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Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?

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My practice for a long time now has been pretty much been vipassana and shamatha, mostly influenced by instructions in the Pali suttas and some texts written by Thai Forest folks.  It's going well and all.   Although recently my curiosity has been sparked by a Kundalini yoga class at a studio in town. The teacher uses kriyas and is pretty awesome with the gong.  I have only been to one class of hers so far, but before I really dive into it I wanted to check with you all...has anyone here practiced Kundalini yoga as an addition to their vipassana and shamatha practice?  Have you found it a good compliment, or that it doesn't make much difference, or does it have adverse effects when things are generally smooth?   I can't say I've done all that much to learn everything ever about the chakras and all that heavily energy oriented work before... apparently she has an upcoming series on the chakras.  

Thanks!
Steph

RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/12/15 2:01 PM as a reply to Steph.
Steph, my practice is mostly a combo of silent sitting a la shamatha/vipassana and Dzogchen-style Vajrayana practices, including Yantra Yoga, which is a movement practice that combines breathing, breath locks and holds, and movement. The Vajrayana practices include deity visualization + mantra as well as energy practices (feeling/visualizing processes to do with the channels, energies, and centers of the subtle body). The vajrayana practices all in their own ways aim at activating, unblocking/purifying, and transforming the energetic system. The yantra yoga is very energizing and balancing, tending to really intensify the effects of the visualization, mantra an directed energy work. These practices definitely trigger kundalini-related phenomena as far as I can tell.

In my experience there are several ways energetic practices relate to shamatha/vipassana, but perhaps the most immediately salient way is that they tend to generate strong experiences. Then you have more intense experiences (and practicing consistently, a more intense experiential baseline) to work with on a vipassana level. It turns up the volume on experience, so to speak. Experiences are still predominantly positive negative and neutrally toned so it's pluses and minuses from a hedonistic perspective ;) But the intensity seems to make the process of undermining reference points (vipassana) more rapid, adventurous feeling, and deeper.

For instance with 30m to 1hr of consistent daily practice that heavily works with the energy body I find my experience more 'challenged', more opened, more vipasaanna-y than when silent sitting for hours a day. It's like turbo-charging the practice of pulling all my rugs out from under me.

I've been practicing this mix pretty consistently for several months and I notice more volatility in my experience in general, though more stability in my behavior. Perceptions are more perceptive, emotions are more obvious and 'big', yet the spacious quality of freedom is more pronounced. It seems to up the ante of the whole thing.

RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/12/15 8:14 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
. Jake .:

I've been practicing this mix pretty consistently for several months and I notice more volatility in my experience in general, though more stability in my behavior. Perceptions are more perceptive, emotions are more obvious and 'big', yet the spacious quality of freedom is more pronounced. It seems to up the ante of the whole thing.


I would second what Jake has said although instead of practicing yantra yoga, I practice kundalini yoga although I have some experience with yantra yoga as well. Stretching exercises in general help to supercharge the practice. But you need to be able to handle the 'volatility in experience' that it can unleash. I also do deity visualization and I think that helps with the 'volatility in experience'.

RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/12/15 8:32 PM as a reply to Steph.
Steph S:
My practice for a long time now has been pretty much been vipassana and shamatha, mostly influenced by instructions in the Pali suttas and some texts written by Thai Forest folks.  It's going well and all.   Although recently my curiosity has been sparked by a Kundalini yoga class at a studio in town. The teacher uses kriyas and is pretty awesome with the gong.  I have only been to one class of hers so far, but before I really dive into it I wanted to check with you all...has anyone here practiced Kundalini yoga as an addition to their vipassana and shamatha practice?  Have you found it a good compliment, or that it doesn't make much difference, or does it have adverse effects when things are generally smooth?   I can't say I've done all that much to learn everything ever about the chakras and all that heavily energy oriented work before... apparently she has an upcoming series on the chakras.  

Thanks!
Steph

Hi Steph,
I am a vipassana/samatha practitioner myself. I learned the practice in the Goenka tradition but for years I sit to simply cultivate awareness and equanimity, no scanning. For me it means being aware of bodily sensations and thoughts or emotions when they arise, wherever the attention goes on it's own I guess, and opening up to that. I see it as bare awareness that 'does' the letting go, or unties the knots (one by one)
I've also had an inconsistent hatha yoga practice over the years that was supportive of the meditation when I was more regular about it 
Regarding kundalini yoga, I would say it would support meditation very much, in the same way that Qi Gong might, or other energy work
The only caveat I would throw out is that I never found a kundalini yoga teacher that actually had personal experience with kundalini (though there are certainly plenty of turbans and gongs to go around). I didn't practice kundalini yoga, but I searched for a knowledgable teacher for some time years ago after a spontaneous kundalini awakening as I really needed guidance. No one I could locate knew anything about it, and I contacted loads of supposed senior teachers. I live in the SF Bay area, the mecca for yoga and all things woo, so that seemed weird
The pranayama practices (IME and from my studies) are great ways to 'clear' the heavier energies in the body, as is fasting and hatha yoga inversions. Problems may arise however if you actually awaken your kundalini through practice (which is the point as I understand). But if you are interested in that at all, I would just triple check out the teacher. In Taoist terms many of the kundalini yoga exercises might be termed more 'fire' practice, as opposed to 'water'
Fire stirs things up, water is gentler. That's the type of work I do because activated kundalini goes apeshit with the energy system, pretty much on it's own. I also wouldn't recommend anyone actively try to open their kundalini, it can be, um, not so fun. But I think that is much more common on longer meditation retreats than in the context of your standard kundalini yoga class

RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/12/15 9:09 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Jake & Change A -

I suppose the aim of energy oriented work is to balance the elements or chakras, so it would make sense if that cycles out in certain ways as with vipassana cycles.  When you say it speeds things up and all that... does it add another dimension/layer of different types of cycling into the mix, or is it just that it speeds up & magnifies the vipassana cycles?  I'm interested in hearing more about how it makes things more volatile, while behavior seems more stable.  emoticon



RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/12/15 9:08 PM as a reply to Daniel - san.
Daniel -

Thanks for your feedback.  I lived in Los Angeles for over a decade, so I am very familiar with the flaky "spiritual" type who doesn't have much to back their shit up. haha.  Now I'm in the Midwest.  People are supposed to be more down to earth and honest here, but who knows.  I'm likely going to give this chakra series a try and if the teacher seems like she's watering it down for the soccer mom yogis, I'll approach her after class to see if she will/can give me the scoop on something more legit.

RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/13/15 8:08 AM as a reply to Steph.
Great questions.
I think there are all kinds of cycles, both 'spiritual' and otherwise, and for me energy work intensifies all kinds of cycling. however ther is a meta-cycle with it in which the volatility itself cycles and this seems to be to do with the 'balancing the elements'. During one phase of that cycle lots of volatility as shit works itself out, the downside of that cycle there is enjoyment of the integration and greater energetic balance.

volatility and stability: the former from the energies working out new higher-coherance patterning, the latter is more tied in with the 'view' aspects, or uncovering the natural awake openness of experience, referencelessness, openness, open awakeness. This being more clear means impulses and perceptions can arise and function without disturbing mind as much because mind clings less.

Another significant cycle in my experience i call the 'clarity cycle'. At the peaks of the clarity cycle the 'view' is spontaneously clear, like it's impossible not to be clear about referenceless openness. At the trough of this cycle teachings on the nature of mind seem trite and useless and then i work with shamatha-vipassana more, alongside the tantric practices. Working with these energy practices and balancing the elements affects this clarity cycle. imagine it is an oscilation around a horizontal line, peaking at +5 and troughing at -5. By doing these practices gradually over time the whole clarity cycle 'tilts' and trends upward. So it is still a 10 unit oscillation, but the absolute values all along the oscilation gradually trend upwards. For ex: years ago only at the very peak of the clarity cycle was the natural state plainly evident. Now it is accessable all throughout the cycle except when ego is heavily stimulated at the trough. At the peak I can't not be in the natural state. At all the plus values its simple to relax into it. In the negative range it is still accessible particularly in formal practice. Etc.

I haven't paid too much attention to the insight cycles for a long time now (*) as a general rule, but I have always had a personal model of them which goes like this for the 4 Vipassana jhannas: 1= intentional investigation 2=flood of intensity 3=old (identity) structures breaking up because the energy level of the system (personality) has increased and old structures were evolved for lower energy levels 4= old structures mostly cleared out new structures not arisen yet so I suppose this kind of work theoretically wcould increase the rate of insight cycles?
(*) my model is more based on trending the clarity cycle up, the interplay of energetic balancing, relational-personal maturing, and deepening resting in the 'view', i.e., dropping clinging to reference points ETA maybe this is just my own experience / articulation of the insight cycles, my point is, I have never really bought into the 16 nanas model as I think it's tied in with a whole metaphysic that I simply don't share and so my experience particularly of the DN doesn't really line up 1:1 with the traditional model. Briefly, I don't beleive that suffering is a characteristic of phenomena, but rather merely of phenomena when clung to as if permanent and non-empty, so things like 'disgust' etc seem pretty tied in to the kinds of intentional practices of Therevada systems like meditating on the body as disgusting etc. which don't appeal to me because I'm more tantrically oriented lol ;)

RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/13/15 8:59 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
Cool, thanks! The oscillation +/- 5 along a continum makes sense and that it's more of a baseline change/deepening of overall insight that's tilting clarity up regardless of phase.  I haven't been particularly strict about adhering to the progress of insight cycles either, and use them more as a general reference (ie - things are on point & energetic: probably A&P, things are kinda shitty or wonky: probably DN, things are spacious & lucid: probably EQ).  Like, I'm not the type of practitioner who could tell you exactly where I am on that map at any given moment.  As my practice has matured I have practiced in a very inclusive & wider way regardless, because I know the lazer beaming or parsing out of any type of phenomena perpetuates all that ignorance/craving/aversion.  The upping the volume aspect of energy practices sounds good because I think I have a strong foundation of insights and could use a little push to get deeper baseline shifts.  Any practices in particular you could recommend?

RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/13/15 9:40 AM as a reply to Steph.
Hmmm... obviously I'm partial to the ones I do haha! I generally practice Namkhai Norbu's teachings as transmitted through his Dzogchen Community. These require receiving transmission from him, but he does this via webcast as well as in person. There's a webcast coming up in the first week of March, I think you could participate in that for free if you wanted and once you have received his transmission as I recall it would be kosher to share details about basic practices. Go on retreat with him if you can arrange your circumstances.

Short of that, Tenzin Wangyal puts out some great practical stuff about balancing the elements and energy practices which i also think are great! Maybe add something like Chi Gung and/or Tai Chi as a movement practice for grounding the energy and smoothing out the elements?

I think the mix of visualization/energy/mantra practices and movement practices are the basic recipe. I recommend connecting with the Dzogchen Community because Norbu shares a big toolkit of practices from the get go which you can play with and tailor practice routines to your own circumstances.

Another thing I notice definitely support energetic intensification is archetypal work, like dreamwork. Basically it's another apporach to balancing the energies from a more psychological angle and i think it is super super good to do alongside the other stuff because it will really help with the volatility/equanimity balance.

So TL/DNR I recommmend either connecting with the Dzogchen Community, maybe doing the next Webcast transmission in March, or getting some solid books/cds/dvds from the likes of Reggie Ray or Tenzin Wangyal. Plus some archetypal work. Western Magick would probably be another good direction to look in. Don't forget a movement practice that aims to balance, smooth etc. the energies. If you're interested in the first option feel free to PM me, I'm in the process of figuring out how to participate in that Webcast myself so my partner can receive the transmission. We will be in Mexico on the beach when it happens! My first grown-up (albeit flyer miled and air b n b'd) vacation. Auspicious emoticon

RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/13/15 9:51 PM as a reply to Steph.
I think that the purpose of energy oriented work is to release the deeply held tension in the body. It might bring up stuff you might have thought didn't exist in you.

RE: Kundalini yoga in addition to vipassana?
Answer
2/15/15 6:55 PM as a reply to Change A..
Change-

Thanks for the concern and heads up.  It is genuinely appreciated. The first year or so of my meditation practice consisted of me being a totally gunning it on vipassana and all but ignoring samatha type... and lemme tell you, it had *alot* of messy fall out (as Daniel warned and tons of us didn't heed). Pretty rough and I put the brakes on vipassana for a while to get more into samatha. So I've slowly been working back into a regular practice - this time with a focus on a much more balanced approach.  I was really pleased to see the MCTB2 version so clearly emphasize even more so than the inititial version (which still stated it really well) the importance of a balanced practice (of quality insight practices, concentration practices, and daily life well-being).  So yeah, there's where my interest in the diversity of energy & elements stuff comes from... to balance things out, find balance of energies, widen the repertoire, etc.  I'll fill you all in on how it's going - with hopes that it's helpful to others and also to get any kind feedback people are willing to offer. emoticon

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