A group of twenty students sits cross-legged on the bare floor in a hall in the Alchemy Centre in London, engrossed in meditation and chanting. Soon they are joined by others —pythons, boa constrictors, and corn snakes are brought into the room. You see students hold the snakes, stroke them and talk to them, under the observant eyes of their trainer Kwali aka Hari Bhajan Kaur, the ‘mad snake woman’ wearing a white robe and a Medusa-like headgear. Kaur seeks to free her students from their fears and anxieties, awakening Kundalini (that literally means coiled), the feminine energy that rests in the base of the spine, perceived as a coiled snake.
The founder of snake yoga tames snakes abandoned by their owners at the Snakey Sue’s Serpent Sanctuary. Kaur calls her snakes ‘master yogis’ that are natural transmitters of energy. “Snakes can meditate for days, sometimes weeks, uninterrupted. They are natural transmitters of energy. We have a lot to learn from their calm and patient ways,” says Kaur.
In a typical class, Kaur and her students list out their worst fears that they want to overcome. They begin with a rigorous physical exercise kriya followed by meditation and then the meeting with the snakes takes place. Kaur, who has a license to work with the reptiles in public, says the presence of the snakes in the meditative environment enriches the experience. Students feel liberated, having re-balanced their charkas through the physical practice of the exercise kriyas designed to heal different parts of the psyche and body on a cellular level. “The students feel victorious after having faced their fears and worked through personal energy blocks,” she says. Kaur also helps individuals overcome extreme phobias.
“I am currently devising longer workshops to explore even deeper the abundant teachings of kundalini yoga,” shares Kaur. In 2005, Kaur met Shiv Charan Singh, a yoga teacher who runs the Karam Kriya school of Kundalini Yoga in Archway London. “I had a thirst for natural ways to heal the body. I was 23 when I found kundalini yoga and began daily practice. That’s when I was given my first snake. It was a transforming and self-exalting experience,” she recalls.