Something unusual often happens at the end of a Kundalini yoga class, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the practice. What is this special feature? It’s when my teacher plays the gong. This occurs when we’re on our mats in Savasana (resting or Corpse pose). Like many Kundalini yoga students, the gong swiftly and powerfully transports me to a place of peaceful, calming bliss. Use of the gong can be traced back hundreds of years to northern India, and is now a staple in Western Kundalini yoga classes.
Learning to play the gong properly is part of the training all Kundalini yoga teachers receive (one must play the gong with a precise and gentle touch). When appropriately played, the gong sends listeners into an otherworldly realm, massaging and soothing every cell in the body with pure vibration and sound.
The first time I heard the gong, however, I was rather alarmed. The sound is huge, and everywhere all at once. Once that vibration starts, there is just no getting around it! The best way to really embrace what the gong has to offer is through surrender. Relax, let go, and let the gong work its incredible magic. With the gong as your guide, you will ride the wave of the sound current to a very beautiful place.
What are the advantages of gong yoga? According to Akalsukh Singh, founder & executive director of AquarianYoga Center in Montclair, New Jersey, here are some of the major benefits:
·Relieves neck pain, headaches, menstrual cramps, muscle pain, and improves joint flexibility and range of motion
·Creates deep relaxation and clears the mind
·Immediate reduction of stress and anxiety
·Stimulates the glandular system and improves function
·Organizes emotional energy
·Aids in breaking addictive behavior
·Regenerates neurons and their interconnections
·Regenerates the nervous system
·Clears the aura
·Opens and aligns the chakras
·Clears the sub conscious mind from negative thought patterns
*Strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system
*Helps repair damage to the nervous system caused by stimulants (i.e. coffee) and stress.
The sound of the gong reaches the body on a cellular level, encouraging integrated healing of body, mind, and spirit, and the more gong sessions a student attends, the better the results. (There is one caveat when it comes to the gong: Once you enter the gong’s healing sound orbit, you may never want to leave!)
Although I was wary the first time I encountered the gong, I soon realized that its gentle sound waves had an uncanny power to relax me. Students often report that they feel peaceful and restored after a gong session. Many come to class especially to hear the gong, and often Kundalini yoga centers offer special gong workshops and/or classes, or private sessions where practitioners can get the full benefit by listening for as long as 31 minutes or more. (At AquarianYoga Center, where I practice, Akalsukh incorporates the gong in workshops and classes, and offers monthly “Healing Gong & Mantra” sessions.)
In a typical Kundalini yoga class, the practice of gong yoga begins with a kriya (or exercise set) that includes asanas, mudras (hand positions), bandhas (locks), pranayama (breathing exercises), and mantras. This gets the energy flowing and prepares the body for deep relaxation. By the time the gong is played the student is fully prepared for a beautiful, cleansing“gong bath.” It’s even better than a bubble bath!
The gong is said to be “truly the instrument of the yogi.”Adds Akalsukh, “It’s a deeply meditative experience–both for the students and for the teacher.”
Dive into the sounds and practice of Gong Yoga with these CDs and more: