While most mainstream yoga studios and yogis practice Hatha or Vinyasa yoga types, if you are a spiritual seeker who is looking for both mental and physical yoga and meditation, perhaps you should look into Kundalini.
What is Kundalini Yoga?
Kundalini (which roughly means “energy”) is an ancient form of yoga that is both mentally and physically challenging and rewarding. This type of yoga incorporates the spiritual, physical, and mental aspects of yoga and focuses on awakening the energy that exists at the base of the spine and drawing it upwards.
Based on kriyas, which are either static poses or repeated movement held for anywhere from three to 11 minutes, work on stimulating one’s deeper internal systems as opposed to simply one’s muscles.
In addition the poses involved in Kundalini yoga, you also regularly engage in meditation, breathing exercises, and some cases, breathing exercises. This touches base on a variety of important aspects in one’s life and will pay the attention needed to your spiritual needs, mindfulness, physical energy, and breathing that the mainstream forms of yoga do not always combine.
The Goal of Kundalini
The goal of Kundalini is to improve one’s physical, spiritual, and mental health — many yogis and Kundalini instructors state that when they leave their Kundalini yoga class, that they feel lifted, as if experiencing a natural high. This improves mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical care.
Kundalini has become more popular than Hatha yoga in some regions, which used to be the most popular due to its mainstream popularity, it being great for beginners, and it focusing on physical alignment.
How it is Different
Kundalini differs from hatha and Vinyasa (flow) and other types of yoga in a variety of ways. First, sound is an incredibly important part of this type of yoga. You will hear no radios or pop music in Kundalini classes — this is because changing mantras through certain kriyas are used instead, in order to help focus on one’s own mind and breathing.
For many practitioners, at the end of the yoga class, a gong is played for around five minutes as the yoga students lay down or sit in silence. This process is called “gong baths” and are intended to aid in relaxation through the powerful but peaceful vibrations of the gong.
Afterwards, some instructors end the session with a meditation that is chanted in unison. This entire process seems fuller, more complete, and relaxing than regular yoga where you may do your alignments and then leave, as if you were in some sort of gym. But in Kundalini, it is said that you feel as if you are in a different world when you are there, and the ability to focus on one’s mind and body in a spiritual, mental, physical, and mindful way all at once, aids in creating an environment that is separate from the busy world and makes this type of yoga more effective and satisfying.
Variation is Key
What makes this type of yoga so different from mainstream yoga is that there are thousands of kriyas, so unlike some yoga classes, where you plateau because there are no further poses to practice in your expertise level, Kundalini is different.
A Kundalini session is different every time you enter, but some exercises are repeated frequently such as Breath of Fire. Another benefit is that you don’t have to be particularly flexible to begin Kundalini. You will become better at it as you go on, but since physical mindfulness is only a part of this type of yoga, there is so much more to experience and benefit from.
Kundalini is not just a yoga practice that uses these methods to be different – there are real mental, neurological, and physical benefits to this practice. For one, the kriyas are designed to get your endocrine system to secrete and balance very quickly. Your glads are the gateway to health, so Kundalini takes this on through breathing exercises. The little practices and breathes done in Kundalini actually stimulate the hypothalamus, pituitary, and pineal glands, which, when secreting, make your body feel more clear-minded and more alive.
Other benefits of Kundalini are reduction of mental stress, physical stress-relief, weight loss, and reduction in blood pressure. A 2016 study from the University of California at L.A. even determined that after three months of yoga and meditation, the effects of dementia were minimized — often better than traditional memory boosting exercises. This is because Kundalini and other types of yoga incorporate physical stress-relief, mental mindfulness, emotional meditation, and other practices to do more than challenge the mind and body, but to actually change it and make it healthier.
The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation has chimed in as well, stating that the 12-minute Kirtan Kriya singing exercise in particular is a great way to improve brain function.
When it comes to trying a different type of yoga or starting yoga for the first time, you may find yourself with the need to experience a more fulfilling practice other than physical stretching and some self-guided meditation.
If you are seeking a more peaceful type of yoga that combines all of the great and healthy aspects of the ancient Indian practices, then Kundalini may be just the thing to improve your life and your health.