Kundalini Yoga: What You Need to Know
October 24th, 2020 by Janie Wilson
Kundalini Yoga has grown in popularity over the last couple of years, with celebrities like Gisele Bündchen, Russel Brand, and Gabrielle Bernstein among some of its popular practitioners. This ancient yoga practice is focused mostly on breath and asana (or physical postures), in combination with meditation, singing, and chanting. If this yoga practice has caught your attention but you have no idea where to start, don’t worry! We’ve laid out some of the basics of Kundalini below.
First things first: What is Kundalini Yoga?
Kundalini was first introduced to the western world by Yogi Bhajan, in the late 70s. This branch of yoga combines breath, movement, and sound. Kundalini originated from the Sanskrit word ‘kundal’ which means “coiled energy.” The idea is that everyone has energy collected at the base of their spine and, through the practice of kundalini, they would be able to bring that energy up their spine through the seven chakras, and out the crown of their head.
According to Yogi Bhajan, the process of growth through Kundalini yoga involves the natural evolution of our own nature. Just like snakes, you need to shed old skins to be more of who you are.
The final goal of Kundalini is to increase one’s self-awareness by suppressing the mind and unblocking the chakras so that one’s vital energy can freely flow.
Kundalini yoga is made up of really challenging breath exercises combined with asanas and meditation. These are often done in repetition for a long period of time, and it allows a lot of energy to move around in your body.
The reason why this branch of yoga has gained popularity only recently is because the ancient teachings of kundalini were kept a secret for quite a long time. It was only taught to royalty and nobility until Yogi Bhajan brought it to the west in the 70s and started to introduce it to the public.
Health Benefits of Kundalini Yoga
A lot of people practice Kundalini for its positive effect on both their physical and psychological well-being. Listed below are some of the most popular health benefits of Kundalini yoga.
Because Kundalini requires you to hold each posture for an extended period of time (often up to five minutes!), this means that it is a great way to strengthen and tone your muscles. Some of the more extreme breathing techniques, like Breath of Fire, are also great for building core strength because you have to engage your abdominal muscles every time you exhale.
Improves your Emotional State
That “high” feeling you get after a sweaty yoga class is real—according to research, regularly practicing Kundalini helps increase the production of serotonin, or the happy hormone, in your brain!
Lowers one’s Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
Numerous studies revealed that Kundalini, particularly the deep breathing exercises used during it, can help decrease hypertension. Long, slow breaths can calm one’s autonomic nervous system and at the same time, reduce stress. This results to lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Improves One’s Memory and Focus
Research suggests that Kundalini can significantly impact cognitive functioning and improve both your memory and concentration. As a matter of fact, Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation strongly recommends a Kundalini kriya to improve memory retention.
Improve Your Metabolism and Digestive System
By means of a combination of breath and postures, Kundalini concentrates on strengthening one’s core and diaphragm. As a result, your digestion greatly improves! Research also revealed that this can help speed up one’s metabolism, which means your body is able to process energy more efficiently.
How is Kundalini Done?
A normal Kundalini yoga class is divided into three parts: an opening chant (also known as ‘tuning in’), after which a brief warm-up for your spine, and a kriya (a sequence of postures coupled with breathing techniques) is performed, and then lastly a closing meditation or song.
Each kriya (a Sanskrit word which means ‘action’) is paired with a physical pose and a breath or meditation. These poses can be anything you choose depending on the part of the body you want to focus on, such as the cobra pose for the spine, or the warrior pose for your legs and glutes.
Although different kriyas use different breathing techniques, one of the most popular is Breath of Fire, which is made up of short, quick breaths (almost as if you’re panting). In order to do Breath of Fire, one should seal their lips and breathe in and out of their nose at a rate of approximately two to three breathes per second. As one exhales, they expel the air in powerful spurts to engage their core.
Singing and chanting are also very important parts of Kundalini. There are numerous mantras and songs that one can recite during their practice, but most classes always start with the Adi Mantra. This means, “I bow to the subtle divine wisdom, the divine teacher within.” Another chant that you’ll commonly hear in Kundalini is theSat Nam. It means “I am truth.”
With Kundalini, one can expect a meditation-heavy class. Each set during the yoga class has different poses that include breathing techniques, movement, mindfulness, and a mantra. In between postures, you’ll be given a minute or two to relax and focus inwardly. After that, there’s a relaxation that is followed up with a meditation, then a mantra before the class ends.
Being dressed head-to-toe in white is common practice in Kundalini. This is because white is the color that is thought to ward off negative energy and extend one’s own aura. However, you don’t have to wear all white if you don’t want to. Teachers, however, will often wear a white head covering, like a scarf, hat, or turban, to contain the energy within their bodies.
Although anyone can practice Kundalini yoga, this particular style of yoga is ideal for those who are looking not only for a physical workout but to practice spirituality as well.
Kundalini is an intense practice. However, both the physical and mental benefits it gives makes it a great choice for beginners and advanced yogis alike.