The Kundalini Snake comes from Kundalini yoga.
Kundalini yoga is a style of yoga that enables us to channel energy from the base of our spine and up into the Sahasrara (crown chakra) through a collection of chanting, meditation, kriya and pranayama. It has been practiced in India since 500BC and is derived from the lineage of Rāja Yoga.
When we speak about kundalini in relation to our bodies, it refers to the primal life force energy that lays dormant at the base of our spine. The practice of kundalini yoga helps to enliven and activate this energy so that it can ascend through our chakras.
So, what does this have to do with a serpent?
Kundalini is a Sanskrit adjective meaning ‘coiled’ or ‘circular’. The serpent symbolizes this exact type of energy that lies inactive at the Muladhara (root chakra), coiled like a sleeping snake.
Eknath Easwaran, who has interpreted texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, described it as ‘the coiled power’. Once we start to ‘uncoil’ this dormant energy, we can begin to reach an expanded state of consciousness and spiritual enlightenment.
In this article we will be looking at:
- Using The Kundalini Snake in Our Practice
- Symbolism of The Kundalini Snake
- Awakening Our Kundalini Energy
- A Powerful Kundalini Pranayama To Try At Home
why is the kundalini snake important to my practice?
Many of us use our practice to assist in the process of spiritual evolution. Awakening this serpent plays a huge part in clearing the energetic blocks within us and bringing our chakras back into their innate state of balance.
As the energy reaches our Sahasrara and our consciousness merges with that of the collective consciousness, we gain a deep and intimate awareness of universal energy or what is thought of as pure awareness.
With the intentional use of this practice, we can unleash our creative potential, boost concentration, relieve stress and even fight symptoms of depression by building a sense of unification with our bodily and worldly energy.
Although, if we get attached to the hope of having a spiritual or out-of-body experience, or maybe have the intention of moving the kundalini energy to our Anja in order to develop mystic powers, we have not fully understood the meaning of kundalini.
The aim of kundalini rising is to fuse our consciousness with the Supreme Consciousness of Brahman (the absolute reality).
It can be easy for us to get lost in what is referred to as ‘experience seeking’, in which we get caught in the constant pursuit of seeking out new experiences or skills. This is especially true when we are told something may be the key to bliss!
However, teachers of kundalini encourage us to practice for reasons of spiritual growth and wisdom rather than for any other external reason, such as gaining a mystic experience.
Kundalini yoga helps us unveil our innate knowledge of our inner divinity, which can often be masked by ignorance. The rising energy transformed through kundalini yoga can give us the spiritual knowledge to burn through this ignorance and end suffering.
Symbolism of the kundalini snake
In tantra, kundalini is an aspect of Shakti. Shakti is the divine feminine energy; she is energy in form and a personification of the universe. She is the creative force of Shiva, her consort, who is unchanged, formless and pure consciousness.
Shiva and Shakti are polarities yet their forces are forever in union, as one cannot exist without the other. Kundalini is therefore the Shakti energy during her rise up through the chakras and, once the energy reaches the crown, it merges with pure consciousness to become the formless Shiva.
The channels connecting the chakra system are called the nadis. There are three nadis – the ida, pingala, and sushumna – that run along the spinal column and meet at each of the chakras.
Interestingly, these nadis form a pathway that interweaves around the spine similar to two serpents.
Not only do we see this symbology in kundalini, with the representation of serpents spiraling up the body in the way that energy does, but also in the Caduceus which is often used as a symbol of modern medicine.
As well as the bearing resemblance to the Caduceus, we can also see how the ancient depiction of the serpents climbing to the Sahasrara has an affinity to the double helix structure that makes up DNA.
You may also have seen this related to the work of authors such as Dr. Joe Dispenza, who uses this same symbol to demonstrate the path to awakening the pineal gland and opening the Anja (third eye chakra).
As you can see, all the uses of these symbols have quite an extensive link to healing and higher levels of consciousness.
Aside from this, the serpent is a symbol that spans many different cultures and is not unique to kundalini yoga. Amongst many things, the serpent can be seen as an emblem of rebirth, transformation, wisdom and healing. For example, in the Native American tribes of Ojibwa and Pueblo, the snake’s power to shed its skin means it is associated with new life.
Before Waking the Serpent: Clearing the three knots
In order to begin to awaken the energy, we must clear the three granthis (knots) – brahma, vishnu and rudra – that obstruct the kundalini energy from moving up the spine.
Each of these knots are associated with a particular chakra and have certain challenges to overcome or ‘untie’.
Brahma Granthi is situated at the muladhara chakra and represents our attachment to the material world, physical pleasures and selfishness.
Vishnu Granthi is between the level of the manipura (solar plexus) and anahata (heart) chakras. This implies an attachment to emotion, people and to incomplete forms of benevolence and compassion.
Rudra Granthi functions around the region of the anja chakra. This is blocked by an egoic attachment to siddhis (supernatural abilities) and psychic phenomena.
What can trigger an awakening?
- Kundalini yoga
- Practicing bandhas to untie the granthis
- Near-death experience
- Practicing tantra
- Some forms of trauma
Although we can work towards an awakening and set this intention for our practice, we actually don’t have control over when this might happen. A kundalini awakening can happen one of two ways:
- It awakens through a dedicated period of practice and commitment to the teachings of kundalini yoga
- It happens spontaneously without you working towards it
3 Stages of kundalini awakening
The process of kundalini awakening is separated into three basic phases, each related to the granthis we discussed earlier.
1. Arambha or the Beginning
You will likely focus on chants and kriyas during this phase. It is when we begin to untie the Brahma Granthi and therefore we can experience a whole range of emotions during this period, especially if we are not used to doing deep energetic work.
2. Ghata or the Cleansing Stage
This is a deep cleansing stage. During this stage, we release feelings of guilt, shame, blame, embarrassment, doubt and pretty much any other feeling that is associated with our ego or power!
To release negativity in this stage we may work with visualization meditations to move energy through the sushumna nadi. The transcending of the ego eventually results in the untying of the Vishnu Granthi.
Here is when we untie the final knot, the Rudra Granthi. We undo any sense of duality in order to merge with the universal consciousness and learn that everything is one.
This is when a yogi will feel a sense of complete joy, bliss and gratitude for everything in life. We have absolute compassion for everything on the planet and understand that duality is an illusion.
It is important to note that, although many yogis work towards this goal of ultimate liberation and awakening the serpent energy, sometimes an awakening can be traumatic. This might particularly be the case if we try to ‘fast-track’ our kundalini awakening before our body is able to regulate the powerful energy first.
is it dangerous?
Yes, and no. Awakenings can be an extremely big life change due to the sheer force of kundalini energy moving within you.
If you are not prepared, this can be scary, confusing, and unnerving; some studies have even suggested that some people have wrongly mistaken psychosis for a kundalini awakening.
This is why it is important to do your research, have an awareness of the energy that you want to work with and practice with a trusted teacher. A teacher will guide you through the preparations that are necessary for the body and mind, as well as provide a supportive environment should you ever feel overwhelmed with the intense transformation that may take place.
Pranayama for awakening the serpent
Pranayama practices are very common in kundalini yoga as it is believed that it cultivates our prana (life force energy).
Agni Pran (Breath of Fire)
This breathwork is one of the most common pranayama techniques used within kundalini. It requires us to do strong, active exhales and passive inhales. We keep the inhale and exhale equal, in a rhythmic pattern with no pause in between.
We exhale powerfully through the nose by pulling the abdomen in forcefully and quickly. The power here comes from the solar plexus area rather than the navel. To inhale, we just allow the abdomen to relax and naturally draw in air. Throughout the entire process, the chest stays relaxed.
Depending on how you feel, start with practicing this for around 1-3 minutes. Some yogis find that it makes them feel dizzy or lightheaded – if this is the case then take a break.
For more on yogic theory:
Check out our resources!