What Is Kundalini Energy?
Kundalini is an energy that exists in everyone’s body, usually in a dormant state. This means that most people never feel it and never know it is there. But in a very few people, perhaps one in one thousand, this energy becomes aroused, activated. This can be a happy event or it can be scary and disruptive, depending on whether you aroused your kundalini on purpose or by accident.
The Sanskrit word, kundalini, means coiled, like a snake. Kundalini energy is not recognized by medical science, and is often little understood even among teachers of Yoga and meditative traditions. It is, however, mentioned extensively in the literature of Yoga and Tantra (both Buddhist and Hindu).
Because the word “kundalini” has become widely used, many people, I believe, consider it to be metaphoric or legendary. This statement by Yogi Bhajan, for example, suggests a somewhat metaphoric view of kundalini: “(Kundalini is) the creative potential in the man.” (Kundalini, Evolution and Enlightenment, edited by John White, Paragon House, 1990, p. 25) Yet those like me, who have aroused their kundalini, cannot possibly consider it to be a metaphor. It is quite literal.
Here is the story of kundalini as found in the Hatha Yoga literature , and as I have experienced it: Kundalini can be “awakened” or “aroused” from its “slumber” at the base of your spine by intense meditation or intense breath control practices. Hatha Yoga and Tantra Yoga, in their traditional forms, are designed to arouse kundalini so that the practitioner can use the tremendous energy thus released to increase the potency of his or her meditation and other spiritual practices. The Yoga literature cautions the Yoga practitioner, however, that he or she must undergo extensive preparations before attempting to arouse his or her kundalini. Otherwise it can cause trouble.
The yogi or yogini who successfully and safely arouses their kundalini gains a great ally on their spiritual journey. That ally is an energy, a vitality, that smooths the path, that makes the steep slopes easier to climb, and that acts like a sword to cut through inertia and conditioning. In short, Kundalini can change you quickly. It can advance your spiritual aspirations. Moreover, according to authors of some of the Tantras (ancient writings), aroused kundalini energy is essential to a yogin (practitioner of yoga, male or female) attaining complete liberation in this modern distracted age (called Kali Yuga).
I disagree, preferring the metaphor of many paths ascending to the top of that mountain. Yet comprehensive Yoga that incorporates Kundalini arousal certainly offers a well-charted and well-worn path for the serious seeker.
Why Is It Sometimes Disruptive?
The human body, according to Hatha and Tantra Yoga, contains energetic barriers to the premature arousal of kundalini; in other words, kundalini remains dormant until one is ready for it, and until one purposefully arouses it. Sometimes the person’s kundalini experience is manageable and not disruptive.
Other times it can be scary for the person, because they may experience sensations or movements that are unlike anything they have felt before. Unintended kundalini arousal can occasionally be embarrassing when it causes movements that you can’t control, such as twitches or head movements. And it can be mildly to severely disruptive, even disabling.
I have found severe reactions to be extremely rare. The most famous case of a severe reaction is that of Gopi Krishna, described in his book, Living With Kundalini (Shambhala, 1993, p. 1-7, 140-153).
What are some of the symptoms of disruptive kundalini? Disruptive kundalini causes an array of symptoms, which may include: insomnia or waking in the night; panic attacks; involuntary movements like shaking, twitching, arm waving, head tipping back, rocking or bouncing; enhanced perception such as in psychic phenomena; general bodily discomfort; the feeling that if you relax when the energy comes, it will get bigger and bigger and overwhelm you; inability to concentrate. For most people kundalini arousal is at times pleasurable, sometimes intensely so, though it is at other times disruptive.
What Causes Disruptive Kundalini Energy?
In some people, simple meditation techniques, chanting mantras (power sounds), basic breathing practices, or sitting in the presence of a powerful spiritual teacher can activate kundalini prematurely. So can sexual orgasms, ecstatic religious experiences, trance dancing, and psychotropic drugs.
Although these latter stimulators of kundalini generally don’t result in a sustained arousal (that is, the energy becomes naturally dormant again after the experience ends), and therefore these stimulators don’t usually lead to a problem. The theory that explains the disruptive nature of premature kundalini arousal is the Tantra Yoga theory of subtle body energy.
The kundalini, when awakened, moves from your coccyx where it resides at the base of your spine upwards. When it encounters barriers to its flow, it moves sideways into nerves and then muscles. This explains the characteristic movements that result from kundalini arousal. These movements are typically in the pelvis and legs, in the mid back, and in the neck and head.
These are the three locations of the “safety gates,” called, in Sanskrit, “granthis” (knots) that protect the system from unimpeded kundalini flow. Traditional Tantra and Hatha Yoga teach an elaborate program of practices that alter this situation. They prepare the yogin’s (practitioner of Yoga) body for the powerful energies that it will need to carry.
Then other practices open the “gates” while simultaneously stimulating the kundalini to flow upwards in the yogin’s spine. In traditional full-curriculum Hatha Yoga and Tantra Yoga systems the activation of kundalini without such preparation is considered unsafe and unhelpful for one’s spiritual journey.
So when you arouse kundalini energy before your system is “mature,” you will likely find it leads to difficulties.
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