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  • Writer's pictureKaren Taylor

Q&A: The Basics of Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga is the fastest growing Yoga. It’s known as the Yoga of Awareness – it consists of simple yogic techniques that can be enjoyed by everyone, no matter their age or physical ability. Kundalini is a holistic practice that includes breathwork (pranayama), yoga postures (asanas), sound (gong), chanting silently or out loud (mantra), and meditation.

This is a wonderful yoga practice that is done at your own individual pace, and everyone can do. From your very first class you’ll start reaping the rewards, whether you’re new to yoga, or you’re looking to expand your yoga practice to include some more spiritual and meditative work.

Here’s some Q&A’s to help get you started in learning more about this style of Yoga.

Why is it called kundalini yoga?

Kundalini is a Sanscrit term from ancient India that identifies the arising of an energy and consciousness which has been coiled at the base of the spine since birth, and is the source of the life force (pranic energy, chi , bio-energy) that everybody knows. Yogic science suggests that this energy triggered the formation of the child in the womb, and then coils 3 ½ times at the base of the spine to hold the energy field in stasis until we die, when it uncoils and returns to its source.

Kundalini may unravel and arise from the base of the spine (or sometimes from the feet) due to spiritual practices, or in response to life events, and when this happens it may move gradually, uncoiling like a snake, or quickly and explosively, into the gut, the heart or the head.

Kundalini yoga therefore derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of Mantra, Tantra, Yantra, Yoga or Meditation.

What is Kundalini Energy?

Kundalini energy is the divine feminine energy that is also known as shakti or goddess energy and sometimes as serpent energy. In Hindu and yoga philosophy, it is the creative power and energy of the universe. In many yoga traditions, kundalini energy is believed to lie dormant at the base of the spine, and one of the purposes of yoga practice is to awaken this energy.

Is Kundalini Yoga a Religion?

Kundalini Yoga is not a religion. It is not a cult. It is simply an ancient wisdom; a technology of using your body and training your mind to be able to embody your Divinity on this planet. When we adopt the regular practice of Kundalini Yoga to our bodies and minds, it has the effect of uplifting the spirit. It is for everyone. It is universal and non denominational.

Do you need to believe in God in Kundalini Yoga?

While the word God is used quite a bit in Kundalini Yoga, you do not need to believe in a specific deity. The God in Kundalini Yoga is translated as the “Sustainer of All.” Feel free to use a different word that feels more natural to you, such as sacred, universe, divine, source, spirit, or nature.

Why do we cover our head?

In Kundalini yoga it is recommended to keep the hair up and to wear a white headcover to better receive the solar energy, which will merge with the Kundalini energy rising from the root chakra and help raise our consciousness level.

Why do we wear white clothes?

White has all the seven colours in it and it helps reinforce your projection, your radiance and your aura (electromagnetic system,) increasing your overall physical, mental, emotional and spiritual strength.

Why do we chant?

Chanting is a main aspect of Kundalini yoga. We chant mantras during certain exercises or meditations, silently or loud as instructed by Yogi Bhajan, while we hold or practice particular postures and mudras (hand positions that lock or seal and guide energy flow and reflexes to the brain.) The mantras can be in English or in Gurmukhi (the ancient language of Punjab,) they can contain many sentences (in which case the teacher would bring sheets with the words for beginners to follow) or even just one word, like Har (Creative Infinity.) Repeating mantras, powerfully from the navel and pronouncing each word distinctly, is a conscious method of controlling and directing the mind, and of healing the brain and the body through the movement of each part of the tongue and the stimulation of the hypothalamus and the meridian points.

Why do we start and end the class with the same chants?

We start Kundalini classes by chanting the Adi Mantra three times to connect and bow to the infinite wisdom around us and within us. The Adi Mantra contains the sound Ong, which will help vibrate the sinuses and stimulate the Sixth Chakra (the chakra for intuition.) Teachers might also choose to add a second mantra to open the class, the Mangala Charan Mantra, the mantra for protection. Classes always end by chanting three times the Long Time Sun affirmation, beautiful words which will help send out positive, healing energy, and the Bij Mantra (seed mantra) Sat Naam (Truth is my identity,) to bring the energy up the spine through the chakras and expand it into the aura.

What is a kriya?

Yogi Bhajan left us thousands of kriyas and meditations to improve every aspect of our lives. A kriya is the set of exercises that a teacher would choose for a class, together with warm-ups, relaxation and a meditation. Every kriya has its own title and purpose, and the order and length for each exercise must be followed as instructed in the manuals, in order to reach particular health benefits. Meditations are also held for different lengths of time and in specified postures. Kriyas and meditations can also be repeated every day for a different number of days (usually 40) to lock in the benefits.

What are malas?

Malas are meditative tools made of 108, 54 or 27 beads strung on a thread with one larger bead, the Guru bead, from which a tassel hangs. The tassel symbolizes a thousand lotus petals (the crown chakra related to consciousness). Malas are used in meditations or during kriyas to reduce stress and enhance wisdom, patience and health. They come in a large variety of healing stones, which students can choose based on their needs.

Why do we practice on a sheepskin?

It is recommended to practice and meditate on a sheepskin or a natural fiber blanket to conduct prana (the breath) inward and filter out negative or chaotic energy. Many yogis might find it difficult to practice on material that an animal had to die to donate, in which case they could purchase synthetic sheepskins or sheepskins obtained from animals which have died from natural causes.

Do we need to be vegetarian?

Vegetarianism is not a requirement, it is only recommended to follow a vegetarian diet, together with many other Ayurvedic lifestyle suggestions, to avoid harming animals and to improve our health, which in turn will help us be stronger and of better service for the community.

Is it really transformative?

Yes! With a steady, conscious practice Kundalini yoga can be very transformative. Changes are subtle and can occur in a brief period of time (my very first class gave me great results!) It is also helpful to continue the same meditation for 40, 90 or even 1,000 days to achieve the maximum benefits. Meditations can vary in length; they can be practiced for 3, 11, 22, 31 or 62 minutes, or even 2-1/2 hours. The longer you practice, the stronger will be the effect on your physical body and your electromagnetic field.

Something else to keep in mind is that in Kundalini yoga you should practice in the way you feel most comfortable. If you prefer not to chant, you can just listen in silence to the mantras; if an exercise is too long and you need to rest, you can just relax on your mat and absorb the positive, healing energy from the other students. We suggest what has been described above to optimally achieve all the benefits, but you can still adapt gradually and choose what is better for you.

(A large portion of this information has been taken, with thanks, from a piece Authored by: Nirlep Kaur)

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