Kristina Kunsteinaite is a Bristol-based teacher of the ancient art of Kundalini Yoga.
If you live in or near Bristol, and you’re looking for the perfect way to start your Sunday, check out her brilliant Sunday morning class at the Elephant House in Bedminster. Her dynamic tuition ensures a high challenge, high reward experience. I talked to Kristina about her background, her journey to teaching yoga, acknowledging our shadow side, and how science may finally be beginning to take the hint about the many health benefits of yoga.
What’s your background and how long you have lived in Bristol?
I grew up by the Baltic Sea in Lithuania. I've been lucky as I was able to develop my connection with nature there as a child. At the age of 20, I relocated to the UK and studied in London before moving to leafy Bristol in 2009. It's such a vibrant city with a growing spiritual community. I go on many country walks with my little chihuahua named Pablo. When I am not teaching yoga, my days are taken up with helping people recover after having a stroke and practising crystal healing.
How long have you been teaching Kundalini?
I have had the privilege of teaching Kundalini Yoga for almost two years, but I have been practising it for nearly a decade now. Teaching a class is a beautiful experience, I get to hold the space for my students and witness the transformation. People come in stressed and leave happy. It's great!
Have you practised other types of yoga, if so, what?
I have tried other forms including Hatha and Yin yoga. I love trying different teachers and classes, but my main focus remains on Kundalini.
What drew you to kundalini, and at which point did you decide to be a teacher?
I randomly went to a yoga class at my local leisure centre while living in London and it happened to be a Kundalini class. My first experience was powerful. It felt like coming home. I'd never experienced such peace and expansion before. I was also surprised how challenging the postures were physically, but I was looking to build up strength so it was perfect. I knew then that it would become a big part of my life. I started going to Kundalini classes regularly, in London and then Bristol. When I couldn't find a teacher, I practised from a book at home. Eventually, I realised that I wanted this yoga in my life full-time – but that wasn't enough either, I also wanted to share its benefits with others so becoming a Kundalini Yoga instructor felt like the natural next step.
Can you describe the training - how long it took, what sort of things you experienced?
I trained with a school called iSKY based in the beautiful Ufton Court near Reading. The training included ten ashram style residential weekends over the course of twelve months. We got to stay in a historic Elizabethan manor house surrounded by gorgeous countryside. It took me a year to complete the practical part of the course and then about half a year to submit the rest of the written coursework. There is a big emphasis on group work, and I made some great friends. We supported each other in times of need, laughed together and shared wonderful times. At the end of the course, we had to organise and lead a three-day New Year retreat for 30 people. The event included planning, advertising, cooking, cleaning and conducting all the workshops. It was intense but amazing!
Can you talk about your transformation during and since your training?
My transformation has been peeling off the layers to expose more of who I truly am. The training is challenging physically, but the hardest part is always inner work. In Kundalini Yoga, we are encouraged to take up a kriya or meditation and practise it for 40 days. I have been able to clear so much stuff from my subconscious mind that was having an adverse effect on my life. A lot of things came up from my past that I hadn't dealt with, and I could process it while meditating. Through my ongoing practice, I have more clarity, I feel more grounded, I can handle difficult situations better and have become a much stronger person. My intuition and inner guidance are constantly increasing, and synchronicity happens more and more in my life! I also feel great physically!
For someone that hasn't heard about this form, how would you describe it to them and what profound effects might they experience?
Kundalini is the life-force energy of any human being. It is located at the bottom of the spine and can be awoke using breath and locks in the body. Practising Kundalini makes you feel good because it works on your glandular and nervous systems. Your body releases endorphins and dopamine and helps you heal. It is perfect for relieving stress as well as helping heal trauma. This ancient Indian yogic technology combines yogic breath and postures, mantra, mudras, and meditation. All in one class! It is something everyone needs to experience at least once.
Where do you sit on the science/spirituality spectrum when it comes to yoga?
I think science is catching up with spirituality which is great to see. Quantum Physics, for example, looks at "intention" and how our thinking influences reality before we even take action. Science is proving more and more things about the nature of the mind that yogis and sages knew thousands of years ago. I would like to see more research done into the effects of yoga and meditation and for the results to be more widely publicised.
It would be my dream for energy healing to be incorporated into the NHS so that people had easier access to it. Even better, using yoga and meditation as a preventative measure so that people are less stressed and get ill less frequently. Now that would save a lot of time and money for everyone!
Can you talk about your practice and how you start each day, and any tips for the rest of us?
Sadhana is a morning yoga practice that we do in Kundalini Yoga. The best time for this is around sunrise and sunset. Our lives revolve around the energy of the sun. We depend on it for light so that we can see, its warmth to stay alive as well as growing food. When dark changes into light or vice versa, the energy becomes more malleable. In other words, it is a good time to manifest what you want. I have at least one kriya or meditation that I practice every day. When life gets busy, I do my meditations at a time of the day that works for me. The main thing is to keep going and acknowledge yourself for what you do. It is not a race - the practice is there to help you lead a better, more joyous life.
What advice do you have for people looking to start yoga?
Yoga means “unity”. Unity of the mind, body and soul. It is not about who can bend further or reach higher. If you are looking for unity, then try yoga. The journey starts by acknowledging where you are and moving forward with love and self-acceptance. I think it is good to try different classes and teachers and see what resonates with you most. When you find something that feels good, commit! Feeling good requires your focus and energy.
Anything you'd like to add?
If we don't know our shadow, how can we know our light? We need to acknowledge all parts of ourselves to be whole.
Where can people connect with you?
FB page: spirit lighthouse