An Eastern discipline dating back thousands of years, Kundalini yoga was introduced to the West in the late 1960s by Yogi Bhajan. Kundalini is defined as a coiled, universal, creative energy that rests at the base of the spine. Both a physical and meditative discipline, practicing Kundalini yoga – also known as the yoga of awareness – awakens this latent energy to promote heightened consciousness, personal growth, physical healing and inner balance. According to Bhajan’s teachings, Kundalini yoga is a way to arouse and channel one’s natural resources to become happy, healthy and holy – in body, mind and spirit.
Kundalini yoga blends meditation, chanting and deep relaxation (yoga nidra) with unique body postures (kriyas) and breathing techniques (pranayam) that when practiced together, can stimulate the nervous and glandular systems and shift the mind into sharp awareness and a profound sense of calm. A class typically lasts about 60 to 90 minutes and may include a program of short, simple sequences and/or more strenuous exercises and meditations – all of them designed to stimulate and strengthen the body’s nervous and endocrine systems. Music is also a component. By the end of a Kundalini yoga session, even those who are new to the practice should expect to feel the effects of this ancient discipline.
Improve Physical Health
Kundalini postures and exercises have great cardiovascular value. Since some of the movements can be physically challenging, heart rate and circulation increases. Plus, the combined breathing and meditation techniques also have the long-term effect of lowering pulse rate and blood pressure. Flexibility, strength and muscle tone are also greatly improved through the movements. But what makes this yoga so unique is its ability to massage internal tissues and organs and stimulate the blood, lymph and other body fluids, which promotes the elimination of toxins through the skin, lungs and digestive organs. “Even the sweat that arises during yoga practice is different, because it is a result of a deep glandular experience, not just the body's response to exertion,” writes yoga therapist Dr. Shanti Shanti K. Khalsa.
Master Your Mental Health
One of the hallmarks of Kundalini yoga is the experience of deep relaxation and mental clarity – a state of mind that can help conquer fear, diminish anger, process grief better and transform negative self-talk into positive thinking. Research published in the "Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine" also shows that those suffering with a variety of mental illnesses, addictions and sleep disorders, such as insomnia, have found noticeable relief by doing Kundalini techniques specifically designed to target such conditions. However, because Kundalini yoga can have such a strong effect on psychic energy, it can sometimes stimulate an overflow of dormant negative energy, particularly among beginners. This is considered a normal reaction but one that new students should be aware of, which is why it's important to choose an experienced Kundalini yoga teacher who can physically and mentally prepare students for any unpleasant feelings that may arise.
Achieve Spiritual Growth
Kundalini yoga enthusiasts often praise the practice for the deep spiritual awakening it offers them. According to the Kundalini Research Institute, Kundalini yoga is “a proven path to the Self and the Soul – to an experience of your highest destiny.” Such spiritual growth can take some time but can be achieved through regular sessions of deep meditation and altered states of consciousness. The specific chanting and meditations that are characteristic of Kundalini yoga are thought to stimulate energy in the spine, causing it to rise up and travel through the body’s chakras where, eventually, it reaches and opens the third eye. Located between and slightly above the eyes, the third eye is thought to be the center of spiritual awareness where higher thought forms are tapped.
- Kundalini Research Institute: About Kundalini Yoga
- Guru Ram Dass Center: Responding to Stress
- The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: An Introduction to Kundalini Yoga Meditation Techniques That Are Specific for the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders
- Ancient Science of Life: Mental Depression and Kundalini Yoga
Valerie Jill Dimond has been a writer and editor since 1997, specializing in health and wellness. She has worked with a variety of newspapers, magazines and other publications, including the "Journal of Children and Poverty," "Hudson Valley Magazine," the "Sarasota Herald-Tribune" and "Poughkeepsie Journal." Dimond holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from SUNY New Paltz.