Kundalini yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline for developing personal strength, character, and consciousness. Practitioners call Kundalini yoga, the yoga of awareness because they claim it expands sensory awareness, enhances intuition, and merges the individual consciousness with the infinite consciousness of God, and Universal knowledge. Considered an advanced form of yoga and meditation, its goal is to cultivate and harness the unlimited creative and spiritual potential that exists within every human being.
Several definitions of Kundalini yoga have been used in Eastern and modern Western teachings. According to various prominent teachers and authors, Kundalini Yoga has been described as:
An active approach to awaken the kundalini contrasting with a passive approach.
Kundalini Yoga consists of active asana-based kriyas, pranayama, and meditation meant to enhance the nervous system, glands, mental faculties, balance the chakras, and build spiritual strength while it integrates the flow of kundalini energy.
Kundalini Yoga, at its highest form, is practiced for the purpose of attaining bliss, opening the heart center, developing power, serving others, attaining self-realization and ultimately merging into God consciousness.
Perhaps the earliest known written mention of Kundalini Yoga is in the Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad, which is the eighty-sixth among the 108 Muktika Upanishads, associated with the Krishna Yajurveda, originating from India. The origin of this particular writing is difficult to substantiate because scholars disagree about the exact dates of the composition of the Upanishads, but agree that all Upanishads have been passed down through oral tradition. Some have estimated that the composition of the Yajurveda texts date as far back as between 1,400 and 1,000 BC.
In the late 1800s into the early 1900s author John Woodroffe, an Oxford graduate, translated some twenty original Sanskrit texts under the pseudonym Arthur Avalon. His most popular and influential book titled The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga, became a major contribution of the time to the appreciation of Indian philosophy and spirituality and the source of many early Western occult appropriations of tantra and kundalini practice.
In 1969 Kundalini Yoga was formally revealed to mainstream American spiritual culture by Yogi Bhajan, a Kundalini Yoga Master from India, who brought the yoga form to the West as comprehensive spiritual system for personal growth. Observing the great many Westerners arriving in India seeking a spiritual experience, Yogi Bhajan initially set about teaching Kundalini Yoga as an alternative and transformational technology for self-development, and to counter the drug abuse of the 60′s. This was the first time Kundalini Yoga – still on the whole a secretive and misunderstood technology – was openly taught by a recognized Indian Master teacher in a Western format outside of India. Throughout his 35 years teaching until his death in 2004, Yogi Bhajan built up a legacy of information and teachings around the subject of Kundalini yoga, including the publications of over 100 related books on the applications of the yogic technology in a multitude of different fields of spirituality – covering yoga, meditation, body-work, drug rehabilitation, women’s and men’s yoga, psychology, healing, re-birthing, teaching, business, relationships, and marriage.
While predominantly secular today, Yogi Bhajan’s background in Sikhism was influential in originally presenting this form of Kundalini yoga in conjunction with the path of Sikh Dharma. As currently taught, many of the practitioners of this form can be recognized by the use of white clothes and head covers – often turbans – which, aside from outward religious appearance, are said to be practical yogic techniques for enhancing the aura, containing energy, and of spiritual respect.
In 1935 Sri Swami Sivananda penned his depiction of Kundalini Yoga in a treatise on the subject called Kundalini Yoga.
All yoga forms are believed to be designed to raise kundalini energy, and have their origins in the pillars and Yoga Sutra of Patanjali – a foundational yoga scripture believed to have been compiled around the 2nd century BCE. Based on this foundation, most yoga forms and meditation derive their structure and discipline from the ashtanga 8-limbed approach, which provide guidelines for the austerities of practice
According to yogic philosophy, kundalini is a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine. It is conceptualized as a coiled up serpent. Literally, kundalini or kundala is that which is coiled (Sanskrit kund, to burn; kunda, to coil or to spiral). It is believed that Kundalini yoga is that which arouses the sleeping Kundalini Shakti from its coiled base through the 6 chakras, and penetrate the 7th chakra, or crown. This energy is said to travel along the ida (left), pingala (right) and central, or sushmana nadi – the main channels of pranic energy in the body. This process can be seen depicted even today in modern medical iconography as two snakes spiraling a central staff, and although the origin of this image is more directly derived from the Caduceus of the Greek god Hermes, it may express the same or a similar principle.
Yogi Bhajan describes Kundalini energy technically as being sparked when prana and apana blends at the 3rd chakra (naval center) at which point it initially drops down to the 1st and 2nd chakras before traveling up to the spine to the higher centers of the brain to activate the golden cord – the connection between the pituitary and pineal glands – and penetrate the 7 chakras. He also describes the aura as a theoretical 8th chakra which he claims is essential for integrating the energy and effects of the 7 chakras and allowing them to safely manifest in the body.
Kundalini Yoga as is taught by Yogi Bhajan is described as a tri-fold approach of Bhakti yoga for devotion, Shakti yoga for power, and Raja yoga for mental power and control. Its purpose through the daily practice of kriyas and meditation in sadhana was described by Yogi Bhajan as a practical technology of human consciousness for humans to achieve their total creative potential.
According to one school of thought, there being four main forms of yoga, Mantra yoga, Hatha yoga, Laya yoga and Raja yoga; Kundalini yoga is really considered a Laya yoga. Yogi Bhajan also referrers to Kundalini yoga as a Laya form of yoga.
Mainstream traditions propose that kundalini energy can be awakened and enlightenment attained by practicing a combination of yogic techniques—ideally following the guidance of a certified teacher—including the use of mantra, prana and breathing techniques, sadhana, asana practice, meditation, or purely through devotion and prayer.
According to some Hindu traditions, Kundalini yoga is considered a highly developed spiritual awakening which relies upon a technique called shaktipat to attain enlightenment under the guidance of a spiritual master.
In the classical literature of Kashmir Saivism kundalini is described in three different manifestations. The first of these is as the universal energy or para-kundalini. The second of these is as the energizing function of the body-mind complex or prana-kundalini. The third of these is as consciousness or shakti-kundalini which simultaneously subsumes and intermediates between these two. Ultimately these three forms are the same but understanding these three different forms will help to understand the different manifestations of kundalini .
The path of Kundalini is said to proceed from the Muladhara Chakra at the lower end of the spinal column up to the Sahasara Chakra at the top of the head. But its awakening is not thought to be a physical occurrence; it consists exclusively of a development in consciousness. According to some claims, awakening of kundalini brings with it pure joy, pure knowledge and pure love.
The word ‘Kundalini’ can be traced to the Sanskrit word ‘kundala’, which means ‘coiled’. Kundalini can therefore be used by believers to refer to the latent energy within the human body which is constantly trying to manifest as our insight, power and bliss.
According to one author, the word kundalini literally means “the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved.”. It is a metaphor, a poetic way of describing the flow of energy and consciousness which already is said to exist within each person.
The practices are said to enable the person to merge with or “yoke” the universal self. This merging of individual consciousness with the universal consciousness is said to create a “divine union” called “yoga”.
Along with the many kriyas, meditations and practices of Kundalini Yoga, a simple breathing technique of alternate nostril breathing (left nostril, right nostril) is taught as a method to cleanse the nadis, or subtle channels and pathways, to help awaken Kundalini energy.
Yogi Bhajan taught many arduous kriyas and meditations to prepare the body, nervous system, and mind to handle the energy of Kundalini rising. The majority of the physical postures in his teachings focus on naval strengthening and flexibility of the spine – perhaps constituting a rousing of the sacral area – which theoretically initiates and releases the flow of Kundalini energy.
Scores more breathing (pranayam) techniques can be used in this yoga system to raise kundalini, calm the mind, balance energies and chakras, increase intuition, extend life, among many other benefits. Furthermore, practice of the yogic system of controlling the bhandas, the three main diaphragmatic locks in the body which support the breath and its movement, is essential for controlling and raising kundalini energy.
In the Upanishads, it is mentioned that the control of the three bhandas, along with the control of held and expired breaths, are the keys to releasing and harnessing Kundalini energy.
Several schools teach methods of visualizing and meditating on the chakras to balance and maintain the pathways for Kundalini energy to flow.
The system of exercises and meditations of Kundalini Yoga claims to provide extensive benefits for personal spiritual growth as well as improving mental and physical well-being. Some studies have shown that the physical and physiological benefits cover a wide spectrum of ailments, including healing treatments for memory problems, asthma, diabetes, pain, stress-related diseases, rehabilitating addictive behavior, and treating mental disorders.
According to some traditions Kundalini techniques are only communicated from master to disciple once the disciple is deemed ready. In these cases, yogic masters believe that in ascetic settings ignorance or refusal to follow instructions of a master can lead to harmful effects. However, in a few instances teachers from India encouraged students to update and spread the teachings to the West, thereby putting doubt to this claim.
Sovatsky, a scholar of Yoga associated with transpersonal psychology, adapts a developmental and evolutionary perspective in his interpretation of Kundalini Yoga. That is, he interprets Kundalini Yoga as a catalyst for psycho-spiritual growth and bodily maturation. According to this interpretation of yoga, the body bows itself into greater maturation […], none of which should be considered mere stretching exercises.
All intensive spiritual practices associated with Asian traditions require attentive practice. Psychiatric literature notes that “Since the influx of eastern spiritual practices and the rising popularity of meditation starting in 1960s, many people have experienced a variety of psychological difficulties, either while engaged in intensive spiritual practice or spontaneously”. Some of the psychological difficulties associated with intensive spiritual practice are claimed to be “kundalini awakening”, “a complex physio-psychospiritual transformative process described in the yogic tradition”. Also, writers in the fields of Transpersonal psychology and Near-death studies describe a complex pattern of sensory, motor, mental and affective symptoms associated within the concept of kundalini, known as kundalini syndrome. Believers say that the negative experiences might occur only when acting without appropriate guidance or ignoring advice.
Venkatesh et al. studied twelve kundalini (chakra) meditators, using the Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory. They found that the practice of meditation “appears to produce structural as well as intensity changes in phenomenological experiences of consciousness”.
Preliminary research on the effects of a Kundalini Yoga meditation taught by Yogi Bhajan known as Kirtan Kriya on retrieving memory and cognitive functions have been encouraging. Limitations of this research can be addressed in future studies with more detailed analyses.
Manocha et al. used temperature readings to verify that coolness experienced on the palms of the hands resulted from the Sahaja Yoga technique of kundalini meditation.
Resource : wikipedia