Everything is energy. When your prana or life energy is high, life feels good, your emotions are positive, and you feel optimistic. But when your energy is low, negative emotions, doubt, and depression set in. Kundalini Yoga is as much about increasing spiritual awareness and energy levels as it is physical postures. Through breath, movement, mudras, and sound, energy is guided up through the chakras increasing self-awareness, silencing your mind, and helping vital energy flow throughout the body—for more awareness, mental clarity, and healing.
What is Kundalini Yoga?
The word Kundalini comes from the Sanskrit root-‘kundal’ which means circular or a coiled snake. Its practitioners believe kundalini is the latent energy that rests at the bottom of the spine—akin to a coiled snake—until it is awakened with the help of practices like chanting, breathing, yoga, and meditation.
It is believed when the kundalini energy is awakened, one experiences bliss, there is a balance of the mind-body and emotions, one’s awareness is heightened, one transcends ego, the mind becomes clear, and stress and anxiety are released from the system. Yogi Bhajan, a Pakistani yoga teacher is said to have introduced this ancient style of yoga to the West sometime in the 1960s.
Typically, a class is made up of an opening chant, a brief spine warm-up, a sequence of postures paired with breathing techniques (a kriya), and a closing meditation or song. The practice of Kundalini Yoga gives you an understanding of how energy works and how increasing or raising the energy through various tools and techniques can lead to more fulfilling, aware, and emotionally richer lives.
Kundalini Yoga employs breathing techniques as a tool to release a specific type of energy and serve a particular purpose such as helping you sleep better, reduce stress, or fight anxiety.
A common technique used is the long deep breathing technique, where one takes slow and deep breaths in and out while involving the stomach muscles. This helps reduce anxiety and makes one feel calm and loved. Breath of Fire is another popular breathing technique.
Mantras, another part of kundalini practices, are specific ancient cosmic syllables that create a certain impact on the human nervous system when chanted in specific intonations. They bring the body and mind to vibrate at higher frequencies, enabling us to access higher levels of consciousness. Some of the mantras can be chanted or listened to before going to sleep or during meditation or even while driving. These sounds are said to have been in the consciousness for millions of years and have incredibly calming, relaxing, and deeply healing effects on the mind and body.
Visit our beginner’s guide to mantra.
Kriya or Action
The breath, sounds, and postures together are combined to make kriya, which translates to ‘action’. Kriyas are specific action tools to achieve particular goals like relaxation, manifestation, aura-balancing, clearing up the chakras or energy centers, releasing negative energy, reducing stress, calming the body and mind, and building physical stamina, among others. They work on the level of mind, body, emotions, intellect, and spirit-revitalizing and purifying them all.
The five fingers of our hands are associated with the five elements—the thumb with fire, the index finger with air, the middle finger with space, the ring finger with earth, and the little finger with the water element. The mudra pranayamas, another part of Kundalini Yoga, make use of this knowledge to influence the five elements in the body. They are some of the most effective healing modalities to be found in the human mind-body complex.
Surya Mudra is one example of how mudra pranayama works. Place the ring finger at the base of the thumb and at the same time use the thumb to apply slight pressure on the ring finger while keeping the remaining three fingers straight. Tending to your breath while keeping both hands in this gesture is known to improve metabolism and help fight obesity.
Mudras are an effective and easy way to heal illnesses and discomfort, balance doshas, bring one’s mind to a space of quiet and stability, and regulate one’s sleep and metabolism.
In Kundalini yoga, meditation techniques help you increase your awareness, release unwanted energy, and heal illnesses. The duration of these meditations can vary from just three minutes to thirty, based on the effect they have on the body and mind. For example, one 3-minute Kundalini Yoga meditation helps improve blood circulation and improve the bio-magnetic field. An 11-minute meditation can benefit the nervous system and glands or a 30-minute meditation can realign the natural rhythms of the body and mind.
What are the benefits of Kundalini Yoga?
From more manifest physical and mental health changes to spiritual and evolutionary benefits, Kundalini Yoga is said to offer the entire gamut of mind-body changes that promise to keep you healthy and living long and well.
Relief from Anxiety and Stress
The breathing practices and meditations produce a de-stressing and calming effect on the body and mind. In a 2017 study, participants who learned Kundalini Yoga showed immediate signs of relief from stress, with the relief lasting for more than three months. And another study showed that eight weeks of Kundalini Yoga helped reduce anxiety levels in those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Better Cognitive Function
The practices help increase awareness, improve memory, and increase attention span. According to a global 2017 study done on 81 participants with mild cognitive impairment, the group who learned Kundalini Yoga “showed short- and long–term improvements in executive functioning…and broader effects on depressed mood and resilience.’ They also showed improvement in memory.
Improved Body Positivity and Higher Self-Acceptance
Studies on women undergoing eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia that sometimes have roots in self-perception and childhood traumas, showed that practitioners of Kundalini Yoga over time developed qualities of self-appreciation, self-acceptance, and healthy body images.
Better Spiritual Connection
The heightened awareness that is a result of all the techniques one learns as part of Kundalini Yoga helps the practitioners connect more openly with themselves and the world around them. The outcome is more empathy, heightened creativity, more energy, and inner peace.
What is the Significance of the Color White in Kundalini Yoga?
Kundalini Yoga experts believe colors are known to influence one’s consciousness. White is said to widen one’s aura which provides stronger protection from unwanted energies, and lets you send out more positive energy out in the world.
Is Kundalini Yoga Safe?
Like everything else, it should be done in moderation and under expert supervision. The idea is to grow at one’s own pace towards enlightenment and spiritual awareness. The hurry to awaken one’s kundalini energy by any means can create more problems for an individual than give the right results. Our body and mind need to be sufficiently prepared through regular practice for the increase in energy and opening up of the kundalini channels. It should be avoided if you’re pregnant, have breathing problems, or suffer from arthritis or a mental illness.
While Kundalini Yoga offers wholesome ways to reach one’s highest spiritual potential which is enlightenment, one needs to be careful about not rushing it. We advise learning the techniques with a certified instructor.