Kundalina Yoga 101
Using chanting, meditation, poses, and breath, a Kundalini practice helps you channel your energy from the bottom of your spine to your whole being’s energy centers, or chakras. Labeled the “yoga of awareness” by many, Kundalini captures the elevation of the spirit: as the energy flows within you, rising from your lower chakras to the higher ones, the delivery of enlightenment and the highest consciousness is achieved. Kundalini stems from the Sanskrit word, kundala, meaning coiled, or kundalini, which has been translated as “the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved” (yogic testimonies suggest it being theorized as both a coiled-up or sleeping serpent at the base of the spine and as a metaphor to conceptualize the flow of energy and consciousness found within each person. Though early references date as far back as 1,400 and 1,000 B.C., Kundalini yoga was believed to be shrouded in secrecy, shared with only chosen devotees, and did not became mainstream in the West until the late 1960s, thanks to Yogi Bhajan; the creator of 3HO® (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization), Bhajan’s particular teaching of Kundalini yoga takes a Raja Yoga-approach.
Know Before You Go
Kundalini yoga provides a more spiritual experience than most other yoga types. Be prepared for a variation of breathing techniques of different intensities, mudras, chanting, meditations and kriya, an orchestrated sequence of movements/poses, all of which are designed to help you tune into and become fully “aware” of body and mind in preparation for the awakening of the seven chakras. You’ll engage in poses that target such elements as the navel and spine coupled with breath work and bhandas that release and lead the energy flow from the lower chakras all the way to the seventh chakra at the crown of the head. The start of a Kundalini class often begins with a quick chant, followed by pranayama or a stretching warm up, and concludes with a closing meditation. Some classes end with a song or even the ringing of a gong to heighten the meditative, relaxed state, depending on the yoga studio. As well, your Kundalini yoga teacher may don an all-white ensemble, complete with a white cap or turban. Kundalini yoga is appropriate for all levels, from the beginner to the experienced devotee; however, be aware that some of the kriyas and breathing techniques are meant to be physically — and mentally — vigorous, so you should choose your class accordingly.