A powerful spiritual energy, kundalini is frequently depicted as a coiled serpent at the base of the spine that will move up through the seven chakras -- energy centers -- when awakened. The process frees prana energy, leads to bliss and enlightenment and is derived from principles of tantra, a body-centric yoga of purification and awareness. Kundalini yoga uses many of the same poses or asanas as traditional hatha yoga, but combines them in sequences to clear and open individual chakras, or to achieve specific healing or spiritual objectives.
Kundalini yoga was introduced in the West by Yogi Bhajan in the late '60s. A class consists of kriyas, sequences designed to activate body systems, loosen stuck energy and accomplish particular goals. A sequence works through kriyas, moving poses, pranayama or breathing techniques, meditation and chants. The poses are likely to be held for a set period of time or repeated a number of times.
One of Yogi Bhajan's health and well-being kriyas begins with a few warm-up stretches to loosen tight shoulders, neck, arms, chest, spine, and hips, and then a Sanskrit chant to still the mind. Upward-Facing Hip Twists unkink your lower back; alternate leg lifts energize large muscles. Rock forward and back in Bow pose with a simultaneous vigorous Breath of Fire through your nostrils. Add 54 lifts in Cobra pose; a holding Half Wheel pose for 6 1/2 minutes; supine relaxing for 8 minutes; Corpse pose to soothing music for 11 minutes; Cat stretches and wrist and ankle circles; a meditation and closing chant.
Eight categories of kundalini poses provide plenty of choices for structuring a well-rounded sequence.
- Floor postures include Wheel pose, Twists, Camel, Child and Bridge poses.
- Relaxation postures are Child or Baby pose and Corpse pose or Savasana.
- Pranayama breathing asanas are techniques, such as Bee's Breath, Breath of Fire, and Alternate Nostril Breathing that energize prana or life force.
- Mudras are symbolic hand gestures that activate energy meridians and pressure points in the hands.
- Meditation uses mantras, or sacred chants, mudras, pranayama, and postures such as Easy pose, accompanied by sacred music or stillness to calm and focus the mind.
- Bandhas are contractions -- body lock postures -- to control the flow of energy.
- Standing postures, such as Eagle pose and Mountain pose, are grounding as they raise your heart rate and solidify your balance.
- Inversion postures, like Supported Shoulder Stand, give you a flexible spine, muscle strength, better balance, calmer nerves and an alert mind.
Shake, Rattle and Roll
Kriyas are movement centered, and not every kundalini kriya looks like the familiar asanas from yoga class. A detox kriya sequence seems playful and childlike as it works to improve digestion, cleanse the lymphatic system, boost circulation, free blocked emotions, purify the skin and still the chattering mind. Jumping for five minutes while shaking out hands and arms, relieves tension.
Revolved Chair pose stretches your spine. Donkey kicks in Downward-Facing Dog boost energy and the pituitary and pineal glands, according to Yoga Journal.
Breathing into a long-held Pigeon pose activates your parasympathetic nervous system. So does a Seated Spinal Twist, which also massages your thyroid. From Child's pose, stretch out into a full, extended prone position with a yoga block under your navel to massage the abdominal organs and stimulate the colon and the uterus. Roll onto your back, legs and arms up in the air like a dead bug, wiggle your torso and shake your fingers, toes, arms and legs as you scream loud and long to release every bit of tension in your body.
Sat Kriya -- Essential Chakra Awakening
Sequence seven poses to energize each of the chakra energy centers in order, starting at the base of the spine and ending just above the crown of the head.
- Crow pose awakens the root chakra as you squat, hands extended parallel to the ground, stand and return to squat position.
- Frog pose, for the second or sacral chakra, is a squat with heels together, fingers on the ground, then straighten knees, and return to squat. Lie supine, arms and legs extended forward, legs and shoulders raised and perform Breathe of Fire for the third, solar plexus chakra.
- Camel pose, kneeling, arched backwards with hands grasping ankles, opens the heart chakra.
- Cobra pose opens the throat chakra as you stretch prone on the mat, and push up through the hands to raise the upper body and arch the head back.
- Guru Pranam energizes the third eye, the sixth chakra, as you sit on your heels and touch your forehead to the mat with your hands clasped and extended forward.
- Sat Kriya opens the crown chakra in an extended chant, seated on the heels, arms stretched upward, fingers clasped, performing Pranayama breathing.
- Photo Credit bodrumsurf/iStock/Getty Images
Kundalini yoga focuses on the energy base at the spine. Discover the benefits Kundalini yoga poses with expert tips from a yoga...