Kundalini yoga is a type of yoga known intended to activate our Kundalini energy, which is a spiritual energy located at the base of the spine.
The yoga practice is asana-based, but also involves chanting, singing, breathing exercises, and other repetitive poses and movements.
While Kundalini yoga is believed to be a yoga style in its own right, it is in fact inspired by Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Shakti Yoga.
There are also influences from Hatha yoga and Patanjali’s Kriya yoga, making for an amalgamation of traditional and modern yoga styles.
If you’re new to the world of yoga and want to learn more about Kundalini yoga, you’ve come to the right place. Here is everything you need to know about Kundalini yoga, including the 3 best forms of Kundalini yoga to try for yourself.
What Is Kundalini Yoga?
Firstly, let’s take a look at what Kundalini yoga actually is. Also known as the “yoga of awareness”, Kundalini yoga is composed of chanting, singing, poses, and breathing exercises.
This yoga style is intended to activate Kundalini energy, which helps us move past our ego and enhance our awareness.
Unlike other forms of yoga, such as Hatha or Vinyasa yoga, Kundalini yoga isn’t primarily asana-based. Yoga poses are an important part of Kundalini yoga, but it’s mostly about the spiritualism aspect shown through chanting, singing, and breathing exercises.
The origins of Kundalini yoga are somewhat unknown, but the earliest depictions of the practice appear in ancient Vedic texts dating back to 1,000 B.C. under the Sanskrit word “kundal”.
This word translates to “circular” or a coiled snake, which is representative of Kundalini energy, which sits at the bottom of the spine completely unaroused.
When the energy is activated through this yoga practice, it causes the energy (or the snake) to move through the chakras along the spine and to the top of the head.
This is why Kundalini practice is often used as a yoga style to activate and align the seven chakras.
The Kundalini energy is believed to balance the chakras, therefore contributing to your overall spiritual wellbeing. It is said that if you practice Kundalini yoga regularly, you will become closer to spiritual enlightenment.
Forms Of Kundalini Yoga
Now, let’s take a look at what yoga practices and styles inspired Kundalini yoga to be what it is today.
Bhakti yoga is a spiritual practice in Hinduism that focuses on a loving devotion, which is why it is often called the “yoga of devotion”. This form of yoga is considered one of the easiest paths to master for those wanting to experience true unity of the mind, spirit, and body.
As the name suggests, Bhakti yoga is all about having an open, loving, and devoted heart. It’s less so about the physical or mental disciplines seen in other forms of yoga, and more about the deeply spiritual peace and empathy that comes with it.
Due to the religious connotations of Bhakti yoga in Hinduism, it is often seen as an obstacle for Western practitioners who are part of other religions.
While the Hindu deities are heavily drawn upon in Bhakti yoga, it’s not a requirement to be of Hindu faith. Instead, you can replace these deities with your own objects of faith and devotion.
There are nine practices of Bhakti yoga that can be practiced separately or together. These are:
- Shravana – Following ancient scriptures
- Smarana – Remembering the Divine through spoken intentions
- Archana – Ritual worship of the Divine through offerings
- Smarana – Remembering the Divine in song
- Padasevana – Following the Divine’s rules of selflessness
- Dasya – Unquestioning the devotion of the Divine
- Atmanivedana – Complete surrender to the Divine
- Sakhya – Honoring the relationship between the self and the Divine
- Vandana – Prostration before the image, or representation, of the Divine
Raja yoga is a type of meditation-based yoga that is intended to achieve control over the spirit and mind.
According to this practice, the Self is our own worst enemy, with excessive thinking and an overactive mind rendering us unable to move past our ego.
The only way to overcome these obstacles is to calm down the mind through meditation.
Raja yoga is all about using meditation as a tool to slow down the mind. It’s a dedicated practice that takes a long time to master, which is why it helps to partake in yoga practices that are inspired by Raja yoga, such as Kundalini yoga.
However, Raja yoga is also a physical yoga that uses yoga poses (known as asanas) to connect the body with the mind and spirit. This is why Raja yoga and Hatha yoga are often mistaken for each other.
However, the key difference between the two is that Hatha yoga is derived from Tantra (ancient Indian yoga practices), and Raja yoga studies the human mind and its habitual tendencies.
This is why Raja yoga is seen as a modern form of yoga, because it tackles what the contemporary mind struggles with (such as stress or anxiety).
There are eight elements that make up Raja yoga. These include:
- Yama – Self-control
- Asana – Physical poses and exercises
- Pranayama – Breathing exercises
- Niyama – Discipline
- Dharana – Concentration
- Pratyahara – Separation of senses from external stimuli
- Samadhi – Control and realization
- Dhyana – Meditation
Shakti yoga refers to the energy we use during physical activity in the form of yoga, including the spaces between each yoga pose.
In Hinduism, Shakti means divine energy, referring to the energy that we have stored inside of us and that flows through the universe. It is represented by the goddess Shakti, who personifies empowerment and creativity.
Shakti yoga is about the smooth movement between yoga poses.
This can be in the form of physical postures, holding poses for extended periods of time, breathing exercises, chanting, and mantras. The aim of Shakti yoga is to energize the body, mind, and spirit, while helping the student remain mindful and grounded.
The Sun Salutation is the most popular sequence in Shakti yoga. This sequence is made up of 12 asanas, all of which are intended to stretch and flex the spine to awaken the chakras.
However, each yoga instructor will teach Shakti yoga differently depending on their past experiences and teachings. This is why Shakti yoga is a huge influence on Kundalini yoga.
What Is Kundalini Yoga Inspired By?
So, we’ve established that Kundalini yoga is built up of Bhakti yoga, Raja yoga, and Shakti yoga – but what is Kundalini yoga inspired by?
As expected, Kundalini yoga is influenced by several forms of yoga to make up for the amalgamation of physical and meditative exercises.
These yoga forms include Hatha yoga, Pantanjali’s Kriya yoga, Tantric visualization, and Laya yoga meditation techniques.
Hatha yoga is an umbrella term used to describe asana-based yoga practices.
These yoga classes typically consist of a sequence of physical poses and breathing techniques. Unlike Vinyasa yoga, Hatha yoga allows for breaks between poses, making it a good practice for beginners.
However, Hatha yoga isn’t just about the yoga poses. It also includes breathing exercises, hand gestures, cleansing techniques, chanting, and sometimes visualization.
Patanjali’s Kriya Yoga
Founded by yoga sutra Patanjali, Kriya yoga is an ancient meditation technique consisting of breath and energy control. It is believed to be the most effective technique for reaching union with the Divine.
Kriya yoga is all about opening up the spine and balancing the chakras with breathing techniques, which are intended to awaken energy. The practice has been known to improve concentration and energy levels.
Tantra is a combination of texts, yoga, meditation, ideology, techniques, rituals, and more. It is primarily a Buddhist and Hindu practice used to visualize respective religious deities, helping them to become more connected to the Divine.
However, Tantric visualization doesn’t have to have religious connotations. It’s more about visualizing the interior of the body and soul to balance our energies and chakras.
It is most commonly used in meditation to visualize our intentions.
Laya yoga is a type of meditative practice that aims to achieve pure consciousness of the individual self. The goal is to free the self from karma, and to reignite our Kundalini energy that sits at the base of the spine.
The influence that Laya yoga has on Kundalini yoga is so large that sometimes the names are used interchangeably.
So, there you have it!
Kundalini yoga is undoubtedly one of the most effective yoga practices for achieving a true connection between the mind, body, and spirit. Hopefully, this guide has introduced you to the forms of Kundalini yoga that will help you in your yoga journey.
Frequently Asked Questions
Kundalini yoga isn’t necessarily the most active yoga practice. The aim is to connect the mind with the body, rather than to provide an intense workout like other yoga styles. However, as it still involves physical postures and movements, it’s still considered a good workout for those who want to start getting fit.
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