Let Us Walk Tall with Kundalini Yoga

Nirvair Singh Khalsa
Year Released: 2004

Categories: Yoga

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(This is my first review!)

I'm very interested in kundalini yoga; in fact, I'll be starting kundalini yoga teacher training come September. I'm also interested in more obscure kundalini practices on video--things outside the Ravi/Ana hegemony.

I stumbled across this DVD on one of my kundalini yoga sites and decided to give it a try. (You can find it on Amazon--just search by title.) I'm really glad I did; it is a wonderful, gentle practice that is suitable for anyone.

Just so everyone is clear--this is NOT Ravi and Ana. It is a slow, meditative practice. Poses are held for at least a minute, usually more. You will not get a "workout" from this practice, so if that is what you want from a yoga tape, skip this. The production values are fine as far as I am concerned, but this is no 'Yoga Shakti'. Also, Nirvair is Nirvair is a true Sikh kundalini yoga teacher who was trained by Yogi Bhajan himself in the very early 1970s. Nirvair's daughter has been doing kundalini yoga her whole life. In other words, these two have impeccable kundalini yoga cred.

The music: It's from a CD called "Shanti" by Snatam Kaur. Snatam is the biggest star in the American Sikh chant and kirtan universe. Her voice is lovely. You can hear clips from every track on the CD (including full-length clips of two cuts) by going to www.spiritvoyage.com, and searching for "Shanti." You will notice that during the actual kundalini practice, the music is mixed a bit low, to allow Nirvair to cue over it. During the meditation and relaxation, where there is no voice-over, the music comes to the fore.

The set: it takes place in Nirvair's yoga studio in Alaska. During the meditation, there is footage of the Alaska wilderness.

The practice: This series of poses was put together by Yogi Bhajan for the purpose of stretching your back and your hips. The DVD container says it is 77 minutes long. For those of you who are into chaptering, this DVD has only two--the exercises and the meditation. This is because kundalini yoga is NOT designed to be mix and match; one is supposed to do all the postures in the prescribed order. It is much like Ashtanga yoga in that regard (although only in that regard!) I have done this practice many times; tonight when I did it, I wrote out the poses. Here they are:

A brief intro by Nirvair

Tune-in ("Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo" repeated 3 times).

Pelvic grinds

Extended leg stretch (extend leg out straight, bend other leg at knee and put foot high on inner thigh of extended leg, stretch over extended leg. Repeat on other side)

Spinal flex (sit cross-legged, hold above your ankles, arch your spine forward and backward)

Wide leg stretch (stretch over leg, hold; repeat on other side)

Wide leg stretch, leaning back on your hands, pelvis forward, shoulders back

Wide leg stretch to center

Legs straight out, feet apart 12 to 18 inches, flop feet slowly in and out

Pelvic raises (this is bridge pose)

Hip/leg thrust (lay on back, bend knees outward with your feet touching, thrust left leg out at 45 degree angle, about 18 inches off the floor, bring leg back to center, then repeat on right leg, and keep going back and forth)

Leg lift (lay on back, lift left leg straight up, with right leg straight on floor. Hold, and then repeat with right leg)

Leg lift, both legs (lay on back, lift both legs straight up, hold)

Bow pose

Half spinal twist (same as seated spinal twist on many other yoga DVDs)

Front hip stretch (kneel; bring right leg forward, with knee bent, shin at 90 degree angle to floor. This will stretch left hip flexor. Repeat on left leg)

Standing forward and backward bend (bring hands over head, bend backward to your degree, then bend forward. Go back and forth between backward and forward)

Sat Kriya--one of the classic kundalini kriyas. It is on many of Ravi and Ana's DVDs.

Meditation (The actual meditation posture is: sit in cross-legged pose, hands in gyan mudra (hands on knees, turned up, forefinger and thumb touching) and chant 'Guru Guru Wahe Guru/Guru Guru Ram Das Guru' for several minutes. You will be chanting along with Snatam, and if you open your eyes, you will see scenery from the Alaska wilderness, as I mentioned earler. The kundalini police won't care if you decide to recline on the floor for this one and treat it as a relaxation!)

Deep relaxation (you recline on the floor while Snatam sings. This lasts several minutes.)

Ending song ("Long Time Sun") and final Sat Nam.

I don't know how much this practice will appeal to people on this board, to be honest. It isn't a "workout", you won't sweat, you won't do breath of fire, frogs, or any of the vigorous kundalini poses. But this practice is a gem. Whenever I do it, I feel gently stretched and totally relaxed with a greatly heightened sense of well-being. If you treat the meditation portion as a relaxation, and then add that to the actual relaxation, you are in savasana for *at least* 10 minutes, probably more like 15-much longer than on any other yoga practice I have.

I really, really like Nirvair and Siri Pritam. Their vibe is really kind; I feel as if I am in excellent hands with them.

Because I have a lot of problems with my back, this is a practice I do a few times a week. I always look forward to it, and I highly recommend it to anyone who takes what I have written to heart and who can appreciate it for its many fine qualities, without expecting it to be something it is not.

Instructor Comments:
Nirvair introduces the practice and cues the poses in voice-over; his daughter Siri Pritam demos the poses. Nirvair is very gentle and mellow; in his manner, he reminds me of a Sikh Erich Schiffmann! Siri Pritam is refreshingly "normal"--not a super-pretzel type, but quite good at the poses.