Kundalini Yoga 101

woman practicing Kundalini Yoga

Yoga is not just a form of exercise. It is known to revitalize your body, mind and spirit as well. The word yoga means union, and the best forms of yoga are those which allow you to improve all three. Hatha yoga is the oldest of the yoga forms, dating back to 1,500 BC. Kundalini yoga is slightly more modern than that, having been developed in India in the 5th century AD and practiced as part of Tantric Buddhism.

What Is Tantra?

Tantra means “loom, weave, or warp”.  That is, a weaving together of mind, body and spirit. Instead of living in a cave and starving in order to make spiritual progress, Tantric Buddhists incorporate all aspects of life into their spiritual path to perfection. You don’t need to be a Buddhist to practice Kundalini yoga, since yoga is not a part of any religion. Yoga is however a cornerstone of traditional Indian medicine, known as Ayurvedic medicine.

Yoga as Healing

Yoji Bhajan, a Sikh from India, brought Kundalini yoga to the West in the late 1960s.  He also founded the Yogi tea brand. He set up teaching centers as part of the Happy, Healthy Holy Organization (3HO).

Kundalini yoga focuses on awakening your power within through two means, physical movement and mental improvement. Using Kundalini yoga, you develop strength and power in all aspects of your life.  You can then access this power to achieve both your worldly goals and expand your higher self.

The word Kundalini means coiled. It refers to two things. The first is a form of vital life energy thought by Ayurvedic practitioners to be coiled around the base of the spine. By moving this energy through your body and harnessing it whenever you wish, you can release your full potential of body, mind and spirit.  This is the second meaning of Kundalini.

Why Kundalini Yoga Is Different

Kundalini utilizes poses and breath work in a range of ways. Rather than using them individually, Kundalini yoga puts them into sets known as kriyas.  These kriyas are designed to accomplish certain goals. These goals can range from boosting your energy and strengthening your immune system, to weight loss and lowering stress. Some of the poses are special and used only in Kundalini yoga.

In addition to the poses, Kundalini uses special breath work.  One method, called Breath of Fire, is rapidly breathing in and out through the nose in the same way a dog would pant through its mouth. The pattern awakens the energy in the spine and moves it upwards so it can be used in a range of ways. It also gives the abs a great workout.

Kundalini works on the individual chakras of the body as well, to balance them. The word chakra means vortex; the energy is pictured as spinning like a plate from the front of our body to our back.

There are seven chakras, each related to a certain form of energy. For example, the heart chakra at the center of our chest is said to control our love and relationships. A blocked or imbalanced chakra can lead to disharmony and poor health. An open and balanced one can lead to happier relationships.

Kundalini also differs from other forms of yoga because of its mantras and chanting. If you love to sing, this is the right yoga for you.

Who Can Do Kundalini Yoga?

This form of yoga can be done by people of all ages and physical conditions. There are no levels so you can benefit from any class you attend. If you are feeling “stuck” in certain parts of your life, see if there is a Kundalini studio near you and try it out to see what a difference it can make in your life.