What is Kundalini Yoga?
What creative spirits are involved or energy?
What can be learned from it?
Kundalini Yoga also known as laya yoga, is a school of yoga. Kundalini yoga was influenced by the tantra and Shakta schools of Hinduism.
Kundalini yoga derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of meditation, pranayama, chanting mantra and yoga asana. Called by practitioners “the yoga of awareness”, it aims “to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others.”
What has become known as “Kundalini yoga” in the 20th century, after a technical term peculiar to this tradition, has otherwise been known as laya yoga from the Sanskrit term laya “dissolution, extinction”. The Sanskrit adjective kuṇḍalin means “circular, annular”. It does occur as a noun for “a snake” (in the sense “coiled”, as in “forming ringlets”) in the 12th-century Rajataangini chronicle. Kuṇḍa, a noun with the meaning “bowl, water-pot” is found as the name of a Nagain Mahabharata. The feminine kuṇḍalī has the meaning of “ring, bracelet, coil (of a rope)” in Classical Sanskrit, and is used as the name of a “serpent-like “Shakti in Tantrism as early as c. the 11th century, in the Śaradatilaka. This concept is adopted as kuṇḍalini as a technical term into Hatha Yoga in the 15th century and becomes widely used in the Yoga Upanishads by the 16th century.
The Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad is listed in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads. Since this canon was fixed in the year 1656, it is known that the Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad was compiled in the first half of the 17th century at the latest. The Upanishad more likely dates to the 16th century, as do other Sanskrit texts which treat kundalini as a technical term in tantric yoga, such as the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpana and the Pādukā-pañcaka. These latter texts were translated in 1919 by John Woodroffe as The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga. In this book, he was the first to identify “Kundalini yoga” as a particular form of Tantric Yoga, also known as Laya Yoga.
The Yoga-Kundalini and the Yogatattva are closely related texts from the school of Hatha yoga. They both draw heavily on the Yoga Yajnavalkya, as does the foundational Hatha Yoga Pradipika. They are part of a tendency of syncretism combining the tradition of yoga with other schools of Hindu philosophy during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad itself consists of three short chapters; it begins by stating that Chitta (consciousness) is controlled by Prana, and it’s controlled by moderate food, postures and Shakti-Chala. Verses I.3-6 explains the concepts of moderate food and concept, and verse I.7 introduces Kundalini as the name of the Shakti under discussion. The Sakti is only Kundalini. A wise man should take it up from its place to the middle of the eyebrows. This is called Sakti-Chala. In practicing it, two things are necessary, Sarasvati-Chalana and the restraint of Prana (breath). Then through practice, Kundalini (which is spiral) becomes straightened.
Although kundalini developed as a part of tantra side-by-side with hatha yoga through a process of syncretism, Swami Nigamananda (d. 1935) taught a form of laya yoga which he insisted was not part of Hatha yoga.
Swami Sivananda (1935) introduced many readers to “Kundalini yoga” with his book on the subject in 1935. Swami Sivananda’s book combines laya teachings from older sources including the Hathapradipika and Satcakranirupana. Together with other currents of Hindu revivalism and Neo-Hinduism, Kundalini Yoga became popular in 1960s to 1980s western counter-culture.
In 1968, Yogi Bhajan introduced his own brand of kundalini yoga into the United States, “Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan”. Yogi Bhajan founded the “Happy, Heathy, Holy Organization” (3HO) as a teaching organization. Yogi Bhajan took yogic postures and techniques, attached them to Tantric theories and Sikh mantras, synthesizing a new form of ‘Kundalini’ yoga. “When placed alongside the teachings of Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari and Maharaj Virsa Singh, it becomes strikingly apparent that at least in its earliest years, Yogi Bhajan’s Kundalini yoga was not a distinct practice, but essentially a combination of yogic mechanics learned from the former and the Sikh-derived mantras (Ik Ongkaar, Sat Naam, Sri Waheguru) and chanting from the latter,” Deslippe writes. But Virsa Singh rejected Bhajan’s Kundalini yoga. Yoga was not a part of the Gobind Sadan spiritual path. And a power struggle ensued over who would win control of the new American followers.
Traditional Sikhs use quotations by Bhai Gurdas, whose “Vaaraa,” or “Ballads,” were considered by Guru Arjan as a key to understanding the concepts of the Guru Granth as saying, wherever Guru Nanak went and debated the futility of yoga, the yogis gave up their yogic paths. The yogis of “Gorakhmata,” meaning “Wisdom of Gorakhnatha,” the founder of Hatha yoga, converted to the path of Guru Nanak, and also changed the name of their ancient center to “Nanakmata,” meaning “Wisdom of Guru Nanak,” known today as Gurdwara Sri Nanakmata Sahib. Guru Nanak never practiced yoga, and neither did any of the following Gurus, their Sikhs or the Khalsa. Yoga is unmistakably refuted in the Guru Granth.
Disciples of Harbhajan Singh (Yogi Bhajan) claim that while Yoga practice and philosophy are generally considered a part of Hindu culture, Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan is founded on the principles of Sikh Dharma. While adhering to the three pillars of Patanjali’s kriya yoga system: discipline (tapaḥ), spiritual study (svādhyāya) and devotion to God (iśvarapraṇidāna), Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan does not condone extremes of asceticism or renunciation. He encouraged his students to marry, establish businesses, and be fully engaged in society. Rather than worshiping God, Yogi Bhajan’s teachings encourage students to train their mind to experience God. Yogi Bhajan sometimes referred to the Sikh lifestyle as Raja Yoga, the yoga of living detached, yet fully engaged in the world.
Kundalini is the term for “a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine”, conceptualized as a coiled-up serpent. The practice of Kundalini yoga is supposed to arouse the sleeping Kundalini Shakti from its coiled base through the 6 chakras, and penetrate the 7th chakra, or crown. This energy is said to travel along the ida (left), pingala (right) and central, or sushumna nadi – the main channels of pranic energy in the body.
Kundalini energy is technically explained as being sparked during yogic breathing when prana and apana blends at the 3rd chakra (navel center) at which point it initially drops down to the 1st and 2nd chakras before traveling up to the spine to the higher centers of the brain to activate the golden cord – the connection between the pituitary and pineal glands – and penetrate the 7 chakras.
Borrowing and integrating the highest forms from many different approaches, Kundalini Yoga can be understood as a tri-fold approach of Bhakti yoga for devotion, Shakti yoga for power, and Raja yoga for mental power and control. Its purpose through the daily practice of kyiyas and meditation in sadhana are described a practical technology of human consciousness for humans to achieve their total creative potential. With the practice of Kundalini Yoga one is thought able to liberate oneself from one’s Karma and to realize one’s Dharma (Life Purpose).
The practice of kriyas and meditations in Kundalini Yoga are designed to raise complete body awareness to prepare the body, nervous system, and mind to handle the energy of Kundalini rising. The majority of the physical postures focus on navel activity, activity of the spine, and selective pressurization of body points and meridians. Breath work and the application of bandhas aid to release, direct and control the flow of Kundalini energy from the lower centers to the higher energetic centers.
Along with the many kriyas, meditations and practices of Kundalini Yoga, a simple breathing technique of alternate nostril breathing (left nostril, right nostril) is taught as a method to cleanse the nadis, or subtle channels and pathways, to help awaken Kundalini energy.
Kundalini Yoga is a catalyst for psycho-spiritual growth and bodily maturation. According to this interpretation of yoga, the body bows itself into greater maturation […], none of which should be considered mere stretching exercises. “Kundalini Yoga consists of active and passive asana-based kriyas, pranayama, and meditations which target the whole body system (nervous system, glands, mental faculties, chakras) to develop awareness, consciousness and spiritual strength.” —Yogi Bhajan
One of the best features about New Moons is the feeling having a fresh start with new awareness and new intensions. Kundalini Yoga during a new moon can be a time for new construction and work on the inner self. It can be a time to go within and meditate where you have been and where you want to be. It is an opportunity to go into a state of silence and neutrality to remember what is really important in your life. With the world in fast forward with upheavals and challenges happening every day and everywhere, it is important to pause and set time aside to revitalize and reenergize. Yoga and meditation practiced during a new moon can give you fresh new perspectives and enhanced commitment to a new direction. This class also includes a long gong relaxation.