Over the past few decades, Kundalini Yoga has gained significant popularity as more people discover the benefits of this ancient practice.
Kundalini Yoga emphasizes a combination of breath control, asana practice, mantra chanting, meditation, and singing.
The yoga practice itself is about the activation of the energy that is said to inhabit the base of the spine, coiled symbolically like a snake (Shakti). This energy once activated through the techniques of Kundalini elevates throughout your body and through the chakras.
Yogi Bhajan, a yogi from Pakistan, is widely associated with Kundalini Yoga.
However, it’s important to know that allegations of child abuse, psychological abuse, and systemic oppression have surrounded him, casting a shadow over his legacy and the practice of Kundalini Yoga.
Even though Kundalini Yoga is now practiced across the globe, its origins are still uncertain. The notion of Kundalini energy has been prevalent for centuries and can be traced back to ancient Vedic texts dating back to 1,000 B.C.
Kundalini Yoga is frequently characterized as a potent and transformative practice that can create substantial changes in a person’s life, both physically and mentally.
Nevertheless, it is essential to note that it can be a demanding practice and must be approached with caution, primarily for those with specific medical conditions or pregnancy.
Learning Kundalini Yoga from a qualified teacher is recommended to ensure proper guidance and safety.
In this article, we will cover all bases on Kundalini to give you a solid overview. We’ll cover the below topics:
- Definition: Principles, Practice & the Goals
- Differences With Other Yoga Styles
- The Origins Of Kundalini Yoga
- How To Practice
- Benefits Of Kundalini Yoga
- Dangers Of Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga is a fusion of breathing exercises, body movements, and sound. Its name derives from the Sanskrit term “kundal,” which translates to “coiled energy.”
The core belief is that each of us has energy coiled up at the base of our spine, and through the practice of Kundalini, we can awaken and channel that energy upwards, passing through the seven chakras, and ultimately reaching the crown of our head.
Specifically, the Kundalini energy awakening is typically initiated with the movement of pranic energy at the solar plexus chakra.
From there, it drops down to the root and sacral chakras before finally traveling up the spine through the other chakras, activating the higher control functions of the brain.
Eventually, this energy courses throughout your entire body.
According to tradition, this energy travels through three main channels, the left channel called ida, the right channel called pingala, and the central channel, known as sushumna nadi, which are like the superhighways of pranic energy in your body.
In wider yogic philosophy, the seven energy centers or chakras are:
- Root Chakra (sanskrit: muladhara chakra) – where the kundalini energy is said to lay dormant
- Sacral Chakra (sanskrit: swadisthana chakra)
- Solar Plexus Chakra (sanskrit: manipura chakra)
- Heart Chakra (sanskrit: anahata chakra)
- Throat Chakra (sanskrit: vishuddha chakra)
- Third Eye Chakra (sanskrit: ajna chakra)
- Crown Chakra (sanskrit: sahasrara chakra) – where you aim to channel the kundalini energy to
Kundalini Yoga is a practice that combines different elements from various traditions and can be viewed as a three-fold approach. It includes the devotional aspects of Bhakti Yoga, the power aspects of Shakti Yoga, and the mental acuity of Raja Yoga.
To better understand Kundalini Yoga, we need to understand what the core components of the practice are. These are the kriyas, mudras, and mantras:
In Kundalini Yoga, a series of asanas is known as a kriya. Each kriya is specifically designed with a unique breathing technique and uses bandha locking to block energy flow to certain parts of the body, which elevates the pranic and spiritual benefits of the pose.
Some kriyas may consist of rapid, repetitive movements. In others, the poses are held for several minutes.
Mudras are hand gestures, and sometimes body movements, that carry symbolic or ritual significance in many cultures and spiritual practices, such as Kundalini Yoga.
They are believed to affect the flow of energy in the body and mind and can be utilized to improve concentration, meditation, healing, and spiritual development.
Certain mudras require specific positions of the palms or fingers, while others involve intricate hand and body motions.
Mantras in Kundalini Yoga are words or phrases repeated during meditation and chanting. They carry strong vibrations and are thought to focus the mind and elevate consciousness.
Mantras can be chanted silently or aloud with a specific rhythm and tone, and are linked to particular deities or spiritual qualities. Repetition of mantras is a form of meditation in Kundalini Yoga that is said to promote spiritual growth, reduces stress, and calms the mind.
As explained, Kundalini Yoga aims to awaken the dormant Kundalini energy from its coiled base and channel it through the six chakras, eventually reaching the crown or the seventh chakra.
This process of awakening is believed to evoke spiritual enlightenment and expanded consciousness. Additionally, Kundalini Yoga has a focus on developing strength, flexibility, mental clarity, and emotional and energetic balance.
The ultimate goal of Kundalini Yoga is to connect with the true self and experience a state of unity (yoga) with the universe, much like all yogic paths for self-realization.
Differences With Other Yoga Styles
Kundalini Yoga differs from exercise-based forms of yoga, such as Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and any Vinyasa Yoga, as it has a more spiritual focus. And while Hatha Yoga also involves some level of self-reflection, it does not incorporate chanting, as in Kundalini Yoga.
It’s is characterized by precision and repetition, as opposed to other types of yoga that flow with your breath. In Kundalini Yoga, chanting, singing, movements, and breathing are combined in certain orders.
Ancient Indian Philosophy
Kundalini Yoga’s true beginnings are veiled in the mystical and codified history of ancient India, through Vedic texts.
Much like other propagated blends of yoga. Kundalini Yoga could be seen as a modern-day synthesis of Vedic principles, and a distillation of the spiritual instruction from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
Kundalini Yoga has become popular only in recent times for a particular reason: it was believed to have been kept secret for thousands of years and exclusively taught to royalty and nobility.
This was until Bhajan synthesized the ancient teachings and brought it to the Western world in the late 1960s, teaching it openly.
Controversy Around Yogi Bhajan
The practice itself lives on independently of the shame and accusation surrounding the yogic enterprise of Yogi Bhajan and his foundation 3HO.
Contemporary practitioners have consistently distanced themselves from the faces and brand identity that brought the practice to prominence.
Firstly, Yogi Bhajan was less a yogi, and more a businessman, recognised for his lavish and dramatic lifestyle (owning and living in mansions, enterprise in various industries, profiteering off of spiritual practice, and connections to drug smugglers).
Secondly, and most importantly, Bhajan and 3HO have been widely accused of consistent and calculated sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and forcing malnutrition and sleep deprivation on ashram attendees.
To read more about the allegations, feel free to check out this article.
How To Practice
Kundalini Yoga itself is most famous in its form of yoga asana classes. A typical class is made up of these features:
#1: Opening mantra
Like a lot of yoga styles, you can expect a “tuning in” to the cultivation of energy, via classical mantras.
A strong focus in Kundalini classes is of course the breathwork. You should expect a specific time set aside at the beginning of the class to manifest breath control.
The body of the class, the Kundalini kriyas are normally a sequence of poses, more pranayama, mudras, rhythmic sounds, and meditation
#4: Winding down and meditation
Like a lot of closes of yoga classes, your teacher will usually guide you through an absorption stage of what you experienced in the kriyas, and an awareness focused meditation
#5: Closing mantra
A wrapping up chant much like the opening, but with connotations of gratitude and spiritual expression.
Benefits Of Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga is believed to provide numerous benefits, such as extra energy, improved creativity, improved mental clarity, and a reduction in stress and anxiety.
Additionally, it is thought to offer spiritual advantages, including heightened awareness and a stronger connection to the divine.
Other benefits may include:
- Improved physical strength
- Improved focus
- Improved sleep
- Improved digestion
- Improved flexibility
- Stronger intuition
Dangers Of Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga can also be potentially dangerous. Raising up energy in your body, if you haven’t cultivated virtues of being and mindset, can have a negative effect.
For this reason, it’s important to choose your Kundalini yoga teacher carefully and choose a class that fits your pace and preference. In addition, consider where your mind is in relation to the state of detachment or vairagya.
There is even a disorder credited to the malpractice of raising energy up when you’re not in the right state, called Kundalini syndrome.
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