SEEKING serenity, reporter Sarah Trotter ditches the gym to exercise the mind, body and spirit together. Here, she reveals navel-gazing insights gained from a Kundalini Yoga class.

DURING a month known for watching waistlines and banishing January blues, Kundalini Yoga could well be the perfect way to shape up and cheer up.

Promising increased calm, balance and happiness I wondered what the catch could be to my one-to-one class with a Forest Hill teacher of the ‘yoga of awareness’.

First brought to the West by Yogi Bhajan in 1969 – to show hippy Californians an alternative ‘natural high’ to their ‘herbal’ kicks - the ancient practice is more meditative than other yogic traditions.

News Shopper: Forest Hill Kundalini Yoga class exercises mind, body and spirit

"Happiness is your birthright" claims Yogi Bhajan, and I chose to suspend scepticism on meeting Kundalini teacher Anna Ranprem who radiated inner peace clothed in white in her light, spacious home off David’s Road.

The 50-year-old, who also runs a design business, led me in a practice focused on the third chakra – one of eight energy points on the body - or navel area.

The mother-of-two told me: "When we engage and understand the power of the breath we have control over our emotions and state of being.

"The navel is the seat of your physical well-being.

"We hold a lot of emotions in that area."

The lesson opens by closing your eyes and ‘tuning-in’ to a creative, receptive space with a mantra – I listened to the powerful Sanskrit words and felt spontaneous shivers from the choral-like sounds.

Next comes ‘Pranayam’ – where you concentrate on your breathing to anchor the mind in the present moment and let the clamouring worries of the everyday settle.

Warming up our tummy muscles saw us swinging our upper bodies in circles over our legs – initial inner titters gave way to tranquillity.

News Shopper: Forest Hill Kundalini Yoga class exercises mind, body and spirit

Then hits the hard-core exercise stage or ‘Kriya’ which felt like my middle was on fire at points from a fast-paced series of leg-raises and deep breathing.

"Now comes relaxation" were wonderful words and I collapsed in a grateful heap and let my body obey her voice as she gently guided each part to unwind.

Finally, a meditation and short ‘tuning out’ chant completed the session and I opened my eyes to genuinely feel I had banked some of the promised rewards.

And the catch? I think embarrassingly sore abdominal muscles the following day and a slightly cavalier attitude to news writing on returning to the office in my blissed-out state were the only negatives.

Anna runs Kundalini classes every Saturday morning at Friends Meeting House, 34 Sunderland House, Forest Hill, from 10 to 11.30am.

Classes cost £10 drop in, £8 concession, or £32 for a block of 4 consecutive classes. For more information visit or call 07825 751900.

Some benefits of Kundalini Yoga:

- Reduces stress

- Clears the mind

- Detoxifies the body and improves digestion

- Supports the nervous and immune systems

- Helps with strength and flexibility in the body

- Increases circulation of blood and internally massages tissues and organs.