This yoga style emphasizes breathing combined with physical movement; Kundalini aims to free energy in the lower part of the body, allowing it to flow upwards through every chakra in the body.
All practices in asana have to do with breath control, but the exploration of breath effects (also known as prana, which means energy) in Kundalini on the poses is important. Another name for Kundalini exercises is Kriyas.
The western audience was introduced to Kundalini yoga in 1968 by Yogi Bhajan when he started teaching in California. In 1969, he founded the 3HO (the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) that introduced a larger population to this yoga style. However, Kundalini was only practice in India and was passed down in the guru-student tradition.
Even though this yoga style was not known to the public, Bhajan was inspired to teach others because he felt the benefits of this style should be accessible to everyone.
Meaning of Kudalini Yoga
Kundalini means untapped energy (prana) in the lower body – or at the base of the spinal cord– that can be transferred upward through the body awakening all the seven chakras.
Complete enlightenment takes place when this energy gets to the crown chakra in the skull. A snake coiled at the bottom of the spine is used to represent Kundalini energy.
Kundalini exercises are referred to as Kriyas. Each kriya – usually associated with a specific chakra – is a series of poses performed with a particular breathing method and bandhas engagement to strengthen the effect of the workout.
Kriyas comprise fast, repetitive movements coordinated with mantra recitation or designated breathing patterns. Some other kriyas involve holding the pose for several minutes combined with pranayama and mantra. Another essential aspect of kriya is mudras.
A personalized Kundalini practice would start with a numerological analysis and diagnosis to identify blocked chakras. Then specific kriyas are prescribed to promote balance and move energy all through the chakras. While in a group class, the instructor usually selects a set of kriyas that most people will benefit from.
What to Expect in a Kundalini Class
A short chant is used to start a Kundalini class, it is then followed by warm-up exercises to stretch the spinal cord and improve flexibility. The kriyas are the main work of the class; classes end with meditation, usually accompanied by the instructor playing a large gong, and closing song.
Students practicing Kundalini usually wear head wraps and white clothing, but this dress style is optional, you don’t have to wear them to practice it. Some Kundalini students also use sheepskins instead of the usual yoga mat.
The founder saw this as a way to keep the body away from the magnetic pull of the Earth. You can use the sheepskin if you want to. Even some devoted Kundalini practitioners do not agree with this recommendation on ethical grounds.
Is Kundalini Yoga for You?
If you want something spiritual, then try Kundalini yoga out. This type of yoga is more than the asanas; it focuses on opening chakras in the body through pranayama, mudras, meditation, chanting, and bandhas. However, exercises in Kundalini can still be quite intense.
This yoga style will be appealing to people who desire a yoga style that addresses the physical body and incorporates all traditional techniques to attain enlightenment. You can experiment with this yoga style to see if it suits you.