Kundalini Energy: The Snake that Awakens You

This article was co-written by writer and Ayurvedic expert, Anchal Vinaik.

This feels like the age for searching.

Since I am on the other side of 40, I am referring to age in the lower case, but also, Age in the upper case.

The world feels to me like there is something stirring underneath.

At the same time, I feel as though there is something welling up and changing within me, too.

Because of this, I have been researching as many different practices as I can get my hands on, and GenXMindfulness is a product of this searching.

One philosophy I stumbled across on this path that has intrigued me more than some others is that of Kundalini Energy.

I don’t know if it is the idea of a coiled serpent in my spine, rising cosmic energy, or the bliss reported by those who have had an “awakening,” but I do know that I am curious and want to know more.

In this article, we will explain what Kundalini energy and yoga is, its rich history, and ways that you can incorporate this practice into your life, if after reading that is something that you feel compelled to do.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the idea of Kundalini the serpent and her supposed power to transform lives, but I do know that this is one of the most interesting things I’ve read and written about in a long time!


What is Kundalini?…

Woman practicing yoga in the desert-rising Kundalini energy

To answer this question, I looked to information from a person described as the “teacher of teachers” in the practice of Kundalini yoga,  Guru Rattana, PhD.

Guru Rattana’s site, kundaliniyoga.org, describes the practice as: “an ancient art and science dealing with the transformation and expansion of consciousness, the awakening and raising of Kundalini Energy up the spine through energy centers called Chakras.”

The site goes on to explain it very simply in a way that even someone like myself, who has no background knowledge whatsoever can understand: “The activation and balancing of the chakras is accomplished by the mixing and uniting of Prana (cosmic energy) with Apana (eliminating energy) which generates pressure to force Kundalini to rise, by means of Pranayama (breathing exercises), Bhandas (body locks), in Kriyas (exercise sets), using Asanas (postures), Mudras (gestures), and Mantras (sacred sounds).”

If I understand this correctly, through breathing exercises and physical poses combined with sounds, energy can be moved up the spine to make a person a more balanced nd connected individual.

It is a practice under which one brings the Chitta (mind) under control in order to activate the dormant energy seated in the base of spine (sacrum), and it is said that the energy lies coiled like a serpent-the vital force that is Kundalini Energy.

Serpent representing Kundalini energy

Once the serpent Kundalini is activated, it coils its way up your spine, unblocking chakras as it goes until it reaches the crown of your head.

Kundalini serves as the medium to enlighten one’s higher self to achieve a sense of bliss.

Listen to Sadhguru, yogi, educator, spiritual leader and founder of the Isha Foundation, explain the essence of Kundalini

Interested in training to become a yoga teacher online? Check out our post on online yoga teacher training!

History of Kundalini…

The word Kundalini is derived from the word ‘kundal’ which means ‘coiled up’.

It is believed to have originated from Hinduism and this serpent power has been described in Upanishads, important Hindu scriptures, in great detail.

The Upanishads are the first written description of Kundalini energy and date to the 5th century B.C., but this philosophy and practice could predate the texts, passed down through the generations from teacher to student.

This practice was not taught publically in Eastern culture, and Kundalini philosophy was largely unknown in Western culture until the 1960s when Yogi Brajan moved from India to Canada and began teaching Kundalini to “hippie” seekers.

According to the biography on his website, yogibrajan.org, Yogi Brajan didn’t come to Canada for the purpose of teaching Kundalini to the masses.

Rather, he arrived to find a group of people searching for what Kundalini could provide, but lacking all knowledge of the practice, using drugs in attempts to gain enlightenment.

Hippie looking for enlightnement through Kundalini energy

Yogi Brajan felt called to teach these seekers a healthier way to find what they were searching for.

He founded 3HO, the healthy, happy, holy organization, which is still active today serving seekers by offering teaching and spiritual leadership.

3HO has centers worldwide and the organization serves as council to the United Nations.

What is a Kundalini awakening?…

Woman meditation in the desert-rising Kundalini energy

According to philosphy, the coiled serpent-like energy is lying in the base of the spine in the Root Chakra (Muladhara Chakra).

It is the profound energy that matches the central creative force of the universe.

The Kundalini energy, when activated or “awakened,” surges through the spine from root chakra sending vibrations in the whole body.

This is said to activate the higher chakras, and Kundalini energy punches through each blockage, eventually exiting out of the crown chakra, creating a protective electromagnetic field around you.

In case you are new to the idea of chakras, here is a quick recap for you:

Root Chakra (Muladhara)

The center for a feeling of belonging and having basic needs of life met. A balanced Root Chakra makes a person feel calm and secure. A blocked Root Chakra may be indicated by a feeling of scarcity or uncertainty, or physically through problems with the legs or feet. It is located at the base of the spine.

Sacral Chakra (Swadhishthana)

Our Sacral Chakra is the center for creating. This could be through creative pursuits or creating another human being through procreation. A blocked Sacral Chakra could result in an inability to think creatively, infertility or hip problems. It is located below the navel.

Solar Plexus Chakra (Manipura)

The Solar Plexus Chakra is the seat of our self-identity. This is the center for our confidence, self-love, and self-acceptance. If this Chakra is blocked there could be issues with self-esteem, and physically there could be stomach or digestion problems. It is located above the navel but below the breastbone, right in the center point of the spine.

Heart Chakra (Anahata)

Unconditional love s the name of the game with the Heart Chakra. In Western culture we associate the heart with romantic love, but the Heart Chakra is more focused on love for all with no strings attached. A blocked Heart Chakra could be indicated by either being numb to others or judgemental. Physically it could be associated with heart-related disorders, high blood pressure, etc, or other problems in the chest. It is located (you guess it) at the heart.

Throat Chakra (Vishuddha)

The Throat Chakra is the center for how you express or convey your thoughts and emotions to the society or people around you. It is all about effective communication in all of the many forms that comes in, including hearing and listening. A blocked Throat Chakra could be evidenced by an inability to get your point across or being unable to understand others. Physically, symptoms could be problems in the neck, throat, jaw, or ears. It is conveniently located in the throat!

Third Eye Chakra (Ajra)

I think this Chakra has the coolest name, and it is associated with thinking, perception, and intuition. It is all about how you see and perceive the world around you. A blocked Third Eye Chakra could have symptoms such as an inability to reason, misdirected intuition, or even eye problems and headaches. It is located between your eyebrows.

Crown Chakra (Sahasrara)

Located just above the top of your head, the Crown Chakra’s realm is the connection to spirit. It is tapping in to divine consciousness. An unbalanaced Crown Chakra could result in a person feeling disconnected and depression.

What does a Kundalini awakening feel like?…

Here is one account from Tantra teacher, Kara Leah, who claims to have had a Kundalini awakening:

“…often it’s experienced initially as an intense heat or energy rising up the spine and exploding out the crown chakra. Sometimes it can be as mild as a yearning to know God.

There’s often a period of total bliss or oneness, where reality shifts and your experience of consciousness expands out until you are everything and everything is you.

My first experiences (after the heart-open bliss which only lasted an hour or so) were spontaneous jerkings of the body that totally freaked me out.

Whether you practice yoga or not, you may find your body spontaneously moving into yoga kriyas that you’ve never seen before. This also happened to me, and still does.

This spontaneous arising of yoga postures is Kundalini’s way of cleansing your system of all impurities, and eventually, as you release all the knots of the psyche, these movements turn into yoga postures.

A Kundalini Awakening also brings up all the unconscious stuff, and all the shadow stuff. Life can get really, really tough. There can be all kinds of intense emotions. Anything you’ve denied, stuffed away, rejected, forgotten about… it’s all got to be dealt with…

Plus – yes, there’s more – once Kundalini is awakened, it’s likely that your life will conspire to create situations where you get to work through your karma at an accelerated rate.”

Kara Leah

Kara Leah also offers a warning:This is the process. This is why it’s not advised to attempt to force an awakening by yourself. It is not a path to step on to lightly.

This warning was echoed in many of the articles I came across.

One theme that I have seen repeated over and over again is to not try this on your own without following instructions or guidance from an experienced teacher.

Experiencing rising Kundalini energy and a Kundalini awakening can be life-altering and blissful, but for some who were unsure what was happening, it began as a scary, maybe even painful, episode.

If this is something that you put stock in, or even if you don’t, this article from TheMindfulWord.org details the stories of three people the author researched who claim to have experienced an awakening and it is fascinating.

Spoiler alert: all of the personal stories end with the interviewees reporting that their lives have been changed dramatically for the better, but none had an easy go of it at first.

Woman meditation on  a mountaintop-rising Kundalini energy

Many pieces I have read mention the practitioner having to confront their “shadows,” hang-ups, ego, preconceived notions, ways of seeing.

This can bring disillusionment, but according to one account from TheMindfulWord.org article, even though it may be life-altering, it could be for the better.

A man who called himself Simon who worked as a BMW salesman, a job he disliked, and whose wife was undergoing cancer tests, feels as though he experienced a Kundalini awakening due to the incredible stress in his life and he describes the immense changes that quickly took place within him:

“Now I have lost all material desires. I used to think my life would only be complete if I had a newer, faster motorbike and drove my wife mad for years with impulsive purchases of dozens of different bikes. At the time of my original breakdown I was consumed with having the latest, biggest car and gadgets. This has all dissolved into thin air.”

“Simon” – TheMindfulWord.org

I’m not even sure how I feel about the idea of a Kundalini awakening, but after reading the accounts of others I would tread lightly and find a teacher.

Luckily, if this is something you feel drawn to, there are gurus online who have created practices for home practitioners.

Consult your doctor or therapist before beginning any practice.

One such teacher is Guru Jagat.

Guru Jagat Kundalini teacher at YogaDownload.com
Guru Jagat

Click here to learn more about how to learn from Guru Jagat and others!

So…what are the benefits?…

That took a concerning twist for a while, so why would anyone want Kundalini energy???

Well, sounds like it is the blissful enlightenment, heightened awareness, and feeling of oneness with the Universe people may be after.

Sounds like it has its upside.

According to teacher Sandra Shama Kaur for EgyptToday.com, “I often tell students that you will never be the same after you practice Kundalini yoga.”

For some this may sound frightening, but for others it may sound like rebirth from what they currently feel is a purposeless and disconnected existence-the chance for a new start.

We took a look at some pretty extreme Kundalini awakenings, but it appears that awakenings such as those are few and far between and the more common experience with the practice is simply a heightened understanding of ourselves.

Two women practicing Kundalini to gain Kundalini energy

Sandra Shama Kaur explains: “The practice brings to our awareness our self-limited beliefs and habit patterns that we inherited from the past.”

Of course the 3HO organization founded by Yogi Bhajan offers its list of benefits from rising Kundalini energy, some of which being:

  • Inner guidance and greater intuition
  • Protection from negativity
  • Emotional balance
  • Deep relaxtion
  • Ability to practice while retaining your job, family, and lifestyle

To name a few…

Sure, this sounds wonderful, but what does the science community have to say?

Suprisingly, a lot.

I found this on the website for the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation: “The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation believes that the various parts of Kirtan Kriya [part of the Kundalini practice] are each vital to the whole, and recommends practicing it in the traditional way to fully reap the benefits of the exercise.”

Also given were instructions on the practice.

This peaked my curiosity.

In the research review article, Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention: Where The Evidence Stands, author Dharma Singh Khalsa compiles and details research linking the practice with many health and emotional benefits.

“[Kundalini] has been successfully employed to improve memory in studies of people with subjective cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment, and highly stressed caregivers, all of whom are at increased risk for subsequent development of AD (Alzheimer’s Disease).”

Dharma Singh Khalsa

The author goes on to add “[Kundalini] has also been shown to improve sleep, decrease depression, reduce anxiety, down regulate inflammatory genes, upregulate immune system genes, improve insulin and glucose regulatory genes, and increase telomerase by 43%; the largest ever recorded.”

My desire to awaken some Kundalini energy just increased significantly!

Read more details about specific Kundalini benefits in the article here.

The scientific evidence is beyond impressive, to say the least, but I will leave the final word on the benefits of Kundalini energy to Guru Tera Kaur with the 3HO organization:

“Kundalini Yoga is an experience of uniting the finite self with the Infinite. Once you gain this experience, you no longer have the need to look for your security outside of yourself. Your security comes from knowing who you are in relation to the Universe. You know who you are, and you can be you. You can leave the pain of past wounds behind, and manifest your soul’s destiny.”

Guru Tera Kaur – 3HO

What does a Kundalini practice look like?…

Women practicing Kundalini yoga to rise Kundalini energy

If you are intrigued and want to go further in your understanding of Kundalini, here is a detailed explanation of what a practice MAY look like.

*Please note that each teacher will offer a slightly different experience.

Ayurvedic expert Anchal Vinaik offers her detailed description of each piece of the Kundalini practice:

Discipline

Forcing ourselves to meditate is discipline. But, what if I say, if you force your body into sitting at a place with your eyes shut, hands joined and concentrate; it is not meditation or Yoga.

Your body is your worship space and if you do not take the call from your body as to what it wants and what not; you are violating the yearning of your god.  Then, what is the key here? Whatever we do requires effort and effort makes us disciplinary. But we can’t force ourselves and look for solidarity. The will to control or suppress ourselves will only take us towards duality.

We need to let our bodies decide to go with the flow. Everything takes practice and you have to take baby steps towards your goals in order to truly achieve it for perpetuity. It is alright to take your time, do it gently in concern with your comfort and give your complete attention to it. Only then you will be able to dive into this heaven of freedom with no suppression of your will to take yourself towards the arena of bliss.

Asana

To meditate or do Yoga, one wishes to have an ecstatic experience. No ecstasy comes from the discomfort. To make it comfortable and fruitful one needs to find his/her go-to stance for long durations and not feel tired. Sit utterly quiet, making no movements and process what you have seen today, make your thoughts clear, and be frank about your feelings. Do not hold anything back while reflecting on your perceptions. Be sensitive about your tiniest movements, sense your surroundings, and relax your body to the point it feels like it is melting.

Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh said the following about asanas and meditation: “You must be able to sit in one of the meditation asanas for a full three hours at a stretch without the body shaking. Then only will you gain true asana siddhi, mastery over the asana, and be able to practice the higher stages of pranayama and dhyana. Without securing a steady asana, you cannot progress well in meditation. The more steady you are in your asana, the more you will be able to concentrate with a one-pointed mind. If you can be steady in a posture even for one hour, you will be able to acquire a one-pointed mind and feel the atmic anandam, infinite peace and soulful bliss inside you.”

Mudra

Certain mudras that help you awaken your Kundalini energy like Shanbhavi Mudra, Bhramari Mudra, Udharva Retas, etc. These Mudras stir the hidden energy in your body to awaken all of the 6 chakras (Shat-chakra) in your body.

Pranayama (Breathing Exercises)

Four necessary things for Pranayama- good place, suitable time, moderate food quantity, and lastly the purification of Nadis (vessels of the body). Without these 4 principles, one cannot achieve success but incurs a variety of diseases.

I can’t stress enough-what happens when we keep using a filter paper to filter water that is already filled with plenty of dirt? It won’t filter the water nicely and we will be drinking water with even more impurities than it already had. The same goes with this scenario. If we do not cleanse our body before Pranayama, it will only bestow much hazardous trade since the Vayu which was supposed to help you absorb the positive energy, clean your lungs, refresh your mind, and clean your blood will not be able to enter your vessels when they filled with junk.

Mantras

In ancient Ayurveda, Mantras held a lofty position in every Kriya (any form of work or practice). It is regarded to be a powerful tool to attain bliss. It is believed that mantras create positive sound vibrations in the universe including the abundance of cosmos energy that conceives a protective shield around you to halt any negative energy entering your mind and body. Practicing it while meditating or afterward give unimaginably bright results.

According to mindbodygreen.com: “A typical Kundalini yoga class is comprised of three parts: an opening chant (known as “tuning in”) followed by a brief warm-up for your spine, a kriya (which is a sequence of postures paired with breathing techniques), and a closing meditation or song.”

Is Kundalini meditation for everyone?…

Ayurvedic expert, Anchal Vinaik, offers a lovely explaination:

Kundalini is a divine adventurous journey for a person of all ages.

It doesn’t bound a person with any unit like age, gender, etc.

It only depends on one’s conscious determination towards their spiritual goal.

If one is desperate enough to feel the existence of one’s soul and to be able to communicate with his/her own being, he can reach to an as much higher level as he is willing to.

Remember one thing, you cannot force your way up to your ambition but have to cross many short milestones making it a progressive yet fulfilling journey towards your inner self, and ultimately you reach the almighty God as it is believed that God lives inside every living being.

As we covered earlier, always check with your doctor and/or therapist before beginning a new practice such as Kundalini.

Kundalini can be done by anyone, and can offer benefits for everyone, but only a doctor can tell you if it is right for your specific needs.

Where can I find a Kundalini teacher?…

Woman doing a mudra while practicing yoga

If you can find in-person, that is ideal.

The International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association offers a free directory of teachers available near you. Find it here.

Maybe there are no teachers in your area, or maybe in-person instruction isn’t right for you, but because it is recommended to practice under the guidance of an experienced teacher, here are a few highly educated gurus you can follow to raise your own Kundalini energy, if you are so inclined.

All offer classes available to stream instantly through YogaDownload which gives you access to multiple classes covering multiple styles of yoga at an incredibly affordable price!

Guru Jagat

Guru Jagat

According to Guru Jagat’s biography on YogaDownload:

“Deemed the modern face of Kundalini Yoga, Guru Jagat brings a fresh perspective to this ancient practice. A senior teacher with over a dozen years of experience, Guru Jagat studied under Yogi Bhajan, the Kundalini Master responsible for bringing the practice to the US.

Her profound classes that teach Kundalini as a technology that can be used as a tool to achieve and sustain long-lasting happiness have earned her devout fans amongst Hollywood and LA tastemakers alike.”

Shapadpreet

Shapadpreet

According to Shapadpreet’s biography on YogaDownload:

“Shabadpreet is a teacher trained in Yogi Bhajan’s healing technologies and various other subtle and physical healing modalities. Since her first encounter with Kundalini Yoga and Meditation in 2008, Shabadpreet has since studied with Master Teacher’s Harijiwan, Tej, and Guru Jagat. Shabadpreet currently teaches and studies at the RAMA Institute for Applied Yogic Science and Technology.”

Tana Pittman

According to Tana Pittman’s biography on YogaDownload:

“Tana has acquired three 200-hour yoga teaching certifications in Bikram, Anusara/Hatha and Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan. It is this great mix of yoga styles that creates an informative, therapeutic and spiritual experience in each of Tana’s classes.”

Check out these teachers, as well as many others across the entire yoga spectrum, at YogaDownload!

In conclusion…

I know I have become more familiar with this intriguing practice, but my research has also brought up many more questions. For me, the benefits of Kundalini energy balance with the cautionary tales, and I’m not yet sure if I will dive into the practice or not. Either way, I feel as though this isn’t my last encounter with Kundalini the snake!

Thank you for reading, and take care!

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RESOURCES:

Khalsa, Dharma Singh. ‘Stress, Meditation, and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention: Where The Evidence Stands’. 1 Jan. 2015 : 1 – 12.

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