I became a Kundalini Yoga teacher as the unintended consequence of a relationship breakup. I first started taking Kundalini Yoga classes to get through that difficult period and a year later, I enrolled in Kundalini Yoga teacher training “just to learn more.” That was 9 years ago, and I’ve since changed my life completely, moving from San Francisco, California to Athens, Greece and trading a 20+ year career as a CPA and finance consultant to teach a combination of Kundalini Yoga and the Enneagram. Along the way, I’ve become more and more convinced that Kundalini Yoga is the key to unlock the true power of the Enneagram. I’ve also become convinced that some habits, patterns, and issues can’t be resolved in your head—you have to physically get them out of your body.
Your brain before Kundalini Yoga Your brain after Kundalini Yoga
My brother is a structural engineer, and he inspired this analogy—he told me to Google “rat’s nest wiring” to see what a data center in a disorganized environment looks like. Then he told me to Google “structured wiring” to see the difference.
Our brains are essentially the same—we all start off with our initial wiring, or in Enneagram terms, “our habit of attention.” But through training, you can relax your habit. And when you relax your habit, your true self–your essence–comes forward. And the fastest, most effective method I know to relax your habit of attention is Kundalini Yoga. It helps you rewire your brain.
Kundalini Yoga is often referred to as the yoga of awareness. It is essentially a technology of energy and energy management. Unlike many forms of yoga, Kundalini Yoga places a large emphasis on the breath and the development of the nervous system. I often refer to it as the yoga for “people who think they can’t do yoga” because the starting position is always the breath. If you can breath, you can do Kundalini Yoga.
Why is the breath important?
The breath is essentially the steering wheel for your thoughts. When you change your breath, you start to rewire your brain. Most of us breathe between 16 to 20 breaths per minute as we go throughout our day. We’re having a rapid, shallow breathing experience. As you become more trained, you can breathe as little as one to two breaths per minute. And when you slow your breathing down to four cycles or fewer per minute, you automatically change the way your brain processes information. You become more positive in your thinking, more relaxed and expansive, more receptive to information, and you feel more in control.
You can use the image above as a metaphor—the horses are your thoughts, the chariot is your life, and the rider is your soul or your Higher Self. For most of us, the horses (your thoughts) are driving the chariot (your life), and they are running amok. To get the rider (your soul) back in control, you need to use reins. And from a yogic perspective, the reins are your breath. The key to managing your thoughts is your breath, and Kundalini Yoga specifically teaches breath control.
Another benefit of Kundalini Yoga is that it develops your nervous system. The nervous system is a combination of the brain, the spinal cord, and the nerve endings throughout the body. Think of the nervous system as a container. When your nervous system is weak, it is like having a thin, paper cup as your container. Life events come in and quickly overflow the container, leaving you feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and exhausted. When your nervous system is strong, it is like having a thick metal pot as your container. The same life events occur, but now your container has space for them so you feel more relaxed, at ease, and strong. Having a strong nervous system makes you a happier, more relaxed person. And when the nervous system is developed enough to hold pain, you can heal. As a practice, Kundalini Yoga places a large emphasis on strengthening the nervous system. In Enneagram terms, a strong nervous system means that when you are trying to relax your habit of attention, it doesn’t feel as uncomfortable to make changes.
What happens when you combined a study of the Enneagram with a physical practice of Kundalini Yoga? I describe it in my book as imagining you are lost in a forest and trying to find your way out. The Enneagram gives you a great map to use, but it doesn’t give you the supplies to make the journey. Intellectually, you may now know the way out of the forest, but you might not have the power to make the journey. On the other hand, Kundalini Yoga gives you the supplies but doesn’t provide you with a clear map of where you need to go. It gives you power to make the journey, but speaks less about the trail you need to follow. When you combine the two, you suddenly have everything you need–it is like you get off a bus and onto a high-speed jet.