Whether you’re a keen yogi or a beginner, you may already be familiar with traditional styles such as hatha and vinyasa, but how about Kundalini yoga?
Kundalini yoga is a highly spiritual form of yoga that uses chants, music, breathing exercises, poses and meditation to help yogis reach a higher state of awareness and connection with the universe.
Whether you're already a keen yogi or a complete beginner, read on to find out what exactly Kundalini involves, its benefits and how to do it!
This article covers:
- What Is Kundalini Yoga?
- The History Of Kundalini Yoga
- How Is Kundalini Yoga Different From Traditional Yoga?
- The Six Components Of Kundalini Yoga
- Benefits of Kundalini Yoga?
- How To Do Kundalini Yoga
- Kundalini Yoga Chants
- Who Is Kundalini Yoga Suitable For?
- Potential Kundalini Yoga Dangers
- Retreats For Kundalini Yoga In The UK
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What is Kundalini Yoga?
It is likely that you’ve heard about yoga and its various types. But, if you’re wondering “what is Kundalini yoga?”, then you’re in the right place!
Kundalini yoga is a highly spiritual form of yoga that aims to cultivate a high sense of awareness and focus. The ultimate aim is spiritual enlightenment, or a ‘Kundalini awakening’.
It is based on the belief that there is energy in the bottom of your spine (called shakti) which lies dormant until it is activated through yoga. This energy is then channelled upwards and moves through the energetic channels of your body (called chakras) and out of the crown of your head.
It is believed that the energy within you needs to be awakened in order for you to feel all emotions in life including happiness, sadness, loneliness and rejection. One of the benefits of Kundalini yoga is that it helps yogis to be in touch with and manage these emotions.
In this way, there are many similarities between Kundalini and laughter yoga, as both are said to lead to more positive thinking. Check out our guide to laughter yoga to learn about its benefits and how to do it.
A key part of Kundalini yoga is the concept of ‘sadhana’. But what exactly is sadhana in Kundalini yoga? Sadhana is essentially your spiritual journey that you work on through any form of yogic practice.
According to yogis, the best time to work on your sadhana is 2.5 hours before sunrise. This time of day is termed the “ambrosial hours'' and marks a 60-degree angle between the sun and the Earth. It is also when your nervous system is warmed up to help you connect to a higher state of consciousness.
However, not everyone can practise Kundalini yoga and awaken their sadhana before sunrise each day - and that’s okay! It is not imperative that you are to awaken your higher self at these hours, it is simply the time of day where sadhana can work the most efficiently. If you need a bit of a boost to get you through your morning practice, check out our guide to the best yoga supplements to take your yoga to the next level.
The History of Kundalini Yoga
Now that we’ve answered “what is Kundalini yoga?” and “what is sadhana in Kundalini yoga?”, let’s take a look into the history of Kundalini yoga.
As with traditional yoga, the first transcriptions found of Kundalini yoga derived from a collection of ancient literature called The Vedas. Vedic literature was written in an ancient language called Sanskrit around 3,000 years ago.
A translation of “Kundalini” in Sanskrit means “uncoil the snake”. It is therefore said that the energy released at the bottom of your spine moves like a snake through your body and out through the crown of your head. This occurs by converting the dormant energy in the spine into kinetic energy, through the practice of yoga.
For thousands of years, Kundalini yoga was kept hidden. It was only practised by yoga masters and passed onto others who were thought to be worthy of acquiring the knowledge of Kundalini yoga. In its beginnings, Kundalini was therefore an incredibly elite type of yoga.
However, Kundalini yoga started to make an appearance within the Western world around the 1970s. It is much more widely practiced now, but it arguably still remains a relatively niche type of yoga to practise.
If you want to find out more about the history of yoga and the theory behind it, why not pick up one of these top 13 yoga books and delve even deeper into the world of yoga!
How Is Kundalini Yoga Different From Traditional Yoga?
While all types of yoga are highly spiritual, Kundalini yoga is thought to be more so compared to traditional yoga types, due to its focus on the sadhana.
With traditional types of yoga such as hatha and vinyasa, there is a lot of focus on the yogi’s flow and deep breathing. While breathing is still an important factor in Kundalini yoga, it is encouraged to breathe in song and in rhythm to chants that will also be performed throughout the session. We will discuss the chants and breathing techniques later in this article.
Although there are poses (or asanas) involved in Kundalini yoga, they are not the focus. This is what sets it apart from more movement-focused yoga practices. If you are looking for a more fitness-focused and physically demanding form of yoga, we’d recommend checking out power yoga!
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The Six Components Of Kundalini Yoga
If Kundalini yoga sounds like it could be for you, let’s delve deeper into what exactly it involves!
There are six components of Kundalini yoga:
- The Opening Chant: The first part of a Kundalini yoga session is the opening chant. This will always start a session and its purpose is to get you into the right headspace for the session.
- Pranayama/warm-up: This part focuses on your breathing and is the second stage of engaging you in the practice. It also physically engages your body and core through the process of rhythmic breathing. OriGym has a complete guide to pranayama if you want to know more about its benefits!
- Kriya: This section typically takes the most time to perform. It is where your mind, breathing and physical movements work together. You will perform a series of body and hand movements. We will also touch upon these more later in this article.
- Relaxation: This stage is about absorbing the effects of the kriya by bringing the mind, body and breath together as one. To do this, your instructor will lead you through some deep relaxation techniques.
- Meditation: Like most forms of yoga, the class ends with meditation in order to wind-down and take in the benefits of your practice. There are a whole host of benefits to meditation, both physically and mentally.
- Closing chant: After meditation, the session comes to an end in a closing chant.
If you go to a Kundalini yoga class, a yoga teacher will guide you through these 6 components. However, if you’re practicing from home, there are so many amazing yoga YouTube channels and videos to choose from too!
Benefits Of Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini yoga is a highly spiritual practice that incorporates flow, breathing and chanting. But what exactly are the benefits of Kundalini yoga?
#1- Reduces Stress and Anxiety
One of the main benefits of yoga in general is its calming qualities that reduce feelings of anxiousness and stress. This happens by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, encouraging your body to move into a state of calm through meditation and breathing techniques.
Kundalini yoga therefore boasts these relaxing and calming benefits. However, since it also incorporates music and chants, it has even more positive effects on reducing anxiety and stress.
When singing and chanting in a Kundalini class, you are encouraged to release all inhibitions, sing with passion and thus release any negative energy that you may have brought to the session.
All of this is also done in unison with other yogis. This creates a sense of connection with others in the session, which in turn can reduce anxiety and improve mood.
Ultimately, Kundalini yoga is a great way to release tension and let go of any anxieties you may have been holding on to!
#2 - Helps to Control Your Thoughts and Emotions
As well as reducing stress levels, Kundalini yoga also helps you to take control of your thoughts and emotions.
Through various breathing techniques, chants and singing, more oxygen circulates to your brain. This helps to release unwanted thoughts and emotions, helping you to think more positively.
Having a clear mind allows you to focus more on tasks and gives you a heightened sense of awareness- both of which are fundamental attributes of Kundalini yoga.
Being able to approach stressful situations with a clear and neutral mind rather than allowing negative thoughts to interfere helps you have a healthy mindset. Dealing with situations like this is thought to be a very powerful thing; having a positive outlook is a key principle of yoga as a practice.
#3 - Boost of Spiritual Enlightenment
Perhaps one of the most abstract yet important benefits of Kundalini yoga is that it boosts your sense of spiritual enlightenment. Whilst it can take many years for yogis to reach this ultimate state of consciousness (and some may never reach it at all!), achieving even a fraction of it is hugely beneficial.
As your Kundalini awakens through the practice, it is said that you will become more spiritually connected with yourself and those around you. This deeper sense of connectivity brings you closer to achieving spiritual enlightenment.
As mentioned previously, learning to control your levels of stress and approach situations with a more positive perspective contributes to you having higher levels of creativity, peace and empathy for others.
This way, you learn to approach life mindfully. The more you practice awakening the dormant energy at the bottom of your spine, the closer you will get to achieving enlightenment and true happiness!
Although they are both very similar practices, the focus on spiritual enlightenment is one of the main benefits of yoga compared to Pilates. For more information about the differences between these two activities, check out our article about Pilates vs yoga here!
#4 - Greater Connection to Yoga Music
Another great benefit of Kundalini yoga is that you can feel an intense connection to the music, singing, and chants that are used during the session.
Music and sound are fundamental aspects of a Kundalini yoga session, giving it many similarities to Nada Yoga.
Nada Yoga (or ‘Yoga of Sound’), is a highly spiritual type of yoga that focuses on the connection between mindfulness and sound. It is based on the belief that the universe is made up of vibrations, or ‘nada’.
Like Nada Yoga, the music and sound elements of a Kundalini yoga class are used to help yogis connect to the vibrations of the world around them and deepen their practice. Connecting to these sounds also aids relaxation and calms the mind in preparation for the meditation part of a class.
#5 - Improves Body Image and Self-Esteem
Another great benefit of Kundalini yoga is that it can improve your self-esteem and how you view your body. In a world where social media can often make us feel bad about ourselves, there’s been no better time to practise Kundalini yoga and transform these thoughts into positivity and confidence.
A small study conducted in 2007 deduced that practising Kundalini yoga boosted the confidence of sufferers of eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia.
“The patients reported as relevant the benefits of the practice of Kundalini yoga, which grounds the importance of including this intervention in the multidisciplinary treatment of eating disorders.” (Mirauda, Cruzat-Mandich, Moore, Ugarte, Fernanda, 2007)
Kundalini yoga helps shape how you think about yourself and the world around you. This is done by reducing feelings of anxiety and stress, transferring negative thoughts into positive ones. Over time, you will begin to view yourself more positively!
In fact, any kind of physical activity is good for your self-esteem and general mental wellbeing. As well as yoga, more aerobic activities such as running also have many mental health benefits.
#6 - Used in the Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders
Kundalini yoga can also be used in the treatment of some psychiatric disorders.
We have already discussed that Kundalini yoga can reduce stress and increase happiness. But how exactly does that happen? At a chemical level, Kundalini yoga causes an increase in the production of mood-boosting hormones serotonin and dopamine in the brain. It can therefore be a beneficial treatment process of some psychiatric disorders where serotonin and dopamine are lacking.
A small 2004 study concluded that Kundalini yoga benefits those who are receiving treatment for OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).
OCD is classed as an anxiety disorder, yet many patients experience a slow response to serotonin-based medications. The study documented a 12-month trial with OCD patients and the effects that Kundalini yoga had upon their symptoms.
The results of the study revealed that the patients who practiced Kundalini yoga for 12 months showed an improvement of around 55% on The Obsessive Compulsive scale. This suggests that Kundalini yoga does indeed help to reduce the severity of OCD.
If you’re interested in Kundalini yoga, we think you’ll love these articles too:
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How To Do Kundalini Yoga
So far, we’ve learned that Kundalini yoga is a highly spiritual practice, and we have discussed Kundalini yoga’s history as well as some of its benefits. You’re now probably wondering how to do Kundalini yoga!
As with all yoga poses, you should only do them for as long as you feel comfortable. Props like yoga straps are great for helping you take the stretch that little bit further!
A Kundalini yoga class will typically consist of 3 main parts: the opening chant, a kriya (a sequence of poses) and meditation or song to finish. Here are some explanations on how to do 3 of the best beginner Kundalini yoga poses that will typically feature in the kriya section of a class.
#1 - Lotus Pose
Lotus pose is one of the more basic poses within Kundalini yoga. When it comes to Kundalini yoga for beginners, this is one of the best to start with.
As well as being a pose, the lotus is perhaps one of the most recognisable yoga symbols, representing the spiritual journey.
This is a seated pose with an aim of slightly stretching your legs and hips. It might feel a little unnatural at first, but the more you practice, the more comfortable it will feel.
How to do it:
- Sit on a mat with both legs extended straight out in front of you. You can sit on a yoga block if that feels more comfortable.
- Bend your right leg and move it so that your right foot is sitting on your left hip crease. Make sure that the sole of your foot is facing upward.
- Do the same with your left leg - move your left foot so that it sits in your right hip crease. To do this, you might need to slightly roll your body backwards.
- Form a circle with each of your index fingers and thumbs and place it on your knees. Your other 3 fingers should point outward.
- Straighten your back and breath steadily and smoothly.
Many yogis tend to try and maintain this pose for as long as it takes for them to get into the right headspace before a yoga session. However, there is no definitive amount of time that you should stay within lotus pose.
Practising the lotus pose frequently will benefit those who are new to Kundalini yoga. For beginners, mastering this versatile pose early is useful as it is used in many other types of yoga, especially slower forms such as yin yoga.
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#2 - Ego Eradicator
Next up on the list of Kundalini yoga poses is the Ego Eradicator.
This pose is thought to strengthen and cleanse your lungs and open up your heart to reach up to higher realms. As the name suggests, it is said to help you put your ego aside and calm your mind before commencing with the main part of the session. One of the benefits of this pose is that it helps you to focus and feel more aware of the world around you - a very important part of Kundalini yoga.
How to do it:
- Sit on your yoga mat with your legs crossed and your back straight.
- To get your hands in the right shape, bend your fingers so that your tips are touching your palms. Your thumb should stretch outward as far as you can push it. This should resemble a thumbs-up.
- Raise your arms in a V-shape with your thumbs pointing upward. Try not to hunch your shoulders and instead keep them low and relaxed.
- Complete the ‘Breath of Fire’ breathing. This is done by inhaling and exhaling forcefully in quick increments, engaging your abdominal muscles while you do this. The Breath of Fire breathing technique is thought to mimic the sound of a dog panting, and is often used in faster flows such as in power yoga.
- On your final exhale, open up your fingers and gently relax the arms down.
Do this 4 times in 30-second instalments or try and go for as long as you can keep your arms and core engaged.
#3 - Seated Cat-Cow Pose (Spinal Flex Exercises)
If you’re familiar with yoga and have been to some classes or yoga retreats before, then you might already be familiar with the Seated Cat-Cow Pose.
The main benefit of this pose is that it helps to warm up the energy that is situated at the bottom of your spine so that it can move its way up toward your crown, which is what Kundalini yoga is all about.
To do this pose:
- Sit on your yoga mat with your legs crossed and back straight. Place your hands on top of your knees.
- On the exhale, bend your head and neck forwards. Form a bend in your back and bring your stomach inward towards your spine.
- On the inhale, move your head up and back so that your eyes are pointed upward. Arch your back and push your stomach away from the spine. Think about pulling your knees back with your hands to help you do this.
- Repeat point 2 and 3, inhaling and exhaling each time.
As for the duration of the seated cat-cow pose, stretch your inhale and exhale for between 5 and 10 seconds, and hold them in the bent-over/arch position for 3 seconds. Repeat for 5 sets.
Just like the lotus pose, practising the seated cat-cow pose frequently is useful for those who are new to Kundalini yoga. When it comes to Kundalini yoga for beginners, mastering this pose early is useful if you want to approach other forms of yoga later on. This is because it includes movements that are similar to other poses.
If you’re new to yoga, check out our list of best yoga kits for beginners for an easy way to get started.
The more you practice these 3 Kundalini yoga poses, the more confident you’ll feel in approaching a Kundalini yoga class or retreat!
Kundalini Yoga Chants
Now that we’ve covered some of the key poses used in the kriya part of a class, next up is the Kundalini yoga chants.
Kundalini yoga chants are a significant part of a class. If you’re new to Kundalini yoga, this might feel a little strange for you. However, it is strongly encouraged to release all your inhibitions, and take the chanting as seriously as you can. The more passionate the class is in performing the Kundalini yoga chants, the more you will reap the benefits of the practice.
Kundalini yoga chants typically occur in the opening or closing of a yoga session. The chants either energise yogis in preparation for the session ahead, or they give them energy for the rest of their day after the class.
Music is an important part of any form of exercise, especially aerobic activities such as running. If you want to find out more, check out our article discussing the pros and cons of running with music.
#1 - Adi Mantra
The Adi Mantra is a Kundalini yoga chant used at the beginning of a session. You will chant:
“I bow to the subtle divine wisdom, the divine teacher within.”
The Adi Mantra is repeated 3 times and is thought to prepare all yogis for the session ahead by honing their focus into the session, and leaves any external thoughts or worries outside of the yoga classroom.
Kundalini yoga is associated with maintaining a strong focus and awareness of the world around you. So, leaving any troubles, stresses or thoughts outside of the class means that your primary focus is on the Kundalini yoga chants and poses.
#2 - Mangala Charran Mantra
The Mangala Charran Mantra is another Kundalini yoga chant that is typically performed following the opening chant.
The chant is:
“I bow to the primal wisdom, I bow to the wisdom true through the ages, I bow to the true wisdom, I bow to the great unseen wisdom.”
Similar to the Adi Mantra, this chant is used to encourage yogis to approach the session with a clear mind. The mantra is connected to each yogi's magnetic field and performing the chant is said to release any negativity that they may have gained.
#3 - Long Time Sun Chant
The Long Time Sun chant is typically performed at the end of a Kundalini yoga class.
The chant is:
“May the long time sun shine upon you, all love surrounds you, and the pure light within you, guide your way on.”
This is a positive way to end a Kundalini yoga class - it encourages the sun, love and light to aid each yogi in their onward journey even once the session has ended.
Who Is Kundalini Yoga Suitable For?
Kundalini Yoga is suitable for almost everyone; it isn’t restricted to a certain type of person.
If you consider yourself to be someone who has explored a variety of avenues within the world of yoga and now want to give something new a try, then Kundalini yoga might be for you.
But don’t be put off if you’re new to the world of yoga! You can start by practicing some of the more basic poses we outlined earlier in this article, such as the lotus pose.
If you’re a beginner yogi, we’ve compiled a checklist of the best yoga equipment to get you started!
As discussed, Kundalini yoga is thought to be an effective way to aid the treatment of some psychiatric disorders. However, even if you’re someone who would just like to relieve some stresses in your life or see the world in a more positive light, then practising Kundalini yoga is an excellent place to start.
Potential Kundalini Yoga Dangers
Despite its many benefits, there are some dangers of Kundalini yoga that you should know about before participating.
As we have discussed, Kundalini yoga is based on the idea that there is a lot of dormant energy stored at the bottom of your spine, which is released during the practice.
However, some yogis are said to have experienced visions and other psychological effects as the energy passes up from the spine and through their body. This can be quite a surreal and scary experience. You should therefore be aware that this could happen before engaging in Kundalini yoga.
Although this release of energy can cause feelings of intense happiness and positivity, too much of this feeling can cause potentially damaging spasms and vibrations in your spine. This is very rare, but it is generally advised to practice it no more than once a day in order to avoid this risk.
Practicing once a day or even just a few times a week means that you can still reap all of its benefits, whilst also avoiding the potential dangers of Kundalini yoga.
If you’re someone who likes to do physical activity every day, you might want to check out our article on the benefits and risks of running everyday.
Retreats For Kundalini Yoga In The UK
Yoga retreats combine travel and yoga into one relaxing experience.
Many yogis go to yoga retreats alone while others go with a close group of fellow yogis to experience different places around the world while doing what you love the most - yoga!
There are many companies out there that provide retreats for Kundalini yoga in UK towns and cities. Why not jot a couple of these down as a potential go-to for your next trip away?
If you fancy somewhere more exotic than the UK, OriGym also has a comprehensive list of the best yoga holidays and escapes all around the world!
This weekend-long yoga festival allows you to learn from authentic yoga masters from all over the world. You can hone upon your Vedic knowledge while participating in a variety of activities: from yoga classes to meditation with other music and dance-based sessions too - this weekend has it all!
Located in Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, this yoga weekend is perfect for those wanting to practice Kundalini yoga in the UK amongst other avid yogis.
Prices start from £130 and include 2 nights’ accommodation, an array of workshops, relaxation treatments and classes.
The Be Radiant yoga and mindfulness retreat is another great option for practising Kundalini yoga in the UK.
Are you an avid yogi? Or consider yourself quite the beginner? Either way, Be Radiant will cater for all skill levels to ensure you get the most out of your yoga retreat.
The retreat includes 2 nights’ accommodation, deep relaxation yoga sessions, access to hot tubs and tennis courts with the addition of breakfast, lunch and dinner each day. Why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of this fantastic yoga retreat?
Scheduled for each November, this meditation retreat is perfect for if you want to practice Kundalini yoga without the added cost of going abroad.
This Wales-based retreat is the perfect place to visit if you want to practice an array of yoga styles surrounded by breathtaking scenery.
Located in an area considered to be a true “hidden gem”, this retreat is situated on acres of private land, a stone's throw from an ancient forest with an array of beautiful local beaches. Where better to truly escape from the stresses of daily life?
Your daily schedule will consist of yoga sessions, relaxing treatments with ample free time to wander the grounds and become familiar with the stunning surroundings. This retreat strikes the perfect balance between a wealth of activities with time to explore by yourself.
It is another great yoga holiday option for you to practice your Kundalini yoga in the UK this summer!
Before you go!
Now you know everything you need to know about Kundalini yoga! It is a highly spiritual form of yoga that ultimately helps you to think more positively, live a better life and even achieve spiritual enlightenment.
So, with so many amazing benefits, what are you waiting for? Start your Kundalini yoga journey today!
If you like yoga, a career in the fitness industry could be for you. Check out OriGym’s industry-leading personal training courses to see where it could take you! Or you can download our free prospectus for more information about all of the courses we offer.
Concha Mirauda, Daniela, et al. "Kundalini Yoga In Women with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa: A Qualitative Research." Revista mexicana de trastornos alimentarios. 2007.
Shannahoff-Khalsa DS. An introduction to Kundalini yoga meditation techniques that are specific for the treatment of psychiatric disorders. J Altern Complement Med. 2004.