What is Kundalini Yoga?
Taken from the book Open your heart with Kundalini Yoga, by Siri Datta
Throughout the ages, in every civilization, there has been a hidden pathway, a secret technology of discovery, which enables the individual to reach the ultimate potential. This is a technique that has the ability to elevate, inspire and awaken the individual to their own greatness. That greatness is within every one of us, and the technology that can do this is Kundalini Yoga.
As an enthusiastic teacher of Kundalini Yoga, I am always asked ‘What is it? Is it like Hatha Yoga, or Ashtanga Yoga? Is it dynamic or static? Are there meditation or breathing techniques?’ My answer is always the same: it is all of those things, and a multitude more.
Yogi Bhajan, the Master of Kundalini Yoga, now living in New Mexico, has explained that there are 22 major forms of yoga, each one expressing a facet of the whole. A good way of understanding this is that each different form of yoga is like the facet of a diamond. The diamond herself is Kundalini Yoga, the mother of all yogas.
Kundalini Yoga is the most inclusive of all yoga practices as it includes all aspects of yoga within its teachings. In this practice there are over 8.4 million kriyas (completed sequences, or sets). These kriyas are made up of asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing exercises), mantra (chanting), mudras (hand gestures), bandhs (body locks) and meditation.
The kriyas are a blend of dynamic and static postures that deliver a perfect sequence of energy, tones and feelings played upon the instrument of the body. In the ancient scriptures it is said that Kundalini Yoga is the fastest way to create the transformation that the individual is seeking. There is a certain depth, completeness and timelessness that is inherent in Kundalini Yoga.
Kundalini Yoga is a legacy. It has been practised as an exact science by masters in communication with Infinity, coming directly from the Soul. It is a practice that has been experienced and handed down through enlightened souls for many thousands of years. It is said that Christ, Buddha and Moses practised Kundalini Yoga.
In ancient times it was often taught and passed down through the line of kings. These Kundalini Yoga masters did not specifically or personally pass on the knowledge. Rather it is thought that the teachings were handed down via an authentic lineage of Raj (Royal) Yogis. Kundalini Yoga knowledge was transmitted through meditation and altered states. It was this practice that was kept within the bloodline of royalty. We understand that the very first transmission of Kundalini Yoga was passed to the Hindu god Shiva, who in turn passed the knowledge to his consort Parvarti. From the Bhagavadgita we can understand that Lord Krishna was a keeper of the teachings, which were then passed to King Janaka, who was an early Raj Yogi and master of Kundalini Yoga. This was passed on through that lineage to Guru Ram Das, a Guru of the Sikhs, via the subtle realms. Guru Ram Das was bestowed the High Throne of Raj Yoga, known as the Takhat. The word takhat literally means ‘high throne’ and is not specific to any exclusive form of yoga; there are many other takhats. This meant that he had to pass the technology on with his blessing to anyone who came along. It was through Guru Ram Das that the teachings were passed on to Yogi Bhajan. In 1969 Yogi Bhajan took Kundalini Yoga to the United States, against the wishes of his peers. Until then, it had always been highly secret and was never practised in public.
Since Kundalini Yoga has become so popular in the United States the Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) has been developed. This was founded to verify, promote, produce and preserve the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, exactly as they had been passed down.
There is much confusion surrounding kundalini and Kundalini Yoga. Some experts say that it is the most potent and powerful way to change consciousness, while others warn against practising it, or veil the entire teaching in secrecy. Yet how can something as essential to consciousness as kundalini be feared? Some people worry about raising the kundalini energy, but teachings from Yogi Bhajan have dispelled many misrepresentations and myths surrounding kundalini and his explicit teachings have given researchers techniques that can be thoroughly tested out. Kundalini Yoga is also known as the ‘yoga of awareness’. Awareness leads to understanding and understanding gives way to acceptance. When you can accept yourself, all your limitations fade away. All your fears, insecurities, and self-belittlement cease to be. In its place are abundance, hope and the wisdom of your true worth. Kundalini Yoga is so much more than a set of physical exercises. If genuinely practised, with respect and reverence, it will change your life.
There is only one way that you can practise Kundalini Yoga. It is very specific, clearly laid out and it is practised as it was given, with no alterations. Its path can take you to many places, whether you wish to achieve enlightenment or to release parts of yourself that are out of date and do not reflect the person you wish to be. Kundalini Yoga can also offer an approach for those who have only limited time to devote to this practice, but who also deserve the rewards of this priceless gift. The practice is easily understood and accessible for complete beginners to yoga who have decided that they need a tool to help them balance out everyday pressures. This is the yoga for modern humankind. This practice is for our present-day dilemma: to feel whole and complete while maintaining our day-to-day responsibilities. Kundalini Yoga is a sacred technology that is greatly needed at the present time. It is direct, powerful and simple.
It is important to understand that Kundalini Yoga is concerned with preparing the body for the kundalini energy to rise up through the Sushmana (the energetic spinal column). The scientific aspect of Kundalini Yoga is designed to provide you with the experience of your highest consciousness through the raising of your kundalini. Kundalini is your latent spiritual potential. Through the practice of Kundalini Yoga, this psychic nerve centre is awakened; its revelation is the release of your true potential. For this energy to awaken safely, body and mind need to be strong and able to deal with this very powerful change in consciousness. The practice of Kundalini Yoga is the powerful cleansing of the whole being. Not only do the body and mind need to be cleansed but also the energetic aspects of ourselves. The chakras (energy centres) and meridians (energy pathways) need to be unblocked and activated to allow this new influx of dynamic energy to flow freely throughout the whole being.
Kundalini and chakra work are closely linked. The kundalini energy can be depicted as a serpent, coiled in three and a half turns, sleeping in the Muladhara (Base, or Root, Chakra), the densest of all the chakras. But please note that Yogi Bhajan does not support the concept of kundalini as the coiled serpent, but rather as the blueprint for the full potential of humankind. Kundalini is known as the spiritual nerve, seated in the base of the spine, waiting to be awakened. With the practice of Kundalini Yoga this nerve can be stimulated and start to become activated as it breaks through the blockage at the Muladhara, travelling upwards through the Sushmana and piercing every chakra along the way, until it reaches the Crown, where full enlightenment is attained.
You do not have to charge in with the intention of raising the kundalini to full enlightenment, although this is the goal of all forms of yoga. There is a more acceptable, more gentle, way of introducing you to the sheer potential that is within you, and showing you how this potential can be released. This method is to gen
tly rouse or stir the kundalini energy in the Ida and Pingala channels, which interweave around the Sushmana, every time you embark on a kundalini kriya. The general pattern of a kundalini kriya is to awaken and build up the Pranic energy. This is then guided to the relevant area that you wish to work on. For example, if your digestive system needs working on, a set to help with decision-making or an emotional state that is upsetting you might be helpful. By directing the energy to a particular chakra, organ, or issue in your life, this blockage will be dissolved and once again you will be back in balance. The negative effects will harm you no more.
There are over 8.4 million kriyas, all designed to deal with the day-to-day challenges we face. There are kriyas for physical issues, such as the digestion, circulation, immune system (disease resistance), lower back problems, glandular malfunctions, menopause and sexuality problems. There are also kriyas for the mind, to clear confusion, addictions, haunting thoughts and creative blocks. Additionally, there are kriyas to balance the emotions, to bring about feelings of ecstasy, to dispel fear and paranoia, to bring about stillness and to attain the empowering ability to accept and forgive all aspects of your life.
Meditation is also a very important part of the practice. This allows the body and mind to process the journey of the kriya. The energy has travelled along a certain pathway, awakening, dispelling and moving your energetic bodies. The meditation process is a lesson in inner awareness. Sometimes the meditation will have a breathing technique to enable the mind to quieten as you turn inwards into the realm of feelings and emotions. When this happens you will be able to observe your thoughts as they come and go. This is the start of the practice known as ‘becoming the watcher’. It is through this method that you become master of the mind.
At other times there will be a mantra to accompany the meditation. A mantra is always equipped with a coded sonic vibration that cuts through the psyche and starts to balance out areas within that need attention. When there is a mantra, you may find yourself immersed in the sound. This is the most powerful part of Kundalini Yoga. The word mantra breaks down into man, which means ‘mind’ and tra, which is ‘to vibrate’. Therefore, mantra means ‘to vibrate the mind’. This miraculous technique shifts many character traits and behavioural patterns that keep us suffering. In the chapter on Mantra (see page 51), I will explain exactly how this sonic science works.
I would like to close this section by saying that you can never predict a kundalini class. It is always full of surprises, since many changes will be going on in all the various people present. There have been times in my classes when there have been outbursts of laughter, which is always good fun and I actively encourage it. Yoga is usually synonymous with seriousness, quiet and solemnity, but this is not always the case. Laughter is common in my classes. It is, after all, an explosion of happiness. This usually happens when a painful emotion or memory has been released. It is also common to find yourself so immersed in the kriya and the breathing that you surface to find tears falling down your cheeks. You may not actually be crying, but tears are falling silently. This is always a very powerful realization of the many changes that are taking place within you.
When you experience this, you will find that harmony and balance are restored to you, and you will feel within an endless supply of energy and happiness. When you experience this, even for a few brief moments, your life will not be the same again. The inner light is now switched on, shining through you, and others will not fail to be drawn towards you. You will become a beacon for humankind, a touchstone for the truth, and the living reality of who we really are.
To everyone who embarks on the path of kundalini, I wish you the greatest journey. May your path show you the many examples of Divinity that are around you at any given moment. May you realize the ultimate truth: that only Love can set you free. Be free, my friend, as it is your birthright.
Be Grateful, BE GREAT and BE FULL Yogi Bhajan
Read more from Siridatta here