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Kundalini Yoga … on and off the mat. Guest writing by Andrea Lavers

by Andrea Lavers Healer/Therapist and good friend 🙂

In this current age it is almost impossible to make the time to just be still. The idea of being still is even more challenging when we are left with growing anxiety, agitation and paranoia.
So we can spend years seeing our therapist, and yes, we can achieve a level of success, our anxiety lessened, our inner world shared and explored with another person and we can find some peace … but something still feels disjointed.
There was a time recently where I felt my own anxiety levels rising at work, knowing that when I become agitated I am less likely to be grounded, and in turn I am not able to hold focus, let alone space, I needed something to calm me down. Some alternate nostril breathing does the trick. My colleague, a fellow yogi, spotted my low energy and reminded me to do some of that ‘tummy pumping’ – which in yogic terms is ‘The Breath of Fire’.
Kundalini yoga (as taught by Yogi Bhajan) first came into my life many years ago; bizarrely I heard about it through a man that I used to drink with, back in the days when I used to use drugs heavily, he himself was a Kundalini Yoga Instructor. Fast forward to 2008 and I was two years clean, working in a treatment centre and starting my Masters degree in Addiction Psychology and Counselling, and then, low and behold, Kundalini Yoga walks into my life, and it stays.
So I go to my first class in a basement of a Hare Krishna centre in Kings Cross London, and
I’ve read all the internet hype about Kundalini and the awakening of it, and I made the
decision to be wary as I walked in, to not surrender completely, and to definitely not lose myself.
The class an hour and a half with a few mature students full of Stretching, breathing and chanting. Being offered a space to go inside, breathing deeply, eyes closed and I left feeling like something had shifted.
The part of Kundalini Yoga I never expected is that it has had a profound cleansing effect on me, and countless others like me.
Soon after, I took others to this class, friends who, like me, have had many years of healing and who practised other types of meditation. Here on the mat they wept, they laughed, they released. It is no surprise then that research has shown that when yoga is combined with traditional psychological therapies for the treatment of PTSD, survivors of sexual abuse, depression, and addiction, many individuals experience an abundance of long-term benefits.
In completing my Masters I wondered what effects Kundalini could have on addiction and chose Kundalini Yoga as the subject for my dissertation. I researched the effects Kundalini Yoga has on recovering addicts; it too showed how Yoga as a treatment modality helps to reduce addictive propensity in the short and long term, permitting addicts to reconnect with their self-soothing potential. It also indicated that Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan could help create the mood elevation that people had sought through drugs; in fact Yogi Bhajan believed that not only would Kundalini Yoga make people feel ‘high’ but it could heal the nervous system and brain which addiction has damaged.
So today I am both a Therapist and a Kundalini Yoga Instructor. I feel both of these callings complement each other, and I have witnessed this healing myself. One of my students has anxiety, in the last 4 months I have seen this student grow from very anxious and shy to someone who is more assertive and who now chants mantras to their child, soothing them to sleep at night.
My own practise of yoga has been evolving into these areas of research and I am constantly blown away. Here research was and is backing up what I already knew from experience, from my own practise. Kundalini Yoga is much more therapeutic than just stretching, it has the power to unlock our emotions and create lasting healing and transformation.

Carter, J.J. & Byrne, G.G. (2006). PTSD Australian Vietnam veterans: yoga adjunct treatment,
two RCT‘s: MCYI and SKY. In W. C. Bushell, E. L. Olivo, & N. D. Theise (Eds.),
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Longevity, regeneration, and optimal
health: Integrating Eastern and Western perspectives (pp. 54-62). Wiley-Blackwell.
Kissen, M., & Kissen Kohn, D. A. (2009). Reducing addictions via the self-soothing effects of yoga. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 73(1), 34-43.
Khalsa, DS, & Beckett, LR, Clinical Case Report: Efficacy of Yogic Techniques in the Treatment of Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, International Journal of Neuroscience, 85:1-17, 1996
Sageman, S. (2002). Women with PTSD: The psychodynamic aspects of psychopharmacologic and “hands-on” psychiatric management. Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis, 30(3), 415-427.
Sageman, S. (2004). Breaking through the despair: Spiritually oriented group therapy as a
means of healing women with severe mental illness. Journal of the American Academy of
Psychoanalysis & Dynamic Psychiatry, 32(1), 125-141.

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