No.6 Ahmed Elaasar - What is Kundalini Yoga?
The Mortal Yogi Podcast: Episode No. 6 with Ahmed Elaasar - What is Kundalini Yoga?
In this episode, I talk with California based Kundalini teacher, Ahmed Elaasar. I have always found Kundalini yoga so different to all the other styles out there and when I met Ahmed, I cornered him and begged to let me (and you) into their world.
Based in Venice Beach, Ahmed is such a relaxed dude, he's the perfect guide to Kundalini.
Ahmed Elaasar | Yoga & Wellness website
Ahmed on social media: @aelaasaryoga
3 Value Bombs
The beauty of Kundalini Yoga is you never know what you’re going to get from each class.
There are four core elements that are always part of a Kundalini Yoga class: Asana (physical movement), Meditation, Pranayama (work on breathing exercises), and Mantras.
Although a common milestone in Kundalini Yoga is to practice for 1,000 days, it can be fit into as little as seven minutes a day.
[1.12] - Ahmed shares his background.
He was born and raised in North Carolina, and his parents are both Egyptians.
He went to college and pursued the American dream with his Business Management degree and got a corporate job.
He got bored and soon started to look for something spicy, a little more exotic.
As an Egyptian, Ahmed and his family would go to Egypt during the Summer and transit through Europe. He has been fortunate to be exposed to different cultures during his childhood.
Ahmed left his corporate gig and left the US to live in the South of France so he could get some (more) exposure to different cultures.
[6.57] - When Ahmed came back to the States, he pursued the American dream even further.
He got his MBA with a degree in International Business.
He switched gears from speaking/learning French to speaking/learning Spanish.
Did his internship in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Lived with a family in Guadalajara, Mexico during the Study Abroad period of his MBA
Got bitten by the travel bug and loved it. He still loves it today.
[7.59] - Dhugal mentions that it’s either drugs, alcohol, workaholism, marriage or something else that prompts a person to switch careers. For Ahmed and his unique story, he becomes a very Senior salesperson at some point in his career but then something shifted to “I’m not having it anymore.”
[8.15] - Ahmed got to a point in his career where he just didn’t have the passion for it anymore. Disillusioned, he had to find his purpose in life again.
He had to find his Ikigai, the Japanese concept behind “your reason for waking up.”
[9.56] - Ahmed had lost his Ikigai so he walked away from a big salary, from comfort.
He did more “reconnecting” with his Egyptian roots. He spent 3 months in Egypt.
He went to South Africa and crossed things off in his bucket list.
[11.19] - Ahmed and his then-wife at the time, who had also quit her job to join Ahmed in his adventures, decided to put some roots down and return to the States.
[13.41] - But Ahmed found Yoga when he quit his job and lived in Egypt. Dhugal comments that Ahmed’s path to Yoga in Egypt is not your average “finding Yoga” story.
[13.58] - Ahmed reveals that Yoga was so unexpected for him. Basketball had been his thing, so was American Football.
Since he loves being active, he had to find an outlet in Egypt that could help him release some tension or stress from the day. And to stay physically fit as well.
Ahmed met a wonderful Canadian guy teaching Yoga in a studio around the corner from his Cairo residence.
The Yoga teacher was charismatic, warm and welcoming; Ahmed kept coming back to the studio for Yoga practice.
[17.19] - Ahmed explains his Kundalini Yoga training and background
Ahmed gives a shoutout to his Yogi friend and fellow Yoga instructor, Michelle Bartolo.
It was Michelle who encouraged Ahmed to try a Kundalini class with her, and he continued every Tuesday. It took a while for Ahmed to like the Kundalini class.
It was the Yoga Teacher’s bold statement, “Pay attention to how you feel right now at the beginning of the class. I want you to notice, and I’m going to ask you again at the end of the class, if you feel any different. If you don’t feel any different, then maybe this isn’t the Yoga for you,” that prompted Ahmed to get in tune with himself and check if things started to shift or change in him.
It took several classes before Kundalini became something that Ahmed didn’t want to live without.
[19.18] - Why Kundalini became something Ahmed didn’t want to live without.
Ahmed explains that it was the theory behind it, and he became fascinated with the Kundalini Yoga science.
He wanted to understand why we do certain things. And how it works in our bodies and our minds.
He kept going back to Kundalini Yoga because he just felt better.
[20.42] - Dhugal admits that he’s probably been to 100 Kundalini classes but he’s still not sure what’s going to happen in each class.
Ahmed responds by saying, “That’s the beauty of it!”
You don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s like Forrest Gump! It’s a huge box of chocolates.
[21.01] - Ahmed volunteers to help people understand Kundalini Yoga.
There IS rhyme and reason to it.
There are four core elements that are always part of a Kundalini class:
Asana (physical movement)
Pranayama (work on breathing exercises)
Mantra (you’ll chant mantras and listen to mantras)
You’ll experiment with mudras (gestures) - Your eye gazes and your hands.
Ahmed explains that Kundalini is complex, and that’s one of the reasons why he likes it. You’re doing so many things at the same time.
You could have your eyes closed but you’re focusing with your third eye.
At the same time, your index finger is gently touching your thumb.
Then you’re also pumping your navel, doing breath of fire.
And there’s a mantra playing in the background.
There’s a lot happening.
But there’s also all of this energy that’s circulating, and that’s what Kundalini is all about. Kundalini is that root energy in the lower chakras, and we’re trying to tap into that energy.
[23.05] - What are Kundalini’s aims and organising principles? What does it offer?
For Ahmed, it’s all-encompassing.
Ahmed listed all the teaching training certifications, where you can do as little as you want for Kundalini or devote your whole life to it.
You don’t have to change anything in your life. Just add a little Kundalini. And start to notice what changes.
Yes, you never know what you’re going to get in a Kundalini class, but you can start by taking that experience of diversity and the thousands of Kriyas…
[25.05] - What’s the definition of Kriyas?
It’s a set of exercises, a complete set that includes all of the four core elements.
There are different combinations designed for different purposes.
There’s one even for jet lag. There’s one just to boost one’s energy.
There’s one that can help you break away from something.
You can just take one of these sets and do it for three minutes.
Kundalini is accessible, and this is one of the reasons why Ahmed likes it.
You don’t have to change your whole life; you can do Kundalini anytime, anywhere.
[27.09] – Dhugal and Ahmed discuss how the Eradicator pose could even get you thrown out of an airplane! And there’s also the Breath of Fire!
[27.46] – Are Kundalini students walking a pre-determined path? How does Kundalini see the Universe and where we sit in it, our role? It’s not just about getting bigger biceps and stronger navels, right?
Ahmed agrees that is spot on; Kundalini is so much more than that.
Kundalini can be as simple as adding a three-minute set to your morning or following a world-view of every aspect of how to live your life.
[28.41] – Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini Yoga to the West and the US
[30.22] – Kundalini is about empowerment.
You have the power within yourself—this is the message behind Kundalini.
[32.14] – Raising up your Kundalini energy can get you high.
Ahmed reveals that doing the four core elements of Kundalini can get you high.
This what makes Kundalini attractive to some people who are looking for that natural high, without drugs or caffeine.
[32.52] – Clarity is another big thing.
Finding clarity in yourself; realise that you can tap into your own Kundalini energy, see the serpent spiraling up the spine.
Embrace it and learn how you can use this energy and go about your day.
Kundalini was designed for ‘householders’—people who lead normal lives, people who had to get up, do stuff, and take care of other people.
[34.12] – What is Yogi Bhajan’s vision?
Yogi Bhajan started as a Hatha Yoga teacher in the US
Drug use was rampant in the 60s.
Yogi Bhajan introduced Kundalini Yoga as a way for people (in the 60s & 70s) to experience other worldly highs that don’t cause damage to their bodies and minds.
Improvement of one’s health through the yoga movements and breathing exercises.
[36.58] – Kundalini Yoga believes that when a spirit enters a person’s human body and life here on Earth, that person already has a set number of breaths.
Whenever you’re doing the Breath of Fire [pose], you’re extending your life.
[38.26] – Yogi Bhajan once said, “This will help transform your life much faster than Hatha Yoga.”
Ahmed’s sales pitch and bold statement by Yogi Bhajan: “If you’re a regular practitioner of Hatha Yoga for 20 years, that’s the equivalent of being a regular practitioner of Kundalini Yoga for one year.”
It’s 22 times faster [than Hatha Yoga] because you’re doing so many things at once.
[39.45] – Tell us about Sadhana?
Ahmed explains that Sadhana is your spiritual practice, either personal or in a group.
Still includes all four core elements, and specific songs and mantras are played in a specific order.
Yoga sets also vary depending on the day and what you need.
Ahmed admits that the personal Sadhana has made the biggest difference in his life.
The angle of the sun, between 2:30AM and 6AM, amplifies the practice.
It’s 40 times more powerful when you practice during this window (the Amrit Vela hours).
[43.15] – What if you only have seven minutes in your busy life to add Kundalini Yoga?
Ahmed shares that you can do the Breath of Fire with the Ego Eradicator for three minutes and another invigorating option that’s similar to Vinyasa Yoga (e.g down dog, up dog but with the feet on the ground, and back to down dog) for another three minutes. Plus play your mantras.
It’s not necessary but if you can fit in a meditation, that would be good too.
[44.50] – Yogi Bhajan recommends different milestones for Kundalini Yoga.
Ahmed shares these milestones.
Every day for 30 days.
Every day for 90 days.
Up to a 1,000 days!
[45.22] – Ahmed agrees with Dhugal that Kundalini Yoga is not the most popular style of Yoga because of these milestones, specifically the 1,000 days.
Ahmed said that people shouldn’t worry about the 1,000 days, Kundalini Yoga is still accessible. All you have to do is just start.
[46.02] – The community of Kundalini Yoga, or the Sangha, is the support system for Kundalini Yoga practitioners; where people come together as a community.
This is a big part of Kundalini Yoga. Accountability buddies support you so you show up on your mat or sheepskin every day.
[46.53] – Why sheep’s skin?
Ahmed explains that Yogi Bhajan believes that sheepskin (skin with the wool on top) protects you from being grounded by the Earth’s electromagnetic field.
[47.36] – What’s the other thing that might scare people away from Kundalini Yoga?
It requires discipline to show up every day.
The Lululemon-wearing generation forget about the ritual and philosophy aspect behind Yoga.
[48.15] – The short/little practices of Kundalini Yoga already cause a shift.
Ahmed explains that things begin to shift.
They shift in your mind
They shift in the way people look at you, treat you.
They shift in the way you approach life.
The way you see things starts to shift.
Kundalini Yoga is such a beautiful practice.
You get discipline from showing up every day, but there’s no guilt.
Your Sangha encourages you to come back.
[49.14] – We have to talk about ‘music’ and ‘mantra,’ which are so different compared to other yoga styles. What’s wrong with just an ‘ohm’ in the beginning?
Ahmed explains that there’s nothing wrong with the ‘ohm.’
Tuning in is an important aspect in Kundalini Yoga. So, chants in the beginning of any Kundalini practice (a longer ‘ohm’ with more chants) connect Kundalini Yoga practitioners with Yogi Bhajan and the teachers before him.
The Sat Nam mantra, which means truth is my identity, helps you establish your truth and intention for the day.
Grammy-award winning band, White Sun, creates Kundalini Yoga music.
There is energy in Kundalini Yoga music. The energy comes from the vibrations of the mantras, the music, and the gong.
This energy rewires your brain’s pathway (the neural networks), and Kundalini Yoga increases the neural velocity of the mind.
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