An Introduction to Kundalini Yoga

Yoga is yoga, and all of it is fantastic. However, if I was forced to choose my favorite yoga discipline to practice, it would be Kundalini Yoga hands down. I am, at heart, a Kundalini chick – it is the yoga that rocks my world.

Kundalini Yoga is a science. It works on the energy channels and meridians of the body, using postures, movement, breath, eye gaze, mudra and mantra to activate pressure points within the body, enabling us to reach a higher state of consciousness and mental clarity.


Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini Yoga to America from India in 1969 and set about introducing westerners to the practice. By using breath and movement, practitioners were – and still are – able to achieve the ‘high’ feelings often only achieved through the use of narcotics, which were very popular in the late sixties and early seventies.

Kundalini Yoga focuses on the rising of Kundalini energy. This energy lies at the 4th vertebrae and is dormant in most of us – until awakened. The energy is often described as coiled up and sleeping (much like a snake). Through movement, the energy begins to awaken and travels up the spine through the chakras to reach the crown chakra at the top of the head.

Often referred to as the “householder’s yoga,” it can be done anywhere and at any time. Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, offers guidelines of how to live your daily life and how to conduct your yoga practice, such as a full 2.5 hour daily practice (known as Sadhana), keeping the head covered, always wearing white, and following a strict yogic diet. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have 2+ hours to commit solely to yoga every day (I wish I did). Sometimes my Sadhana may just be a 3 minute meditation, and this is perfect.

Kundalini 101

Much of Kundalini Yoga is used to balance the chakras, creating a clear path for the energy to rise. By opening and balancing our chakras, we enhance all aspects of our lives and strengthen our internal ‘survival tools’ to manage today’s challenges.

Kundalini Yoga is multi-faceted and a class can involve meditations, chants (known as mantras), posture movements and sequences (known as kriyas), allowing the body and mind to be taken to a different state of consciousness and awareness. A Kundalini meditation can be as short as 30 seconds, up to 11 minutes, or even as much as 62 minutes – but each is timed to allow the chemical changes in body, blood and brain to take place.

Kriyas are a set of postures/movements/breath work done in sequence and to specific lengths of time. The sequence never changes. Every posture or movement is timed to bring about a response in the body, which when accompanied by the rest of the kriya, will bring the body and mind to a particular outcome.

Chanting is very powerful and has a direct impact on our brain patterns and thoughts. At the beginning of each Kundalini Yoga class, the chant “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo” is recited three times. It is loosely translated as “I bow to the divine teacher within.” This chant connects you to the chain of teachers that have gone before and also connects you to your inner teacher/guide. I love that concept – being taught by the teacher that is already within us.

We are so often told that all the answers to our own happiness lie within. This always reminds me to notice my inner world and the changes that are taking place. At the end of the class, the chant “Sat Nam” is repeated three times. This is translated as “truth is my name.” When we leave our Kundalini practice, we vibrate the truth.

Try a simple Kundalini exercise

Some kriyas have 10-11 different components, while others have just one. As an example, Sat Kriya is a wonderful practice that incorporates just one movement. Sat Kriya is truly powerful – it stimulates and balances the 1st, 2nd and 3rd chakras and also energizes the entire body, healing every cell. Try it:

  • Sit in a kneeling position, on your heels. If this is uncomfortable, you can sit cross legged instead
  • Raise your arms into the air, elbows straight and arms close to your ears, and interlace your hands
  • keeping your index fingers pointing upwards
  • Say the word ‘Sat’ while pulling the tummy muscles in sharply
  • Then ‘Nam’ whilst relaxing the tummy muscles
  • Do this continuously for 1 minute, eventually working up to 3 minutes
  • At the end, take a deep breath in and hold the breath as long as you can while engaging your root lock,  mula bandha (the energy center located in the pelvic floor area).
  • Repeat twice more and relax.

The takeaway

Many of the Kundalini positions and practices look easy on the surface. However, it is the repetition that challenges us and consequently changes our brain patterns, brain waves and chemical makeup of the blood and body. Pushing the body and mind can bring out deeply rooted emotions and trauma, so be patient and allow yourself to experience the journey. All Kundalini Yoga is healing; we just may have to break things down first.

Personally, I find that Kundalini Yoga challenges and nurtures the mind as much as the body in a way that no other yoga practice has. Not only does my body become fitter and more flexible; my mind is open and clearer.

Whether you choose to follow this lifestyle or not, rest assured that Kundalini Yoga (even if you can only manage three minutes of breath practice) will change the way you feel and lift your spirits.

As Yogi Bhajan said, ‘’Yoga is not going to make you great. Yoga is going to make you you!’’

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