Kundalini Yoga With GurmukhGurmukh Kaur Khalsa
Year Released: 2004
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This is a wonderful video! Beautiful outdoor, woodsy setting with Gurmukh on a platform and the class participants on colorful blankets on the ground. The total session runs about 50 minutes and is divided into four sections.
Awake energizes the body and prepares it for the work. Exercises include seated grinding in a circle, spinal flexing, seated twisting, opposite hand to foot while lying on back, seated with hands sweeping up overhead and then down and breath of fire with arms extended out and up.
The Energize section gets the breath flowing the blood pumping! Exercises are done standing and include standing twisting, side bending, bending up and down with hands at chest level, straight leg kicking crossing the midline, "squats" (for lack of a better term) on toes (which is very difficult) and arms at side moving up 15 degrees and down 15 degrees.
The Strengthen section continues with some aerobic type exercises: grabbing (kind of like Taekwondo punches), punching with legs moving back and forth (kind of like a scissor motion), arms extended above head with hands flapping (for the nervous system), standing backbend with slow, deep breathing, standing forward bend with stomach pumping, and then arms extended at sides moving back (into like a backbend) and then forward so torso and extended arms are parallel with floor.
The Relaxation section consists of a Sa Ta Na Ma seated meditation (sa ta na ma is repeated four times with the breath held out) followed by savasana with the gong.
I found this tape to be totally exhilirating and wonderful. I love twisting and dynamic movements and Gurmukh's session is full of them. It will definitely raise your energy and spirits high! Gurmukh encourages you to go faster and faster, but of course, you can work at your own pace.
Unlike Ravi & Ana's sessions, there are very few traditional yoga poses and the exercises aren't broken up with meditations or breathing exercises (other than the ones done in conjunction with the exercises).
I didn't find Gurmukh to be any farther "out there" than Ravi & Ana. Yes, there is talk of "raising the kundalini," "opening the heart," "calming the nervous system," "balancing the right and left sides of the brain," but really nothing I felt to be really weird. If you've done any kundalini at all, nothing will seem strange here. Even if you haven't done a lot of kundalini, I don't think Gurmukh is too "woo woo," but I guess it depends on how much you open your mind to it. Some people may be turned off.
The only word of caution I would have is to those with back or neck issues. Be sure to take it slow and modify or omit any exercises that cause pain or discomfort. I think with common sense, this session is do-able and has something for everyone.
It is a wonderful, wonderful session that leaves me feeling refreshed, revitalized, alive and open! I only wish Gurmukh would give us more of her wonderful kundalini yoga on more DVDs! Thank you, Gurmukh!
Gurmukh is a Sikh, and a lovely youthful-looking woman with a soft voice. She is encouraging throughout the session, urging you on. She explains the purpose of each exercise.
Another elegant and visually appealing Living Arts production, this tape features a style of yoga that is something of a departure from the Iyengar based hatha yoga we are used to seeing presented by instructors such as Rodney Yee and Patricia Walden. Like most Living Arts productions, it's beautiful to look at and has really cool music.
The tape is led by Gurmukh, a very youthful looking 50-something yogini who practices Kundalini yoga, which she says is the oldest form of yoga and is associated with the Sikh faith. It's my understanding that Sikh is a relatively young religion, compared to the how old yoga is, so I'm not quite sure where and how this merger takes place, but that doesn't really matter. Gurmukh emphasizes that this yoga is valuable to anyone of any faith.
Of all the yoga tapes I've tried (mostly Living Arts, Yoga Zone, Bryan Kest) this is the one that most emphasizes the energy generating and heart opening aspects of yoga, so if that just sounds way weird, this video probably has too high a "woo-woo" factor for you. There's a lot of talk about opening your heart, transforming your life, and awakening the kundalini, visualized as energy coiled at the base of your spine, and letting that energy move up the spine and through your body. I don't, however, think the average user of this video will really awaken anything other than a decent sweat and an overall feeling of well-being, which is probably a good thing, from my understanding of kundalini energy. There are many who feel that working with this kind of energy can be dangerous if practiced without a teacher, and I am inclined to agree. However, I don't think that this video will "go there", so to speak, and will probably be as safe as any other yoga video for most people to use.
Gurmukh and her students are in a beautiful clearing in what looks to be a tropical forest. She is on a sort of bamboo stage with a gong, and her four students are on the ground on colorful woven rugs with palm leaves strewn around them. They all look young, attractive and hip - at least I assume they are hip. As an indication of my un-hipness, I couldn't tell which of the young women was supposed to look like Sarah McLachlan. At the end of the video I noticed the men each only had one name, so I assume that they are very hip also.
Anyway, she starts off with the first of four segments - Awakening. There are no static postures, or even vinyasa (flow of postures). Instead there is lots of rotating, twisting, back-and-forth movements done while seated, and exhaling on one move then inhaling on the next. You're also supposed to chant "sat" on the inhale and "nam" on the exhale, which you will promptly forget to do the minute she stops reminding you to. Gurmukh tells you to keep your eyes closed and rolled up towards your third eye - obviously, you have to open them once and again to figure out what you're supposed to be doing - but once you know, that's where your attention is supposed to be focused. She keeps urging you to go faster, and feel like you are creating your own ride on a carnival. If you go fast enough, you could feel like you're flying - or like you're going to be toss your corn dogs. You might want to ignore Gurmukh at this point and really listen to your body and go at your own pace.
The next segments, Energy and Strengthening, are done standing. She says it's okay to open your eyes for balance, but still keep your eyes rolled up towards your third eye. At this point I was really losing the whole third eye thing as most of my attention kept being drawn to the hamster living on top of our wall unit. The Energy section is more twisting and back and forth type movements, similar to the first section only done standing. There is also some kicking, as well some grabbing movements that a yoga teacher of mine called "prana pulling". Sort of a punch in reverse.
The Strengthening section brings in a more cardio aspect, with some punching and jumping. I found it a little annoying to suddenly have to do a bouncy, impact type activity in bare feet and bra with support suitable only for yoga. Mercifully, it does not last long. There's a bit more movement here with arms above the head, shaking your hands to remove tension from the arms - you will have to be careful not to transfer tension to your neck and shoulders in these sequences.
The Relax segment involves some chanting and seated meditation, followed by the corpse pose which most anyone who has done yoga will be familiar with, However at this point my DD woke from her nap so I spent that section nursing her on the couch while Gurmukh banged her gong. It was still pretty relaxing.
This is a video I want to like and enjoy, and am a little surprised that I don't, very much. It has a lot of elements that appeal to me - movement, energy, some chanting and meditation, yet I find I don't really find it as fun as I think it ought to be. I did feel good after doing this video, but during a lot of the movements I'd get bored and think okay! I'm ready for the next one! In contrast, I don't feel this way during other types of yoga, while holding poses for a long time. So I don't think I'm particularly easily bored most of the time. It might be that there are too many different aspects crammed into it - breathing, meditation, flexibility, cardio, etc etc so on the whole it feels a little unfocused to me.
Nevertheless, I'm going to hang on to this one for a while longer, and revisit it at least one more time. Maybe I was just not in the right mood the last time I did it.
In the intro, Gurmukh explains that she is a Sikh (which is why she wears the turban) and has been practicing this faith *and* teaching yoga for 30 years. Despite her youthful appearance and the voice of a breathy 20 years old, she's 58 years old! They show clips of her teaching various classes and in one she has a gong with the Paiste cymbals company logo--it made me think of my heavy metal youth and the "Paiste is rude" ads in Circus magazine.
Visuals: The 4 twentysomething exercisers are outdoors on blankets with Gurmukh on a shaded platform in front of them. Gorgeous scenery. They're all wearing loose pants of different colors/fabrics and tank tops or t-shirts. One of the exercisers looks like Sarah McLachlan. Gurmukh is in a long cream or white overdress over leggings or a unitard. She has on an embroidered white scarf and a white turban.
The workout itself is divided into 4 parts--Awaken, Energize, Strengthen and Relax. You begin seated and you circle your body around while keeping your butt on the ground, and then spend a lot of time stretching and contracting your spine (kind of a seated version of cat and cow) in time with your breathing. This is not the slow cat and cow--kundalini yoga moves at a rather rapid pace! At first everyone seemed to be going faster than me and Gurmukh kept saying "faster!" and then I'd look at the screen and realize I was now going faster than the folks in the video. It reminded me a lot of children's movement classes. Lots of fast rocking, twisting, and bending moves, all done in time to the breathing.
You move on to standing poses in the Energize and Strengthen sections . At one point you're actually jumping around and punching the air--kind of a taebo-ish thing. It definitely has a cardio aspect. You really don't do any of the poses one usually associates with yoga, except for the corpse pose at the end. I would caution anyone who gets this tape to really follow their own pace and not try to match that of the exercisers--they do some things very fast and I could see a potential for injury with some of the movements. Gurmukh doesn't spend much time talking about form, in fact, at several points she says "Forget about form! Just do what feels right" (or words to that effect.)
The video is beautiful to see--the class participants are all attractive and twentysomething (one looks like Sarah McLachlan). The video is filmed outdoors with carpets on the grass. Of course, you don't see this much because you're supposed to do the entire workout with your eyes closed and rolled up in your head to look at the "third eye." People with low tolerance for this sort of thing may want to steer clear. It's not oppressive, though. I've been taking yoga for several years now and being instructed to "open your heart center" and to inwardly chant "saht" on the inhale and "nam" on the exhale don't bother me.