Even if you've never done yoga yourself, you're probably familiar with the concept. It has become more and more accessible to all demographics, with yoga studios popping up in strip malls and classes taught in gyms. While many people use it purely as a form of exercise, it also has deep spiritual roots that go back centuries.
There are many types of yoga. One of the more spiritually focused is kundalini yoga.
Like all other forms of yoga, kundalini yoga focuses on movement, breathing, and mindfulness, which together can strengthen muscles, improve flexibility, and relieve stress.
Practitioners of kundalini yoga also believe that every person has an internal energy that resonates with the world around them. Stress and other problems can cause that energy to be blocked, which leads to illness, pain, and other problems. Kundalini yoga is focused on clearing those blocks so people can lead better lives.
The word "kundalini" is a Sanskrit word that means curled or coiled. The term refers to the internal energy, which lies coiled up like a snake at the base of the spine, ready to flow through the body if released. The ultimate goal is to encourage a free flow of energy throughout the body while also building physical and emotional strength and balance.
Kundalini yoga consists of several fundamental elements designed to heal the body and help people progress spiritually. Traditional practitioners believe that all elements must be done together in the right way to get the best results. While simply practicing one or two elements is not generally perceived as harmful, undertaking the practice as a whole is encouraged.
Also called "tuning in," this is a common tradition in kundalini yoga classes. The class members chant the Adi mantra to "tune in" to the Golden Chain of teachers that came before them. Kundalini yoga practitioners believe that this wisdom has been handed down through the ages, so acknowledging and connecting to that is an important way to begin any practice.
One of the most fundamental elements of kundalini yoga is the breath. Yogis generally believe that breathing isn't simply important for sustaining life, but that it helps carry prana energy, the body's life force. Long, deep breathing is an important part of kundalini practice, as is learning when to breathe in and out during movement.
Asana is what most people imagine when they picture yoga practice. These are the movements and poses taken during class. However, not every asana is as obvious as warrior two or pigeon pose. Postures in yoga include everything from a simple meditative lotus pose to the more difficult headstands or bridges. In kundalini yoga, multiple poses may be strung together to form part of a kriya, which is a type of moving meditation or prayer.
Meditation is a fundamental part of kundalini yoga. While practitioners perform moving meditations as they practice their poses, most kundalini yogis also practice sitting meditation. During these, they may focus more on breath and visualization. These meditations also often utilize mudras, the hand and finger positions practitioners believe channel the flow of energy.
Mantras are another significant part of kundalini yoga. In addition to the Adi mantra spoken at the start of class, practitioners use a number of common mantras to make the most of the beneficial impacts sound is believed to have on health and spirituality. These mantras are considered healing or designed to help people connect with the energy of the world around them.
While many of the beliefs that kundalini yoga practitioners hold have not been scientifically verified, there is some evidence that the practices are highly beneficial. Research shows that yoga practice can result in a reduction of both stress hormones and perceived stress after just three months of practice. It also tends to increase strength and balance overall.
Yoga, including kundalini yoga, is generally a fairly safe form of exercise, though it is not without risks. Spine injuries are the most commonly reported serious injuries, so anyone with a past problem or an illness affecting their back, neck, or spine should proceed with caution.
Other common issues include joint injuries and repetitive stress injuries among those who overdo it, so don't be afraid to start slow, though kundalini tends to be less movement-intensive than other forms of yoga. Physical therapists and rehabilitative yoga teachers are skilled in working with people who have physical limitations. It's always a good idea to consult with your physician before beginning a new course of exercise.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.