with confidence.
Sixth Chakra, Third Eye Chakra, Intuition
With any exercise that involves bringing energy to the brow point (such as bowing the head to the mat or holding the hands in prayer with the thumbs gently pressing the center of the forehead), envision a third eye. Imagine that your physical eyes disappear and your only vantage point is the third eye. Trust that what appears in your mind's eye, whether it's colors or images, is coming from the intuitive space. Repeat to yourself.: I see the way. My soul knows the way.
Seventh Chakra, Crown Chakra, Connection to Spirit
With any exercise that involves the crown of the head or directing energy to the crown (such as the arm position in the photo above and many meditations), visualize a beam of light entering from the heavens and into the top of your head to illuminate the center of the brain. Say to yourself, I am connected to spirit.
Eighth Chakra, The Aura, Magnetic Field of Protection
With any exercise that involves sweeping the arms around the body or extending the legs beyond the base (such as breath of fire with lion's paws or wide leg, life nerve stretch), see your aura, extending nine feet in every direction -- a beautiful bubble, a force field of protection. Understand your movement as clearing the aura. Affirm: I am protected. I am radiant.
Please make these visions and words your own. Trust that you can guide yourself into presence even in the most anxious moments. Sat Nam.
Any amount of Kundalini Yoga and meditation that you do is beneficial. But I want you to gain everything you can from this amazingly rich tradition. I want you to experience all the promised benefits. I want it to infect your whole life so that you reach the full potential of your vitality and creativity.
Good news. There is a way. There is a way to accelerate your Kundalini Yoga practice, to receive more benefits: begin a 40-day Daily Practice or Sadhana.
What is a 40-Day Sadhana? It is the consistent practice of the same kriya (sequence) or meditation for 40 days in a row without missing a day. If you miss a day, you have to go back to day one.
Yogi Bhajan (the Master who brought these teachings to the West) taught that in order to get the full benefits of any given practice, you must do it every day for 40 days. According to Yogi Bhajan, it takes 40 days to the remove any of the bad habits and blocks that might prevent the outcomes from fully emerging. It takes 40 days to retrain the mind.
Forty days is significant, and not just according to Kundalini Yoga. In the world of religion, this number represents a threshold for fasting and prayer. In psychology, researchers have shown that one's personality could be changed through handwriting exercises done over a 40 day period.
The 40-Day Sadhana is one of the most profound tools Yogi Bhajan gave us. He said that when we do sadhana...
"We challenge the weakness, the laziness, and our self-destruction. We challenge everything which is going to destroy us tomorrow."
In this world, in these times, there are so many distractions, so many options, so many reasons not to roll out the mat and stay with the same process over time. So when we do, we conquer all that. We conquer our egos. When we commit and build up our discipline muscle, we see that we can do anything, and we see that this yoga works like magic.
It does. It works like magic. I've experienced myself -- such specific and deep change within. Magical! I've seen it in my students and private clients. Magical!
Aquarian Sadhana is a practice which was given to us by the Master of Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Bhajan in 1992. He believed that we needed this practice in order to keep up with these times -- fast-paced, confusing, stress-filled times -- and live our lives as victories.
In short, it is a specific two and a half hour practice during what's called the amrit vela, or the ambrosial hours 3:30-7am. (At MKY, we make it a little more doable by starting at 5 or 5:30am.) Here's how the practice breaks down:
Yogi Bhajan said, "The greatest reward of doing sadhana is that the person becomes incapable of being defeated. Sadhana is a self-victory, and it is a victory of time and space. Getting up is a victory over time, and doing it is a victory over space."
If you are learning about Aquarian Sadhana for the first time, you may find some of its aspects extreme or strange. I know how you feel. I felt the same when I first learned of it and started practicing it.
I was first introduced to this practice in Teacher Training, and it was a requirement. Truth be told, I didn't have a great attitude about this requirement. I had all kinds of internal complaints about it.
If you want to learn more about Aquarian Sadhana, I recommend the book Original Light: the Morning Practice of Kundalini Yoga by beloved devotional artist and Kundalini Yoga teacher Snatam Kaur. She goes into depth and unpacks each aspect of the practice based on her lifetime of experience, growing up in a Kundalini Yoga community and studying directly with Yogi Bhajan. There are so many beautiful nuggets to take from this book, but here is one of my favorites: "It is through a daily spiritual practice that is consistent, like the heartbeat, that we change the psyche to know -- on an elemental, psychic, physical, chemical, and spiritual level -- that we are in fact putting the soul first."
I encourage you to read this book or any other about this beautiful gift from Yogi Bhajan, Aquarian Sadhana. But more so, I encourage you to experience it. Join us or find a sadhana near you. Sat Nam.
This week and last I've been teaching and practicing the following kriya (sequence of exercises). I LOVE it!!!!! It's for your spine, the navel, the aura, and your kundalini (the full potential of your vitality). What else could you ask for? I encourage you to do it. Prioritize it. Bypass the questioning mind and roll out that mat. Do it everyday. Do it for yourself!
Think about showing up for yourself and doing the work as an act of self love. Yogi Bhajan said, “Those who practice discipline have to be very generous to themselves. Discipline should never be rigid. Discipline should be self-acknowledging, so that you can go along with it.” Many Blessings!
Co-owner and Instructor of Montclair Kundalini Yoga, Cate Baily (Arvind Dev Kaur) is ever grateful to share these teachings. Full bio here.