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February 2020
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Awakening Kundalini with Ishta
Beloved Yogi Harlem
678 Saint Nicholas Avenue
New York, NY 10030

Tue, 6:00 PM To 7:30 PM

Sleuth arrived to Beloved Yogi Harlem in a great mood after being treated to a brisk and bright fall week through Harlem's Sugar Hill district and Striver's Row past elegant town houses, a well-kept park and historic churches. Although Beloved Yogi Harlem is in a basement, it's the coziest basement I've ever set foot in. The ceiling is decorated with billowy sheets to make it look like a yurt. The room is carpeted with colorful rugs. There is an altar up front and sage was burning.

Curiously, Beloved Yogi Harlem offers a bilingual option in this class for the Spanish speakers. I asked the teacher Ishta about this and Spanish is offered if Spanish speakers are in the room. There were no Spanish speakers that evening so we just had plain English.

There was one person new to Kundalini yoga that evening so Ishta took the time to translate the Adi Mantra. We opened chanting the Adi Mantra three times followed by the Mangala Charan Mantra. We also warmed up with Hip Circles, Cat/Cow and Breath of Fire which Ishta explained as “panting like a dog in summer.”

We were doing a kriya that evening called "Awakening the Ten Bodies." In Kundalini we have ten energetic bodies: Soul Body, Negative Mind, Positive Mind, Neutral Mind, Physical Body, Arc Line, Auric Body, Pranic Body, Subtle Body, and Radiant Body.

It's a lively kriya that started off immediately with two minutes of Stretch Pose with the head and leg raised six inches with Breath of Fire. Ishta played the music of Guru Dharam to keep us inspired. This was followed by two minutes of Nose to Knees, bringing the knees to the chest with the arms wrapped around the knees and tucking the nose between the knees with Breath of Fire.

Coming back up into Easy Pose, we then practice Ego Eradicator for two minutes. Here the arms are raised to a sixty degree angle, the fingertips curl in to the pads of the palms with the thumbs turned in towards each other with Breath of Fire. Ishta stayed mostly silent during these practices to allow for our own experiences but would occasionally inject words of encouragement.

Spreading our legs out wide, we prepared for Life Nerve Stretch, stretching down and taking hold of the toes of the left foot, inhaling up to center then stretching down and taking hold of the toes of the right foot. Ishta gave the option to hold the shins for those who couldn't take hold of the toes. After two minutes of this, we then did the same Life Nerve Stretch but through the center instead.

Sitting in Easy Pose, we did Spinal Flexes for two minutes, followed by the same Spinal Flexes but sitting on our heels in Rock Pose for two minutes. Staying in Rock Pose we then did Spinal Twist for two minutes on our heels in Rock Pose, moving into some Spinal Flexes for two minutes.

Next we grasped the shoulders but raised the elbows up so the back of the wrists touched and then lowered the elbows to shoulder height for two minutes. This was followed by Arm Pumps in Rock Pose, interlacing the fingers in Venus lock above our heads then inhaling and stretching the arms above the head and bring the hands down to the lap.

Ishta had us stretch out our legs after being in Rock Pose so long. Then we sat in Easy Pose for two minutes of Alternate Shoulder Shrugs followed by two minutes of regular Shoulder Shrugs. "Let yourself have a tantrum like a toddler," Ishta advised.

Remaining in Easy Pose we took some Neck Turns twisting our head on an inhale to the left and then exhaling right for two minutes. We then reversed the breath for two minutes.

Our final vigorous pose of the night was Frog Pose. Coming into a squat with the heels lifted, we stretched the legs straight up and back down to squat. The kriya says 54 times but Ishta gave us the option of only doing 26.

We were more than ready for a ten minute silent Savasana after rigorous Frog Poses. Ishta gently instructed us out of the pose with some twists and full body stretches. As is usually the case in Kundalini, we did an eleven minute meditation following the kriya. 

Here we did a Laya Yoga Meditation. Sitting in Easy pose with our hands in Gyan Mudra we chanted Ek Ong Kaar(uh) Saa-Taa-Naa-Maa(uh) Siree Wha(uh) Hay Guru. On the Ek, the navel pulls in and with "uh" the diaphragm is lifted up more firmly. The navel is released on Hay Guru. This mantra has the effect of making one spaced out and relaxed.

Ishta ended class chanting "Long Time Sun." We emerged from the Harlem studio, a little spacey and made our way out into the cool, Vata night.

Drop-ins are $10 per class.

-Marie Carter for Yoga Sleuth

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