Living a yoga lifestyle isn’t all tight pants, crazy stretches and trendy health food kicks. There is much more to it than the average person knows. The knowledge that exists on this way of life dates back as far as the Upanishad and Pāli Canon scriptures in Hindu and Buddhism religions, respectively. Yoga is a mentality, a custom, a belief, a way of acting, and a spiritual path. This vehicle was created to take a person from a life of immediate satisfaction and spiritual anarchy to a path of understanding, acceptance and eternal happiness. Kundalini and energy centers are one part of a smorgasbord feeding the body and soul.
Many pictures and descriptions of kundalini equate the likeness to a snake and the word is Sanskrit actually translates to “coiled snake”. Picture this: while a snake sleeps, it coils and curls into itself taking up very little space and being barely noticeable. When it awakens, the snake rises from the coil vertically. This is how Kundalini energy and awakening is visualized to work in the body. Kundalini yoga is a practice that energizes stagnant energy, creating a movement or “awareness” that grows as the individual grows in the process.
In the early texts of eastern philosophy there are descriptions of energy centers that are located throughout the body. In most cases these central locations are pictured along the spinal path. They go by different names including sushumna and the more popularly known chakra. These centers are located from the tailbone to the head and specifically are found around the crown, forehead (the third eye), throat, heart, upper abdomen (solar plexus), lower abdomen (sacral), and in the base of the spine (root). The kundalini is an essential energy type located at the root. It is considered a “creative force” and influenced by physical desire, instinct, and pure urge. For this reason, westerners may associate kundalini with adrenaline and sexuality.
Mystery and secrecy circles the history of this exercise. At first it was passed verbally from master to student. Afterwards students learned the proper techniques to attain enlightenment in secret and after years of verbal education in advance. It took centuries before this practice made its way to the public.
Kundalini rising happens when the kundalini energy “wakes up” and begins to make it’s way up the body and through each chakra or central location. When this occurs the person experiences unique sensations or feelings of enlightenment, euphoria, and happiness. These feelings happen over and over again at each center that is passed. Once the kundalini energy reaches the crown, a person is said to have achieved ultimate enlightenment.
Enlightenment is a journey however and when kundalini energy awakens on it’s own, without the awareness of the individual, opposite and at times malevolent, experiences can be observed. The result can be unnerving and lead to feelings of unease, nervousness, discontent and even not belonging.
It is believed by these eastern cultures that when a person experiences Kundalini rising they are influenced by their shakti. A shakti is a spiritual “goddess” or power. This power acts as a type of spiritual conscience that steers the individual in the right direction and keeps him or her focused on the path of enlightenment. As the individual acknowledges and adheres to shakti, their desire to increase their yoga practices and meditate increases.
According to Hindu religion, a person can be born with the predisposition to special gifts like kundalini awakening or it can happen later in life as a result of a traumatic experience. Otherwise, a yogi can experience this phenomenon through meditation, chanting mantras, breathing exercises like prayanama, and energy locking through bandha exercises. It is recommended for anyone seeking this spiritual experience to lean to a teacher or guru. Learning under a spiritual leader will help facilitate the proper methods of breathing, ensure correct asana structure, and help answer questions about novel phenomenons that an individual new to this experience may have.
So what does a class look like? Well, it depends on the teacher or master but generally there are a few common traits. Breathing, stretching, jumping, dancing and chanting are a few things you can expect during your Kundalini experience. Make sure you set apart one hour to an hour and a half to this experience. First, there is warm up of your instructors choice. This may entail breathing and/or listening to teaching of Kundalini. This takes about 510 minutes of the class time. Next is about 3045 minutes of the actual workout, which can be any combination of mula bandha, prayanama, hatha yoga, and meditation.
Once the workout is completed a student is directed into a familiar pose, savasana. This is also called corpse pose and is the common ending to many yoga practices. One lays on their back with arms resting at their sides, slightly angled out, and legs resting straight out. The feet themselves should fall out to their sides. Savasana mediation lasts for between 515 minutes, at the discretion of the instructor or as feels comfortable without falling asleep!
Another difference between typical yoga and Kundalini yoga is that while we may believe savasana to be the end, it is not! The remaining 11 – 30 minutes is in seated meditation. This is the time chanting mantras are added to the exercise. Kundalini yoga is a very traditional style of yoga with many difference aspects that can potentially lead to an end goal of openness and awareness. When the kundalini shakti is awakened and the energy begins to move through the body, it is called rising and leads to experiences that many define as pure spiritual euphoria.