What is Kundalini Yoga? A Zenful Guide
While there is no denying that there are many different types of yoga, one of the most interesting forms of this ancient practice is one known as Kundalini Yoga. While it may not be the most common of yoga practices, it is one that is filled with benefits and one that can help both your mind and body with regular practice.
If you are have been hearing about Kundalini Yoga lately, or are just looking for a fresh new type of yoga to add to your routine, take a look at our Zenful guide to all things Kundalini Yoga.
What is Kundalini Yoga?
One of the most interesting things about Kundalini Yoga is that it is actually a blend of two different types of yoga: Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Shakti Yoga.
Kundalini takes elements from all three of these types of yoga and blends them together into one practice. So, before you can understand Kundalini Yoga, you need to understand what these three other types of yoga have to offer.
- Bhakti Yoga- Is the practice of devotion and chanting during yoga.
- Raja Yoga- Focuses on meditation and using mental and physical control.
- Shakti Yoga- Expresses power and energy and is more physical in nature.
When you complete a Kundalini Yoga practice, you should feel like you just got a great workout, spent time singing and letting loose with friends, and like you’ve just had a therapeutic session with a counselor—all in one. It truly covers your mind, body and spirit.
The History of Kundalini Yoga
Like most forms of yoga, the history of Kundalini yoga dates back many centuries. The word Kundalini means “a spiritual energy or life force located in the base of the spine.” You will often see this portrayed through a coiled-up snake in most Kundalini Yoga practices.
This idea of the coiled snake can be seen in Hatha yoga practices dating back to the 15th century. In Kundalini Yoga, you will find that the goal is to arouse the “sleeping serpent” in your spine through the six chakras along your backbone all the way up to your crown.
Kundalini Yoga, or the “Yoga of Awareness” has been around for more than 5,000 years, and was originally taught by Yogi Bhajan. Today, there are differing forms of this type of yoga, depending on who is teaching it and where you are taking the class.
Kundalini Yoga Benefits
In order to see the full benefits of Kundalini yoga, you will need to practice it regularly, just as you would with any other form of exercise. Over time, you will start to see physical, mental and emotional benefits of this type of yoga, including:
- Increased energy level
- A greater sense of intuition
- A quieter mind
- Better joint health
- A better feeling of balance and inner peace
- Increased confidence
- Better posture
- Strengthened immune system
- Better spine flexibility
- Regulates sleep
- Increases immunity
- Helps with stress and anxiety
- Lowers blood pressure
- More muscle tone
- A better connection with the divine
- The ability to learn to let go
- Increased lung capacity
It is important to realize that since this form of yoga blends a few different techniques and styles together, it will feel different and come with different benefits than most “traditional” yoga classes you will find in gyms and studios.
Kundalini Yoga For Beginners
If you are completely new to Kundalini Yoga, then here are a few things that you can expect from your first Kundalini Yoga class.
- Classes typically last 60-90 minutes.
- There will be mantras. These are words or phrases that are spoken aloud during class. Every class begins and ends with chanting mantras, and you will likely chant throughout the practice too.
- You will need to engage in Pranayma—or controlling the breath in order to alter the flow of energy in the body. One of the most common is alternate-nostril-breathing which cleanses the energy channels.
- The Kriya. This is the sequence of postures, mantras, meditations and breath you will take during your class.
- There is a lot of relaxation and meditation in these classes. It is not just physical.
- You end with a closing song. At the end of every class, you sing the Blessing song “May the long time sun shine upon you.”
5 Kundalini Yoga Poses
You will notice that many of the poses in this practice are designed to promote body awareness and active the naval, spine and focal points that coordinate with the different chakras in the body. There are so many different Kundalini Yoga poses—but here are the five most common poses that you will likely see in your practice.
1. Tune In
This is one of the most common pose in Kundalini Yoga, and you will likely do it first in your class. Here’s how to tune in before your practice:
- Sit up tall lengthening the back and your neck.
- Briskly rub your palms together so that they generate a little heat.
- Bring your hands together in prayer pose—holding them in front of the heart.
- Close your eyes, roll them up and look toward your third eye (the area between your eyebrows)
- Take a deep breath in and out, bring yourself to your present state
- Inhale deeply from your stomach and chant “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” loudly and powerfully at least three times.
2. Leg Lifts
Leg lifts will spark energy near your naval point and engage this chakra—it is also a great core workout too! Here’s how it works.
- Lay on your back.
- Inhale slowly and pull in your low belly.
- Lift your legs to 90 degrees with your toes pointed toward the ceiling
- Exhale slowly and lower your legs down—keeping your kegs straight.
- Place your hands under your hips for extra support.
- Repeat the practice slowly for several minutes, doing both legs together or one at a time.
After 3-5 minutes of this practice, you will have sparked the energy near your naval.
3. Rock Pose
Also known as Vajrasana, the Rock Pose, is a simple, yet effective pose.
Kneel and sit on your heels, with the tops of your feet on the ground. This will press the nerves in the center of your glutes.
You will sit in this pose for several minutes and may be asked to include a chant or mantra in to this pose. The name is called “Rock Pose” because it has an impact on the digestive system—so much that it enables someone to digest rocks.
4. The Divine Grind
Sit down in a cross-legged position to begin the Divine Grind.
Place your hands on your knees and churn your lower torso, in a circular motion, by moving your naval to the front, back and side to side.
Carefully bring your chin up as you continue churning your navel and coordinate the movement with your breath and arcing your back as you do it.
This motion will help remove toxins from your kidneys, gallbladder, liver and spleen.
5. Yoga Mudra
A mudra in Kundalini yoga, is a gesture or position (typically the hands) that locks and guides energy flow and reflexes to the brain. There are a few different common mudras used in this yoga practice.
- Guyana Mudra– When the thumb touches the tip of the index finger which represents the ego.
- Active Guyan Mudra– The first joint of the index finger bent under the first joint of the thumb, imparting active knowledge.
- Shuni Mundra– Middle finger touches the tip of the thumb, giving patience.
- Surya or Ravi Mudra– The tip of the ring finger touches the tip of the thumb, giving energy, health and intuition.
Is Kundalini Meditation Dangerous?
There are some misconceptions out there regarding Kundalini meditation, and whether it is dangerous, or not. This practice is not dangerous.
Since you are going to be sitting in a stiff position, and practicing unique breathing techniques (such as breathing through one nostril at a time), you need to make sure that you listen to your body. If you feel drowsy, dizzy, or as if you have discomfort or pain—make sure to stop your practice immediately.
The Truth About Kundalini Meditation
There are some people who worry about Kundalini meditation because it awakens some of the energy inside your body. There is nothing to be afraid of with this feeling. Many feel like it is a sense of inner bliss or even sensual in nature.
Kundalini meditation is all about your own inner peace. It awakens sexual blocks in your chakras, but is not all about sex, and it involves poses, but is not strenuous or difficult. Instead, you will find that Kundalini Meditation is quite relaxing, spiritual and awakening.
Kundalini Yoga Near Me
Kundalini Yoga classes may not be offered at your local YMCA, but you can typically find a class near you. Simply perform a search for Kundalini classes, gurus or teachers in your area—you will likely need to go to an actual yoga studio or even a spa to find these courses locally.
Since Kundalini Yoga isn’t as popular in the United States, there are also many instructors that perform online courses as well.
There is no denying that Kundalini Yoga isn’t exactly your average, everyday yoga practice. But it is, however, one of the most beneficial and unique forms of yoga out there. If you are looking for a new practice that will help your mind, body and spirit—give Kundalini Yoga a try. You may be surprised to find all of the new changes it brings your way.