Kundalini yoga has become popular in recent years, and even if you have already attended a class, you may wonder, exactly what is kundalini yoga? Like any yoga style, the discipline varies given different teachers and studios, but the underlying message and techniques are the same. This guide will help familiarize you with Kundalini yoga: the yoga of awareness.
Kundalini Yoga Definition
While traditions have changed throughout the years, the current form of Kundalini yoga is seen as more spiritual than physical. Kundalini certainly blends the physical (yoga poses or asanas) and spiritual, using mantras such as “Sat Nam,” which means “truth is my essence”; pranayama, or controlled breathing; meditation; and kriyas, or sets of practices with a specific outcome designed to facilitate energy flow.
The Origins of Kundalini
Kundalini meditation, or Kundalini yoga, is often called the yoga of awareness. It is a practice that activates and balances our energy. The term “kundalini” means “a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine”. It’s ultimate goal is to bring balance to the body, mind, and soul.
Yogi Bhajan, a master of Kundalini yoga, became the first to openly teach Kundalini yoga to the public, unveiling a lineage previously masked in secrecy. In 1969, Yogi Bhajan established the 3HO, “Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization,” a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing the power of Kundalini yoga.
Kundalini yoga helps heal the body on a deep level. It works on the nervous and glandular systems through pranayama (breath work), asana (movement or yoga poses), mantra (chanting), mudra (hand placement) and meditation. These are the five pillars of Kundalini technology, according to Harmanjot.
The word “kundalini” literally means awareness and manifesting the hidden potential of that awareness. Kundalini energy is portrayed as a coiled serpent lying at the base of the spine, or root chakra. To raise the kundalini, we must awaken and enliven this creative energy, expand our awareness and tap into our infinite potential.
Kundalini Yoga for Beginners
Beginning a kundalini practice can unlock a myriad of benefits and should be approached with guidance in the form of an experienced teacher. Check your local studio or try out one of YogaToday’s online kundalini classes. Then, with a basis of knowledge, the practice can easily be done on your own.
We love this beginner’s practice on YogaToday to help you get started experiencing these benefits!
Benefits of a Consistent Kundalini Yoga Practice
- Activation of the pineal gland, our connection to our higher guidance.
- Strengthens intuition so we live in a space of trust rather than fear and pain.
- Fortifies and expands our electromagnetic field, or aura—the energy field that surrounds you, and that alerts you to positive and negative influences in your environment. A big, strong, bright aura can protect us from negativity.
- It helps us release our insecurities.
- Helps us attract love, abundance and prosperity.
- Strengthens and balances the nervous system, keeping us strong when up against the unhealthy effects of stress. When your nervous system is weak, you are susceptible to unhealthy reactions to stress.
- Allows us to experience deep relaxation and rejuvenation, leading to extra stamina and resilience.
- Allows us to release the grip of ego, so the truth of the soul can be felt and known.
- Is especially helpful for teens learning to deal with stress and anxiety (try this kundalini meditation for teens)
- Can also help ease symptoms of common mental disorders and disturbances, like ADHD, Anxiety, Insomnia, PTSD, and more. (check out this kundalini series on mental health)
A kundalini practice contains a few elements: kriya, breathing, and meditation.
Depending on the kriya (sequence with a specific outcome) you may lift your arms or practice a particular mudra (hand placement) for an extended period of time, or practice asana (physical posture) such as camel bends, leg lifts and push-ups, jumping jacks, or dancing to loosen anger, doubt, and fear.
Expect to do poses for longer than you want to or think that you can. The purpose of this is to move through the threshold of comfort. When the discomfort arises, we are challenged – to believe new possibilities, to strip ourselves down to the core, to begin to see our stories differently. And what comes next? Renewed strength and outlook. When we consciously choose to push through the discomfort that arises in the emotional, physical, and mental bodies, we gain strength and resilience. This strength serves as an awakening to prosperity, positive relationships, happiness, and bodies that we desire.
Try these three classes to explore kundalini kriya:
2) Sat Kriya
Kundalini Breathing or Pranayama
Kundalini yoga uses a wide range of breathing techniques to affect different states of consciousness, relaxation, and well-being. All of these breath control techniques are used to help awaken the dormant life force and propel you into higher purpose and connection.
Interested in Kundalini yoga for beginners? Typically, a Kundalini yoga class begins with rapid movements of cat/cow to warm up the spine and activate the movement of cerebrospinal fluid, and then breath of fire – rapid breath in and out of the nose to stimulate the deep release of stagnant energy and toxicity in the emotional and physical body.
Alternate nostril breathing is another of the basic breathing exercises used in Kundalini yoga. To practice this exercise, sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position. Raise your right hand in front of your face and close your eyes. Press your right nostril closed using your right thumb. Take a long, slow inhalation through your left nostril. Pause for a moment, release your right thumb and close your left nostril using your right pinky finger. Finally, exhale completely from your right nostril.
Long deep breathing is another breathing exercise used commonly in Kundalini yoga. This is a slow, calming exercise that may help activate your Third Eye chakra, located in the center of your forehead, and your Crown chakra, located at the top of your head. To practice this, sit in a comfortable position and rest the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Inhale slowly through your nose with an open mouth. Focus on filling your abdomen, then diaphragm, then chest, with air. Pause for a moment at the top of the breath, and then exhale as slowly as possible out of your nose. Focus on emptying all the air from your chest, then diaphragm, then abdomen.
Meditation in Kundalini yoga contains specific tools that support the mind and guide the body through the use of breath, mantra, mudra, and focus. There are hundreds of meditations tailored to different needs. There are meditations that reduce stress, help with addiction, increase vitality, clear chakras, etc.
A common misunderstanding about meditation is that it is a practice of quieting the mind. The mind generates thousands of thoughts per second. When you finally take a moment to sit quietly and turn the focus inward, you will often be surprised as to just how many thoughts race through your mind. Kundalini yoga encourages you to keep going back to the mantra and have patience. Let the thoughts come and go. Meditation is not always a blissful process, but the mantras and meditations are doing their job. The negativity and clutter that have been covering up the divine light inside you are being washed away.
So, how long should I meditate for?
The meditations in Kundalini yoga are practiced at varying specific lengths to achieve different results. A 3-minute meditation taps into the electromagnetic field and circulation of blood in the body, while an 11-minute meditation affects the nervous and glandular systems of the body. A 31-minute meditation affects all cells, rhythms of the body, and begins to clear out the subconscious mind.
Want to give it a try? Try this easy beginners meditation for positivity. This active Kundalini meditation is said to “make you a saint.”For three minutes, you will use a particular mudra, mantra, and a 4-part breath to move into a more positive space.
Kundalini yoga focuses on harnessing the body’s energy to enhance personal awareness and enlightenment. Through an organized pattern of kriya, meditation, and pranayama, Kundalini yoga unlocks dormant energy in the body’s lower chakras and directs it to the higher chakras in the brain, leading us to higher connection, purpose, and enhanced intuition. A stimulating and illuminating form of yoga, Kundalini is appropriate for all levels and can be done anywhere.