The overall purpose of Kundalini yoga is to raise your energy and connect to the universal energy. Kundalini yoga practice incorporates breathing exercises, physical postures, hand positions, sound and meditation. This combination of elements is called ‘Kriya’, which means a set of exercises designed to work together, sometimes for a specific purpose.
Kundalini yoga has only been taught in the West for about 40 years, although its history in India goes back for millennia. It was traditionally a Raj or Royal yoga reserved for the high-ranking families. Its techniques are profoundly transformational, and work more rapidly than any other form of yoga. The exercises raise the awareness of self, allowing a merging of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness.
Everything in the Universe Vibrates
At the same time, Kundalini yoga is described as the ‘yoga of the householder’, in that it is practical, down-to-earth and a tool-kit for everyday life. We are not expected to become withdrawn from the world; quite the opposite, this yoga is something to bring to your everyday experiences to help you cope with life.
Power of Kundalini Yoga
The power of Kundalini yoga lies in its experiential nature. To participate in the essential experience of it is the only way to benefit; there is no gain to be found in merely talking or reading about it, you have to do it. And to do it will require you to find a teacher from whom you can learn through personal interaction. When you do, it works on all three levels, on the body, the mind and the spirit.
Physically, it works by using postures developed through the ages to connect energetic pathways and create electrical circuitry within the body. Mudras, which are positions of the hands, involve touching ends of the fingers and thumb, thereby creating a circuit. Applying body ‘locks’, called bandhs, creates pressure in different parts of the body and works on the same principle as hydraulics, to force energy to move upwards.
There are many physical benefits to practicing Kundalini yoga. It is said you are ‘as young as your spine is supple’. Kundalini yoga exercises strengthen and lengthen the spine and improve overall posture and flexibility. Yogic exercise keeps the joints flexible and tones the body by using a balance of stretching and contracting muscle groups. It relieves tension by relaxation techniques.
Kundalini yoga can help with digestive problems by the internal massage offered by postures and breath exercises. It increases elimination, and can speed up the metabolism, by increasing gastric juices and digestive enzymes. There is enhanced circulation of oxygenated blood, strengthening of the heart muscles, and stimulation of the lymphatic system, boosting immunity. The respiratory system responds beneficially to breathing exercises which balance the parasympathetic/sympathetic nervous system.
Special breathing techniques called pranayama change the rhythm and depth of the breath to effect a change of energy states of health and emotion. Deep yogic breathing also helps to develop powers of concentration, calming anxiety states and increasing lung capacity. Chemical production in the brain is stimulated, helping heal depression. Brain waves may be altered by controlling the breath.
Moreover, yoga trains you to listen to your body and to completely relax, leading naturally to a system of bio-feedback; you learn what your body needs for true health. People report being able to sleep better after practicing yoga. In cases of chronic pain, doing yoga can alter the information travelling down neural pathways and, thereby, reducing the experience of pain.
Another powerful feature of Kundalini yoga is its central use of sound for healing. All sound is vibration at varying frequency. So by chanting a sound – a mantra – we can vibrate at cellular level at a frequency that alters brain chemistry and patterns of the mind. Everything in the Universe is energy, and everything vibrates. By vibrating a mantra it draws towards you everything vibrating at the matching frequency. We are all, in essence, a reality that vibrates and creates through our use of words. This body of knowledge of sound is called the Shabd Guru, meaning the sound that teaches. The practice of chanting brings inner strength and builds intuition.
Relaxation is a crucial part of the experience, both during the exercises and afterwards. Relaxation serves many functions, it releases the muscles, circulates glandular changes, rejuvenates and allows the emotional energies to settle and release all residual stress and tension.
On the mental plane Kundalini yoga, with its focus on ‘going inside’ whilst exercising and practicing meditation can be helpful for all kinds of stress, anxiety states, depressive disorders and addiction/addictive behaviors.
Meditation clears the mind of its clutter and quietens the incessant chatterbox. Daily meditation permits the mind to deal with unconscious worries, impressions and memories which otherwise would drop into the subconscious, often remaining there for a very long time. Meditation helps us to develop a neutral mind. A neutral mind detaches from its thoughts, observing them rather than engaging with them. This approach to life stops us reacting hastily and we become much calmer, more relaxed and, therefore, more capable of dealing with stress without turning to unhealthy means.
The addictive mind is always searching for something outside itself, restless to find a new experience. Practising Kundalini yoga engages the body and the mind in ways which stop you from thinking too much, help you to focus on what is happening to your body and your mind in the present moment; it keeps you in the ‘now’.
This leads us to the spiritual element of Kundalini yoga. Often this aspect is what scares people away, and yet it is the simplest and most basic reason why people are drawn to yoga in the first place. Unconsciously or consciously we are striving to find something more meaningful in our lives. The spiritual world was always regarded as integral to our human life, until most recent times when science began to regard humans as nothing more than mechanical beings or chemical reactors, and in so doing took the ‘be-ing’ out of life. Now, we are seeking new ways to BE, rekindling our sense of self.
This is the transforming power of Kundalini yoga. It connects us to the power of self-awareness, the perfect vehicle for change. The pace of change has rapidly increased as a result of man’s learning, and now that same rate of change exhausts mankind. Learning how to cope with change creates stress, fatigue and depressive illnesses, all of which are increasing. Kundalini yoga offers remedies for these and other ills of our age, by teaching that external stimulants are not the answer, all the answers are to be found inside ourselves.
Kundalini yogis have a motto: Get up, Set up and Keep Up!
Get up reminds us that we must exercise self-discipline, that we must literally train our minds to awaken us and rise early in the day. We do this so that we can take control of the day; don’t let the day start without you. Waking up with the eyes closed, gently exercising before you rise, then following a discipline in the early morning is guaranteed to build your ability to take control of your life. It puts you firmly in charge of your life.
Set up refers to the attitude with which we make our way through life. Creating your experience deliberately by using your mental strengths makes you effective, efficient and trustworthy. With strength of mind, and a positive outlook on life, you can steer your own course through the chaos of our age.
Keep up encourages us to stay the course, to maintain our pace, and to always be gently stretching ourselves to become more than we already are. A wonderful approach to life that empowers you to achieve more, become wiser, encompassing mastery in your areas of expertise. And we all shine by being the best we can be.
To help with the shining, Kundalini yoga is practiced wearing white clothing. White is the combination of all the colours of the rainbow, it represents pure bright light, radiance. Just wearing something white will lift your mood and your spirits when you might be feeling less than great.
Using the techniques and the discipline of Kundalini yoga we have the means of empowering ourselves to grow, to change and to heal many of the ailments of modern life. Yoga is a discipline, a path to follow, and becomes a way of life. It helps develop our capacity to build stamina, strength, resistance and resilience, qualities crucial for each one of us as individuals dealing with the future of the world humanity has created. The discipline inherent in Kundalini yoga brings about self-mastery. We must accept responsibility for our own state and that of the world. In our desire to change the world, first we must be that change. Kundalini yoga facilitates personal change, and this is the only change possible. This way we remain in control of ourselves in a chaotic world.