'Yoga needs to lighten up': Maya Fiennes on rediscovering the joy of yoga through dance
The internationally respected Kundalini teacher has found a new way to spread her message of nurturing self-knowledge.
I am standing in front of my laptop dancing from side to side, pumping my arms up and down. On my screen is the wonderfully zestful Maya Fiennes, live from her Santa Monica home, bringing me some joy during lockdown 2.0.
We hit the floor with our hands, we bop around and we shout from our lungs. I was feeling grumpy before we started. Now a smile has crept up on my face; it would be churlish to stay in a bad mood.
Dancing has always made me happy. 2020 though, hasn't been full of shapes. So this feels good. Yes, I’m working up a sweat, but there’s a spiritual side, too and I can feel it in my spine.
Online fitness has been the winner of the pandemic, and many people opting for yoga over HIIT classes for a workout that’s as much about the mind as the body.
Yet, much of the public perception of yoga still hangs on the idea of fancy poses and nice leggings. KundaDance throws those preconceptions up in the air.
When Fiennes, 57, started KundaDance two years ago, having taught Kundalini yoga for many years, she was looking for a way to combine all the elements of her own yoga, meditation, tai chi and qigong practices.
“I didn't have one hour to do each of them, so I put everything I love into one hour that has everything,” she tells me over Zoom later.
She likens KundaDance to a daily injection of energy vitamins; a 60 minute dance class that aligns the chakras - seven minutes for each of the seven chakras, working from the root to the crown.
If the mere mention of the C word makes you switch off, then I plead with you to stay present. Despite being a yoga teacher myself, I admit I have always found the idea of the chakras - spinning wheels of energy at various points up the body - hard to grasp.
I know that when I leave a class feeling lighter that some people would say that the yoga poses and breathwork have moved blocked prana (life force) through the subtle body, unblocking my chakras.
Doing Maya’s class is the first time I’ve felt that energy rise up through my body. It's like I’m slowly wriggling out of an insufferably-tight floor-length dress until I feel bare and brilliant. I’m shedding the weight of the day, the week, even this most strange of years, 2020.
Back in March, days before the first lockdown, Fiennes was in England training more teachers to teach KundaDance; 150 and counting, as well as others in Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. She got one of the last planes back to LA.
And a movement that had been slowly gathering pace was put on pause...
Or not. Fiennes has been amazed by the energy she’s been able to still create online and through her Instagram. “I’m not a digital person. I thought the energy could only translate so well because I give so much in person, that’s why I was travelling the world, but I can create the same thing online.”