It was right after our two hour lunch and I heard some grumblings with some of the Master Kundalini Teacher Trainers.
It was more of a passing comment than a whisper, she was definitely not trying to keep it a secret. But what I heard sent me into a bit of a sweat and a slight panic.
These words might not mean that much to you (yet), but to me, I KNEW what was just around the corner when I heard “62 minutes of Sat Kriya.”
(enter terrified emoji face here)
For those of you that don’t know, Kundalini is a type of yoga that uses body postures (usually held for what seems like an impossible amount of time), mantras (singing/chanting), mudras (hand positions), pranayam (breathing techniques), and bandhas (body locks…which basically just means squeezing a certain part of your body in a certain way for a certain amount of time) for the purpose of delivering you an experience of consciousness.
Some of you might be all like, huh? I don’t get it. And that’s totally cool because there actually aren’t a lot of great ways to describe what it is without using totally woo woo words like “soul” and “consciousness,” or without experiencing it for yourself. So for the sake of us talking about it, just roll with it and try not to let all those words throw you off.
That is all to say that Kundalini is a truth teller. It turns on the light to the dark corners of yourself. It uncovers the things that are hidden. Many say that it’s a way for you to truly meet your soul. This has been my experience. Things come to the surface that you can’t push down anymore, and it calls you forth to change and break the cycle of whatever is holding you back.
So here we are, after lunch, back in the yoga room and the Teacher says “62 minutes of Sat Kriya.”
Me and my Kundalini buddy look at each other with those knowing eyes of “oh crap…this is gonna suck.”
Sat Kriya is one of the most common meditations in Kundalini Yoga, and is known as the “everything Kriya” because it contains just about all the benefits of Kundalini yoga in one exercise.
Its main benefit is to excavate deep wounds from our early years and helps to heal mental and psychological imbalances. To learn more about it you can check it out here.
All this is great, but what that basically means for all of us in the room, is that we were going to be sitting there on our heels for 62 minutes straight with our arms above our heads, fingers clasped together, and saying out loud “sat” while pumping our naval in, and “nam” as we were releasing our naval.
This might not sound like much, but I dare you to try to do this for three minutes and see how it feels.
As the teacher was talking and the sweat was starting to drip from my brow, I knew I had a choice. I could complain and resist and make it easier on myself by bringing my arms down, or adjusting my legs, or I could commit and go for it.
I knew that the former would be painful. Like really painful. And hard. And challenging. And frustrating and annoying and boring. But I also knew that I was in this class to become a teacher. Someone who would 1) Know what it was like when my students were going through something painful; 2) Someone who does the hard work herself; and 3) Someone who walks up to the edge of pain and fear and discomfort…and then keeps walking.
So I chose the latter. I chose to commit. In that moment, I decided that no matter what (unless I was seriously going to give myself an injury) I wouldn’t bring my arms down.
So the timer starts and I raise my arms above my head. The first few minutes weren’t that bad. “I can do this” I thought. But by what I assume was minute 5 or 6, the terror sets in. The pain starts. It’s the first real wave of “I can’t do this” hits and then the thoughts start rolling like “I have 55 more minutes of this, how am I ever going to get through it,” and “I hate this, how much longer?”
I watched these thoughts happen, as they have many times before in these meditations, and I made a choice with these too. I figured I could either spend my time wanting this to be over, and resisting the experience, or I could spend my time just accepting it and finding the small ways to enjoy it, and at the very least, the small ways to not hate it.
So I switched the thoughts from “I hate this” to focus on the words “sat nam” (which basically just means “truth is my identity”) that I was saying during the meditation. Instead of fighting the time, I sunk into it, accepting it.
I know how this sounds. Even reading my own words back to me, I am reminded of every yoga and meditation article I’ve ever read…. “breathe into the present,” and “be here now,” and “accept where you are and feel the bliss.” And I’m rolling my eyes at these articles and myself at how cheesy they sound. But yet, sometimes there just aren’t other words to describe exactly what’s happening.
There were so many moments where I wanted to cry. Where the pain was so much that I didn’t think I could get through it. But every time that happened and I did get through it, I had the understanding that my pain isn’t in charge of me. And it’s not as permanent as it seems like it will be. And once you walk up to it, it disappears. And yes…even though it comes back, if you keep facing it, it keeps disappearing.
This made me wonder how many other things in our lives are like this. How many things we want to avoid or turn away from, or how many things we don’t do (that we know we should do) because we’re so afraid to be in pain. Or how many things cause us pain, and we want to do something to fix it or alleviate it, like in this case, put your metaphorical arms down or eat that metaphorical carton of ice cream.
And this questioning reminded me of something one of our Master Trainers said, which was that the way through any block was to go right up to the biggest pain that you want to run away from, and breathe in one more breath and on the other side of that breath is freedom.
Bliss is on the other side of challenge. (tweet this!)
I don’t know if I can fully get on board with the word “bliss” yet (even though conceptually I think it’s rad), but freedom is something I understand. And in this case, I got it from keeping my arms up for 62 minutes. I got freedom from being a victim of my own pain. Freedom from my beliefs of myself that I’m a quitter and I don’t see things through. Freedom from the thought that “this is too hard and I can’t do it.”
And even though my arms hurt like hell, that freedom was well worth the pain.
There are so many lessons learned when you do things that are uncomfortable. When you walk to the edge and know you’re ok to keep going. And perhaps one of the things I appreciate the most about Kundalini is that it asks the question: How do I respond when things in my life hurt?
For me, every day is different. Sometimes I hold my arms up the whole time, and sometimes I collapse in a sobbing heap. Sometimes the answer is to rest and be kind to myself, and sometimes the answer is to commit and keep going.
But no matter what I choose, I have a sense of satisfaction knowing that for those 62 minutes, I did something I thought was impossible.
And that makes me know that all the other things I think are impossible, just aren’t that way.
Thank you for reading this far. It is my goal to share stories that show real life. The down in the dirt moments. The victorious moments. The moments where you were so embarrassed you thought you wouldn’t survive. Or so sad you thought you’d never recover. But then you do, and you live to tell the world about it. That’s what this is all about. We’re not alone.
So now, what about you? Have you ever gotten through something you thought for sure you couldn’t get through? Did you come out on the other side better, happier, clearer? If so I want to hear about it in the comments below.
What did you get through and how did you do it?
And as always, if you like this article, please share it with your friends and if you aren’t already on the mailing list, make sure to pop your name and email in the box below.
P.s. Here’s a pic from the day after Sat Kriya. Back at it at Kundalini class.
Sally, thanks for writing your thoughts about last Saturday’s 62 minute Sat Kriya. I was struggling with the exact same things you mentioned here, the fear of putting my arms down (quitting), mental obsession with elapsed time (I couldn’t get images of clocks out of my visual field), pain everywhere, and just intense, existential fear! The experience was so great in the afterglow of completing it, but very painful and unknowable about the outcome as we were going through it. I was absolutely determined not to quit as well, and so ended up saying a contemplative mantra from the Christian monastic tradition, as well as repeating Sat Nam.It was the most challenging thing I ever did over a short period of time. We should all talk more! You are a good writer! Take care and more soon.
Thank you so so much for sharing your experience too. The mental image of the clocks made me giggle. And it’s so interesting to hear what other people are going through with it. It’s so intense in those moments that I actually forgot that anyone else was going through something, so that snapshot into your mind is really cool.
Also, I LOVE hearing how you got through it as well. Thanks for saying this: “most challenging thing I’ve ever did over a short period of time.”
YES. That’s a perfect way to say it. I’m not a runner, but I’m so curious if runners feel this way too when they decide to do a marathon, or something that is very physically and emotionally intense. Things to think about. Thank you for your comment!
Thanks for sharing this experience, Sally!
While I’m not going through Kundalini, it still resonated with some other struggles that I’m experiencing right now. Most of them are related to some stressors in my life, and it is giving me the extra push to get moving through the hard shit so I can come out on the other side.
Cheers to you and your bravery to embrace those 62 minutes!
I hear you lady! We all have our own “62 minute” dilemma every given day. Sending you the strength, courage, and ease to get through yours. XO
Oh Sally. I can relate to the doubt, and the struggle, and the afterglow.
I used to race bicycles. (The kind you pedal). A few years ago, I rode my mountain bike from Fruita, CO to Moab, UT. It was 150 miles over the La Sal Mountains in 3 days. It was 100+ degrees and on the second day I took a wrong turn and got separated from my friends. I cried. I could see a highway and I thought about riding to it and flagging down a truck to take me back to civilization.
Instead, I retraced my steps. I met up with some other stragglers who had also gotten separated from their friends. We rode together through the heat on day 2 and day 3. And then, a few miles away from Moab, I broke my front brake. We started walking. And laughing. And walking some more. And we made it to camp in Moab.
After that trip, I stopped racing. I no longer had to prove something. I knew what I had in me.
I love what you said here lady. Sometimes we just need to know that we can do it so we never have to do it again.
What a great story of perseverance. Thank you so much for your share.
Miss Sally: About a year ago, I did Sat Kriya for 62 minutes. It was challenging to say the least — and it was very mystical. The concept of time, as we understand it, did not apply. After more than halfway, nothing seemed real. At one point I could not feel my body … I think I left my body. When I came back, I wished I hadn’t, because the pain in my legs and arms was extraordinary. I wanted to scream as I continue to dully chant Sat Nam, Sat Nam.
At another point, it felt as if we were transported outdoors. There was wind, temperature fluctuations, bright sun and cloudy overcasts. Yes, my eyes were closed, but I could see through my eyelids that the light was so bright and the cloudiness was so dark.
Our teacher announced the remaining time halfway, 40 mintes in and when there was 3 minutes left. The last 3 minutes were the longest for me.
When it was done, everyone in the room collapsed.
Before we started the 62-minute Sat Kriya, I was very neutral about it. After doing it, I was not so neutral.
As you stated, it is difficult to explain with words. It is something which needs to be experienced.