What is kundalini? What is the difference between kundalini and Kundalini Yoga?
Kundalini is primordial energy that exists in all human beings and connects them to both the Earth and the Great Beyond or universe. Considering the theory of multi-verses the term universe could be reductionist, so I'll just call it The Great Beyond. There is actually a beautiful Buddhist mantra (Gate, gate, paragate...) that aims to take you beyond the Great Beyond, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse.
Kundalini energy is neither trade-marked nor owned by any one spiritual or religious group. Although the tools and methods of Kundalini Yoga may have very specific origins in India, kundalini energy itself is not proprietary. It is most likely the origin of all mystical and spiritual experiences across time and space.
Spontaneous kundalini activation can cause extreme distress, and is sometimes misdiagnosed as mental illness. Cross-cultural psychologists and anthropologists such as Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell have written about references to the coiled serpent (kundalini) discovered in various places and times through antiquity to present. Thanks to the work of mental health professionals, like Dr. Bonnie Greenwell, who has dedicated her life to researching kundalini, resources and help are available for people who experience sudden, spontaneous kundalini activation.
I experienced spontaneous "top-down" kundalini activation and it was a wild ride! I'm attempting to write about it in a work called Falling Awake.
Some people may think the rise in popularity of kundalini is just a New Age trend. But those who have actually experienced it know that it's much more. There's been a sharp increase in kundalini activation for evolutionary purposes. If humans don't evolve to live in harmony with each other and the planet, they may become extinct.
Kundalini raises human consciousness. Beliefs which might have once been theoretical become first-hand knowledge in the Gnostic tradition. Every fiber of your being experiences this spiritual energy and what once might have been faith becomes knowing.
Kundalini Yoga is an ancient yogic system, which prepares the body-mind and consciously awakens and activates the flow of kundalini energy. Among other things, Kundalini yoga utilizes the chakra system to conceptualize and visualize spinning w
eels of energy from the base of the spine to the crown (and beyond). Three channels of breath and a system of locks (bhandas) are visualized to control respiration rates. Many of these techniques are found in other yogic systems as well. Preparing the body-mind and consciously activating kundalini energy is safer and much more gentle than spontaneous kundalini energy activation.
A typical Kundalini Yoga class starts with a mantra; a tune in or invocation to higher wisdom and frequencies; followed by a warm-up; a kriya and a mantra-meditation, which is sometimes part of the kriya. Class ends with savasana (relaxation) a tune out and traditionally a brief uplifting song/blessing, which oddly I can only sing in a brogue.
Kundalini Yoga practice is done almost entirely with the eyes closed, so there's no comparing yourself to others or perving at someone's butt in down-dog! All bodies are welcome.
Practicing with eyes closed encourages introspection and intro-ception, which is like proprioception except it's an awareness of what's going on inside your body as you move and meditate. Whereas, proprioception is an awareness of how your body moves through space. Developing this type of awareness can help you thwart many illnesses and injuries.
Originally, the physical postures (asanas) of most yogic systems were designed to prepare the body for meditation. For many in the west, yoga is a good quick workout, where we get to relax for a few minutes at the end. Many people seek the yoga body. Kundalini Yoga deepens the practice, so that you achieve the yoga mind as well. There are actually 10 bodies associated with kundalini yoga. But I don't want to overwhelm you with too much information.
Even if you don't believe in a spirit or soul, you can eventually tame your monkey-mind and feel your brain waves change from beta....alpha....theta....delta. How awesome would it be to change your brain state at will and then learn to take that skill off the mat (or sheepie) to a stressful situation or an airport at holiday time! When you are less stressed-out, competitive, anxious, and angry, all those around you benefit. And the world becomes a more peaceful place with each practice.
I began practicing yoga in 1989. I also practiced meditation, but the two were rarely combined. In 2016, my spontaneous and turbulent kundalini activation necessitated a deeper practice. I absolutely had to mediate and find some way to integrate spirit with the physical body. All of this led me to a Kundalini Yoga practice and eventually to Nepal where I became an internationally certified teacher.
Yogi Bhajan is credited with bringing Kundalini yoga to the west in the late 1960's. In so doing, he helped many people and also pissed off a lot of Sikhs back in India. The 3HO organization is a great resource for all things related to Kundalini yoga but not necessarily spontaneous awakenings. Some people may find 3HO bit too cult-like and be scared away.
I am not certified through 3HO or as a Kundalini teacher as taught by Yogi Bhajan. I've attended classes and workshops through them. My teacher training was through Maya Fiennes Yoga For Real Life. She did her training through 3HO but was independently-minded and developed a system that is a bit more accessible and targets the average person.
I'm weary of "gurus" and will never call myself one. I'm sure there are some pure gurus and truly enlightened beings on Earth, but sadly many people with spiritual abilities are corrupted by money and power. I've met the Dali Lama, and I feel he is the real deal. I never met Yogi Bhajan on this plane of existence. His legacy is mixed. I can neither worship him, nor criticize him. His teachings are valuable and have helped many people including myself. But I don't feel like I can worship him in a way that may be expected of teachers certified through 3HO.
We are moving into an age in which we don't accept outer authority. Our moral compass and our wisdom is within. It's often hidden very deep under layers of conditioning and pain. But it's there somewhere and our purpose on Earth is to find it.
*Disclaimer: There's often a lot of clearing and healing of old wounds that happens through Kundalini Yoga. So it's not all a walk in the park! It may be a good idea to begin Kundalini in conjunction with counseling or a self-help program in case unresolved trauma surfaces.
That said, please join me o
n this incredible journey.