I must be a sucker because I’ve continued to explore the class schedule at my new gym. I even went back for a second BodyPump class – once I could walk again.
My biggest adventure from this past week was walking into what I thought was a regular yoga class. I set up my mat and began stretching, anticipating a mildly sweaty, aerobic workout. Then the teacher arrived and – after surveying the room – said, “Is anyone here not familiar with Kundalini?” She was looking at me.
Two of us raised our hands. “Well,” she continued, “If you came expecting a vinyasa class (meaning a lot of a movement and flow) then you need to reset your expectations.”
She wouldn’t define it beyond that. I asked, “If it’s not a vinyasa class, what can we expect?” She looked around and got a smug smile, then said, “Oh, we call it yoga for stoners.”
Meaning what? I can just lie down on my mat and you’ll bring me brownies?
I soon found out. Here’s the nutshell: Kundalini yoga is all about cultivating energy and awareness, and you do that by breathing “fire breath” while executing various poses for four minutes each. Hint: Fire breath is just code for hyperventilating.
After our second four-minute pose – during which we were curled up in crunches hissing out fire breath – I got a charley horse in my esophagus. I’m not even sure how that’s possible, but it suddenly felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I looked around, mildly panicked, to see if other people were experiencing the same thing. Apparently not – they all were smiling tranquilly.
I will say: when your breathing muscles seize up, you certainly cultivate a new level of awareness. Fortunately, the charley horse passed fairly quickly, so I was able to hop back in for the next poses.
Things were going along smoothly until I realized that my leg was falling asleep. Almost everything is done seated, so it seemed somewhat natural that I’d lost circulation. Since everyone had their eyes shut and was hissing loudly, I straightened out my legs to provide a bit of relief. BIG MISTAKE.
I’m not sure what a pinched nerve feels like, but that’s my best guess of what happened in my leg, because as soon as I straightened it, I had shooting pain up the side, from my ankle to my hip, unlike anything I’d felt before. I began writhing around on my mat, trying everything I could think of to loosen my leg and provide some relief.
My reaction must have been normal for a newbie, because the instructor didn’t skip a beat, despite the fact that I was essentially break-dancing on my mat.
Eventually – two four-minute poses later – I was able to get things under control and rejoin in time for the final few moves.
At some point during the class, it occurred to me that this might be what non-yogis think all yoga actually is. Which made me imagine taking my mom to a Kundalini class, simply to watch her reaction. My mom doesn’t go in for anything remotely “new agey,” so I could picture her looking around the room, sizing up the situation, then declaring, “Well this is just bullshit,” and leaving.
That thought gave me the giggles, which was unfortunate, because apparently it’s traditional to close the class with a song. I was teetering on the edge of laughter, when a more Chipmunky-version of this song started play and everyone sang along:
By the end of class, I had a serious case of giggles and tears streaked my face.
I assume that’s why they call it yoga for stoners?