Kundalini is a Sanskrit word for "coiled" and represents a powerful source of mystic energy in Hindu philosophy. Kundalini yoga seeks to awaken this raw energy for spiritual advancement. Unfortunately, not everyone is prepared for the influx of Kundalini energy, which can result in some pretty unpleasant physical and psychological side effects.
About Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini yoga uses a complex system of intense meditation, breathing exercises and chanting to "awaken" the energies located at the base of your spine. You can then channel this energy into your other spiritual practices to increase their potency. While traditionally this awakening can take years, if not decades, often these energies can erupt prematurely thanks to a charismatic teacher, orgasms, psychotropic drugs or intense religious experiences.
Physical Side Effects
When awakened, the Kundalini energy moves from your tailbone up through your spine and into your head. The normal physical reactions to Kundalini awakening are a feeling of extreme heat that begins at the base of your spine and moves upward, electrical sensations across your body and a low humming noise inside your head. Often, however, yoga teachers warn that if the energy is blocked it will redirect itself into the nerves and muscles of your pelvis, lower back and legs. These are your body's "safety gates," known as granthis or "knots" in Sanskrit, that protect the rest of your body from undirected Kundalini energy. This can result in uncontrollable twitching, dizziness, head tipping, rocking or bouncing. Uncontrolled Kundalini energies can also result in anxiety disorders, panic attacks, chronic fatigue and even fibromyalgia, according to people who practice this style of yoga.
Psychological Side Effects
Kundalini is a powerful force for self-improvement and change, but if you're not mentally and emotionally prepared for these changes, they can be overwhelming. While in your meditative state, you may now experience strange visions, lights, sounds, beings and dreamlike places. While a heightened sense of perception and rush of subconscious imagery is the aim of this exercise, you may become frightened of the new and often unpleasant sensations. Frequent psychological side effects include insomnia, an inability to concentrate, a feeling of being overwhelmed by the energy, and feelings of great joy followed by feelings of anguish and depression. You will also likely experience a profound change in your appetite, sexual activity, attitude and value systems. People with deeply hidden trauma or repressed feelings may even have psychotic episodes if they are not prepared.
A strong, knowledgeable instructor can help guide you through this initial awakening period, but be wary of false gurus. If your teacher demands money or dictates who you can socialize with, he probably won't be any help when you experience these side effects. The strongest medicine for these effects is a supportive environment of fellow Kundalini practitioners who have already experienced these same issues. While you can learn how to awaken yourself via yoga books, the guidance of an enlightened teacher and a peer group are indispensable. If the physical or psychological effects are too much, "ground" yourself by avoiding any consciousness-altering activity. Eat regular meals, take hot baths, perform light exercise, do routine household tasks such as cleaning and laundry, and interact with others.
Todd Maternowski began writing in 1996 as one of the co-founders of "The Chicago Criterion." He joined the local online news revolutionaries at Pegasus News in 2006, where he continues to work to this day. He studied religion at the University of Chicago.