Kundalini Yoga Explained – Everything You Need to Know About This Ancient Practice
To say that I am wildly obsessed with Kundalini Yoga is probably an understatement. It’s my #1 tool I turn to for anything really. I include Kundalini Yoga in all of my offerings and use it with all of my clients. Kundalini has brought so much beautiful change and growth into my life and has become a deep part of who I am over the years.
Kundalini Yoga offers benefits for everyone and prides itself in being a yoga for householders rather than ascetics who withdraw from society. It’s fast and effective with practical applications to modern living, making it the perfect practice for our busy times and lifestyles.
However, if you’re anything like me a few years ago before I came across this practice for the first time, you have probably never heard of let alone experienced Kundalini. And that’s totally okay! Kundalini Yoga may not be the type of yoga taught at your local studio or gym so it can be hard to come by. I do believe though, that this practice has a way of finding you when you need it the most. That’s my own experience with it and something I have heard from many other practitioners over the years, too.
In this article, we’ll explore what Kundalini Yoga is and how it is different from other styles of yoga. You’ll also discover the meaning of the word Kundalini, what to expect before walking into your first Kundalini class and the benefits this practice holds.
Kundalini Yoga – The art to experience Infinity in the finite
Kundalini is an ancient art and science designed to awaken the Kundalini energy to transform and expand consciousness. This holistic practice is a blend of Bhakti yoga (the yogic practice of devotion and chanting), Raja yoga (the practice of meditation/mental and physical control), and Shakti yoga (the expression of power and energy).
The main purpose of Kundalini Yoga is to activate the Kundalini energy dormant within your body and raise it up the spine through your chakras. To obtain this goal we use series of exercises called kriyas that include asanas (postures), pranayama (breathwork), mantra (sacred sounds), meditation, visualization, mudras (gestures), and bhandas (body locks).
The power that enables us to transform our awareness is the release of Kundalini. All yoga either directly or indirectly relates to the release of the Kundalini energy.
– Frederick Lenz
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. Sometimes it is even referred to as the “mother of yoga”. For thousands of years, lessons were kept secret and only passed down verbally from teacher to student. That changed in 1969 when Yogi Bhajan immigrated to North America, bringing with him the knowledge and teachings of Kundalini Yoga. His intent was to spread the word about Kundalini Yoga to anyone who wanted to learn since he believed that everyone should have access to the wisdom and benefits of this practice.
Another common name for Kundalini Yoga is the “yoga of awareness”. Through regular practice, an individual can unite their consciousness with Cosmic Consciousness, becoming a co-creator with the Universe. Kundalini Yoga can unlock your fullest potential, reveal your true you, and help you become your most excellent self.
Awakening your Kundalini energy
The term Kundalini refers to the Kundalini energy, the potential of highest consciousness or shakti. This spiritual energy or life force resides dormant at the base of the spine in all of us and is usually conceptualized as a coiled-up serpent.
Through regular practice, Kundalini Yoga encourages the awakening and flow of this energy. Once activated, this life force ascends up the spine through the chakras and connects with prana, leading to greater awareness, self-realization, a transcendent spiritual state, and ultimately enlightenment.
This rising of Kundalini energy and alignment of the chakras is called Kundalini Awakening. When Kundalini energy is awakened, a complete and sustainable union between mind, body, and spirit can be achieved.
Kundalini Yoga – Different from your regular yoga class
Compared to more exclusively physical yoga practices like Hatha or Vinyasa, Kundalini Yoga works on cleansing, balancing, and enhancing all three facets of Self: the body, the mind, and the spirit. Though Kundalini does include moving through asanas, there are other important aspects to the practice including breathwork, postures, and meditation. The combination of these factors makes Kundalini a spiritual and mindful form of practice as well as a physical one.
Kundalini Yoga is also more rhythmic and repetitive. Whereas other types of yoga flow with your breath, Kundalini yoga combines chanting, singing, movements, and breathing in specific patterns that are practiced for longer periods of time.
What is yoga? In simple words, it is taking your attention to Spirit. This is yoga. What does kundalini do? She raises your attention and takes it to Spirit.
– Nirmala Srivastava
Another aspect of Kundalini Yoga that distinguishes it from other forms of yoga is the practice of wearing white and covering your head in classes. Yogi Bhajan believed that colors have an effect on consciousness, and adopted white as a progressive and spiritual color. Additionally, covering your head with a turban or beanie keeps your aura intact and helps contain your own subtle energy.
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.
What to expect when taking your first Kundalini Yoga class
A typical Kundalini class consists of six main components, which are done in a specific order:
Every class starts with a moment to tune in using the Adi Mantra ‘Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo’. This allows you to become centered and grounded into the present moment. Tuning in also opens the channels in your mind and body that receive the highest spiritual frequencies. The mantra translates to ‘I bow to the infinite, creative wisdom, the divine teacher within‘.
Using pranayama or easy exercises to mobilize the spine you get your body open and receptive for the following practice.
The main part of every class is the kriya. Combining breath, asana, mudra, eye-focus, mantra, and body locks to work to a specific outcome, kriyas help guide the practice and slowly release Kundalini energy. The length and intensity of the kriya vary in every class.
Arguably the most important part of any yoga class, relaxation in Savasana allows your body, mind, and spirit to absorb and integrate the effects of the kriya.
If not a part of the kriya already, you are being guided through a meditation to build awareness and further enhance the purpose of the kriya.
Each class ends with a closing chant to seal the effects of the practice. The class typically ends with one or several repetitions of the mantra ‘Sat Nam’. This mantra translates to ‘Truth is my name. Truth is my identity.’ While chanting the closing prayer, you can also envision yourself sending blessings and healing to yourself, your family, your friends, your community, or anyone who needs it that day.
The asanas practiced in a Kundalini class are typically not very difficult and suitable for beginners as well as all ages and fitness levels. Pretty much as long as you can breathe, you can practice Kundalini Yoga. However, that doesn’t mean a full class won’t be intense and challenging. The 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 Kundalini Yoga may indeed feel challenging or overwhelming.
Benefits of Kundalini Yoga
While all types of yoga offer physical and mental benefits, Kundalini provides a wealth of spiritual benefits as well. Kundalini Yoga is a great practice if you’re looking to improve your spiritual wellbeing, deepen your self-awareness, achieve maximum creative potential, free yourself from Karma, and realize your life purpose.
One of my favorite things about Kundalini Yoga is that it actually has the potential to directly change the chemistry of your brain in an organic way. What does that mean exactly? That every time you practice, there are new neural pathways being created in your brain that are elevating your capacity to experience higher states of wellbeing and consciousness.
These new levels of consciousness and individual awareness truly allow you to see beyond your perceptions and overcome self-imposed limitations. This is one of the things I personally love most about Kundalini. Not only do you become aware of limiting beliefs and lower emotional patterns that are no longer serving you. You also have the tools at hand to effectively and sustainably change those beliefs and patterns yourself!
When the Kundalini rises, automatically you develop your own balances and that balanced life manifests outside.
– Nirmala Srivastava
Kundalini Yoga is rejuvenating, energizing, and truly empowering and it reconnects you to that divine and limitless potential within you. And the very best thing about it? You don’t have to study Kundalini or perfect your postures for years. All these powerful benefits are available to you right from the very first kriya or meditation you practice!
One of the highest manifestations for any Kundalini practitioner is experiencing a Kundalini awakening for sure. Seen as a pure union between body, mind, and spirit, an awakening allows you to become more connected to yourself and those around you. This can lead to increased empathy, joy, charisma, and internal peace while offering relief from stress, anxiety, and insecurity.
But also without ever reaching a state of pure Kundalini awakening, the practice of Kundalini Yoga offers a world of benefits. Some of them are:
- Improved cognitive function
- Higher self-esteem
- Balanced functioning of the hormonal glands
- Enhanced digestive, cardiovascular, and lymphatic systems
- Strengthened nervous system
- Heightened senses
- Reduced or eliminated habits that inhibit the physical body (also applicable to addictions)
- Heightened state of well-being
- Sparked creativity
- Strengthened immune system
- Reduced or eliminated anger, anxiety, and depression
- Inner calmness and mental peace
- Stronger self-control and focus
- More physical and mental strength and flexibility
- Improved brain function
- Increased feelings of relaxation and ease
Kundalini Yoga might just be what you’ve been looking for
Discovering and practicing Kundalini Yoga has literally changed my life. And I’m positive that’s what this potent practice can do for you, too. If you’re curious to dive into it, my beautiful self-paced Kundalini Beginner Series ‘Journey to Awakening‘ is absolutely perfect for you. This 6-week container will guide you to awaken to your own inner power and experience the joy of movement, breath, mantra, and meditation.
I would love to hear about your experience with Kundalini Yoga and if you have any other questions, please let me know in the comments below!
Written by Julia
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