Kundalini in English means the “serpent power”. Kundalini is the evolutionary energy which resides in the human body. Thousands of years ago it was discovered in various part of the world that an intelligent mechanism within our body is responsible for the process of spiritual awakening. This intelligent mechanism was named as “Kundalini” in India. It actually represents the biological basis of all the spiritual experience and according to our belief is the force which drives the evolution of humanity. Kundalini is believed to be the untapped energy at the base of the spine which could be drawn up through our bodies awakening each of the seven chakras. When this energy reaches the crown chakra situated at the top of the head, full enlightenment appears. The Kundalini energy has often been represented as a snake coiled at the bottom of the spine.
In the year 1968 Kundalini yoga was introduced to the western world when yogi Bhajan started teaching in California. He founded the “healthy, happy, holy Organisation” (3HO) in 1969 to introduce this yogic form to a broader population. Prior to this the Kundalini yoga was taught only in India in the Guru-student tradition and was passed down the line.
The sequence of Kundalini yoga asana are popularly known as “kriyas”. Each kriya is a pre-set series of postures which is performed with specific breathing technique and the engagement of band has to intensify the effects of the postures. Each kriya is related to a particular chakra. These may be consisting of repetitive and rapid movements associated with specific breathing methods or recitation of a mantra. In some other ‘kriyas’, postures may be held for several minutes and sometimes accompanied by mantra and pranayama. In general mudras are an important part of each kriya.
Specific kriyas may be prescribed to get the balance and move the prana through all the chakras. In a situation like a group class the teacher should typically setup a set of kriyas which should be beneficial to most of the students.
A Kundalini class may start with a short chanting of mantras (holy words) followed by a warm-up for stretching the spine and improving the flexibility of the body. The main lesion of a class is the kriyas and ending with a meditation which may or may not be associated with the teacher playing a large gong and a closing song. Kundalini student are often seen wearing white clothing along with a head wrap. However, they are not obligated to adopt this style of white outfit while taking the class. Some Kundalini practitioner use sheepskin in the place of yoga mats. Yogi Bhajan has recommended this as a method to separate our bodies from the magnetic pull of the earth. However, this is not mandatory but optional. Some of the most devoted Kundalini yoga practitioner object to such advice on the grounds of ethics.
Kundalini is one of the most spiritual type of yoga. It is way beyond the asana with emphasis being on the opening of the chakras through meditation, pranayama, chanting, mudras, and bandhas. However the Kundalini yoga may still be very intensive. Kundalini yoga may be appealing to people who want such a yoga practice which remains grounded in our physical bodies incorporating all the traditional tools to obtain the enlightenment.
Here, the practice of meditation and ‘kriyas’ are designed in such a manner that they raise the awareness of the complete body. This helps in preparing the body, along with the nerves system and the brain to properly handle the energy of the awakening Kundalini. Most of the physical poses in Kundalini yoga focus on the navel activities, the activity of the spine and the selective pressurisation of body points and meridians. Breathing and the application of the band has helped to control, direct and release the flow of Kundalini energy from the lower energetic centres to the higher energetic centers. A simple breathing technique of alternate nostril breathing is taught along with many kriyas of Kundalini yoga and meditation to cleanse the nadis or subtle channel sand pathways to help awaken the Kundalini energy. In the year 1998 Sovatsky adopted a developmental and evolutionary perspective in his version of Kundalini yoga. Hence, according to him the Kundalini yoga acts as catalyst for the psycho-spiritual growth and maturation of body. According to such interpretation of Kundalini yoga “the body bows itself into greater maturation. None of these should be considered as mere stretching exercises. Kundalini yoga is basically based on active and passive asana-based kriyas, meditation and pranayama which target the whole body system (chakras, mental faculties, glands and the nervous system) to develop consciousness, awareness and spiritual strength.