It had been a long, intense summer. Between my husband’s immobilized shoulder and two kids out of school and ready for action, I was exhausted. Every morning left me aching for the day to end so I could fall back into bed. I needed a break.
When the opportunity came to visit Kalani, a retreat center on the Eastern tip of the largest of the Hawaiian islands, I sighed with welcome relief. If nothing else, I thought, I could at least catch up on my sleep.
Driving to Kalani took me through lush jungles and past the recent lava flows. There is a palpable energy in this part of Hawaii Island. It’s a raw, rugged, fierce energy that lets you know that the creative forces of nature simmer just below the surface. I learn that what is considered by scientists to be some of the cleanest air in the northern hemisphere blows just miles from the retreat center. It makes me want to take in a few extra deep breaths.
I wake with the sun on my first morning, surrounded by screens, the vibrant sounds of the jungle and the pink clouds greet me. I make the short walk to the ‘rainbow room’ where we will begin our practice together. Our teacher, Jared Sam, a gentle, sweet soul, introduces us to the practice of Kundalini yoga. We follow along in the call and response chant to open our practice. I have studied different styles of yoga, but had not had the opportunity to explore kundalini, so I am intrigued. Jared describes kundalini as a practice for awakening our prana, or life-force energy, that “often lies dormant at the base of our spine like a coiled serpent.” After months of contracting and holding my family together, I’m ready to get my life-force moving.
He guides us through the practice, with simple phrasing and a smooth voice, connecting the movements with our chakras. These chakras, or energy centers, are associated with physical places in our bodies, represented by different colors, and correspond with emotional needs.
He takes us through the following sequence, which was passed to him by his teacher. He suggests starting with 1-2 minutes in each movement, and increasing the time as our capacity increases. The first three chakra movements are done from a cross-legged position.
- 1st Chakra (root) ‘Spinal Flex’ Inhale forward with the heart, exhale as you roll back with abdominals drawn in.
- 2nd Chakra (pelvic) ‘Sufi Grinds’ Begin after an exhale with the spine back. Inhale the torso left and forward, exhale right and back, completing the cycle. Continue with long, slow deep breaths, closing the eyes. Reverse the direction to unwind and balance the energy for the same amount of time or cycles.
- 3rd Chakra (solarplexus/navel) Inhale arms up like cactus arms, or elbows as high as the shoulders and palms on the shoulders w/thumbs in back, fingers in front. Inhale twist left, exhale twist right.
- 4th Chakra (heart) Begin seated or kneeling. Reach arms forward, palms together. Inhale arms open out to the side, exhale palms together forward. Send healing, loving energy to yourself and all beings on the planet with this gentle movement. Eventually work up to 26 breaths to honor the 26 vertebrae in the spine (or just one minute to begin).
- 5th Chakra (throat) ‘Dog's Breath’ Begin seated or kneeling. Open your mouth, stick your tongue out and pant like a dog.
- 6th Chakra (brow/intuition/3rd eye) Begin seated with arms out to the side as high as the shoulders, fingers rolled in and two thumbs up. Inhale thumbs to shoulders, exhale re-extend the arms.
- 7th Chakra (crown) ‘Mirror Exercise’ Seated, raise the arms up towards the sky, palms facing each other. Inhaling slowly and deeply through the nostrils, move the palms back and forth in opposite directions, 6-9 inches out and then back in.
- 8th Chakra (aura) ‘Angel Wings’ Can be done sitting or standing. With the arms extended out to the side, palms facing the sky, inhale up so the fingertips touch, exhale down so fingertips lightly brush the earth/thighs.
We finish the practice with a few minutes spent lying on our backs in savasana. As we lay there, allowing the practice to settle into us, an intense rain squall passes, arriving with a sudden deluge, and departing just as suddenly, leaving sunlight streaming into room, and the sounds of birds, singing their morning song.
Walking to breakfast, the leaves seem to sparkle a little brighter, and the colors of the flowers seem a bit more saturated. The subtle movements of the practice have awakened something in me, and I breath in the purified air, feeling more hopeful, balanced, and reinvigorated for the path ahead.