Do you know any yogis out there that are apprehensive, maybe even fearful about trying Kundalini Yoga? In the area where I live and teach, Kundalini Yoga is far from mainstream or well accepted by the yoga community. When I first began teaching, I used to take it personally and wonder if my teaching style needed revamping. One day, when I was sitting around pondering what could possibly be deterring people from the practice, I started thinking about the show Fear Factor. It takes courage to shine light into your darkness. The mind can toss out any number of reasons why you shouldn’t try new things because of its fears to shift and change. Soon after my day of pondering, I realized that I needed to have compassion for my community and be aware of some of the reasons why they might be hesitant to chant ONG NAMO with me.
If you’re in a slow-growing Kundalini Yoga area, consider these reasons why your classes might be smaller, and don’t take it too personally. Just remember to hold your presence, represent yourself with grace, and those that are destined to show up each class will be drawn to the experience.
Kundalini Yoga is the real deal. It’s the fast-track jet route to personal enlightenment, and not everyone is ready for that kind of speed from the get-go. Even the name, Kundalini Yoga, carries an energy that many will decide they are ready (or not ready) for on a subconscious level. Learn to accept that not everyone is ready for lightening speed transformation.
White Clothing. The all-white clothing attire can be quite off-putting to new yogis (or even the veteran yogis) because in most classes they attend, people wear black tights and colorful tops. When you’re used to seeing color and you enter a Kundalini Yoga class, the white can be seen as a bit “weird,” boring, and an unflattering color to many, especially if they don’t understand the meaning behind wearing white.
Tuning in and chanting. In a Kundalini Yoga class, you will experience the chanting of mantras throughout a class, depending on the kriyas and meditations chosen. In the Western world, we are more comfortable and familiar with yelling than we are with chanting and projecting our voices using mantra. To students, chanting can be uncomfortable, especially using an unfamiliar language. Therefore, explaining the effects of chanting and what each mantra means allows the students time to get comfortable exploring and using their voice.
Closing your eyes. It isn’t necessarily customary in many yoga classes to keep your eyes closed. In Kundalini yoga, unless otherwise specified, your eyes are closed during all the exercises and movements. For some people, having your eyes closed feels too vulnerable, especially when they are participating in something new. I like to remind students that it is always a choice to close their eyes, but the best effects from the practice come from going within by closing their eyes.
The head gear. Yogi Bhajan advised that as teachers, we cover our head during a class. There are some teachers that wear a turban, while others wear a scarf or bandana. Although in fashion, turbans have become a trend, the yoga world is still catching up. The combination of white clothes and a turban can sometimes cause yogis to turn their cheek and run out the door. If you have a class with a bunch of new students, explain the effects of wearing a turban. Hopefully this will ease any discomfort a student might be feeling.
The music. In a Kundalini Yoga class, you will most often hear only mantras played during the class, unlike other styles of yoga (which might play the music found on the radio). Again, mantra in another language can sometimes make people feel a bit uneasy, especially if the yoga experience is new to them. If you sense the energy of discomfort in your class, don’t hesitate to address the music choices and the mantras used during class.
The idea is not to highlight the students’ discomforts but to allow growth beyond them. All you have to do is get someone’s foot in the door once to help them release some of their fears and open themselves up to a new experience. Even attending one Kundalini Yoga class in a lifetime can do a person a world of good and transformation.
Always remember the confidence and comfort you carry as a teacher of Kundalini Yoga will be energetically transmitted to the people that show up to practice with you. As a teacher, it is your responsibility to do your work. Clean all the nooks and crannies that may be inhibiting you from growing and being the best presence and projector of the Kundalini energy.