by Ann Pizer: Kundalini yoga was brought to a western audience in 1968 when Yogi Bhajan began teaching in California…
He founded 3HO (the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) in 1969 to introduce Kundalini yoga to a broader population. Before this, Kundalini was only taught in India and was passed down in the guru-student tradition. Although this type of yoga had not previously been offered to the public, Yogi Bhajan felt that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy its benefits.
What is Does Kundalini Mean?
The Kundalini is untapped energy (prana) at the base of the spine that can be drawn up through the body awakening each of the seven chakras. Full enlightenment occurs when this energy reaches the crown chakra at the top of the head. Kundalini energy is often represented as a snake coiled at the bottom of the spine.
Kundalini Yoga asana sequences are called kriyas. Each kriya is preset series of poses that is done with a specific breathing technique and engagement of the bandhas to intensify the effects of the pose. Each kriya is associated with a particular chakra. They may consist of rapid, repetitive movements coordinated with a designated breathing method or recitation of a mantra. In other kriyas, poses are held for several minutes, again with the inclusion of pranayama and mantra. Often mudras are also an important part of each kriya.
A personalized Kundalini practice would begin with a numerological analysis and diagnosis of which chakras seem to be blocked.
Specific kriyas are then prescribed to help bring balance and move prana through all the chakras. In a group class situation, the teacher will typically pick a set of kriyas that will be beneficial to most people.
What to Expect in a Kundalini Class
A Kundalini class begins with a short chant followed by a warm-up to stretch the spine and improve flexibility.
The main work of the class is the kriyas. The class ends with a meditation, which may be accompanied by the teacher playing a large gong, and a closing song.
Kundalini students often wear white clothing and head wraps but don’t feel obligated to adopt this style of dress when you take the class. Some kundalinis also use sheepskins instead of yoga mats. Yoga Bhajan recommended this as a way to separate your body from the Earth’s magnetic pull. However, it’s optional. Even some of the most devoted Kundalini yogis object to this advice on ethical grounds.
Is Kundalini for You?
Kundalini is one of the most spiritual types of yoga. It goes beyond the asanas with its emphasis on opening the chakras through pranayama, meditation, mudras, bandhas, and chanting. However, Kundalini kriyas still can be very intense. Kundalini appeals to people who want a yoga method that stays grounded in the physical body while incorporating all of the traditional tools of a yogi to reach enlightenment. If you’re not sure, give a few classes a try to see how they make you feel.
- The best-known Kundalini studio in the United States is Golden Bridge, which has locations in Santa Monica, California and New York City.
- Kundalini teachers sometimes change their names. Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa, the owner of Golden Bridge, is one example.
- Celebrities that practice Kundalini include Demi Moore and Russell Brand.
- Kundalinis say Sat Nam instead of namaste.