Approaches to Yoga: Kundalini Yoga

Article ID: JAY001-1 | By: Elliot Miller

Kundalini Yoga- What Is It?Kundalini yoga deliberately attempts to arouse and raise the kundalini, believed to be Shakti or creative divine energy, which sleeps at the base of the spine like a serpent, coiled in three and one-half circles. Toward this end, kundalini yogis place a special emphasis on pranayama or breathing exercises in order to gain control of the respiratory system, which they believe will lead to control of other systems and ultimately of the entire body, including the kundalini. Visualization of the kundalini rising is also a common approach, based on the assumption that visualization of itself has the power to effect that which it visualizes. Kundalini yogis also use asanas, mudras (hand positions), chanting mantras, and meditation to raise the kundalini. A classic object of meditation is the seven-petaled lotus flower, which represents the seven charkas.

Kundalini Yoga- The One-Thousand-Petaled LotusThe one-thousand-petaled lotus, often seen in visionary experiences, represents the crown chakra. Raising the kundalini often results in powerful mystical experiences and visions, as a devotee of the late kundalini yoga teacher Swami Muktananda explains:

When this sleeping Kundalini is awakened it raises its [serpentine] hood. The door of the Sushumna [a nadi or energy conduit] is opened and the Kundalini ascends upwards along the Sushumna piercing through the six chakras (centres) situated in it. When it reaches the highest centre, called Sahasrara, in the crown of the head, it unites with the Lord Shiva [the god of destruction, third in the Hindu trinity, whose consort, Shakti, is identified with the kundalini]. This union brings ineffable joy of Blissful Beatitude. …it gives various mysterious experiences to the sadhaka [i.e., yogi], who himself is struck with wonder by them….The experiences in the gross body are such as tremors, heat, electric shocks, perspiration, tears, thrill of joy, palpitation, involuntary suspension of breath or deep breathing, revolving of eye-balls….The experiences in the subtle body are such as visions of deities and divine beings, receiving instructions from them; hearing sounds like those of conch, bell, flute, drum, thunder….Under the guidance of the Guru, the sadhaka should proceed with the spirit of surrender allowing the Shakti to manifest itself unobstructed while himself remaining as a witness to its working. He should not try to avert an experience through fear. The Shakti is intelligent. It is aware of its own activity. Hence nothing ever goes wrong. Besides, the Guru is always there to control its flow.11

Yogis believe kundalini phenomena are the true explanation for visionary experiences in all religions. According to their interpretive grid, anyone who has a spiritual experience has to some degree aroused the kundalini, but if he is not properly trained by a guru he will misinterpret his experiences (e.g., when Muhammad heard the voice of the angel Gabriel) and likely develop unhelpful or even harmful beliefs.12

Kundalini Yoga- Dangerous PracticeIn a manner somewhat comparable to LSD, raising the kundalini is considered risky, with temporary madness, lasting mental instability or illness, and occult oppression being possible consequences.13 Many yogis thus warn against the practice for most people and condemn yogis who indiscriminately teach it to the public.