“We call Kundalini the yoga of awareness,” said Mia Haber to Yoga Sleuth and two dozen students packing the 3rd floor studio at Golden Bridge Yoga. We sat in rapt attention as Mia gave a dharma talk to herald our afternoon practice.
“This is unlike other forms of yoga because it’s a yoga for this time, now, the information age,” she explained. “It’s not a yoga to go away into the caves with, to never procreate, live or work. This is a ‘householder’ yoga, for a time when the work to elevate the consciousness on this planet is really needed,” she said.
Mia explained how we all have obstructions, called samskaras, that are in the subconscious, and they are also in the physical body—“the issues are in the tissues.” And that’s why we do the yoga, she said, “to help release that stuff, so you can be more yourself, and open up into the present reality of peace and loving.”
We found our yogic navel point, three fingers below the belly button. “This is the digestive center, where the sense of self comes from,” said Mia, “and it’s why we’re so lost culturally and personally. (Through the practice) we are developing the capacity to act on behalf of the loving consciousness of our hearts. The naval sits below the heart center for a reason. When you claim this naval point by drawing it in, you’ll heal yourself from reacting to other people’s stuff or what’s happening in the world, and you’ll develop the capacity to act on behalf of your truth.”
We chanted “Ong, Namo, Guru Dev Namo” then began kapalabhati—a little too rapidly and panicky at first. "It's a breath of fire, not a race to the death!" laughed Mia. She suggested we take it slow and steady, by letting our tongues hang out and literally panting like puppies.
Mia then cued us into a full cobra pose. “Make it like your feet are dipped in cement. How much more can you un-shrug the shoulders? Push down and beam your crown towards the heavens.” From there we lowered to plank and then toggled between the two a few dozen times, creating an intense kriya. “Don’t go through chaturanga,” she cautioned. “There’s no such thing here!”
The breathing in the room became more shallow as we powered through. “A lot of you are in that ‘survival’ breath,” noted Mia. “This isn’t about surviving, it’s about thriving!” We deepened our breath for the rest of the kriya, then rolled up our mats like burritos to plant our heels on as we took a modified crow. “Feel what’s happening, pay attention to your experience,” encouraged Mia as we returned to our breath of fire/puppy pant.
We lowered to our backs and rolled up and down the spine for a full minute. “We want to distribute the pranic energy,” explained Mia. “There are 26 vertebrae; try to massage them all. Remember it’s not the posture that’s the issue, it’s how you relate to yourself inside it.”
We brought our feet to the ground, three inches apart to match heels with sitting bones, and floated our pelvises to the air. “We’re looking to liberate and heal the lower centers,” reminded Mia. “It’s not about the highest backbend. What’s important is the flow of energy through the upper spine.” We returned to a seat and clasped hands high over our heads. chanting “Sat” as we reached, and “Nam” as we lowered for several minutes.
Savasana was accompanied by the resonant sound of the live gong, and followed by the “Guru Ram Das” chant. After 90-plus transforming minutes I headed out in the sunshine feeling truly renewed and invigorated, and determined to remember this life-affirming jewel of advice from Mia:
“If you can be brave enough to not avoid the uncomfortable thought, or judgment, or the physiological sensation as you’re in the experience, it will actually dissolve. Any feeling fully felt becomes bliss. The shadow can’t live in the light.”
—Jim Catapano for Yoga Sleuth
Drop-in classes are $22 with a $2 mat rental. New students can try two weeks unlimited for $30.