The Origins of Kundalini Yoga

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The origins of kundalini yoga are obscure. Adding to the mystique surrounding kundalini yoga is that its practice has often been shrouded in secrecy, traditionally reserved for mystics and occult practitioners. However, references to the tremendous power associated with kundalini-shakti date back to some of the earliest known texts on yoga.

The kundalini represents a somewhat mysterious yet enormously powerful energy that is present both within the universe and within each individual. It is conceived of as the divine feminine principle upon which the universe is founded. Through the practice of kundalini yoga, the adept releases this energy so that it might rise up through the spine and be connected with the masculine energy, shiva ("benevolent") that is believed to reside at the crown of the head. The unification of the masculine and feminine energies in the body results in the highest union of yoga, leading to enlightenment, dissolution of the self, and realization of unbound bliss.

The Yoga-Shikha-Upanishad ("Secret Doctrine of the Crest of Yoga") is an ancient scripture that deals specifically with the process of raising the kundalini serpent power.3 This text refers to kundalini yoga as the combined practice of mantra yoga, laya yoga, and hatha yoga. Kundalini yoga is also considered to participate in the tradition of tantra yoga. The asanas and breathing exercises that form a common base in hatha yoga are believed to purify and steady the body and mind for the tremendous outpouring of energy released by the rousing of the kundalini energy.

Kundalini yoga was made prominent in recent history most notably through the dramatic experiences of Gopi Krishna (1903-1984.) An East Indian civil servant, Krishna practiced a type of yoga that was designed to unleash the kundalini serpent power. Despite his study and practice of this discipline, he was unprepared for the sheer power of the kundalini energy when it did finally rise within him. Krishna presented a vivid description of the tremendous psychoenergetic force that was unleashed in his autobiographical account, Kundalini: The Evolutionary Energy in Man. His book remains one of the most powerful firsthand accounts of kundalini ever written.

Kundalini yoga was made more widely available in the West primarily through the teachings of the East Indian master of kundalini yoga and spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan (1929-). All forms of yoga can raise the kundalini energy. Yogi Bhajan teaches kundalini yoga as a technology that allows

Kundalini (from kundala, or "coiled," in Sanskrit) yoga is an approach to yoga that emphasizes yoga's ability to release a powerful feminine, creative energy known in Sanskrit as kundalini-shakti ("female serpent power"). The kundalini energy is believed to lie dormant at the base of the spine, like a coiled snake. Through a variety of practices, including physical postures, special breathing techniques, mantra recitation, and meditation, practitioners of kundalini yoga strive to awaken this dormant energy. Once aroused, the kundalini energy ascends to the crown of the head, where it unites with shiva, the male principle of cosmic consciousness. The awakening of the kundalini energy and the union of feminine and masculine principles can help lead a man to self-realization and enlightenment.

one to maintain the energy and circulate it for maximum benefits. His approach also provides protection against some of the unpleasant experiences that some people seem to have had when their kundalini energy was spontaneously awakened. Yogi Bhajan first visited the United States in 1969, when he began to teach kundalini yoga and train teachers in his particular approach to yoga. Bhajan's work is carried on through the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy) Foundation. Headquartered in New Mexico, 3HO is an international organization that promotes the practice of kundalini yoga throughout the world.

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