I love kundalini yoga. Whenever I’m feeling especially off balance, this is the style of yoga I turn to. Why? Because it’s so effective. If I’ve over-indulged in sugar the night before, or had a particularly bad night’s sleep, it’s a kundalini yoga practice that typically sets me straight. What’s more, you don’t have to do hours of it to reap the benefits. Some kriyas, as they're called, take only 20-30 minutes, and result in positively long-lasting health benefits.

While kundalini yoga continues to grow in popularity, it still remains one of the more obscure styles of yoga. Many of you might be a little confused as to what exactly kundalini entails. Let’s take a looks at the ins and outs of this amazing yoga system, and understand how kundalini might enhance your sadhana in the new year.

What is Kundalini Yoga?

In short, kundalini yoga is a unique style of yoga that consists of chanting, breath work, and kriyas. Kriyas are specific series of movements, combined with dynamic breath work and sometimes chanting. In a kundalini yoga class, you won’t begin with a flowing set of sun salutations like you do in a vinyasa class. You won’t hold static poses for long periods of time like you do in a hatha yoga class. A kundalini class revolves around various kriyas, which target various parts of the gross and subtle body. (Learn more about kriyas in Kriyas and Kundalini: What Beginners Need to Know About These Ancient Yoga Techniques.)

Kundalini yoga kriyas have been deliberately created to positively affect different systems of the body and mind. One kriya achieves a different goal from another, and every last one of them heals the body, mind, and spirit in a powerful way. This is why it’s necessary to have a teacher—either in person or online—guide you through the various exercises in a particular kriya. You’ll reap greater benefit when you practice the postures in the order they’re meant to be practiced.

Kundalini: A Brief History

Kundalini yoga found its home in the U.S. and Canada in 1968 when Yogi Bhajan brought the teachings to Toronto and Los Angeles. The late yogi, who died in 2004 in New Mexico, created the 3HO kundalini foundation, which helped spread kundalini throughout the world. In fact, there exists more than 300 3HO centers around the world, to date.

Health Benefits of Kundalini Yoga

The purported health benefits of kundalini yoga are profound. Many Western yogis are drawn to the practice because kundalini teachers promise anti-aging and beauty benefits from the practice. Others are drawn to it because of their traumas and addictions that need healing. Kundalini offers help for those yearning for sobriety and freedom from unhealthy attachments and addictions. For those of us with strong psychological turmoil, kundalini helps calm and still the mind in powerful ways.

The physical benefits run the gamut. Want to cure your digestive issues? There’s a kriya for that. Got chronic back pain? There are kriyas for that, too. Can’t sleep? Kriyas for insomnia exist as well. There are kundalini yoga kriyas for just about any and every ailment under the sun. You just have to seek them out.

Kundalini Garb

You may have noticed that kundalini yoga teachers are always dressed in white. Some of them even wear white turbans. What gives? Well, according to the beliefs of the practice, colors have a profound effect on consciousness. White is pure. White is saintly. White holds a healing vibration. White is the epitome of light. And light is healing. Some believe that you can even increase and expand your aura with white clothing.

The white turban is believed to contain energy so that you can master control over your sixth chakra, also known as the ajna chakra, or third eye. This is one of the seats of intuition, and developing mastery of this center further enhances self-knowledge and inner-knowing—one of the primary goals of any yoga practice.

Kundalini Chants

Another essential aspect of kundalini has to do with sound healing. Most kundalini classes entail the Satnam chant. This translates to "truth is my name." It’s used to come into one’s center, call upon a higher power, and live from the truth of who you really are. Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo is yet another chant found in most all kundalini classes. It’s used to call in your Highest Self, and translates to I bow to the teacher within.

Keep an Open Mind and Stay Tuned for Kundalini Expansion

As with any yoga practice, it’s important to keep and open mind and open heart. This practice might feel strange at first. It’s different, that’s all. As kundalini yoga continues to find its place in the Western yoga world, stay tuned for scientific studies that prove to our Western minds just how potent the practice is. The West is gradually revealing what ancient sages and seers have known for millennia. Yoga is a truly powerful healing tool for the body, mind, and soul. And kundalini yoga is one indispensable part of this vast yogic pantheon of health. (Learn more in Kundalini Awakening: Spark Your Curiosity for More and Find Your Path to Enlightenment.)