At 6:45am, the streets around Union Square were already bustling. Early birds in power suits and workout wear hustled to start their days on time. For Yoga Sleuth, the 7am class with Felix Gosse at Kundalini East was on the top of the day's itinerary.
Because of the early hour, the front entrance to the studio was locked. A helpful note with directions to the back door was posted, so I found my way into the room to find Felix sitting on a platform complete with a stereo, a gong, a notebook, and a canvas tote bag that had the words "Sat Nam" scrawled across the front.
Though there were two women sitting on purple yoga mats, Felix assured me that no mats were necessary for his class. A bolster and pillows would suffice.
We began in Easy Pose.
Felix instructed us to do Whistle Breath, which is an inhale through the nose and an exhale with our mouths in an “O” shape, making a whistle sound.
After several minutes, we moved onto spinal flexes, a standard warm-up in Kundalini.
Felix’s class, and most Kundalini classes, consist of kriyas—cleansing exercises that run anywhere from one to ten minutes each. A timer was used to keep track, and often the body part being worked would reach exhaustion from the continuous movement.
For this early morning session, we practiced a sequence that Yogi Bhajan, who brought Kundalini to the West, suggested doing before getting out of bed. Felix referred to a notebook—the guidelines for each kriya as taught by Yogi Bhajan—while instructing the class.
We lay on our backs, legs together as one, flexing and pointing the toes. From there we lifted and lowered the legs to 70 degrees, for several minutes.
The next kriya had us lifting the legs up to 90 degress with our arms by our sides, opening the legs wide, and then lowering them to the ground before bringing the legs back together. This exercise created a burn in my abs, which I felt for the following two days.
While we worked through each kriya, Felix gave encouraging comments and always reminded us to use the breath to engage the movement, saying “sat” on the inhale and “nam” on the exhale.
Music—mantras sung in Sanskrit—played in the background, which was also quite useful for encouraging the movement.
While most of the class was done seated or horizontally, the actions got more vigorous. During one kriya we lay on the ground, arms straight down by our sides, legs long and together as one, and we rolled like a log from one end of the room to the other. Felix asked us to try and keep our bodies as straight as possible, a challenging request.
After each exercise, we were given a reprieve and were guided to sit with our breaths, feeling the effects of the kriya. Sometimes we were even allowed to lie down.
For Savasana, Felix took us through a body scan, asking us to relax each area. He then played the gong, which created an intensity of sound in the room that held my focus.
Felix explained that the meditation that followed was supposed to aid in reducing stress. We came to sit and raised the right arm straight up, while the left arm went at 60 degrees, both thumbs pressed to the pinky finger. We held this stance for several minutes. My arms felt as heavy as lead making it difficult to hold them up.
Once we could relax, we returned to Easy Pose and sang the traditional class closing song “Longtime Sun.”
As I stood up to return my props, I felt energized and grounded at once—a perfect boost and a beautiful way to start the day.
—Elysha Lenkin for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes: $20
New student special: $30 for 30 days (unlimited classes)