Why I sometimes tell people not to practice yoga

Even though my life was literally saved through practicing yoga, (it was the key factor in my recovery from a debilitating disease; more on that in a minute), I am not an evangelist.

When people find out I’m a kundalini yoga instructor, they always ask the the inevitable question: “why kundalini yoga?” I often hesitate a minute before answering. The truth is there are many answers, and I’m often trying to gauge which response will make the most sense.

The first answer is usually an anecdotal one: my story. I tell them that kundalini yoga was the first thing which began to heal my body from a debilitating case of chronic Lyme disease.

The second answer might be something like “I think Kundalini yoga resembles how yoga might have been practiced 1,000 years ago; lots of chanting, meditation, breath work, unusual asanas we don’t normally see in regular hatha yoga classes.”

But I don’t know this to be %100 true, and it makes me uneasy. It rings of a kind of elitism that is so prevalent in modern yoga culture: ‘‘this is the first yoga, the best yoga, the only yoga’’.

The third answer is the one I always want to share the most, because it’s not an answer, it’s a question.

I want to ask,

“Have you ever had the experience of bringing all of yourself into something and not leaving anything out?

“Have you ever felt the feeling of accepting everything you have ever been, are and will be in one place? Have you ever- during any activity- felt your body, mind and everything in between just fall into place, into its natural order?”

That’s what yoga does for me, and you should do whatever allows you to have that experience.

When I was sixteen and in the depths of some of my darkest Lyme days, I had a yoga teacher friend who came to my house once a week while I was bedridden.  I would climb out of bed in my pajamas and sit on the floor long enough to do gentle kundalini yoga exercises with her. Every so often she would open her eyes during a meditative practice and say,

“Just let me know if this is boring you”, and then close her eyes again.

The truth was that though the exercises were subtle and seemingly strange looking on the outside, I was beginning to have some of the deepest inner experiences of myself and my body during those short sessions.

Then, my friend gave me my first kriya, (a series of exercises to target a specific result which have been passed down for generations.) I was to practice this kriya every day for 40 days. It was called, “kriya for disease resistance.”

I practiced it, imperfectly but earnestly, for the prescribed 40 days. After those first 40 days it was a like a little flame inside of me which had been out for a very long time was rekindled. I remember being stopped on the street by people I knew and have them tell me that I looked like myself for the very first time in years.

Eventually this led me deeper and deeper into my own practice, kundalini yoga teacher training, and the pursued study of yogic and mind/body practices for deep healing.

But yoga is not a panacea. It’s not a substitute for necessary medication, though it can have effects which reduce ones need to take certain medications. It’s not a substitute for psychotherapy, even though its benefits can be life altering and psychologically therapeutic. And it is most definitely not a place which to escape or bypass one’s problems on the road to becoming “more spiritual” or “better”.

Like everything, yoga is a form which is animated by what we bring to it: ourselves.

When we show up with everything- all our baggage, joys, expectations, fears, insecurities and mundane thoughts- and hold them with neutral acceptance within the forms of a practice- whether it be yoga, meditation, martial arts or creative arts- we experience a taste of what it means to feel whole within ourselves.

The beautiful thing about a form is that though it may be fixed, it can hold our own inner growth and change.

When we first enter into a marriage, we have certain expectations and a certain kind of love. Overtime, those expectations and the love deepens with change. The form of marriage is still the same, but it has in essence become richer by that which it contains and its ability to grow.

So when people ask “why kundalini yoga?”, that’s why I hesitate. I don’t want to project a specific doctrine or set of rules. I don’t want people to begin practicing kundalini yoga because of my story, I want to encourage them to find what is worth exploring in themselves, and the form which makes them feel the most supported while doing it.

For now I can share with you these questions, and what first brought me to the altar of my being. If I can support you to do the same, I have done my job; whether it’s through a form of yoga or not is irrelevant.