By Melissa Tizon. Published with permission from melissatizon.com
Now that I’m on the mend post-surgery, I am slowly getting back into yoga, and my body couldn’t be happier. My favorite kind of yoga is kundalini yoga as taught by Gloria Latham, an internationally known yoga instructor based in Vancouver, B.C.
If you subscribe to the yoga site you can find several of her videos there. She also has some free ones on her personal website, GloriaLatham.com, as well as some amazing online and live courses. (Vancouver training starts March 27th for those interested). Her style of yoga is perfect for me because I feel like it’s designed specifically for the modern office worker, people who sit at a desk most of the day hunched over a computer.
Gloria is big on squats, all manner of squats. “Deep-cleansing” squats, she calls them, the kind that make your thighs burn and sometimes make you want to vomit. I dislike both the burning sensation and the feeling of throwing up a little in my mouth. But I do her squats because my body needs them. Desperately.
I sit on my ass for hours at a time at work, and it’s my butt and hip flexors that suffer the most. Squats are their only outlet. They soak up squats like a shrivelled plant soaks up water. My butt and hips thrive on squats.
Spinal flexes and twists are another part of Gloria’s repertoire — also something my body needs desperately. My poor shoulders, neck and back. You have no idea the non-ergonomic havoc I wreak on them all day, slave to my keyboard and mouse as I am. So, these vertabrae-loosening, chest-opening exercises are like a miracle drug. I’m pretty sure they make me taller and straighter. Every yoga class is evolution for my posture. I start the class as ape man and end, restored to modern homosapien man.
And then there’s core strengthening, a lot of it. I don’t love ab work but it’s a non-negotiable part of the deal. Afterall, if you’re going to sit all day, you need strong abs to hold up the top half of your body with some semblance of decent posture.
My daughter, Maya, and I went on one of Gloria’s popular teacher training yoga retreats in Greece last summer. On day one of the retreat, Gloria said, whatever you do, do not Google kundalini yoga. This is good advice because it’s a little weird. If you were to do an Internet search, you’d likely get several hits that use phrases like “awakening the serpent energy in your spine.” You will also come across people dressed in white robes and turbans. Many traditional kundalini yogis are sikhs.
Also, Gloria warned, no one looks good doing kundalini yoga. The postures are awkward. It uses Lamaze-type breathing techniques (imagine a woman in labor). And sometimes, it involves the chanting of sanskrit mantras. Yes, I said chanting, as in out loud, in front of other people.
But Gloria’s version of kundalini makes it all worth it. She has made it contemporary and relatable to regular people, who live and work in modern society. When she teaches evening classes at her studio in B.C., she reminds herself that most of her students have been sitting all day, so she designs classes with that in mind.
Gloria does not wear a turban or a robe. In fact, she is always rocking the best and latest Lululemon. She is sponsored by Lululemon and travels the globe representing them as a Lulu ambassador, which I think is the best job ever.
Kundalini was one of the first yogas introduced to the West, and it took hold with hippies in the 1960s who were strung out on drugs and looking for an alternative. Kundalini gave them a natural high. There is no denying this yoga makes you feel great — mentally, physically, spiritually.
Yogi Bhajan is the person who brought kundalini yoga to the U.S. 50 years ago from India. He said he felt called to come here to prepare Americans for the Aquarian Age. I always thought the decade of the 1960s was the Aquarian Age. But it turns out it only began in the last five years. The Aquarian Age technically started in 2012. Before this, we were in the Age of Pisces, apparently.
So, Yogi Bhajan came here all those years ago to give us tools to cope with the period we’re in right now, the era of constantly checking email, mobile devices, social media, sitting for hours on end at office jobs, not to mention the rampant drug addiction and substance abuse that has taken our country hostage. Somehow he knew this type of yoga could help us deal with the crazy, stressed out lifestyle we live today.
I’m glad there are teachers like Gloria who are not afraid to make it relevant and mainstream, so that more people can access these tools and not feel weird about it. Or at least not too weird. Sitting here in bed, typing out this blog post on my lap top for the past hour, my body could definitely use some deep-cleansing, heart-opening kundalini yoga right now. So if you don’t mind, I think I’ll sign off with you and tune into Gloria via one of her online classes. It’s time to hit the mat.
Gloria Latham’s next live training is in Vancouver on March 27th – there’s still limited space. Hop over to register here