The practice of Kundalini yoga can be an intoxicating one. So many kriyas, so many chants, so many different meditation practices. It’s a yogic style unlike any other, with some elements similar to a typical Hatha yoga class and other elements totally different. You won’t find Sun Salutations and you won’t typically hold poses for long periods of time. Instead, Kundalini yoga focuses on effectively utilizing various kriyas to work on the body, mind and spirit.
Note: Kundalini kriyas are a series of postures that use dynamic breathing and sound techniques in order to achieve a specific healing and/or spiritual goal. Each kriya affects the body differently, but all of them work on all levels of healing for body, mind and spirit.
(For more information, read Kriyas and Kundalini: What Beginners Need to Know About These Ancient Yoga Techniques.)
Here I'll give a little background on Kundalini yoga's modern history, more on what kundalini is, and what to expect when starting a practice of this style of yoga.
Kundalini in the West
The practice of Kundalini yoga came to the Western world in 1968 by way of Yogi Bhajan (1929-2004). His legacy lives on in the 3HO Foundation, based in Espanola, New Mexico, with now more than 300 centers across the globe.
The Kundalini yoga tradition seems to be growing more and more popular by the minute. Perhaps because we’re seeing celebrities in Hollywood taking to the practice---probably because of the beautifying nature of Kundalini yoga. For example, breath of fire, one of the most popular dynamic breathing techniques used in Kundalini yoga, is said to ignite an inner glow---one that will give you a kind of magnetic attraction.
(Here's why Conscious Breathing Will Boost Your Yoga Practice.)
Glowing complexions, youthful vitality and anti-aging from within are all believed to be outcomes of a regular Kundalini yoga practice. It’s referred to by its teachers as one of the best health and beauty technologies in the world. One teacher even claims that Kundalini yoga can change the shape of your face. Whether or not that’s true, Kundalini is no doubt, a powerful style of yoga.
Kundalini yoga is intimately linked to kundalini energy, which Yogi Bhajan described as, “the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved.” Sounds poetic, doesn’t it? But what does this actually mean?
Another way of describing kundalini is this: a coil of energy that lies at the base of the spine, waiting to be unleashed to travel upward through the chakras and to the brain. It’s believed that practicing Kundalini yoga helps us free this healing energy, to lead happier, healthier and more spiritually awakened lives. The more we practice Kundalini yoga, the more we’ll live from higher states of conscious awareness.
Customs of a Kundalini Yoga Practice
In a Kundalini yoga class, serious students typically wear all white. The teacher (and students who so choose) even wear a white turban on their heads. Why? Because according to Yogi Bhajan, colors affect our states of consciousness, and white is a spiritual color. It represents purity and is believed to have the ability to lighten your soul. It’s also thought that the color white positively affects both your conscious mind and your subconscious one. Wearing white might even expand your aura!
When practicing Kundalini yoga, it’s necessary to follow a teacher---in person or online. Yogi Bhajan taught that the various kriyas all need to be taught and practiced as they were originally created. So, you should be sure to follow the teacher exactly as they teach the postures. With time, you can memorize them and do them on your own, whenever needed. One thing you can change in your home practice, though, is the length of time spent on each kriya.
Chanting and Meditation
Sat Nam is one of the most common mantras you’ll find yourself chanting as you move through kundalini kriyas. It means, “Truth is my name.” One of the primary goals of Kundalini yoga is to expand one’s consciousness and increase awareness---ultimately living in the truth of who you are---your Highest Self.
The Kundalini tradition is filled with all sorts of high vibration chants. One that you’ll also hear often is Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo. This mantra is typically chanted three times at the beginning of a Kundalini yoga practice. It means, “I bow to the teacher within.”
Sa Ta Na Ma is yet another popular mantra in Kundalini yoga. These sounds mean “birth, life, death, rebirth.” Used in the kirtan kriya meditation practice, chanting Sa Ta Na Ma is said to improve memory.
There are endless kundalini mantra meditations to chant---all of which signify different intentions. It’s part of what makes Kundalini yoga so incredibly intriguing.
(Get some more ideas on which mantras to choose in Our 4 Favorite Chants.)
If you’re interested in beginning a Kundalini yoga practice, be sure to keep your mind and heart open and learn from certified kundalini teachers. Some of the most popular modern-day Kundalini yoga teachers include Kia Miller, Guru Jagat and Normandie Keith.
While some of the kundalini practices may seem downright strange at first, the more you do them, the more you’ll feel their amazing effects on your entire being---body, mind and spirit!