So you’ve heard about Kundalini Yoga, maybe someone has warned you about Kundalini Yoga. Perhaps they told you it’s dangerous, sexual or it makes you crazy… Maybe someone told you it’s a cult even. Before we dub all Kundalini Yoga practitioners as Kundaloonies, let’s take a look at the context of Kundalini Yoga and see the similarities between Kundalini Yoga and other yogas. This following posts in this series will look at the differences between Kundalini Yoga and other yogas.
First I, just want to mention that we will talk about Kundalini Yoga as Taught by Yogi Bhajan™ rather some of the other styles that call themselves Kundalini Yoga. Yogi Bhajan taught a very specific form of Kundalini Yoga that is intended for elevation. This is what you will usually find in studios and with mainstream practitioners. Other styles of yoga that may call themselves kundalini yoga, may practice things that could be sexual or dangerous.
Similarities Between Kundalini Yoga and Other Yogas
There are a lot of rumors and misconceptions out there about Kundalini Yoga. Let’s first take a look at how Kundalini Yoga is similar to other yogas, such as hatha or vinyasa yoga and then we’ll discuss the differences.
Yoga is yoga
The word yoga means to “yoke” which refers to attaching or connecting. In this context the purpose of all yoga is to connect us to our soul and to connect from that to the Infinite, God, Spirit, Unity(choose your favorite moniker). In this sense the purpose of all yoga is to strengthen this connection. The practice of physical yoga postures prepares the body for meditation. Meditation then clears the way through quieting the mind and elevating our essence to connect to soul & Infinite. In this sense all yoga is related. You of course have practices like laughter yoga that are different from the physical yoga practice you see at the gym.
Postures or asanas
Kundalini yoga and other yogas share some postures like plow pose, cat cow, child’s pose, cobra, locust pose, shoulder stand, bow pose, forward bend, plank or platform, downward dog, bridge, and more. Deep, conscious breathing is also an important component of most yoga styles. Kundalini yoga even has it’s own version of sun salutations (starts about 25 minutes into video)!
The original purpose of the physical yoga postures and practice was to prepare the body for meditation. This helps you to connect to the Soul and connect from that to the Infinite Source or Oneness or God (take your favorite name). While not all yoga studios teach meditation as a component of yoga, meditation is an integral part of all traditional yoga practices. Meditation can be silent, chanted or focused on the breath. There are many variations, but all have shown to improve brain function, reduce stress and increase feelings of well-being.
The So-Called Dangerous Kundalini
Because Kundalini Yoga is called Kundalini Yoga people assume that it has to do with some esoteric strange energy. An energy that does weird things to people and is associated with snakes. What many people don’t realize is that the word kundalini refers to the creative potential of every human being. This potential is a dormant part of every human. The practice of yoga, all yoga, works to unlock and release the creative potential known as the kundalini.
So what’s with the snake? The word kundalini originally meant “a lock of the hair of the beloved” or “coiled serpent” referring to the coil like shape that the kundalini energy rests in. The flow of the opening of the kundalini energy is spiral-like, like the uncoiling of a serpent, thus the association with snakes. So all yogas are in essence associated with the kundalini potential, some just talk about it more than others. You will rarely find snakes in a Kundalini Yoga class.
Some folks think the kundalini energy is dangerous because it’s like a high voltage current. What does this mean? The power lines have to be clear so that the circuits don’t get fried. It is possible for the kundalini to rise in people who have never practiced yoga as the result of a physical injury or some other reason. When this happens, the body and energy pathways have not been cleared through yogic practices and the energy often hits a blockage. This causes the energy to flow sideways. The pressure on a given energy center with blocks makes challenges to arise quickly in the physical body and in the mental arena. Some people feel physically ill or overwhelmed by the mental issues that arise. This is a clearing effect of the energy and when accelerated can be uncomfortable.
Speaking from personal experience, I would much rather have the kundalini rise through the practice of yoga in a controlled manner. The spontaneous kundalini rising can feel like being hit by a train if you are not prepared for it. The pressure of the spontaneous kundalini is similar to a fire hose being stuck at the base of the spine and then shot up full blast. When it hits a block, you can be ill for days and pretty uncomfortable. In a yoga setting, especially Kundalini Yoga, the energy rises gently up the spine and nourishes the chakras as it returns back to the base. The idea is that as we become better able to handle the energy rising we are able to retain the creativity and elevation in our daily activities on a consistent basis through consistent practice.
So you may not exactly know what the chakras are but your yoga teacher keeps talking about them in class. The chakra system is a way to understand the body as a series of energy centers at various levels of balance. When they are balanced and flowing then we are healthy and happy. When they are blocked or too open then we feel unbalanced, unhealthy or unhappy in various ways and our behavior is not in line with our truth.
All yoga systems on some level use the chakras to help create yoga sets and to understand how to balance physical and energy bodies. This is true of both Kundalini Yoga and hatha yogas. Difference yoga postures will work on different chakras to help them clear and balance themselves. Since the chakras are a longer topic I will not cover them here, sufficed to say it’s a convenient tool to help see how you are doing on your path of wellness.
Celebrities Like It!
Ok, so yes, this is just silly, but there are lots of celebrities who practice yoga. Folks like Jessica Biel, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Anniston and Matthew McConaughey practice hatha yoga of various styles. Demi Moore and Russell Brand are known to practice Kundalini Yoga. Mostly I just wanted to add this rather poignant Russell Brand quote about yoga. You can check out this SpiritVoyage article about celebrities who have practiced Kundalini Yoga.
Celebrity or not, there’s really no reason to do yoga for someone else. Your path with yoga is your path, doing it for someone else or to attract someone else is not really the point. Sure you can look good with a yoga body, but mostly it’s about feeling good on the inside. That includes diet as well as physical practice and meditation.
What about the differences?
So you may have noticed that the similarities between Kundalini yoga and other yogas go into the core purpose of all yoga. The purpose is to raise the Kundalini and to connect with the Infinite within. There are different approaches to some of the nuances and practices of yoga in Kundalini Yoga and other yogas and we’ll look at those in the coming weeks. Some of them might shock you and others might shed light on your way. I’m excited to share this information with you so that you can have clarity about the beautiful practice of Kundalini Yoga. Stay tuned and we’ll take a little journey together into the context of Kundalini Yoga.