Arms Wide Open

There are many wonderful kriyas in Kundalini Yoga, and it’s difficult to pick favorites. However, every once in a while, I stumble upon a kriya that I find very special. “Self-Renewal,” in the manual Physical Wisdom, is one of those kriyas. It’s a somewhat challenging kriya because there’s a good deal of arm work, but it’s accessible to all levels.  I guarantee you that if you practice this kriya for its full time — about 40 minutes — you’ll feel like a new you!

Self-renewal can mean many different things. On the short-term, you may be looking to recover from physical or mental exertion that has left you exhausted and in need of an energy boost. Or on a broader scale, you may be focused on a long-term goal of self-healing. Whatever it is within you that needs to be released and rejuvenated, this kriya will give you an experience to move you in the direction of your intention.


Note: The first several postures involve working with raised arms, so consider sitting up on a blanket or cushion to straighten the spine. By lifting the hips off the mat, the curvature of the spine changes and it’s easier to hold the arms up. (If you don’t usually do this, give it a try and see how it feels). The kriya begins with 5 minutes of Breath of Fire from the navel point, so you may want to do a few rounds of long deep breathing to warm the lungs up a little before you start. Roll out the shoulders or do some cat/cow as well, so you have plenty of mobility through the upper back.

1. Sit in Easy Pose and lean backward. Your head is slightly back, your chin is in and your chest is out. There will be a pressure in the shoulder blade area. Spread your arms wide, with the fingers open. Be relaxed and full of ecstasy with no stiffness in your muscles. Begin Breath of Fire from your Naval Point, really moving the navel with each breath. After 3 minutes, open your mouth and stick out your tongue and continue Breath of Fire for another 2 minutes.

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Note: Some of the postures in this kriya are done for a long time, and I find that listening to good music helps me keep up. For example, the third exercise involves circling the wrists while the arms move up and down for 7 minutes. I like to listen to Sat Kirin Kaur Khalsa’s Ek Ong Kar Sat Gur Prasad for this posture, and sometimes I find myself chanting along.  By the end of the 7 minutes, I feel tired but yet invigorated.  This feeling is then exacerbated by the next exercise, in which you extend your arms out to the sides and tap into the energy of the heart center.

2. To stretch the spine and keep you youthful and healthy: Sit in Easy Pose with the arms stretched over your head with the palms touching. Stretch, pulling the spine, rib cage, and armpits upward. Fight gravity with your own will and keep stretching up for 3 minutes. Don’t let the palms separate. (This exercise may be increased up to a total of 5 minutes, but no longer unless you have a full hour to relax afterward).

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3. To balance the glandular system (must be done in conjunction with exercises 1 & 2): Touch your thumb to the mound below your Sun finger (ring finger) and close your other fingers around them to form a fist. Lean back as in Exercise 1. Stretch your arms out to the sides and begin quickly revolving your arms backward in small circles, keeping your elbows straight by not locked. Continue to make the backward circles as you raise and lower both arms at the same time. There should be pressure between your shoulder blades. 7 minutes.

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4. To loosen up your spine and to balance the left and right hemispheres of your brain: Sitting in Easy Post, stretch your arms straight out to the sides so that your arms are in one straight line. Turn your left palm down and your right palm up. Keeping the arms in one straight line, raise one arm as the other one is lowered (like a seesaw). Move as quickly as you can. 3 minutes.

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Note: After this, the kriya takes you deep into meditation, listening to the mantra Chattr Chakkr Vartee.  There are several versions available, but my preference is to use Nirinjan Kaur‘s version on her Meditations for Transformation album.

5. Sit in Easy Post and bend your elbows to that your hands are up by your ears. Put the thumb on the mound below the Mercury finger (pinkie) and keep the other fingers pointing straight up, the fingers are not touching each other. Close your eyes, look at your chin with your closed eyes, and pretend to watch one of your fantasies played on a screen in your chin. (You will never have a nightmare if this meditation is perfected). Relax and meditate for 11 minutes, listening to “Chattr Chakkr Vartee.” Breathe long, slow and deep. After 11 minutes, inhale, hold your breath and tighten every muscle of your body as you sit in the posture. Exhale and repeat this 2 more times.

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Note: At the end of this meditation, you get up and dance!  Move the energy, shake it out, and loosen every part of your body.  It feels REALLY good!  Choose some music that will get you moving, such as Sada Sat Kaur’s “Adi Mantra” from Mantra Masala or Dev Saroop Kaur’s “Sat Nam Bangara” from Kundalini Rising.

6. Stand up and dance. Shake and loosen every part of your body for 3-5 minutes to spread the benefits of the mediations all over your body.

Note: There’s one more short but beautiful meditation before this kriya is done.  This one uses the mantra Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.  Use your favorite version of this and chant. I like to chant with Snatam Kaur from the Live in Concert CD, though there are plenty of options to choose from, so find what works best for you.


7. Sit in Easy Post and put your hands in Prayer Pose. The thumbs are gently placed on the part of the eye socket where the eyebrow begins at the side of the bridge of the nose. Don’t press too hard here. Chant “Ong Namo, Guru Dev Namo” for 3 minutes. Inhale, hold your breath for 10 seconds and exhale. Repeat 2 more times.

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Try this kriya for 40 days, and see if you feel renewed. In the words of Yogi Bhajan, “In religion you have to believe something and in yoga you have to experience what you want to believe.”  I find this kriya to be beautiful, relaxing and empowering, and it opens me up to believe that I am capable of health, healing and self-renewal.


With light and love. Sat Nam.



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