For meditation or yoga practitioners, Kundalini Meditation is thought to have both mental health and spiritual benefits.
Kundalini yoga is usually connected to Yogi Bhajan — a Pakistani yoga teacher who passed in 2004 — who is credited with bringing the practice to the West in the 1960s.
The term Kundalini means “the coiled one,” which refers to the coiled holy energy that yogis believe exists at the base of each person’s spine. This circular energy resembles that of a sleeping and calm coiled snake.
This type of yoga aims to “awaken” or “activate” the energy stored at the base of your spine — within your root chakra — causing the energy to move through your chakras.
The goal is to do this practice regularly in order to ultimately get to spiritual enlightenment, known as a “Kundalini awakening,” which requires an energy release from your crown chakra.
What are chakras?
Within yoga and other spiritual practices and beliefs, chakras represent the seven different energy sources in your body:
- root chakra
- sacral chakra
- heart chakra
- throat chakra
- third eye chakra
- crown chakra
- naval (or solar plexus) chakra
The idea is that participating in Kundalini yoga will allow the energy to rise throughout your chakras, promoting spiritual balance and wellness.
Different from other types of yoga, such as Hatha or Vinyasa, Kundalini yoga is said to be more of a spiritual practice — though not a religion or belief system — and has less to do with physicality.
Breathing is an important aspect of all meditation and yoga, but other types flow alongside the breath, whereas kundalini combines the breathing with specific patterns of movements, chanting, and singing.
The Kundalini Method can be done within a class or on your own. If you’re new to meditation or to this particular form of yoga, starting with a class or a buddy who’s experienced could be helpful while you’re getting used to the stages.
When taking a Kundalini class, you can expect the following primary components to be involved:
- an opening chant
- breathing exercises or pranayama
- spine stretches
- kriya (a sequence of postures, breathing exercises, hand positions(known as mudras), and sounds or singing)
- meditation led by your group instructor
- a chant to close the session
In addition to the believed spiritual emphasis that kundalini yoga is said to have, a 2017 study reported that it can also positively impact:
There is controversy around yoga practioners that aren’t from South Asia participating or leading practices, especially when situations including cult accusations arise.
Cultural appropriation comes in when there is an acquisition of something from a culture other than yours without proper intentionality.
Within the context of yoga practices, this can look like:
- adopting a practice without understanding the history behind it
- making a practice exclusionary or inaccessible, particularly when you aren’t from the community it derived from
- not giving proper attribution to the origin
- leaning into stereotypes for a culture (such as clothing or headdresses) without having a full understanding of what’s culturally appropriate or sacred
Ultimately, practicing yoga — whether it’s Kundalini or another method — is not reserved for folks from the areas they originated in. However, before diving into a practice that has deep roots that are different from yours, remember that those communities and traditions deserve the proper acknowledgement and respect.
Kundalini yoga is a method that focuses more on repetition of the collection of movements, mantras, sounds, and breath than the more movement-based versions of yoga.
It is believed to aid in spiritual expansion and awakening, and many studies have linked kundalini practice with improved mental health and the betterment of chronic illnesses and cognitive impairment.
Kundalini has a complicated history in the Western world due to the origins of the man who made it popular here. For this reason, practitioners suggest that anyone who’s interested in Kundalini do ample research before diving in.