Disclaimer: Some of the Kundalini Yoga practice may seem strange or doubtful if you have never practiced Kundalini Yoga before. Do not let it dissuade you. It took me years of practice to trust much of what is written here. But to doubt the practice is a natural response to something n and does not take away at all from the benefits of practicing Kundalini Yoga.
Kundalini Yoga exists within a greater sphere of many different types of yoga. The word yoga itself means “to yoke,” and refers to the uniting of the finite consciousness within each of us, to the higher parts of our own consciousness, and to the Infinite consciousness. Thus, by definition, the ultimate goal of all forms of yoga is to feel connected to your highest self, the soul or spirit, and to the infinite energy that connects us all. There are dozens of types of yoga, but the one we teach most is Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, mostly because it works wonders for us, so we know it will work for you , too. (Click here to learn more about how Kundalini Yoga fits into our mission here at Heart Centered Revolution).
Kundalini Yoga originated thousands of years ago in India and was passed from teacher to student, in secret, until Yogi Bhajan was guided to travel to the West and teach Kundalini Yoga publicly. There is much reverence from the Kundalini Yoga community towards Yogi Bhajan, but he himself stated that he did not want disciples, but rather to create teachers who could pass the teachings on. He often commented that it is not the personality of the teacher that is to be revered, but the practice itself.
Kundalini Yoga is a precise science that works with the glandular and nervous systems, the physical body, chakras and energetic fields, in efforts to align body, mind, and soul. The practice of Kundalini Yoga includes exercise sets (called kriya), meditations, chants (mantra), and breathing exercises (pranayam).
Kundalini is nicknamed the “Yoga of Awareness”, and is said to raise the kundalini energy up the central channel of the body. The kundalini energy can be hard to wrap your head around, but can be described as the energy of a person’s consciousness and their creative potential: the energy of the soul itself. It is understood to be latently coiled at the bottom of the spine, and that different actions can stimulate it to rise up the central energetic channel of the body, from the lower centers of the sex and reproductive organs, to the higher centers of the third eye and crown of the head. Physically, the practitioner may feel sensations while the kundalini energy is rising.
The rising of the kundalini energy creates an increased awareness in everything: from something as simple as the exquisite flavors and texture of an apple, to something as complex as your soul’s relationship with the universe and another human being. As the kundalini rises, you start to rise above the waves and chaos of the mind, and achieve a perspective of altitude, looking down at situations with perspective.
If this rising of kundalini energy seems foreign, incomprehensible, or unrealistic, then you are with the majority of Western practitioners. The good news is that Kundalini Yoga and Meditation provides its wonderful benefits whether your mind believes the kundalini is rising or not. You do not have to believe it is working, just do the practice and observe the benefits.
Want to give Kundalini Yoga and Meditation a try? You can click here to receive a free instructional video teaching you how to do Kirtan Kriya, one of the most powerful meditations in the Kundalini Yoga practice, along with 10 daily guided meditation videos to help you get a head start on your practice.
The Components of Kundalini Yoga
One of the most notable differences in practicing Kundalini Yoga is the use of chanting, mantras, and music throughout each class.
One way to think about mantra is to see that everything in this world is a vibration. The computer I am writing on vibrates at a certain frequency and the atoms in water vibrate at a different frequency that those in steam. Fear, doubt, bliss, and elation also have their own vibratory frequency. Even unspoken thoughts carry their own vibration.
Sound (or mantra) is a way to manipulate the vibration of your own being, to raise the literal vibration of mind, body, and soul to a specific frequency.
When chanting mantras in Kundalini Yoga, many mechanisms are at work. Chanting the mantras aloud stimulates different parts of the body, the tongue, and the roof of the mouth. The roof of the mouth is especially important as there are meridian points on the upper palate, and chanting stimulates those meridian points to communicate with the hypothalamus, which controls mood, emotional behavior, hunger, drinking, and sleep.
Another way to think about it is that your body is like a large instrument, with the major nerves and energetic pathways representing the strings. When you chant, the vibration of your voice (or more subtly, thoughts) on the strings causes all thirty trillion cells of your body to resonate, to dance to the rhythm of the mantra. If you chant long enough, you can start to feel the chant or mantra emanating from the cells of your body, as though they have resonated with that vibration and are now chanting it themselves. Eventually, your whole nervous system will vibrate at the frequency of the mantra, and the flow of thoughts in the mind will quiet and move to a higher consciousness. Yogi Bhajan describes: “The ego relaxes, and the mantra is vibrated by every cell. You let go and are truly silent. In that silence you can feel, hear, and act on the call of the soul.”
The importance of the breath in yoga cannot be understated, and many Kundalini Yoga classes start with a breathing exercise. Yogis teach that the mind follows the breath: that by changing your breath, you can change your state of mind. In fact, one of the most influential things you can do as a yogi is to breathe consciously as many times as you can throughout the day, ensuring you are taking full, deep, slow breaths with the belly expanding as you inhale, and contracting as you exhale. No headstands, flexibility, or form-fitting yoga pants needed!
The potent nature of the breath is particularly useful because it is always with us, and is easy to manipulate to create the desired effect, in as little as three minutes. Trouble sleeping? Feeling anxious? Feeling unsure about an important meeting or test? There is a breathing technique for each of these experiences.
Different manipulations of the breath create specific changes in the physical body that lead to the desired effect. For example, breathing through the left nostril stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (use a finger to gently close your right nostril, and take long, deep breaths through your left nostril for 3 minutes if you would like to try it). In addition to impacting the physical body, the breath delivers and distributes a subtle life force of the body and mind called prana, which creates a sensation of energy and vitality.
The exercise sets used in Kundalini Yoga are referred to as kriya. Kriya translates to an “action that leads to a manifestation.” In practice, a kriya is a series of exercises that has a very specific purpose or result, such as to improve the flexibility of the spine, or to balance the lower chakras. The kriya are strategically designed to work with the flow of energy, motion, and emotion in the body, and when practiced consistently they strengthen the nervous system, pranic (life force) body, and balance several energetic systems in the body.
Kundalini postures overlap some with those used in the more popular hatha and vinyasa yogas, but typically are more gentle and subtle. While they require less cardiovascular, flexibility, and strength, kundalini yoga postures stimulate a large amount of energy and can be more difficult mentally. For example, a kriya may require a yogi to hold their hands over the head for 1-3 minutes, which is not difficult, but with time the mind starts to get agitated, and the shoulders start sending messages that they need to rest, and the practitioner must rise above these messages and commit to completing the exercise.
In a typical kriya, the yogi will hold a specific position, movement, breathing pattern, and eye gaze for a prescribed amount of time. Most exercises end with the practitioner taking a deep inhale, suspending the breath, squeezing the muscles of the pelvic floor (called root lock), and directing the focus to the third eye, with the eyes closed. This provides an opportunity to solidify the effects of the exercise, and to encourage the rising of the kundalini energy. If no eye gaze or breath is prescribed, the default is to keep the eyes looking at the third eye, with the eyes closed, and doing long, deep breathing.
The Kundalini Yoga kriyas and meditations have been passed down for thousands of years and can not be changed by teachers or students, other than shortening the length of intervals to fit within the ability of the yogi and amount of time available, and using modifications for students who are not capable of the prescribed position.
In Kundalini Yoga, we value relaxation as an essential part of a yoga practice, and the typical class will have rests between most exercises and at least a 5 minute relaxation towards the end of class. Yogi Bhajan said, “Total harmonious relaxation cures the body. To achieve this there must be a coordination between the three facets of ourselves: body, mind & soul.”
Benefits of relaxation during a Kundalini Yoga class include:
- rejuvenation of nervous system
- distributing prana (life energy) stimulated during the exercises
- releasing rigid patterns in muscles and blood flow
- circulating glandular (hormonal) changes triggered by the exercises
- centering the emotions
- learning how to balance exerting energy and then letting go
- practicing the relaxation feeling
Despite all these benefits, relaxation is difficult for most people, due to the amount of stress, turmoil, and conflict in the subconscious mind. Most of us have self-talk that generates patterns of self-defeating emotions, drains our energy, and creates both physical and emotional guardedness. One of the ways to counter this is to combine deliberate exercise with deliberate relaxation, to rewrite the habit of the muscles storing tension (called armoring), as a means of protection, and of the human being folding inside oneself emotionally and energetically as a form of protection. This is precisely what is done in a complete Kundalini Yoga practice.
“By conquering the mind, you can conquer the world.”- Guru Nanak
Meditation is the process of controlling the waves of the mind in order to experience the soul. Yogis conceptualize a human being as a mind, body, and soul. The mind meant a very powerful tool, but is not infallible. It is the mind’s job to identify opportunities, and danger, and determine how best to proceed. The mind is meant to serve the soul: to help the soul or spirit interact with and execute their wishes in the physical world. But, unless regularly maintained with meditation, the mind fills with thought patterns that create stress and emotional chaos throughout our lives. This programming is passed down from generations of ancestors, from our life experiences (especially early life), and from previous lifetimes (if you accept the idea of incarnation). One effect of meditation is to quiet, override, and cleanse the mind of this programming, so that you can become more conscious of your soul, of the part of you that is You, the part of you that is not your thoughts, feelings or actions. Given this perspective on meditation, meditation is for everyone: it creates a clear, unbiased communication between mind, body, and soul.
Benefits of Kundalini Yoga meditations include:
- strengthen your neutral mind, rather than the negative or positive minds
- connect to the clarity of your soul, to take you from a finite to an Infinite perspective
- promotes a sense of well-being, inner peace, stability and calm
- release unconscious habits and subconscious fears and blocks
- live spontaneously, guided by intuition and compassion
- master emotional chaos
- improve your ability to focus and direct your energy, enhancing effectiveness and efficiency
- increase the clarity of your mind, mental awareness, and the ability to be present
- release the roots of your stress-producing thought and emotional patterns
- develops your frontal lobe, which controls your personality and executive functioning
- mantra meditations will strengthen your nervous system, and balance your glandular system
If you would like to experience the power of Kundalini Meditation for yourself click here to sign up for our free 10-day meditation program. You will receive an instructional video explaining how to do Kirtan Kriya, one of the most powerful Kundalini Yoga meditations, as well as 10 daily meditations delivered to your inbox. Or you can click here to learn more.
Kundalini Yoga meditations often include sitting in a cross-legged posture with the hands in a specific position, eyes at a specific focus, and chanting a mantra with a specific desired effect. Oftentimes there are songs the meditator can chant along with, and that enhance the experience. The music in Kundalini Yoga is often what is most appealing to new practitioners so if you are just started we highly recommend you search for songs that are uplifting and resonate with you. These albums by Snatam Kaur (Essential Snatam Kaur) and Ayanna (Livelight) are good places to start.
The ultimate goal of many meditators is to experience the meditative mind continuously throughout daily life, and to experience a sense of living life in a spiritual flow. In this state, life feels like a flow, what you need is attracted to you, and you’re are able to float through life easily and efficiently. This is called simran.
If you are interested in trying a Kundalini Yoga Meditation click here to sign up for your FREE 10 day meditation program.
If you have any questions about Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, let us know in the comments below.
With Abundant Love,
Jen + Ramtin