What is Kundalini Yoga?
Kundalini Yoga, like most Yoga, is a meditative and physical discipline, concentrating on unionizing the mind, body and spirit. It was founded by Yogi Bhajan, the hugely successful entrepreneur and missionary. Kundalini Yoga in its fundamental form (how it was taught when Yogi Bhajan arrived in Los Angeles in 1969), was quite demanding.
Students were to wake up to a cold shower and over 2 hours of meditation and Kundalini poses each morning before sunrise. Then, aligning with Sikh tradition, the student had to then go to work in an honest form, all day, before retiring and waking to a cold shower and 2 plus hours of meditation once again.
Today, Kundalini Yoga is not quite as demanding (depending on who you learn from), but still remains true to some of its origins. Concentration on the spinal area of the body; emphasis on meditation over poses; the use of the traditional cross-legged meditative pose; the practicing and mastering of controlled breathing. Kundalini Yoga classes will be much the same as other popular Yogic techniques such as Bikram’s Yoga. Typically, classes will incorporate breathing (pranayam), meditation, chanting (mantras) and postures (asanas).
Kundalini Yoga can be performed by people of all ages. Classes are again becoming very popular not just in North America, but in many first world countries of Europe. Making a visit to the gym to do ‘yoga’ is a not just a fad – it’s a way of life for millions of people worldwide. Kundalini Yoga, like many other types of yoga, can help with posture and physical health, along with mental balance, stress relief and overall well-being.
Kundalini Yoga Poses
Kundalini poses (also called kundalini postures or kundalini positions), are relatively much easier than the poses (asanas) of other popular Yoga techniques. Most certified Kundalini Yogis teach 5 basic Kundalini poses, all of which would be considered “sitting” positions. These positions are conducive to proper breathing and meditation. Below is a brief description of each:
Sukasana (Easy Pose): A simple pose where legs are comfortably crossed at the ankles, with hands resting on the knees. Lower back is pushed forward so that the back is kept straight.
Siddhasana (Perfect Pose): In this position, the legs are again crossed (right leg on top), but the sole of the right foot lies against the thigh of the left leg, and the outside of the heel of the right foot rests gently below the navel. The left leg is already under the right; the left foot is positioned with its heel directly below the right foots heel, and the toes tucked in between the calf and hamstring of the right leg.
Padmasana (Lotus): This is the popular pose where legs are crossed and both feet are resting on top of the opposite leg’s thigh. The right leg is always on top with this pose. The left foot can then be gently lifted up on to the right thigh, where the Kundalini pose is locked in.
Vajrasana (Rock Pose): This Kundalini pose is in the kneeling position. Kneed on feet, soles up and legs together, and keep your back straight. Rest your hands on your knees. Great for digestion.
Celibate (Hero Pose): Another kneeling Kundalini position, this time position your feet on the outsides of your body, instead of sitting on them. Keep your back straight.
These Kundalini Position descriptions are only meant to give you a visual of the types of Yogi poses in this practice. To learn these Kundalini positions properly, see a certified Kundalini Yogi.
History of Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga originated in India, almost certainly from the Kashmir region and from the form on Hinduism labelled Kashmir Shavism. The word Kundalini can be loosely translated from Sanskrit as ‘coiled’ or ‘that which is coiled’ which represents the dormant chakras of the body which are anthropomorphized as a female serpent, coiled closely to the spine. Kundalini Yoga is therefore very focused on the spine and endocrine areas of the body. Kundalini yoga, like hundreds of other types of yoga, were practiced throughout India and eventually swept throughout Southeast Asia as Hinduism and Buddhism spread.
The key to Kundalini Yoga, as is the case with all Yoga, is to find the Universal Self or the divine union (merging individual consciousness with universal consciousness). As far as the acute history of Kundalini yoga, there is really very little documentation of ‘Kundalini yoga’ as a perfected concept being taught or documented until 1969 – with the arrival of Yogi Bhajan, Master Kundalini Yogi and Mahan Tantric.
Yogi Bhajan arrived in North America in 1968, when he moved to Canada to fulfill a teaching position waiting for him there. Things did not work out as planned however, and he ended up migrating to Los Angeles to stay with a relative. By 1969 he had already started the 3HO Foundation, performing missionary work and teaching Kundalini Yoga to North Americans in a cultural uprising and eager to learn alternative thinking and meditation. It was here where Kundalini Yoga was first taught.
The 3HO Foundation continued to grow astronomically throughout the United States and Canada, making Yogi Bhajan not only an influential spiritual leader but a very successful entrepreneur as well. The 1990’s showed a huge consumer boom in both natural foods and natural medicine. Yogi Bhajan took advantage of this by expanding his 3HO Foundation and by creating the International Kundalini Yoga Teachers Association, an association that sets certain standards for Kundalini Yogis.
The 3HO Foundation continues to make their mark as a formidable organization and is now an NGO for the United Nations (Consultative status) for women’s rights and other issues.