Kundalini Yoga is not well defined. Unlike Raja Yoga (Patanjali’s Yoga) and Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga does not have classical text books dedicated to it. The role of the guru was historically a very important component of it’s teaching. For this reason, a lot of the instruction was passed verbally from teacher to student, rather than being written down. Instructions for working with Kundalini energy do appear in a handful of texts, for example The Shiva Samhita, and The Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras does not mention Kundalini. but in Hatha Yoga, awakening Kundalini energy is considered one of the aims of the practice. Kundalini Yoga is essentially Hatha Yoga but with more developed practices and techniques aimed at raising Kundalini energy, such as specific Pranayama, Bandhas, Mudras, and Mantras.
In recent times Kundalini Yoga has been mostly associated with Yogi Bhajan’s version, which is interwoven with Sikh mantras & practices. However, this is just an interpretation of the practice, not a definitive approach.
What is Kundalini energy?
“The great goddess Kundalini, the primordial energy of the self, sleeps in the sexual region of the body. She has a form rather like a serpent, having three and one half coils. As long as she remains asleep, the individual soul (Shiva) is limited, and true knowledge does not arise. But just as the right key unlocks a particular door, so Hatha Yoga unlocks the door of Kundalini, allowing the self to experience Brahma and obtain Liberation.” Gheranda Samhita
Kundalini energy is a concept from the Tantric tradition. It is variously known as known as the innate intelligence of embodied Consciousness or a latent innate spiritual power. It is sometimes called feminine, or Shakti, bliss or serpent power. Other sources describe it as cosmic energy, pure creative power, inner fire, the unconscious, the energy of the soul, and awakened Prana (life force).
With so many descriptions it can be a difficult concept to grasp. I like the following definition from David Frawley, writing for Yoga International:
“Kundalini is not a physical force, nor is it an energy that one can manipulate with personal power. Kundalini is the concentrated energy of awareness or attention. It is not an energy apart from consciousness, but rather the energy that manifests with consciousness when it becomes free from thought. Only if a person has one-pointedness of mind can kundalini truly come into action, because only then does one have the possibility of moving beyond thought.”
So, essentially, when we get to a sustained state beyond thought, we can awaken this dormant force, and experience expanded awareness. This is why meditation is so crucial to the practice of Kundalini.
Why Awaken Kundalini?
There is a famous line that says “Know Yourself and the World is Yours” – in many ways that sums up the experience of a Kundalini awakening. Kundalini Yoga is often called the yoga of awareness, where all that is unconscious becomes conscious.
Until we have a direct experience of Kundalini, it’s difficult to be able to comprehend what it might be. Kundalini, after all, is beyond thought and, hence description. But imagine being able to plug into the source of everything; the vitality and intensity of living that that would bring.
An easier way to understand Kundalini is the flow state. Think of an athlete, in the zone – body, breath, and mind totally in sync. People in the flow state are completely absorbed in what they are doing and often have no concept of time. In moments of absolute involvement, people show a phenomenal sense of energy, not possible in normal situations. They are totally focused, beyond distraction, and completely present.
In the flow state Kundalini is said to be partially activated. Now imagine being in or able to access this state consistently. How much more intense and rich would your life become? How much more could you create and achieve? You cannot be in a flow state if you are distracted by the external world or by unconscious processes, like fear or anger, constant craving or aversion, or even bodily functions operating below your awareness. Awakened Kundalini delivers a greater sense of peace, and hugely expanded consciousness, allowing you to understand the ways of energy and hence the whole mechanics of creation.
Some of the documented benefits of awakened Kundalini:
- Heightened state of energy & perception
- Better health
- Removal of blocks from the psyche
- More evolved sense of self
- Feeling at peace
- Increased IQ and creativity
- Heightened Senses
- Enhanced psychic abilities.
- Raised compassion and empathy.
- Slowed aging process. down the process of aging.
- Increased spiritual connection.
- Boosted inspiration
- Greater sense of purpose and intent in your actions
- Strengthened nervous system
- Clearer mind, improved focus
Chasing the Dragon
Kundalini is like “sitting on a jackpot” (Sadhguru), it allows us to reach our full potential. Saints, warriors, poets, painters, writers – many have claimed to have awakened Kundalini. It invokes not only spiritual realisations but also creative intelligence and self-expression. It is said that when you activate Kundalini you can become anything in life. Your mind changes, as do your priorities and attachments. The physical body changes, with every cell charged with high voltage Prana (life force). It’s like plugging your root chakra into the cosmic mains and illuminating all the chakras – everything about you glows.
Raising Kundalini is thus highly sought after but must be treated with reverence and not approached with ego
Is it Dangerous?
Some people try to force a Kundalini awakening before they are ready. They use intense practices to shake it loose. It’s no accident that Kundalini is portrayed as both a snake and as fire – both need to be handled with care. Kundalini is very powerful and can be harmful; chasing Kundalini power with ego, is a recipe for disaster. Equally over-stimulating Kundalini by too physical an approach generates tremendous heat & stress in the body and can damage the nervous system.
A far better approach is to work towards Kundalini awakening, preparing body and mind, and letting it happen when you are ready. Full Kundalini awakenings in the West are rare, despite what people tell you. There are lots of different energies in the body, and their arousal should not be confused with Kundalini. Make awakened Kundalini your goal but proceed patiently. Enjoy the journey, without concern for the destination. And DO THE WORK! Don’t take shortcuts. It is not a good idea to try to raise Kundalini whilst still at the whim of unconscious impulses, predispositions towards anxiety or depression, or even when you are stressed. Proceed with reverence, and let Kundalini guide you.
“Her (Kundalini) energy is trying to awaken you, expand you, and put you in touch with your own deep energy, which is a fundamentally benign process.” Sally Kempton
Interested in learning more?