What Is Kundalini Yoga?
You have a snake in your spine.
That might sound like something that should scare you, but really this should excite you. This “snake” has enormous potential to improve your mind, body, and soul. But where did this snake come from, and how can you unlock its potential?
To understand this “snake,” you’ll first have to understand Kundalini Yoga.
Here's what we're going to cover:
What Is Kundalini Yoga?
Kundalini Yoga is a form of yoga influenced by Bhakti, Raja, and Shakti yoga. Yogis who practice this form of yoga praise it for the speed at which it delivers powerful results for wellness and creative potential. The first mention of Kundalini Yoga is in the Upanishads, an ancient Sanskrit text written between 1,000 – 500 BCE. That makes Kundalini one of the oldest yoga practices still known today. For centuries teachers would pass lessons down to their students through oral instruction. These lessons were kept secret as Kundalini was considered too powerful to share with the public.
That changed when Yogi Bhajan immigrated to North America in the 60s, bringing his knowledge of Kundalini with him. In America, he discovered people trying to achieve a spiritual connection with God and their higher self through drug use. Bhajan realized he had all the tools necessary to help people achieve this desire, and decided to share his knowledge with the public.
The Snake in Your Spine
The word “kundalini” derives from a Sanskrit word meaning “coiled snake.” In Kundalini Yoga, it refers to the latent energy found at the base of the spine, coiled up and tense in your body. Through regular, guided practice of Kundalini Yoga students prepare their bodies and allow their kundalini energy to rise from their spine up to their heads. As the energy uncoils from the spine it aligns the 8 chakras in the body.
The rising of kundalini energy and alignment of the chakras is called Kundalini Awakening. When you experience a Kundalini Awakening you connect to a larger, god-like creative consciousness that lies dormant in everyone. Connecting to this consciousness brings balance to your mind, body, and soul. With this balance, you will be able to actualize your best self and experience your soul more deeply.
How is Kundalini Yoga Different?
While Kundalini Yoga is distinctive from other yoga practices, the primary way Kundalini Yoga is different is its focus on the spiritual aspect of yoga. Though Kundalini does include moving through asanas much like Hatha yoga or Vinyasa yoga, there are other important aspects to the practice including breathwork, postures, and meditation. The combination of these factors makes Kundalini a mindful and spiritual form of practice rather than a physical one. Eventually, practitioners should experience a Kundalini awakening, which aligns the chakras and brings about inner peace.
What is Kundalini Yoga Good For?
While all types of yoga can offer physical and mental benefits, Kundalini Yoga is unique in that it provides many spiritual benefits as well. Kundalini Yoga is good for anyone looking to improve their spiritual well-being and bring balance to their life. Experiencing a Kundalini awakening allows practitioners to become more connected to themselves and those around them. This can lead to increased empathy, charisma, and internal peace while offering relief from stress, anxiety, and insecurity. Studies have also shown that practicing Kundalini Yoga can improve cognitive function and self-esteem.
Is Kundalini Yoga Hard?
Kundalini Yoga is not designed to challenge you physically, so in that regard, it isn’t considered a difficult practice. However, this does not mean that Kundalini Yoga will be a walk in the park for everyone that practices it. This practice is designed to unleash inner energy through a Kundalini awakening, which can be a very spiritually and emotionally challenging experience. If you’re not ready to experience this change, or you are resistant to these concepts, then you may find Kundalini Yoga to be very difficult and unpleasant. The best way to prepare yourself for this practice is to find a knowledgeable and qualified teacher who can gradually and safely guide you towards a Kundalini awakening.
Meditation in Kundalini Yoga
Have you noticed a rise in meditation and mindfulness over the last few years? You can thank Kundalini Yoga for that. Kundalini Yoga is often called “the yoga of awareness” because of its focus on the energy of the mind as well as the body. Through breathing exercises, mantras, and the incorporation of meditation, students learn to accept their thoughts without judgment. By consistently practicing Kundalini Yoga, students slowly cleanse their minds and become more aware of their consciousness.
And scientific research backs this up. In its most immediate effect, practicing mindfulness can help you build skills to manage stress, increase self-awareness, and reduce negative emotions, amongst other things. Meditation has also been shown to positively affect everything from anxiety to high blood pressure. And I probably don’t need to explain that yoga is great for your physical health too (but it definitely is).
Signs of a Kundalini Awakening
As we’ve already mentioned, Kundalini is the yoga of awareness, and with regular practice you may experience a Kundalini Awakening. There is a lot of conjecture about Kundalini Awakenings as they have been credited for many bizarre things. Here are eight signs that you are experiencing a Kundalini awakening.
1. Turmoil in your spiritual practices
The first sign is that things you once had a passion for and have committed yourself to seem to be leaving your life. You suddenly feel untethered to many things in life, and you begin to view everything with fresh eyes and make new decisions accordingly.
2. Tide of energy
This may reveal itself in your emotions or your physical body, but an enormous amount of energy wants to move over and through you, and you must allow it. Don’t get distracted by the symptoms, but recognize that this is a breakthrough in energy.
3. A new ‘yes’ to everything
You suddenly, but naturally, feel fresh courage and eagerness to do the impossible. You are no longer a prisoner of fear or worry. You’re ready to end bad relationships, begin new ones, try new and exciting things, etc. Whatever you were once afraid to do, you’re now ready to accomplish.
4. You become a manifesting machine
Now that you’re willing to try new things, all kinds of doors are opening for you. Good things begin to happen and you feel supported and encouraged. What you don’t receive - you don’t need.
5. Heightened sensitivity and lower tolerance
As an extension of the fourth sign, you become very sensitive to your environments and are less tolerant of what isn’t working. People around may be baffled as they watch you fearlessly change the status quo at all levels of your life. You’re ready to switch up your diet, your friends, your work, or your living arrangements.
6. You begin to know yourself on deeper levels
Just as you become super sensitive to your external world, you also gain new sensitivity for your own mind. Your intuition is fully engaged now, and you’re attuned to everything that’s happening inside of you. You know where you need healing, where there is trauma, and how daily things affect you. You also become crystal clear on your inner truth - whether it lines up with other people’s beliefs or not.
7. Greater compassion
You become profoundly and painfully aware of the hurt around you. You saw things before, but now you feel great empathy for those near you. You want to engage with others as one who can give wisdom, strength, and other resources. You don’t feel okay watching from the sidelines. You now recognize that you are universally one with everyone and everything, and you aren’t content to sit by as injustice is perpetrated.
8. Purpose and destiny
The final sign is a culmination of the seven previous signs - you feel an overwhelming sense of purpose and destiny for your life. You have done the work of healing on yourself, and now you’re ready to go out and do the work on the external self - the world. You begin to ask yourself the big questions about your purpose on the earth and what it means to do the work you came here to do.
Why is Kundalini Yoga Dangerous?
One of the first things you might hear about Kundalini Yoga is that it is one of the most dangerous forms of yoga practiced today. The danger is not so much physical as it is mental and spiritual. Kundalini Yoga holds enormous potential, and if improperly guided that potential can cause much more harm than good. If you are considering diving into Kundalini Yoga, it is generally best to find a class or teacher who can safely guide you through the practice and prepare your body to experience your kundalini energy.
How To Do Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga focuses on breath, mudra (hand positioning), eye-focus, mantra, and bandhas (body locks). These different aspects are combined into Kriya or an action that works towards a specific outcome. Kriyas help to guide the practice and slowly release kundalini energy. This combination of focuses is one of the many ways that Kundalini Yoga is distinguished from other yoga practices.
Another aspect of Kundalini Yoga that distinguishes it from other forms of yoga is the practice of wearing white in classes. Yogi Bhajan believed that colors have an effect on consciousness, and adopted white as a progressive and spiritual color.
Does this mean you’ll be kicked out of class for wearing regular yoga pants, or that you need to buy a fancy white head covering? Not at all, and you shouldn’t be treated any differently for it. But to get the full benefits of the practice, and to really immerse yourself in the class, you might consider trying to transition your attire to white.
Common Kundalini Yoga Poses
Kriyas guide kundalini Yoga, and at the core of each Kriya is an Asana or a pose that you hold while practicing breathwork and chanting mantras. Below are several basic Kundalini asanas.
Cobra pose is an excellent chest opening asana that allows you to draw deep breaths into your chest. Start by lying on your belly, then move your hands to lie flat on the floor next to your shoulders. Slowly push your upper body up from the floor, pulling your shoulder blades together to fully open your chest.
Bow pose aims to stretch your muscles while also building up core and back muscles. Begin by lying flat on the floor. Breathe out and bring your feet as close to your hips as you can, then reach back and grab your ankles. Then breathe in, raising your feet and hands into the air above your body, lifting your upper body off the floor and creating a circle with your entire body.
Camel pose is another chest opening asana, but is slightly advanced and requires a certain level of flexibility to fully achieve. Begin by lying flat on the floor, then rising up so you are resting on your shins and knees. Place your hands on your lower back and pull your torso up so you are opening your chest. Exhale and push your hips forward, slowly shifting your weight to your hands. Let your back bend and move your hands so you are gripping your ankles.
This pose is easily recognizable as the classic image of a yogi and it is common among a wide variety of practices. Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you. Bring your left foot to rest on your right thigh, and your right foot to rest on your left thigh. Set your palms on your knees, and use your breath to stretch your spine.
I hope that by now you realize that the “snake” in your spine is a force for good, and capable of bringing a lot of positivity into the world. And now that you know where it came from and everything it can do, you’re ready to embrace it into your life.