Today at 6:00am I started teaching my first Kum Nye class at Ratna Ling. So, I’m writing about it. In the interest of brevity I’m going to describe how I came to understand it. Hopefully I’ll be able to expand on some of the experiences and learnings I’ve had a result in further posts.
“Kum Nye is a system of physical exercises based on traditional Tibetan healing practices.”
-Kum Nye - Tibetan Yoga
The Kum Nye book, you can buy it here.
Now ‘yoga’ is a tricky word here. I tend to associate it first with tight Lululemon pants and teachers who give instructions like they’re speaking to a weak-willed child with sensitive hearing. But it can also be a very powerful physical and spiritual discipline - and one that I’ve actually gotten quite a lot of good from in my life. The issue is that in the West we’ve definitively emphasized the physical, fitness component. We're very good at getting results! However the idea of fitness and control of the body has come to dominate the more spiritual, meditative and traditional aspects of the practice. There’s also the commercialization that comes with anything massively successful like yoga.
There’s not anything necessarily wrong with the Western interpretation of yoga - but that's where the split arises with Kum Nye, because it’s not really like that type of yoga. You won’t get toned abs and triceps if you only do Kum Nye. My flexibility has increased but that’s not the point either. In fact for a while the Kum Nye luminaries resisted calling it yoga at all, I think because of those commercial & fitness connotations. Kum Nye was originally described as a method of relaxing the body for meditative practice, which has been more accurate in my experience.
The definition of the word ‘yoga’ in Sanskrit it means ‘union’. My first instructor Matt described as ‘yoke’ - yoking the mind to the body, like an ox to a cart. In this way, linking the mind with the body, in the body- then the term yoga actually makes good sense as I understand Kum Nye.
A Kum Nye practice session is typically relatively slow movements and postures held for a long time. I would argue it’s closer in nature to Tai Chi in terms of physical dynamism than it is Hatha or Vinyasa yoga. As a rough example- one exercise, called Heart Gold Thread, involves standing with your arms out to both sides at shoulder height and simply holding that position for around ten minutes. Once you’re done, you sit and feel. You might do that and one other exercise in a class, maybe slowly floating your arms overhead then touching the toes to relax - and that may be it. The rest of the time is spent sitting, feeling, and noticing what happens in the body.
What I personally found so wonderful about this practice is it really prepped my physical body for meditation. That was the the light-from-the-sky “aha!” moment for me - previously I never ‘got’ meditation. By the time I got around to trying it the word it was so loaded with preconceived notions and perceptions that I thought there was no way into it. The concept of meditation itself seemed at once boring, intimidating, weak, and far too much work to endure. When I tried I would immediately get fidgety, start thinking about breakfast or lunch or a relationship and at the end of 15 minutes end up hating the entire idea of meditative practice.
But, once I started doing these exercises to stimulate feeling in the body (and if you stand with your arms at shoulder height for 30 minutes and feel nothing please come speak to me) I found it was relatively easy to anchor my mind into those feelings. It’s like I had found a cheat code for meditation - rather than just sitting and trying not to think, I had a thing to do. An activity for the mind to drop into, specifically my body and the feelings these exercises generate.
I’m not going to evangelize the exercises themselves over others, because my understanding of physiology is on the level with a four-year old, but I will evangelize the approach to meditation Kum Nye is able to provide. By giving equal opportunity to sitting and bringing the mind into union with the body as it does physical movement and postures, Kum Nye was able to bridge the gap of yoga from an exercise discipline into a more meditative and spiritual practice.
Alex Grey is a great visionary artist, and adept at representing the subtle body energy system we work with in meditative and Kum Nye practice.
And said meditative, spiritual practice hasn’t brought me any sort of final peace. The questions I face now are arguably more terrifying than before. They have more import, more weight, more heft. And somehow at the same time there’s a lightness to the work here, a playfulness within the serious nature and tradition. Every action in life means a great deal, and the result of every action in life is also a chance to learn and try to do better.
Meditation has opened a lot of doors and happiness, and Kum Nye allowed me to actually start walking down that path - I owe a lot to the practice.
Kum Nye is the reason I came out here to Ratna Ling - and I was introduced to Kum Nye by Matt Breit, who was an instructor out here for several years. So I’ve pushed to become an instructor here, because it’s helped me make monumental progress spiritually and teaching feels like the right, natural next thing to do. Cycles roll and patterns unfold.
I’m still learning as well - there are three books in the series of Kum Nye practice and I’m working through the second one now, Joy of Being. The focus is shifting to mind more, how to use it and work with it as opposed to body. So I’m excited about that! I’m also working through some Power Kum Nye videos, hopefully I can share some of that with you all soon. Let me know if you have any Kum Nye questions and I'll try my best not to butcher them. Ciao for now!
Published by: Ryan in Uncategorized