Kundalini Yoga: An Introduction
Yoga has been the "in thing" for some time and it has gotten a huge fillip ever since the UN declared June 21 as International Yoga Day. More and more people are taking to Yoga, mostly as a form of exercise; very few truly go on to explore deeper, try and understand the multiple systems that lie within the vast umbrella of Yoga. Which is why the number of those who take to yoga as a mere route to fitness shall always be greater than those who get into more specific areas like Hath Yoga or Kundalini Yoga etc. Since one cannot do justice to the multiple streams in a short piece, let's try and understand, briefly, as to what one of the streams, Kundalini Yoga is all about. This is more like a very short, snappy introduction to Kundalini Yoga, an appetizer if one were to use a food analogy. To Begin with, let's understand the term Kundalini Yoga. Essentially, Kundalini is energy that lies within our bodies, untapped mostly. The intent and purpose of Kundalini Yoga is to awaken this energy that lies dormant through the practice of yoga and to channel it upwards. Many schools believe that this energy is located in various parts of the body while there are several that say that it is located at the base of the spine. However, most Kundalini Yoga practitioners believe that Kundalini is the power associated with the Divine Feminine or Shakti. Also, like the majority of knowledge systems that are a part of Hinduism, many trace its origin to Kashmiri School of Shaivism, with strong influences from Shaktism and Tantra Schools. As per Shaivism, Bhagwan Shiva appeared in the form of Srikanthanath to elucidate the sacred knowledge that was lost during Kali Yuga. The practices used to awaken Kundalini Energy include mantra, tantra, yoga, laya, hatha and meditation. As mentioned earlier as well, Kundalini, which is a form of energy or life force, is conceptualized as a coiled up serpent at the base of the spine. This coiled up, asleep serpent is aroused and awakened from this coiled base through 6 Chakras and penetrate the 7th or Crown Chakra. This dormant energy, when aroused, travels through the main channels of pranic energy in our bodies. This energy awakens through many stages that have been differently defined by various practitioners; however, these multiple stages fall under three principal stages: ‘Arambha’ or commencement of introspection, ‘Ghata’ or the cleansing stage, and the third-eye awakening stage.
Of the three, it is the third-eye awakening stage that calls for maximum amount of practice and dedication. Once you move through this stage, things begin to happen on their own, seemingly effortlessly, without you having to do much. While there are many methods of Kundalini awakening, the most authentic one is that of Patanjali who provides us with a very scientific and systematic way of awakening and nourishing the Kundalini energy. He developed an eight-limbed system of Yoga training practices that provide the adherent with ethical, moral, and physical guidelines for obtaining and maintaining a state of oneness with the Divine. In the end, a word of caution. Many Yoga Schools across the world (Yoga Shops, actually), offer "courses" in Kundalini Yoga. However, these are just shops as stated earlier and their guidance is largely suspect. The Internet, similarly, has many people claiming to be gurus and offering their own two-bits on this extremely deep pursuit, and their so-called words of wisdom aren't anything beyond two-bits. Thus, if you want to truly awaken your Kundalini energy, seek a true guru. This might not be an easy task and it is better to ask around and seek people who really know rather than those who are in the market only to make money from what has become a fad or a trend. Thus, seek carefully and learn sincerely because the gains to your own personality and the positive influences you may come to exert on people around you are tremendous. However, the flip side, or wrong/improper learning can have disastrous consequences, physically, mentally and spiritually.