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Kundalini yoga

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Indian Tantric illustration of the subtle body channels which kundalini transverses
Indian Tantric illustration of the subtle body channels which kundalini transverses

Kundalini yoga (kuṇḍalinī-yoga) derives from kundalini, defined in Vedantic culture as energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine until it is activated (as by the practice of yoga) and channeled upward through the chakras in the process of spiritual perfection.[1] Kundalini is believed by adherents to be power associated with the divine feminine.[2][3][4][5] Kundalini yoga as a school of yoga is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism.[6] It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of mantra, tantra, yantra, yoga, or meditation.[7][8]


Drawing of the subtle body in an Indic manuscript showing the energy centres (chakras), the main subtle channels (nadis), and the coiled serpent energy at the base of the spine (kundalini). The serpent is shown again on the left of the drawing.
Drawing of the subtle body in an Indic manuscript showing the energy centres (chakras), the main subtle channels (nadis), and the coiled serpent energy at the base of the spine (kundalini). The serpent is shown again on the left of the drawing.


The Sanskrit adjective kuṇḍalin means "circular, annular". It occurs as a noun for "a snake" (in the sense "coiled", as in "forming ringlets") in the 12th-century Rajatarangini chronicle (I.2). Kuṇḍa, a noun which means "bowl, water-pot", is found as the name of a Naga in Mahabharata 1.4828. The Sanskrit feminine noun kuṇḍalī means "ring, bracelet, coil (of a rope)", and is the name of a "serpent-like" Shakti in Tantrism as early as the 11th century, in the Śaradatilaka.[9]

What has become known as "Kundalini yoga" in the 20th century, after a technical term particular to this tradition, is actually a synthesis of Bhakti Yoga (devotion and chanting), Raja Yoga (meditation) and Shakti Yoga (the expression of power and energy)."[10][better source needed] However, it may include haṭha yoga techniques (such as bandha, pranayama, and asana), Patañjali's kriya yoga (consisting of self-discipline, self-study, devotion to God, dhyāna, and samādhi), tantric visualization and meditation techniques of laya yoga (known as samsketas).[11]

Laya may mean either the techniques of yoga or (like Rāja yoga) its effect of "absorption" of the individual into the cosmic.[12] Laya yoga, from the Sanskrit term laya (meaning "dissolution", "extinction", or "absorption"), is almost always described in the context of other Yogas such as in the Yoga-Tattva-Upanishad, the Varaha Upanishad, the Goraksha Paddhati, the Amaraugha Prabodha, and the Dattatreya Yoga Shastra.[13][14] The exact distinctions between traditional yoga schools are often hazy due to a long history of syncretism, hence many of the oldest sources on Kundalini come through manuals of the tantric and haṭha traditions, including the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Shiva Samhita. The Shiva Samhita describes the qualified yogi as practicing 'the four yogas' to achieve kundalini awakening, while lesser students may resort solely to one technique or another: "Mantra Yoga and Hatha Yoga. Laya Yoga is the third. The fourth is Raja Yoga. It is free from duality."[15]

Hatha yoga

The Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad is a syncretistic yoga text related to the schools of Hatha and Mantra yoga.[16]

Other Sanskrit texts treat kundalini as a technical term in tantric yoga, such as the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpana and the Pādukā-pañcaka. These were translated in 1919 by John Woodroffe as The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga. He identifies the process of involution and its techniques in these texts as a particular form of Tantrik Laya Yoga.[17]

Late Kundalini Model of Hatha Yoga[18]
Late Kundalini Model of Hatha Yoga[18]

The Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad consists of three short chapters; it begins by stating that Chitta (consciousness) is controlled by Prana, and it is controlled by moderate food, postures and Shakti-Chala (I.1-2). Verses I.3-6 explain the concepts of moderate food and concept, and verse I.7 introduces Kundalini as the name of the Shakti under discussion:

I.7. The Sakti (mentioned above) is only Kundalini. A wise man should take it up from its place (Viz., the navel, upwards) to the middle of the eyebrows. This is called Sakti-Chala.
I.8. In practising it, two things are necessary, Sarasvati-Chalana and the restraint of Prana (breath). Then through practice, Kundalini (which is spiral) becomes straightened.[19]

Modern forms

Swami Nigamananda

Although kundalini developed as a part of tantra side-by-side with hatha yoga through a process of syncretism, Swami Nigamananda (d. 1935) taught a form of laya yoga, which he insisted was not part of Hatha yoga. Sivananda introduced many readers to "Kundalini Yoga" with his book on the subject in 1935. This book has in-depth details about Kundalini Yoga,[20] and combines laya teachings from older sources, including the Hathapradipika and Sat Cakra Nirupana.[21]

Together with other currents of Hindu revivalism and Neo-Hinduism, Kundalini Yoga became popular in 1960s to 1980s western counterculture.[citation needed]

Yogi Bhajan

In 1968, Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, also known as Yogi Bhajan, introduced his own brand of kundalini yoga into the United States, "Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan". Yogi Bhajan founded the "Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization" (3HO) as a teaching organization. Yogi Bhajan took yogic postures and techniques, attached them to Tantric theories and Sikh mantras, synthesizing a new form of 'Kundalini' yoga. "When placed alongside the teachings of Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari and Maharaj Virsa Singh, it becomes strikingly apparent that at least in its earliest years, Yogi Bhajan's Kundalini yoga was not a distinct practice, but essentially a combination of yogic mechanics learned from the former and the Sikh-derived mantras (Ik Ongkaar, Sat Naam, Sri Waheguru) and chanting from the latter", Deslippe writes.[22] But Virsa Singh rejected Bhajan’s Kundalini yoga and stated that yoga was not a part of the Gobind Sadan spiritual path after failing to gain control over the American Sikhs followers.[23]

Traditional Sikhs use quotations by Bhai Gurdas, whose "Vaaraa," or "Ballads," were considered by Guru Arjan as a key to understanding the concepts of the Guru Granth Sahib as saying, wherever Guru Nanak went and debated the futility of yoga, the yogis gave up at least some ritualistic aspects of their yogic paths. The yogis of "Gorakhmatta," meaning "Wisdom of Gorakhnatha," a pioneer of Hatha yoga, converted to the path of Guru Nanak, and changed the name of their ancient center to Nanakmatta meaning "Wisdom of Guru Nanak," known today as Gurdwara Sri Nanakmatta Sahib. Some claim yoga is refuted in the Guru Granth Sahib,[23] but it praises yogic practice, describing the Guru as a Yogi in lines such as "Guru Ram Das is given the throne of Raj Yoga", and "Everyone I see has sickness. My true Guru, the yogi, does not".[24]

Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan adheres to the three pillars of Patanjali's kriya yoga system – discipline (tapaḥ), spiritual study (svādhyāya), and devotion to God (iśvarapraṇidāna) (PYS, II:1) – but it does not condone extremes of asceticism or renunciation. Yogi Bhajan encouraged his students to marry, establish businesses, and be fully engaged in society. Rather than worshiping God, Yogi Bhajan's teachings encourage students to train their mind to experience God.[25] Yogi Bhajan sometimes called the Sikh lifestyle Raja Yoga, the yoga of living detached, yet fully engaged in the world.[25]: 188–89, 210–12, 222–39  In respect of the rigor of his teachings, Yogi Bhajan claims kinship with other 20th century Sikh sadhu saints, such as Sant Baba Attar Singh, Sant Baba Nand Singh ji, and Bhai Randhir Singh.[25]: 200–208 

Yogi Bhajan's version of Kundalini Yoga has continued to grow in influence and popularity largely in the Americas, Europe, South Africa, Togo, Australia, and East Asia, with the training of many thousands of teachers. It is popularized through books and videos, teachers such as Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, research by David Shannahoff-Khalsa, Dharma Singh Khalsa, and Sat Bir Singh Khalsa, and through the publicity accorded it by celebrities such as Madonna, Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford, Russell Brand, Al Pacino, David Duchovny, and Miranda Kerr who have been known, to practice it. A 2013 article in a New York wellness magazine described Kundalini Yoga as "The Ultra-Spiritual Yoga Celebs Love."[26][27]

Yogi Bhajan states that "Kundalini Yoga consists of active and passive asana-based kriyas, pranayama, and meditations which target the whole body system (nervous system, glands, mental faculties, chakras) to develop awareness, consciousness and spiritual strength." —Yogi Bhajan[28]


Kundalini is the term for "a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine", conceptualized as a coiled-up serpent. The practice of Kundalini yoga is supposed to arouse the sleeping Kundalini Shakti from its coiled base through the 6 chakras, and penetrate the 7th chakra, or crown. This energy is said to travel along the ida (left), pingala (right) and central, or sushumna nadi - the main channels of pranic energy in the body.[29] A recent article has suggested that the process may be mediated by vagus nerve.[30]

Kundalini energy is technically explained as being sparked during yogic breathing when prana and apana blends at the 3rd chakra (navel center) at which point it initially drops down to the 1st and 2nd chakras before traveling up to the spine to the higher centers of the brain to activate the golden cord - the connection between the pituitary and pineal glands - and penetrate the 7 chakras.[31]

Borrowing and integrating many different approaches, Kundalini Yoga can be understood as a tri-fold approach of Bhakti yoga for devotion, Shakti yoga for power, and Raja yoga for mental power and control. Its purpose through the daily practice of kriyas and meditation in sadhana are described as a practical technology of human consciousness for humans to achieve their total creative potential. With the practice of Kundalini Yoga one is thought able to liberate oneself from one's Karma and to realize one's Dharma (Life Purpose).[32]


The practice of kriyas and meditations in Kundalini Yoga are designed to raise complete body awareness to prepare the body, nervous system, and mind to handle the energy of Kundalini rising. The majority of the physical postures focus on navel activity, activity of the spine, and selective pressurization of body points and meridians. Breath work and the application of bandhas (3 yogic locks) aid to release, direct and control the flow of Kundalini energy from the lower centers to the higher energetic centers.[33]

Along with the many kriyas, meditations and practices of Kundalini Yoga, a simple breathing technique of alternate nostril breathing (left nostril, right nostril) is taught as a method to cleanse the nadis, or subtle channels and pathways, to help awaken Kundalini energy.[34]

Sovatsky (1998) adapts a developmental and evolutionary perspective in his interpretation of Kundalini Yoga. That is, he interprets Kundalini Yoga as a catalyst for psycho-spiritual growth and bodily maturation. According to this interpretation of yoga, the body bows itself into greater maturation [...], none of which should be considered mere stretching exercises.[35]

See also


  1. ^ "Kundalini".
  2. ^ Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (1984). Kundalini Tantra (2nd ed.). Munger, Bihar, India: Bihar School of Yoga. pp. 34–36. ISBN 978-8185787152.
  3. ^ Judith, Anodea (2004). Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology and the Chakra System as a Path to the Self (Revised ed.). Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts. pp. 451–454. ISBN 978-1-58761-225-1.
  4. ^ Paulson, Genevieve Lewis (1998). Kundalini and the Chakras: A Practical Manual--evolution in this Lifetime (1st ed.). St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications. pp. 7–10, 194. ISBN 978-0-87542-592-4.
  5. ^ Williams, W. F. (2000). "Kundalini". Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience: From Alien Abductions to Zone Therapy. Routledge. p. 211. ISBN 978-1-135-95522-9.
  6. ^ "Kundalini Yoga".
  7. ^ "Spotlight on Kundalini Yoga". Yoga Journal. Retrieved 8 October 2013.
  8. ^ Swami Sivananda Radha, 2004, pp. 13, 15
  9. ^ André Padoux, Vāc: The Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras, SUNY Press, 1990, 124-136.
  10. ^ "What Is Kundalini Yoga". Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  11. ^ Mallinson, James. "Dattātreya's Discourse on Yoga". 24 June 2013. accessed 25 October 2015. . "The Yoga of Dissolution (layayoga) happens as a result of the dissolution of the mind by means of esoteric techniques (saṃketas). Ādinātha has taught eighty million esoteric techniques."
  12. ^ Woodroffe, John. 'The Serpent Power'. Illustrations, Tables, Highlights and Images by Veeraswamy Krishnara (PDF). pp. 88–89. Retrieved 25 October 2015. YOGA is sometimes understood as meaning the result and not the process which leads to it. According to this meaning of the term, and from the standpoint of natural dualism, Yoga has been described to be the union of the individual spirit with god." and "the ecstatic condition in which the 'equality' that is identity of Jīvātmā and Paramātma is realized. The experience is achieved after the absorption (Laya) of Prāṇa and Manas and the cessation of all ideation (Saṁkalpa)
  13. ^ Mallinson, James (24 June 2013). Dattātreya's Discourse on Yoga. Retrieved 25 October 2015. Yoga has many forms, o brahmin. I shall explain all that to you: the Yoga of Mantras (mantrayoga), the Yoga of Dissolution (layayoga) and the Yoga of Force (haṭhayoga). The fourth is the Royal Yoga (rājayoga); it is the best of yogas
  14. ^ Feuerstein, Georg (11 September 2013). The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice (Kindle Locations 14031-14032 and others) (Kindle ed.). Hohm Press. It speaks (line 28) of Mantra- Yoga as a lower (adhama) form of Yoga and praises (line 29) Laya-Yoga as a means of achieving complete absorption (laya) of the mind
  15. ^ Mallinson, James (1 January 2007). The Shiva Samhita: A Critical Edition and an English Translation (Kindle Locations 100-101) and (Kindle Locations 799-825) (Kindle ed.). As Hatha Yoga, originally the preserve of the unorthodox Nathas, grew in popularity in the medieval period, the orthodox Shaivas sought to incorporate it within their soteriology, and thus the Shiva Samhita may be an example of this appropriation." and "He is sure to achieve perfection in three years. He is entitled to practice all Yogas. In this there is no doubt.
  16. ^ Larson, Gerald James (2008). The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Yoga: India's philosophy of meditation. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-3349-4, p. 476, 615-617
  17. ^ Woodroffe, John. "The Serpent Power". Illustrations, Tables, Highlights and Images by Veeraswamy Krishnara. p. 11. Accessed 25 October 2015. "when dealing with the practice of Yoga, the rule is that things dissolve into that from which they originate, and the Yoga process here described is such dissolution (Laya)"
  18. ^ Mallinson, James; Singleton, Mark (2017). Roots of Yoga. Penguin Books. pp. 180–181. ISBN 978-0-241-25304-5. OCLC 928480104.
  19. ^ trans. K. Narayanasvami Aiyar, based on a translation first published in 1891 in The Theosophist, Volume 12.
  20. ^ "Kundalini Yoga". Retrieved 15 September 2018.
  21. ^ Swami Sivananda (4th ed. 2007), page 32
  22. ^ Deslippe, Philip Roland (14 March 2013). "From Maharaj to Mahan Tantric: The Construction of Yogi Bhajan's Kundalini Yoga". Sikh Formations. 8 (3) – via
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^ Siri Guru Granth Sahib
  25. ^ a b c Khalsa, Guru Fatha Singh (2008). The Essential Gursikh Yogi: The Yoga and Yogis in the Past, Present and Future of Sikh Dharma. Toronto: Monkey Minds Press. p. 229.
  26. ^ "The ultra-spiritual yoga celebs love". Well+Good LLC. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  27. ^ Shana Ting Lipton (4 March 2014). "Golden Bridge Kundalini Yoga and Meditation With Gurmukh in LA". Retrieved 7 April 2014.
  28. ^ The Aquarian Teacher 4th ed. 2007, pp. 176-179.
  29. ^ Swami Sivananda (4th ed. 2007) page 12
  30. ^ "A Study in Diversity - News, Views, Analysis, Literature, Poetry, Features - Express Yourself".
  31. ^ Yogi Bhajan (2007). The Aquarian Teacher, KRI International Teacher Training in Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan (4th ed.). Kundalini Research Institute. pp. 176–179.
  32. ^ Yogi Bhajan (2007). The Aquarian Teacher, KRI International Teacher Training in Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan (4th ed.). Kundalini Research Institute. p. 20.
  33. ^ Yogi Bhajan, The Aquarian Teacher, KRI International Teacher Training in Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini Research Institute, 4th Edition, 2007, page 177
  34. ^ Swami Sivananda (4th ed. 2007) page 23
  35. ^ Sovatsky, Stuart (1998) Words from the Soul: Time, East/West Spirituality, and Psychotherapeutic Narrative, Suny Series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology, New York: State University of New York Press, p. 142

Further reading

  • Arambula, P; Peper, E; Kawakami, M; Gibney, KH (2001). "The Physiological Correlates of Kundalini Yoga Meditation: A Study of a Yoga Master". Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 26 (2): 147–53. doi:10.1023/a:1011343307783. PMID 11480165. S2CID 18448634.
  • Cromie, William J. (2002) Research: Meditation Changes Temperatures: Mind Controls Body in Extreme Experiments. Harvard University Gazette, 18 April 2002.
  • Eastman, David T. "Kundalini Demystified", Yoga Journal, September 1985, pp. 7–43, California Yoga Teachers Association.
  • Laue, Thorsten: Tantra im Westen. Eine religionswissenschaftliche Studie über „Weißes Tantra Yoga“, „Kundalini Yoga“ und „Sikh Dharma“ in Yogi Bhajans „Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization“ (3HO) unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der „3H Organisation Deutschland e. V.“, Münster: LIT, 2012, zugl.: Tübingen, Univ., Diss., 2011, ISBN 978-3-643-11447-1 [in German]
  • Laue, Thorsten: Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Tee und das Wassermannzeitalter. Bibliografische Einblicke in die Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO) des Yogi Bhajan. Tübingen: 2008. Online at "TOBIAS-lib - Zugang zum Dokument - Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Tee und das Wassermannzeitalter: Bibliografische Einblicke in die Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO) des Yogi Bhajan - Laue, Thorsten". 31 October 2008. Archived from the original on 10 June 2009. Retrieved 2 January 2011. [in German].
  • Laue, Thorsten: Kundalini Yoga, Yogi Tee und das Wassermannzeitalter. Religionswissenschaftliche Einblicke in die Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO) des Yogi Bhajan, Münster: LIT, 2007, ISBN 978-3-8258-0140-3 [in German].
  • Narayan, R; Kamat, A; Khanolkar, M; Kamat, S; Desai, SR; Dhume, RA (October 1990). "Quantitative evaluation of muscle relaxation induced by Kundalini yoga with the help of EMG integrator". Indian J. Physiol. Pharmacol. 34 (4): 279–81. PMID 2100290.
  • Peng, CK; Mietus, JE; Liu, Y; et al. (July 1999). "Exaggerated heart rate oscillations during two meditation techniques". Int. J. Cardiol. 70 (2): 101–7. doi:10.1016/s0167-5273(99)00066-2. PMID 10454297.
  • Swami Sivananda, Kundalini Yoga (1935).
  • Sivananda Radha Saraswati, Kundalini Yoga for the West (1979; 2nd ed. 1996)
  • The Aquarian Teacher, KRI International Teacher Training in Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan, Kundalini Research Institute, 4th Edition, 2007.
  • Turner, Robert P.; Lukoff, David; Barnhouse, Ruth Tiffany; Lu, Francis G. (1995). "Religious or Spiritual Problem. A Culturally Sensitive Diagnostic Category in the DSM-IV". Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 183 (7): 435–444. doi:10.1097/00005053-199507000-00003. PMID 7623015.

External links

Kundalini Awakening by

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