Challenging kriyas are something that every student of Kundalini yoga will encounter at some point. Perhaps you flipped to a random kriya in your yoga manual, only to realize it’s the toughest set ever. Or maybe you went to Gurmukh’s class at Sat Nam Fest and found that your arms/legs/abs/etc were crying out for mercy within the first few minutes! Of course what constitutes a challenging kriya differs from yogi to yogi. For some, holding static postures may be challenging, while for others challenging kriyas may involve many repeated movements. Whatever it is that challenges you, it’s certain that your mind will beg you to stop practicing yoga and go do something else. When that happens, here are a few tips to help you get through.
Stay connected to your breath. When we are under stress, whether physical or mental, our breath becomes more shallow and irregular. Most yoga kriyas and meditations call for specific breathing patterns. This not only serves to create specific effects, but also gives your mind an anchor to hold onto when things are challenging. By staying focused on your breath, your mind is less able to wander and begin thinking about your physical discomfort. If you find yourself in the middle of a challenging kriya and you’re feeling the burn, recommit to your breath and let it carry you through.
Practice yoga with a friend, if possible. On the yoga DVD Kundalini Yoga: Healthy Body Fearless Spirit, Gurmukh instructs the class to find a partner or group to practice with during part of the yoga set. Having a yoga partner helps in many ways. It’s always easier to do something difficult when you know you have the emotional support of someone else. That is especially true when they are going through the same experience with you. If you are doing a particularly challenging set, or even just part of a set, you can look at your friend and support each other through it, as on the DVD. If you’re by yourself at home, looking into a mirror can help. Be your own partner and help yourself to keep up!
Give yourself permission to take a break. In a perfect world, we’d all be able to hold challenging posture for exactly the instructed amount of time, or do as many repetitions of a movement as instructed. But the reality is that sometimes our bodies need a break, especially if we are new to yoga or haven’t ever done a particular exercise before. Even seasoned yogis may need to take a break from time to time. When we struggle to deny the body’s need for a break and push past our limits, we can not only cause injury but also lose our enthusiasm for our practice. Sometimes the simple act of giving yourself permission to take a break if you need it will help you to continue with the kriya a bit longer than normal. If you consistently practice for 40 days or more, pretty soon you’ll be able to do the whole thing without stopping!
Start small. Many meditations and yoga manuals give time ranges for your yoga practice. Perhaps you can hold a posture for 3-5 minutes, or do a meditation for 11-31 minutes. Some meditations, such as the meditation “To Regulate the Menstrual Cycle” in I Am A Woman give explicit instructions to start with 1 minute and build up your time incrementally. Sometimes the ego can make us feel as though choosing the shorter time means our practice is not as serious or that we aren’t trying. But the times are given for a purpose, and it is absolutely ok to use the shorter time if you need to!
What helps you get through those tough kriyas? Share your tips and tricks in the comments!