Judy Negrey teaches Kundalini yoga in Edmonton, and describes it as one of “the beautiful strands in the yoga stream,” although not necessarily one that everyone is familiar with.
Known as the yoga of awareness, Kundalini (pronounced kun-da-LEE-ni) has been practiced in India since 500 B.C., but was largely veiled in secrecy until 1969. That’s when a yogi by the name of Yogi Bhajan brought it to the West and began openly teaching it to the public, eager to share its many benefits, said to include health, fitness, strength and even overall happiness.
Kundalini in its most literal sense means “coiled,” and is represented by a metaphorical coiled snake at the base of the spine. The purpose of its practice is to uncoil the snake and thereby release its energy. Not surprising, those who often report the biggest benefits are those who experience occasional and even chronic back pain.
“It’s so important to keep moving when you have back pain,” says Negrey. “It’s like having oil in your car; you need to keep it lubricated. If it isn’t, it will seize up. The same is true for back pain; when we stop moving, we start to get tight because our back muscles dry up, and it becomes more difficult to move.”
Negrey is a registered psychiatric nurse, and is also certified in hypnotherapy, a skill she uses to help women in childbirth. She first started teaching yoga in 2004, to pregnant women, who often become all too familiar with the discomfort of low back pain during pregnancy. She was living in Olds when she heard about Kundalini yoga. Intrigued, she managed to locate an instructor in Vancouver, and travelled there once a month for eight months to complete her certification. She now runs Kundalini Yoga Edmonton, using spacing in community leagues and local businesses to conduct classes. She also has a mobile service for groups, and for people who want private sessions.
Negrey says each Kundalini session includes a set of postures known collectively as the “kriya,” each designed to improve different parts of the body, and different organs within the body. And while all styles of yoga focus on breathing, Kundalini promotes something called “breath of fire,” a powerful, rhythmic inhalation and exhalation of breath that works not only the lungs but the abdominal cavity as well, and helps to remove toxins from the body.
Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is in the use of sound. Chanting and vocalizing are incorporated into every class in some fashion. Negrey says the vibrations created through the manufacture of sound help to balance chemicals in the body and the brain, and along with movement, also release endorphins, which are natural pain and stress fighters.
“We’re essentially re-wiring the circuitry system, mentally and physically,” says Negrey. “It helps manage pain, and increases the feeling of wellness. It takes people out of that mindset of thinking about the pain in their back to thinking about breathing, and moving. It changes their perspective, and their mindset.”
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