There are many styles of yoga from which to choose. Popular types of yoga involve moving the body into a series of poses. These postures help to build strength, gain flexibility, improve your balance, and more. These moving practices are great introductions to yoga. They allow the practitioner to be more aware of their physical bodies. Once this physical connection is established, the yogi can then go deeper; explore the full spectrum of the yoga practice and philosophy. One style of yoga that can guide you deeper into your emotional and spiritual being is called Kundalini Yoga. Let’s examine this beautiful practice further; explore the meaning of Kundalini Yoga, its benefits, and what to expect in a Kundalini Yoga class.
What is Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga was introduced to the western culture in the late 1970’s. It’s originator is Yogi Bhajan; born in Pakistan, a yoga teacher and spiritual leader. The practice is a combination of breath work (Pranayama), chanting and singing, some body movement (Asanas, Mudras, and Kriyas), and is considered energy work for the body and mind. It is also a source of meditation.
In the early teachings of yoga, it was taught that the human experience can be laden with burdens. These may be emotional loads like anger, depression, sadness, and grief. The pressures of the outside world were also viewed as obstacles for living a conscious-free and enlightened life. When internalized, these energetic blockages could manifest into health and psychological issues. Yoga is a philosophy and practice that helps to eliminate these life burdens so the individual can have a deeper connection with themselves and the Divine. Kundalini is one of those yogic teachings that works to relieve these worldly burdens.
Kundalini comes from the ancient language of yoga, Sanskrit. When translated, one understands the full meaning of the word. “Kunda” means “coiled energy.” This bound up energy, called Prana, is said to be pent-up or stored energy resulting from these life obstacles. They reside in parts of the body causing pain and emotional discomfort. Through the yoga practice, this “coiled energy” is unlocked to experience a freedom from within.
An image associated with Kundalini is a sleeping snake. It rests at the base of the spine. As one chants, sings, and breathes with intention, the sleeping snake is awakened. It unravels and travels up the spine through the energy centers of the body (Chakras) to raise heightened consciousness and awareness.
The Benefits of Kundalini Yoga
There are many benefits to practicing Kundalini Yoga. Because of the dutiful breath work, one will experience a reduction in stress and anxiety. The breathing exercises devoted to Kundalini (Pranayama) stimulate serotonin production in the brain. This neurotransmitter is associated with regulating mood and body temperature. One often feels more calm, relaxed, and at ease after a Kundalini class.
The Kundalini practice has meditative qualities. With such practices, it targets the frontal lobe of the brain. This is where the executive functions of memory, thinking, and concentration take place. With a consistent Kundalini Yoga practice, one can enlarge these areas of the brain and improve concentration and other cognitive functions.
Due to the highly concentrated nature of this style of yoga, one can become much more aware of themselves. A full sense of self is observed that allows for a greater appreciation for the self to take place. Since Kundalini is about extracting negativity and other mental obstacles, the result is a more positive view of yourself.
This type of yoga helps to cleanse and bring greater clarity on a mental, emotional, and spiritual level. The intention of Kundalini is to raise the energy within and remove false perceptions of the self. It allows for the yogi to see themselves authentically and live a more positive life. One often experiences more empathy toward oneself, others, and nature. There is a heightened sense of creativity, energy, and internal peace.
What to Expect in a Kundalini Yoga Class
When you attend a Kundalini Yoga class, traditionally, there are six components of the practice that you can expect.
Opening Chant: Each class starts with an opening chant. It is a way to “tune-in” and prepare the mind and body for the practice. It sets the tone and intention for the Kundalini practice. A common opening is called the Adi Mantra – “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.” This means “I bow to the subtle divine wisdom, the divine teacher within.”
Pranayama (Breath Warm-Up Exercise): Breathing is a foundational component of Kundalini. Called Pranayama, it is a practice of breath control. It further prepares the body for the intention of the practice. This may be, for example, to raise energy in the body, reduce muscle tension, or improve concentration.
Kriya: This is a series of actions that take place during the heart of the Kundalini class. The series is composed of physical movements, pranayama, mudras (hand postures), chanting, and meditation. This is often the height of the practice and can be quite intense at times since the intention is to raise the energy in the body. (Awakening the coiled snake and allow it to move upward through the Chakra System.)
Meditation: The final part of the practice is meditation and relaxation. This offers the body and mind the opportunity to absorb the effects of the energetic kriya series.
Closing Chant: The Kundalini class typically ends with a closing chant. It is a way to bring closure to your energy work. A common chant is often recited here – “Sat Nam” – which means “I am truth.” It is the declaration that you have achieved the intentions of your practice, removed unwanted obstacles, and have found clarity to see and experience your inner truth.
If you’re looking for a style of yoga that involves mental clarity, physical healing, and a heightened sense of self, then try a Kundalini Yoga practice. Since it incorporates the historical and philosophical nature of the yoga teachings, it is a practice that is relevant in today’s world and quite accessible. After a few Kundalini Yoga sessions, you will feel more energetic, optimistic, and whole. It is a pathway toward a deeper connection with yourself, others, and the Divine.