Kundalini yoga – A Tantric Yoga
Kundalini yoga is derived from kundalini which is defined in Vedantic culture as the energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine until it is activated and channeled upward through the chakras in the process of spiritual perfection. Kundalini is believed to be power associated with the divine feminine. Kundalini yoga as a school of yoga is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism.
It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through the regular practice of mantra, tantra, yantra, yoga, or meditation. kundalini yoga is practiced around the world, its origin is unknown. The concept of kundalini energy has been around for centuries and was mentioned in ancient Vedic texts from 1,000 B.C.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Origin of Kundalini yoga
- 2 - History of Kundalini yoga
- 3 - Benefits of doing Kundalini yoga
- 4 - How to do Kundalini Yoga
- 4.1 - 1. Choose a Location
- 4.2 - 2. Choose What to Wear
- 4.3 - 3. Choose When to Practice
- 4.4 - 4. Get into Position
- 4.5 - 5. Choose the Length of Practice
- 4.6 - 6. Choose a Mantra
- 4.7 - 7. Start to Focus on Your Breath
- 4.8 - 8. Feel the Breath Moving
- 4.9 - 9. Finish the Meditation
- 4.10 - 10. Gradually Increase Your Meditation
Origin of Kundalini yoga
Kundalini Yoga is an ancient art and science compiled by Shiva in Tantra Yoga dealing with the transformation and expansion of consciousness, the awakening and raising of Kundalini power up the spine through energy centers called Chakras.
Kundalini has many root words. The word “Kunda” in Sanskrit literally means a pit in which to burn trash. This could be interpreted symbolically as a fire used to burn up one’s attachments, helping the mind to become purer. “Kundalini” means the serpent is identified as a goddess named Kundalini Shakti. Shiva and Shakti mean Shiva stands for consciousness and Shakti stands for goddess power of the divine.
The Sanskrit word “Shakti” means divine energy. So Kundalini is the power, the feminine aspect of the divine. Kundalini Shakti is said to uncoil herself to move upward through the chakras and stir up dormant energy within the aspirants.
The Sanskrit adjective kundalini means “circular, annular”. It occurs as a noun for a snake in the 12th-century Rajatarangini chronicle. Kunda which means bowl or water-pot is found as the name of a Naga in Mahabharata.
The Sanskrit feminine noun Kundalini means ring, bracelet, coil, and is the name of a serpent-like Shakti in Tantrism as early as the 11th century in the Saradatilak. What has become known as “Kundalini yoga” in the 20th century, after a technical term particular to this tradition is actually a synthesis of Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Shakti Yoga?
However, it may include hatha yoga techniques Patanjali’s kriya yoga, tantric visualization, and meditation techniques of laya yoga and other techniques oriented towards the awakening of kundalini. Laya may mean either the techniques of yoga or its effect of “absorption” of the individual into the cosmic. Laya yoga is from the Sanskrit term laya which is almost always described in the context of other Yogas such as in the Yoga-Tattva-Upanishad, the Varaha Upanishad, the Goraksha Paddhati, the Amaraugha-Prabodha, and the Yoga-Shastra of Dattatreya.
The exact distinctions between traditional yoga schools are often hazy due to a long history of syncretism. Hence many of the oldest sources on Kundalini come through manuals of the tantric and haṭha traditions including the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Shiva Samhita. The Shiva Samhita describes the qualified yogi as practicing ‘the four yogas’ to achieve kundalini awakening, while lesser students may resort solely to one technique or another: “Mantra Yoga and Hatha Yoga. Laya Yoga is the third. The fourth is Raja Yoga. It is free from duality.
History of Kundalini yoga
Kundalini Yoga is the original form of yoga dated back 5000 years and the most spiritual and effective of all yoga practices. It is a science that works on the natural flow of our energy in the 8 chakras known as the Kundalini. This energy is our creative potential before we are programmed with fear, doubt, anxieties, etc.
We can either sway or ride with the energy or it will sway and ride us. Kundalini Yoga was never taught publicly until Yogi Bhajan challenged the age-old tradition of secrecy.
Yogi Bhajan wrote,
“I am sharing these teachings to create a science of the total self … It is the birthright of every human being to be healthy, happy, and holy.”
When he arrived in the US in 1969 he stated
“I have come to create Teachers, not to gather disciples. Happiness is your birthright.”
Through The Aquarian Teacher Program, there are now thousands of trained Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) Certified Kundalini Yoga Teachers. Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan is known as a Raj Yoga because it incorporates aspects of all paths of yoga: service, devotion, posture, breath, sound, concentration, wisdom, and so on.
Kundalini Yoga was designed for householders who have families and jobs. It fits the busy lives that most of us lead. It is effective, fast, and efficient. Even a few minutes of practice a day can have an effect.
Benefits of doing Kundalini yoga
Some of the benefits of doing Kundalini yoga are:
1. Nervous System
And the stronger your nerves are, the more you will be able to act in a cool, calm, and collected matter in the face of any situation, be it a car accident, big presentation, or family drama.
Kundalini yoga awakens your inner willpower right at the core of your solar plexus at the navel point. What that means is that you build a strong heat in this region which helps in digesting not only food but also past memories and self-doubt. We become much more able to process and digest events that happen and take necessary action immediately to eradicate things, people, or situations that are causing us more harm than good.
3. Brain Power
Kundalini yoga clears the fogginess of the mind. When the mind becomes clouded with several thoughts, it feels a little like a cobweb of thoughts have formed and are difficult to untangle and with a few minutes of the rapid breath of fire or one-minute breath, the mind becomes crystal clear. We feel more alert, focused, concentrated, with better memory and the capacity to make sound decisions.
Breathing alternately through the nostrils brings into balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain. We usually act, analyze, and do much more frequently than we feel, visualize, and imagine. And that’s because the right side of the brain is usually understimulated.
Kundalini yoga awakens our inner creativity by releasing our worries about the little things and opening us up to infinite possibilities that life has to offer.
Kundalini yoga opens your heart center. Poses as the Tree Pose provide us with security in the root chakra so we feel like strong steady trees planted firmly to the earth, and when our needs are not met we don’t feel like it’s the end of the world. We remain open and trusting that the higher power will provide us with what we need when the time is right.
So the world doesn’t collapse when we don’t get that job, fail that exam or suffer from a breakup or family death. Whatever it is, we gain an attitude of acceptance. Understanding that it’s all-OK. It’s all good. We are open to whatever life has to offer.
6. Compassionate Communication
In Kundalini yoga, poses your Shoulder Stand open the throat center (Fifth Chakra). Add this to an open heart and we become forgiving, compassionate, and nonjudgmental and our lips can bless, give gratitude and kindness to all those around us. Thus don’t be surprised when you start addressing your boss, cousins, or neighbor by dear, dearest, sweetheart, my love, and so on.
More so, when there is something bothering you, you will find the best way to express yourself to bring you to say the absolute truth with all gentleness and tenderness. We spend so much time stuck in our minds, analyzing the pros and cons of each decision when in reality the answer is always within us. We always have a gut feeling about something but we tend to ignore it.
Yoga gives us the ability to pause and listen to the message behind that gut feeling. It enables us to quiet down the mind to the point that our thoughts become still and we can feel what our heart yearns for, something that will be good for us.
8. Wise Choices
All forms of yoga make us more conscious of human beings. So don’t be surprised if you start acting like a wise guy who is refraining from behaviors that cause harm to you and the environment like smoking, drinking, drugs, meat, and dairy products, and wastage of water and electricity. Instead, you will choose to consume fresh vegetables and fruits, whole foods, to protect animals and the environment to serve others through charitable giving and to take up activities like singing, dancing, and art that will remove you from the company of people and surroundings that no longer bring the best out of you.
How to do Kundalini Yoga
Some of the steps to practice Kundalini Yoga are:
1. Choose a Location
The first step in doing kundalini yoga is to choose a location. Kundalini mediation can be done anywhere. Ideally find a quiet, distraction-free space that’s a comfortable temperature.
This should be a spot that you find peaceful and where you are not likely to be bothered. It could be a place where you gather your favorite things. Keep a bottle of water beside you.
2. Choose What to Wear
The second step in doing kundalini yoga is to choose what to wear. Dress in whatever feels right to you. Many practitioners choose to wear loose, comfortable, cotton clothing and potentially a head covering like a cotton shawl.
Your clothes should be clean, fresh, and ideally light in color to enhance the feeling of lightness.
3. Choose When to Practice
The third step in doing kundalini yoga is to choose what to practice. You could practice first thing in the morning to set your intentions for the day or to take advantage of a time you are least likely to be disturbed. Or, you could practice before bed at night as a way of winding down from your day.
Just about any time works, but try to avoid meditating after a big meal, as your body will be busy with digestion.
4. Get into Position
The fourth step in doing kundalini yoga is to ger into position. You should sit on the floor cross-legged or sit in a chair with your weight resting on your feet. Most importantly, choose a position that is comfortable to you where you can sit upright with a straight spine.
Close your eyes softly so that they are about 90% closed. You can choose to sit on a wool or cotton blanket or put a pillow underneath you for comfort.
5. Choose the Length of Practice
The fifth step in doing kundalini yoga is to choose the length of practice. This could be anywhere from three minutes to two and a half hours. Some common choices of meditation length are 11 minutes, 15 minutes, 22 minutes, 31 minutes, etc. Whatever works for your schedule and goals is perfect.
6. Choose a Mantra
The sixth step in doing kundalini yoga is to choose a mantra. While you breathe, you will chant a mantra to help you focus. One good example for beginners is the mantra “sat nam,” which means “truth is my identity.”
Chant “sat” when you inhale and “nam” when you exhale. You can choose to chant out loud, in a loud whisper, or silently in your head. You can also pick another phrase or sound to repeat. Whatever mantra speaks to you and feels right, is right.
The purpose of chanting is to direct your energy. Actively listen to yourself if you are chanting out loud, or visualize the mantra being written down if you are saying it in your head. You can also repeat your mantra at other times of the day if feeling stressed.
7. Start to Focus on Your Breath
The seventh step in doing kundalini yoga is to start to focus on your breath. Notice your breathing and gradually start to slow it down. Your goal will be for one round of inhaling and exhaling to last about seven to eight seconds. Break your inhale and exhale into segments, such that you do short inhales or exhales broken up by pauses.
Aim to do this so that there are four segments of both inhales and exhales during a complete breath. Breath through your nose the entire time. If you feel dizzy at any point, then stop the practice.
8. Feel the Breath Moving
The eighth step in doing kundalini yoga is to feel the breath moving. As you are practicing your breathing and chanting, focus on how your breath is moving through your body, and helping you to relax. Whenever your mind starts to wander, consciously return your focus back to your breath and mantra.
9. Finish the Meditation
The ninth step in doing kundalini yoga is to finish the meditation. Continue this cycle of breathing throughout the predetermined mediation time. Complete the mediation by inhaling deeply, pushing your palms together or raising your arms in the air, and then relaxing and exhaling.
10. Gradually Increase Your Meditation
The tenth and the last step in doing kundalini yoga gradually increase your meditation. Gradually, aim to increase the length of time that you meditate. As you practice, focus on letting thoughts come and go, and watch for a feeling of energy moving along your spine and a feeling of euphoria in your body.