The word Kundalini means spiral of hair and later came to be known as the coiled serpent of potential energy and consciousness which lies at the base of the spine and can be awoken by various practices, moving and sounding like a serpent as it arises; one of the earliest methods being to wind the hair into a knot at the top of the head. This knot then acts as an amplifier and transformer between the finite/personal life and the infinite/impersonal.
Yoga means union and in addition to the temporary union between the mind, body and soul while in this worldly existence there is also the possibility of an eternal union between the differentiated small soul/self as it expands towards the undifferentiated and the large soul/self as it individualises or diversifies itself. Note: To even contemplate union is already to admit of separation. Yoga is a way of healing the separation through various stages.
The structure and processes of the body/mind is our most potent tools for accomplishing this union as well as the most likely hindrance. The stages of the Kundalini journey have been visualised as seven chakras - energy wheels, or gates through which the conscious must pass; individual consciousness rising up while universal consciousness descends.
Most of our states of consciousness could be thought of as postures - some static and some dynamic - each of which effect our breathing and mind patterns. By changing our body posture, breath rhythm and thought vibration we can change our state.
Awakening the Kundalini is no big deal since for life to exist in us it must already be active, though relatively unconscious. Moments of deeper awakening do happen in life but we do not always know what contributed to this awakening nor how to sustain it. Kundalini Yoga developed as a systematic method of expanding consciousness and maintaining the new awareness.
Kundalini is related to primal consciousness and is only dangerous if ignored, when it becomes misguided intent; like truth, weeds, sexuality, bacteria, etc. all cause trouble if ignored. The chanting of mantra is one of the important ways in which the stimulation and raising of the energy from the dreamy subconscious realms can be harmoniously regulated, channeled and appropriately transformed.
Kundalini refers to an impulse and an energy which has both personal and collective dimensions; it is enduring and can offer us guidance from within - it is our inner guru. Ritual is one of the ways that Kundalini has been awoken and with its sacred quality, ritual offers a respect to an energy that is thought to be very powerful and somewhat unknown.
The ritual of Kundalini Yoga, is very simple and includes the chanting of several mantras at the beginning and end of the session. The standard format of the session is about 40 minutes of exercises incorporating breathing, 15 minutes of deep relaxation and 5 minutes of meditation. Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, is a comprehensive system and so some classes include discussions about life and spiritual philosophy.
Yogi Bhajan, is the director of the 3HO organisation and the master of Kundalini Yoga and ‘Humanology’ (conscious living) which he has been teaching in the west since 1969.