What Is Kundalini & How Can You Access it?
If you've ever taken a Kundalini Yoga class you’d notice it's vastly different than other types of Yoga. This is no goat, flying upside down, or naked yoga. It’s in a class all its own. There's something graceful yet mind-expanding about this type of practice. You might even call it hypnotic.
Kundalini refers to an extremely powerful energy (linked to the divine feminine archetype) coiled up at the base of the spine. Once envisioned by ancient Hindus as a serpent-like entity, they believed this energy capable of rising within the body. It's said that Kundalini helps deepen creativity, intuition, and your own natural gifts and abilities. In a way, Kundalini Yoga practice acts like a snake charmer, propelling this magnetic force to awaken and fill you with its intensity. Part of the beauty of Kundalini is, it's not about looking good, while striking the perfect pose. This is a deep, soul-searching practice; one that involves accessing your subtle body's innate wisdom. Even though all yoga aims for increased awareness, Kundalini is known as “the yoga of awareness.” The sequences help you tap into your consciousness in the hopes that you’ll be able to access your own dormant power.
Where does the style come from? On the surface Kundalini Yoga can appear trendy, because it’s unique. But it’s ancient. Kundalini dates back to one of the oldest Hindu texts in existence, “the Upanishads.” Considered a form of Raja Yoga, Kundalini prescribes to the 8 limbs that the sage Patanjali, referred to in the “Yoga Sutras.” While Kundalini originated in these ancient texts, the Kundalini practiced in the West, has been altered from its version in the Upanishads; it was make anew by innovative Gurus such as Yogi Bhajan, perhaps the most well known teacher of Kundalini in the states; Yogi Bhajan brought this unique type of yoga, melded with traditions from his Sikh culture to the states in 1968. Intrigued by its trippy vibe, Kundalini Yoga was quickly embraced by the hippies. You’ll often hear the term, “The golden chain,” in Kundalini class; this refers to the lineage or chain or teachers that came before you. Certain traditions associated with Kundalini Yoga, such as white clothing, said to expand one's auras, and wearing a head covering to harness your energetic flow, are carryovers from Yogi Bhajan's Sikh culture, incorporated into his teachings.
Brianna Rose is a Kundalini Yoga teacher (taught through the lineage of Yogi Bhajan) also a Kundalini Business Coach for women entrepreneurs, CEO of the Light Leader Collective. Brianna calls Kundalini Yoga “the owner’s manual to the human body.” Passionate about Kundalini’s teachings, Brianna says, “It teaches you how to manage your energy and create a life you love.” How does it work? Brianna says, this energetic Kundalini force, “once awakened, moves through your entire chakra system beginning with the root chakra and ascending to your crown. This provides deep healing and cleanses away impurities or blocks in your energy centers.” In a practical sense, will this affect your daily life? Brianna explains that, “once clear, you are able to have a deeper connection to yourself and take action on your soul’s mission. It makes you unshakeable.”
If the hope of awakening new energy sounds enticing... be aware that Kundalini Yoga is not easy. Asanas can be held for extremely long periods of time. Initially, sequences may look and sound unusual, bordering on strange. And you might feel self-conscious doing them. Brianna says, “The mantras, postures, and breath work can all be challenging.” So what should you anticipate when taking a class? Brianna gives the examples, “Sometimes you’re holding your arms up over your head for 62 minutes. Other times you’re in an awkward position breathing with your tongue sticking out and panting like a dog.”
Just because the work takes determination, doesn't mean you should shy away from the practice. In fact, Brianna says, “that’s the beauty of Kundalini. You are pushing yourself. You become the guru.” Working in this way helps you build courage and inner resolve. Brianna says, “When you’ve pushed yourself like that, it’s embodied and engrained in every cell, fiber, and tissue of your being.” Taking the concept of a comfort zone and turning it inside out, Brianna says, “Kundalini pushes your physical body to new limits, as it creates a mental strength to carry you through any ‘test’ or ‘difficulties’ life might throw at you.”
What sets Kundalini apart from other types of yoga and meditation? Even though sequences can be physically strenuous and involve familiar asanas and breathing exercises, at its root, Kundalini seems to be structured as an internal journey.
Eyes are usually closed, or partially closed during class, adding a trance-like vibe. And you will be given focal points for the eyes.
Expect chanting. And plenty of it. “Sat, Nam.” is one of the most popular chants in Kundalini Yoga and meditation, meaning “truth,” and “name or identity.” Chanting is intrinsic for the meaning behind the words, also the vibrational effects on the tongue that permeate throughout the body and mind.
That snake-like energy coiled up at the base of your spine isn't the only colorful visual... You’ll be consistently required to call upon your imagination to visualize throughout class. Often your mental powers will be directed to your chakras, in order to align with their energetic resources.
Bandhas are different kinds of locks: they involve tightening and squeezing different muscles in the body, in order to gain control of life force energy (prana).
Ready to go within, and experience Kundalini Yoga? Just like with any yoga or meditation, you can begin at home or in a class setting. Eventually it’s advisable to practice daily, or many times a week. Although, Kundalini is a little different. It involves lots of energetic work and detailed instructions. So when you start, it’s worthwhile to research teachers in your area and explore a class. You’ll find that practicing with others lends a meaningful element of shared energy that deepens the experience.
To further explore Kundalini’s teachings, listen to this illuminating interview with Hari Kaur, senior teacher and author of, “A Woman's Book of Yoga,” and “A Woman's Book of Yoga,” led by Yoga instructor and international Author, Elena Brower. And if you’d like to watch a class in action, check out this video with world renowned Kundalini Yoga Master, Gurmukh, author of “The Eight Human Talents.”