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The Mile High City is bursting with ways to tone your tummy (and your thighs, and your biceps). Every month, new fitness studios open—all with methods sworn to revolutionize the way you work out. While they can’t all be the right fit for everyone, it’s worth giving them a try. (Plus, we can never have too many exercises in our repertoire, right?) We’ve decided to explore as many as we can, one by one, to help break down your options—and hopefully help our readers find the workouts that work for them. No more excuses: Your perfect fitness regimen is waiting for you.
Class: Kundalini yoga
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Sweat meter (1-10): 3
Instructor: Chris Anne Coviello, owner of The Healing Space. There, she provides treatments such as aromatherapy, facials, massages, and private yoga and meditation classes, as well as more obscure services like sound healing (involving Tibetan singing bowls) and Reiki (a Japanese form of energy healing). Her only public Kundalini yoga class is held on Monday nights at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Historical context: Kundalini is one of the oldest forms of yoga, having been referenced in sacred writings as far back as 1,000 B.C. However, most yoga communities in the western hemisphere weren’t familiar with it until 1968, when Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, more commonly known as Yogi Bhajan, brought his own brand of kundalini to the United States.
Format: Specific exercises vary widely between classes, but the 60- to 90-minute sessions usually include the same general elements:
- Chanting the Adi Mantra, which loosely translates to “I bow to the creative wisdom/ I bow to the divine teacher within”
- The “Pranayam,” or warm-up, involving different breathing techniques to focus the mind. For instance, my class performed the “Breath of Fire,” in which you breathe quickly through your nose while pulling your navel in and pushing it out.
- “Kriyas,” or set sequences of exercises. These usually include “asanas,” or physical postures. We did both resistance exercises—26 reps each of front squats, back bends and toe touches, and stretching from side to side with the opposite arm over the head—as well as cardio—alternating kicking each leg forward while shouting what sounds like “hud” for three minutes. (That “hud” is actually “har,” which means “creative infinity.”)
- Meditations. There are so many different kinds, but the two we completed required closed eyes, crossed legs, a specific hand position, and a mantra that can be chanted either mentally or out loud.
- Relaxation (think: “savasana”)
- The closing blessing song “May the Long Time Sun Shine Upon You”: “May the long time sun/ Shine upon you/ All love surround you/ And the pure light within you/ Guide your way on.”
Tip: Don’t do the “Breath of Fire” if you’re in the first couple of days of menstruation or more than four months pregnant. (There are different theories as to why, but the move does create a lot of heat in the abdomen, which could damage eggs or a fetus.) Your instructor should mention this, but know that long, deep breaths are always a good replacement.
What it’ll (allegedly) do: Awaken your dormant energy (kundalini means “coiled serpent,” which refers to the ball of energy at the bottom of your spine) and increase consciousness.
Why it works: “There’s a deep, rich spiritual piece to this practice, and it spans so many different areas of mind, body, and spirit,” Coviello says. “Classes can be vastly different; you can be up dancing like, ‘Woohoo, it’s a party!’ and then you can be really quiet…It’s just so well-balanced.”
What you’ll need: A yoga mat and a water bottle. Note: Some kundalini yogis place sheepskins on top of their mats or wear a covering over their heads to contain their energy and separate it from the Earth’s magnetic pull, but it’s not disrespectful to eschew either prop.
Where it’s offered: Coviello’s been teaching kundalini yoga at the Denver Botanic Gardens for eight years. Find her there from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday nights. Kundalini Yoga Denver in West Highland and the Adi Shakti Kundalini Yoga Center in Boulder also offer multiple classes a week—and you can check Kundalini Yoga Denver’s website for a schedule of more kundalini sessions in the Denver metro area.
Price: Varies depending on location, but Coviello’s class costs $8 for Denver Botanic Gardens members and $10 for non-members.
Favorite moves: The sat kriya, which involves kneeling, clasping your hands with your pointer fingers outstretched and touching and your thumbs crossed (left over right for women, right over left for men), stretching your arms above your head, and uttering the mantra “sat nam” (see featured image). The practitioner should pull the navel in on “sat” and push it out on “nam”; when finished, relax for twice as long as the kriya lasted. One of the most powerful exercises in kundalini yoga, the sat kriya is supposed to clear the mind and strengthen the nervous system.
Instructor insight: “The purpose of yoga is really to prepare you for mediation,” Coviello says. “The fact that so many modern types of yoga are cutting out meditation doesn’t make any sense to me because that’s kind of the point of doing it. Yes, you need your body to be strong and healthy and flexible so that you can go about your day and be a happy person, that’s of course important, too. But without the meditation your body feels good, but your head is crazy—so what’s the point anyway, really?”
Doesn’t sound like the right fit? Check back next week as we explore other fitness classes in the Denver area.
Follow Mary Clare Fischer on Twitter at @mc_fischer.