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“Kundalini” has become a buzzword in many of the innumerable spiritual communities that span the globe these days. It has within it all the elements that attract people — knowledge, power, mystery, intimacy, excitement, alchemy, romance, adventure, danger, ecstasy and more.
Yogani, Advanced Yoga Practices — Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living

I’ve had many students ask me about kundalini. Because it’s such a central concept in the style of yoga that I teach I thought it would be worth defining it and discussing the benefits of working with it.

If you’ve gone to more than a few yoga classes or you live in California, you’ve probably heard the Sanskrit word ‘kundalini.’ Yogis are all about activating their kundalini, getting it to rise, channeling it. Maybe you know someone who claims to have had a “kundalini awakening.” …


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You can only influence the world positively when you are free of the world. When you are not free of the world you secretly hate it, because it constantly breaks its promise to you. — Anand Mehrotra

What I would like to convey in this post is how powerful a teacher disappointment has been for me and invite you to embrace your own disappointment as a tool for growth and expansion. Or at least a signal for where you could intentionally shift your orientation.

I have been calling the past year or so my “year of disappointment.” It’s not that I haven’t been disappointed in the past. But the disappointment seems to have accelerated over the past few years. Almost as if it were ushering me toward this event horizon beyond which I could not previously see. I feel like I am either inside of that black hole of liberation now or just emerging from the other side of it. The transformation brought about by my accelerating disappointment feels very fresh, like I am a newborn calf still covered in the amniotic fluid of my disappointment, taking a first few tentative steps in this grassy new world of love and the soft power of a deeper non-attachment. …


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“Yoga is bullshit.” I realized not long ago that some part of me felt that way. I wasn’t consciously thinking that of course. But I had noticed that my “yoga practice” had fallen off precipitously. Even though I had been practicing for over fifteen years and teaching for a decade, suddenly I wasn’t doing any asana, kriya, or pranayama. …


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Setting up for satsang with my teacher Anand at Sattva Yoga Academy last year

I will be offering a monthly satsang starting Sunday. (Check my schedule for dates and locations. More on that below.) For those who don’t know, a satsang is a sort of wisdom talk, a simple gathering of yogis engaging in spiritual discourse. If you love talking about yoga, satsang is for you! But, before we dive into the value of satsang and the purpose of satsang, let’s talk about the intellect from the yogic perspective, and a form of yoga called jñāna yoga (pronounced sort of like “gyana”).


In Sanskrit, jñāna means “knowledge” or “cognition.” It’s the branch of yoga that is concerned with refining the intellect, accessing wisdom, and using spiritual knowledge in order to enter the state of yoga, of unity with Totality. In writing this post I’ve come to realize that jñāna yoga is quite possibly the most difficult aspect or form of yoga to write and talk about. But it’s also crucial that we explore it. …


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In the yoga traditions through which I’ve traveled, the lineages from which I draw out the teachings that resonate most, there are two modes to life: evolution and celebration. For example, this is what the ancient Tantrikas believed, which is no surprise to anyone, given how very sensual even the classical, pre-California Tantrik practice has always been.

In the past five posts I’ve offered a tour of the five elements of the Elemental Yoga practice and the emphasis has been on evolution / expansion, even though a bhava of celebration is always woven in throughout all the practices.

In this post I’d like to talk about the importance of celebration. We didn’t incarnate into this reality so we could just put our nose to the grindstone and evolve as quickly and diligently as possible. At least that’s not how I want to live life. I know yogis who are like that though. So serious. So in a hurry to get to the end for some reason, to break the cycle of birth and death. As if it doesn’t just start all over again anyway. It makes you wonder what kind of shadow work they’re avoiding. …


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S P A C E. Akasha. The fifth element. The power of the word, and the power of silence. The transmutation of ignorance into pure awareness. Self-expression. Speaking from the heart. Receptivity. The ability to truly listen. Access to theta and gamma brain states.

The Elemental Yoga practices associated with the element of space are the subtle kriyas and yogic meditation.

Subtle Kriyas

The subtle kriyas of the practice (from the Babaji tradition) help us to access increasing values of space, to enter a meditative space. Saraswati kriya. Sri Yantra kriya. Jupiter kriyas. Kali kriyas. Shiva Shakti kriyas. Kriyas 1–3. With these kriyas, we access increasing values of no-mind, of infinity, of the eternal field of silence. We tap into our transcendental wisdom, have access to non-local knowledge, connect with cosmic intelligence, and pierce the veil of illusion. …


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Chanting the Hanuman mantra as I practice Hanuman kriya

A I R 🌬 Vibration. Mantra. The unstruck sound. Anahata. The heart-mind. Bhakti and jñāna yoga. Spiritual community and the study of the self.

There’s a lot to unpack in the air element. So in this fourth post in the series I’ll focus primarily on the mantra elements of the practice and the anahata chakra, leaving discussion of satsang, wisdom, spiritual community, and svadhyaya to later posts.

Mantra

Mantra is an integral part of the Elemental Yoga practice, as important as any other element. Sadly it’s also the aspect of yoga that presents the most resistance to people who are new to yoga. Many teachers and studios are hesitant even to chant Om as a result. To be honest, this was my greatest point of resistance when I first discovered yoga too. We come from a society dominated by mind. …


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F I R E. Agni. 🔥 Purification. Passion. The transmutation of matter into energy. The burning away of impurities. Tapaha. Fire is both matter and energy: a mixture of incandescent gases (matter) and light and heat (energy).

The first mantra of the oldest yogic text — the Rig Veda — tells us that life begins with fire. In the Vedas agni represents all concepts of spiritual energy that permeates everything in the universe. In the Upanishads, agni becomes any energy or knowledge that dispels a state of darkness, that transforms and creates an enlightened state of existence.

In the Elemental Yoga practice, the fire element represents pranayama, warrior breaths, and the Himalayan kundalini kriyas that we practice. …


W A T E R. The seat of desire, and the transmutation of desire into dharma. The divine feminine. Receptive. Flowing. Adaptable. Strong.

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Photo by Mark Kuroda

Water is one of the most powerful and versatile elements. It is completely receptive and flexible yet strong enough to wear down the hardest stone. It reminds us that there is strength in our softness, in our vulnerability, in being adaptable.

In the Elemental Yoga practice, water represents the more fluid, receptive, and feminine practices of laya movements and sacred rituals like puja.

Laya Movement

Laya movements are a lesser-known ancient Himalayan yoga practice of meditative movement. Some say they were an ancient practice that Bodhidharma brought from India into China, eventually becoming what we know as T’ai Chi Chuan. If you’ve practiced with me you’ve probably experienced the calming bliss of Blooming Lotus or Sufi Heart. …


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E A R T H. Where the journey of Self discovery begins.

For the next six posts, I’m going to break down the five elements of the expansive and evolutionary aspects of the Elemental Yoga practice that I teach, and then talk about the celebratory aspect.

As humans with this particular nervous system, we experience the world through the five elements. We are the elements. This is why it’s so important that we work with each of the elements as part of a larger, holistic practice that addresses our being on every level.

Five senses. Five elements. Five koshas. Five prana vayus. Different ways to slice the unitary wholeness of our life in order to strike balance across the entirety of our being. …

About

Atha Yogānuśāsanam

Thoughts on Yoga, in the broadest sense of that term

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