Yoga styles: Kundalini yoga

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  • Kundalini yoga is a dynamic and complex style of yoga.
  • This yoga style aims to stir up the kundalini energy, which is said to be coiled at the base of the spine.
  • While it is the most potent form of yoga, it is also considered the most dangerous. 


While yoga is essentially a way of life, many people use it primarily as a form of exercise. Since it has gained popularity in recent times, different styles of yoga have emerged. Yoga techniques are also widely used to help with stress relief and meditation.

Benefits

Kundalini yoga is a dynamic, yet complex yoga style. It is also called the Yoga of Awareness, which harnesses the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body, according to Guru Tera Kaur at the Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization (3HO).

Different aspects of the practice are combined to achieve balance in the glandular system, strengthen the nervous system, purify the blood and expand lung capacity.

This style is said to bring balance to body, mind and soul, and help uplift the spirit.

Yoga guru, Jagadish Vasudev – commonly known as Sadhguru – explains that Kundalini is often considered the most dangerous type of yoga because it is also the most potent.

Kundalini, as Sadhguru explains, is the fundamental life force. There are layers of energy in the human system: "One dimension of energy comes alive immediately, because it is necessary for your survival process. The other dimensions of energy will not come alive unless you do something about it; unless you’re aware of it and activate it in a certain way, they do not come into existence,” Sadhguru explains in his clip.

He adds that if a person only lives with a small fraction of their chakras activated, they could live an adequate, fulfilled life, but it’s when you activate your dormant energy, that’s when you need to know whether you’re fully prepared to handle the responsibility and power of that energy.

Sadhguru also advises that without the necessary preparation, without constant expert guidance and observation, nobody should ever attempt Kundalini yoga.

How to practice

Kundalini yoga, differs from Hatha yoga and many other styles and does not place as much focus on asanas and attempting to perfect the alignment and poses.

The primary aim of this yoga style is to stir up the kundalini energy – which is said to be coiled, like a snake, at the base of the spine.

Much of Kundalini yoga involves chanting mantras, paying particular attention to breathing techniques, sounds and certain physical poses in the hope of unlocking the kundalini energy and help it rise through the seven chakras along the spine.

Those practising Kundalini yoga also focus on what is called Kriyas in Sanskrit. Kriyas are specific sets of exercising, breathing techniques, and sound mantras used to unlock the energy channels, or chakras, as explained by Yogapedia.com.

Kundalini yoga is considered the highest, most potent yoga style and is a highly complex practice. It is dense and detailed, and it has numerous layers to unpack, study and explain.

Background

A version of Kundalini yoga was brought to the West by Harbhajan Singh Puri, who went by the name Yogi Bhajan, and founded 3HO (Happy, Healthy, Holy Organization) in 1969.

Bhajan built a community of followers who were dedicated, not only to Kundalini yoga, but also to him and his lifestyle.

Bhajan died from heart failure complications in 2004, and almost two decades after his death, allegations around his lifestyle and conduct are threatening to taint his teachings and reputation.

The allegations also brought about uncertainty around the legitimacy and credibility of the Kundalini yoga he taught over the years.

A report following an investigation was released by an organisation dedicated to research possibilities of ethical misconduct in spiritual settings and environments.

An Olive Branch released the report in August 2020. This was on the back of the release of the book Premka: White Bird in a Golden Cage by Pamela Dyson. Dyson was a Bhajan devotee, follower, and his secretary for over 20 years.

Following extensive interviews and investigations among several Bhajan devotees, the report concluded that there were several instances of sexual and spiritual abuse, with the organisation taking a cult-like form.

Yoga scholar and historian, Philip Deslippe, told Los Angeles Magazine that Bhajan will be remembered like a Harvey Weinstein of Yoga, tainting his teachings.

Many yoga students have been put off by the claims made against Bhajan, his way of life and belief systems. Some authorities in the Kundalini yoga community, however, while rejecting the guru, still encourage interested people to continue pursuing this style of yoga.

Kundalini yoga has gained popularity, and many have become aware of its power. Several celebrities became attracted to this style of yoga – people like Madonna, Russell Brand, Jennifer Aniston and Oprah. Some have even gone so far as to become qualified teachers, like Demi Moore.

READ | Lockdown got you feeling low? Yoga may help

READ | What yoga does to your body - according to science

READ | Is yoga heart-healthy? It's no stretch to see benefits

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