Posted by: lecubiste | July 19, 2008

Yoga, Kundalini, and Health

Today I’m fifty. Not fifty years old, but 50 straight days of Bikram yoga. It is a very athletic form of yoga that has spread throughout the world.

I first tried yoga when I was 16, when I stayed with my sister Mary Betts in Berkeley. She had a book on asanas, postures that were said to be healthy to maintain. Over the years I have tried Hatha yoga, Kundalini yoga, Iyangar yoga, and now Bikram yoga.

I practice in Berkeley at the Funky Door Studio, owned by my good friend David Wilner and his wife Karima. I usually go in the evenings when 50-70 people are in the studio. The temperature during the session is around 105 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity is maintained at 40%.

When we start the 90 minute session, we begin to perspire. We don’t stop for the whole 90 minutes. Practicing on a towel placed over a rubber mat and wearing as little clothing as possible for maximum skin exposure, we follow the exact verbal instructions of the teacher.

I have found over the months that my body is tight in the muscles and joints, particularly in the back of my thighs and knees. When I first started, I was developing arthritis in my neck. It is now gone.

For years I had pain in my elbows, the result of sports played as a kid. One posture requires that we lie on our bellies with our arms underneath us, palms down on the floor. This hurts, particularly when we lift first one leg, then the other, and finally both up in the air, but now my elbow pain is gone.

There are people who in this posture can lift both legs up into the vertical plane. I have seen people do incredible things in these classes, things I will be lucky to do after years of practice. After 90 minutes, I am hot, thirsty, and lying in a pool of my own sweat.

There are many health claims associated with Bikram yoga. Some postures massage the internal organs, some compress the endocrine glands. Some rebalance the body’s chemistry and some prevent arthritis. Speaking for myself I have lost weight, improved my muscle tone and strength particularly in the spinal muscles, sweated and breathed out toxins from my body, and generally feel great.

I took on The Bikram Challenge, a thirty day straight schedule of practice. I was going to take a break on day 31, but having flown to Ontario on business that day, I returned early on a standby flight and was just able to get from the airport to a bus to BART to a taxi to my car to Berkeley in time to make the last class at 8 pm. I took that as an omen and decided to take on a second 30 days.

So today I am 20 days into the second thirty days. Karima convinced me to sell my new book of poetry, The Spirit Flies Free (The Kundalini Poems) next Saturday, day 56, at the studio. The book is still out for review and not available in print so I will actually be selling the publisher’s bound gallies to my fellow yogis and yoginis, but why not?

All forms of yoga are said to be directed at raising the kundalini up the spine, from the lowest chakra to the top. In that sense, as I confirmed with Ganga, one of the teachers, all forms of yoga are kundalini yoga. All yoga is about spiritual development, all physically challenging, but also valuable at freeing up the prana of the body to flow freely, the spirit flowing free.

Prana, chi, and spirit all come from the word for breath, and in yoga one must continue to breathe through all the postures. As my friend and Sufi Master Adnan Sarhan once said, “As long as you keep breathing you cannot have an evil thought.” Amen to that.

I once many years ago said to my old friend Jim Fletcher, ” What would it be like to have all the muscles of the body in tone. You would walk like gliding across the ground with fluid motion of the whole body.” I was also interested in structural integration and went through Heller work, a form of Rolfing massage that attempts to integrate the body’s muscular-skeletal system.

Now I have realized that the practice of yoga achieves all that, toning and strengthening the muscles, especially along the spine such that structural integrity is the outcome. And it is a spiritual practice to boot. I think I am sold on yoga as a daily practice for the rest of my life.



  1. Thanks, interesting post.

  2. […] – bookmarked by 1 members originally found by dpustelnik on 2008-10-22 Yoga, Kundalini, and Health – bookmarked by 5 members […]

  3. yoga is life,it makes a man complete

  4. Is this the sort of thing where I post your link and you post mine?


  5. Wow…..What a nice post!!….Your post is an excellent example of why I keep coming back to read your excellent quality content that is forever updated. Life’s Too Good I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you.Thanks a lot.

  6. I have some layman`s comments which I want to be responded by openminded and practitioner/ sadhak . My own experience tells me that sushumna , pingala and ida have been all along been misunderstood. pingala is right nostral dominated breath flow while ida is left nostral flow likewise symtomically . When both nostrils have EQUAL flow ,there also occurs deepest breathing and spontaneously EQUAL internal and external kumbhak.In this stage of symptomical breathing one experiences whatever is attributed to sushumna breathing. Comman understanding of sushumna as channel is perhaps misunderstanding .
    U T Raheja.

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