When you think of yoga, you likely think first of the asanas, the physical poses. But there’s more to it than just being able to bend yourself into new shapes.
Our guide will introduce you to this precise and mindful form of yoga, discuss the benefits, and give you some tips on how to get started with a Kundalini yoga practice.
Kundalini Yoga: the Basics
Kundalini yoga is a form of yoga that combines physical poses with pranayama (breathing exercises), mudras (hand positions), and chanting. Its focus on the spiritual makes it a wonderful choice for anyone who wants to dive deeper into this side of yoga.
But What Is Kundalini Yoga Exactly?
An ancient tradition, Kundalini yoga has been practised in India and surrounding countries for thousands of years. It was introduced to the Western world during the 1960s and is popular with those seeking a deeper, more mindful practice.
Kundalini yoga is different from other forms of yoga because it concentrates more on spiritual awareness. While all types of yoga have a mindfulness element to them, the focus of Kundalini yoga is less on the physical poses and more on mobilising your Kundalini energy, also known as shakti.
This energy is believed to sit at the base of your spine. Kundalini yoga aims to activate the energy and get it flowing through your chakras. These energy centres are said to correspond with different areas of the body and to different emotional and spiritual needs.
While Vinyasa yoga or Hatha yoga are mainly based on physical movement, Kundalini yoga incorporates more breath-work and chanting. The poses are more repetitive too. It is like a moving meditation.
Classes will usually start and finish with a chant. Singing, mantras, and chanting are also used throughout the practice. They form part of a sequence with physical poses and breathing exercises.
Each combination of position and breathing is called a kriya. After each kriya, you’ll relax for a few moments to let the effects take hold, before moving onto the next one.
Meditation also plays a vital part in Kundalini yoga.
What Are the Benefits of Kundalini Yoga?
Traditionally, Kundalini yoga is believed to mobilise the Kundalini energy at the base of the spine. Practitioners compare this energy to a coiled snake, which lies dormant until you wake it up.
Once awakened, the energy starts to flow up your spine along the seven main chakras.
In Vedic tradition, the chakras are focal points of energy. When they become blocked, it can cause emotional and physical issues. Kundalini yoga aims to unblock these chakras and get the energy flowing freely again.
There are other benefits to this form of yoga too, in addition to the other well-known benefits of yoga in general. These include:
1. Building Core Strength
Because you repeat the same pose and often hold poses for a significant length of time, Kundalini yoga can help you build your core strength.
The breathwork can help here too. Although you wouldn’t think that simply breathing would build much muscle, some breathing exercises are intense and require you to activate your abdominal muscles.
2. Reduces Stress
Both yoga and breathwork are known to be effective ways to de-stress, so it makes sense that combining the two would be equally relaxing.
Studies show that Kundalini yoga helps to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Other research suggests it can help with depression, as well as lowering blood pressure.
3. Boosts Brain Power
If you find it hard to think clearly or remember where you left your keys, Kundalini yoga may be the answer.
Research shows that practising Kundalini yoga regularly helps to improve memory, boost cognitive function, and improve mood.
How to Get Started with Kundalini Yoga
You don’t need much to get started with Kundalini yoga, but there are a few items you will want to have to hand.
The first is a high-quality yoga mat. Kundalini yoga involves meditation and holding poses, so choose one with plenty of padding that will keep you comfortable during the session. Good grip is also essential, so you can keep your focus on your breath and not worry about slipping out of poses.
Traditionally, Kundalini yoga practitioners wear white, which is thought to expand your aura and help you focus your attention inwards. You’ll still want to choose clothes that are comfortable and allow you a full range of movement.
Some people will also wear a white head covering while practising Kundalini yoga. This aims to focus the energy at your third eye chakra, the centre of spiritual awareness, perception, and intuition. It is optional, so you might want to wait until you’ve done your first class before you decide whether to purchase a white head-wrap or turban.
Then you need to find a class. While there are online classes available, the unique nature of Kundalini yoga may mean you want to find an in-person class, at least at first. A skilled teacher will help you master the combination of poses, breathing exercises, and chanting more easily.
Fortunately, the popularity of Kundalini yoga means it is offered by many yoga studios, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a class near you! As with all types of yoga, we recommend you try this one too and see how you feel about it – who knows, you may find your favourite style yet!
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