Understanding Kundalini Yoga
By Scott Shaw
Kundalini is known as the “Serpent Power.” It is illustrated as a coiled snake resting at the base of your spine. When it is stimulated, through Pranayama “Breath control,” it is forced to rise up through the various Chakras “Energy centers” and causes the Yogi to realize Samadhi “Enlightenment.”
Kundalini Yoga is the modern name given to the ancient science that causes the Kundalini energy to rise in the body of the Yogi. Its proper name is Kundalini Shakti.
It is important to understand that Kundalini Shakti is not a primary limb of Yoga. Though the understanding of the Kundalini and Chakras have been essential elements of Yoga for thousands of years. This form of Yoga is relatively new and is, in fact, looked down upon by many pundits who believe that Kundalini should not be artificially stimulated. This is due to the fact that when Kundalini is allowed to ascend naturally the Yogi is less likely to be effected by many of the negative side effects known to be unleashed by Kundalini Shakti, including insanity.
Kundalini Shakti teaches that there are invisible channels in the human body that Prana “Life force” flows through. These invisible channels are similar, in structure, to your blood vessels.
In Sanskrit these channels are named,”Nadis.” For a person to remain healthy it is understood that Prana must be allowed to travel uninhibited via these channels.
This understanding is the same concept used by acupuncturists who refer to Prana as Chi or Ki. To the Yogi, this understanding goes on further to state that there can be no Prana blockage or the Kundalini of an individual will be obstructed. Thus, keeping them from obtaining Samadhi.
There are seventy-two thousands Nadis acknowledged in the human body. Of these, three are the most important to the Yogi, as they are instrumental in raising Kundalini energy in order to obtain Samadhi. These three channels are: Sushmuna, Pingala, and Ida.
Sushmuna Nadi is the, “Most Gracious Channel.” It is located central to the spine—traveling from the base to the top of the head. As it is the primary canal where Pranic energy flows, it is considered the most important of all the Nadis of the human body. This Nadis is the primary pathway where Kundalini travels upward illuminating the Yogi. It is sometimes referred to as Moksha Marga or “The way to liberation.”
Pingala Nadi or the “Sunrise Current” travels to the right of Sushmuna Nadi. It rises from the base of the spine and exits at the right nostril. From this terminus, exacting Pranayama techniques can be utilized, activating this and other Nadis—leading to not only overall better physical and mental health but stimulated Kundalini, as well.
This current is responsible for heating the body. A practical experiment which can be performed to demonstrate the effectiveness of Nadis understanding is, the next time you are cold while sleeping, lay on your left side. This will cause your body to naturally begin-breathing predominately through your right nostril. Thus, activating the Sushmuna Nadi. You soon will begin to feel much warmer.
Ida Nadi or the “Channel of Comfort” is located to the left of the Sushmuna Nadi. This pathway rises from the base of the spine and ends at the left nostril. Again, this end point is essential to the practice of Pranayama.
Ida Nadi is the cooling current of the body. As was the case with the previous Sushmuna Nadi experiment, you can simply lay on your right side if you are feeling too warm and activate Ida Nadi. You will immediately begin to cool down.
Nadis and Chakra
The understanding of Nadis goes hand-in-hand with the knowledge of Chakra in Kundalini Shakti. Both are essential elements that the Yogi embraces as he enters into the practice of Pranayama, in order to not only purify his body and mind but to realize Cosmic Consciousness, as well.
The word Chakra is used to delineate “Vital Energy Centers” in the human body. In Sanskrit, Chakra literally means, “Wheel.” This term refers to, “The wheel of human existence.” Or, more precisely, “The movement of human consciousness.”
There are seven Chakras or primary energy centers in the human body. Each Chakra controls a specific area of human existence and is a link point for Prana to enter and exit the body. If any Chakra possesses an obstruction, then Prana will not be allowed to move freely through this energy center. If this occurs, the individual will be hampered from experiencing the continuing evolution of Cosmic Consciousness.
With the onset of Asian wisdom being taught to the Western world, the Chakras have often times been misrepresented as a type of interpersonal thermometer - gauging an individual’s level of enlightenment. This falsity has been propagated predominately due to the fact that as the Chakras progressively rise in the human body, along the spine, they each are detailed as representing an ascending level of consciousness.
It must be understood, however, that the Yogi, no matter how enlightened, is still bound by his human body. In human form, human needs are present; be they the need for water, food, or shelter from the elements. To this end, though the lower Chakras may no longer define an individual’s consciousness, they are still essential - for without the basic needs of existence being fulfilled, the human body ceases to exist.
Prana and the Chakras
The seven Chakras detail precise energy centers where universal energy enters, congregates, and then exits the human body. The Yogi who wishes to embrace a specific type of energy will place his meditative focus upon the appropriate Chakra and recite a Mantra specifically designated to activate that energy location.
The Yogi understands that to place meditative focus on the higher Chakras, all of the lower Chakras must be free from Prana blockage. Prana blockage can occur from poor diet, physical or emotional distress, and illness. Prana blockage can be observed in an individual by his exhibiting specific negative psychological traits.
If a Yogi finds that an obstruction to Prana is occurring in a specific Chakra then any physical or emotional detriments are immediately eliminated from their life. Once this is accomplished, then meditative focus is guided towards the blocked Chakra by using the appropriate Mantra.
The Chakras Earthly Elements
The first five Chakras correspond to a specific Earthly element. When the Yogi wishes to activate one of these Chakras, he may visualize or utilize the corresponding Earthly element in order to aid in the process of Chakra energizing.
The sixth and seventh Chakra are solely associated with Cosmic Consciousness. Thus, no Earthly element stimulates them.
The First Chakra
The first Chakra, Muladhara Chakra, or “The Foundation Wheel” is located at the base of the spine. Its element is earth. Its color is yellow. Its Mantra is “Lam.”
The first Chakra is the body’s link to human existence. It causes us to be concerned with required physical needs such as eating, drinking, and sleeping. It establishes the need for order and security in our lives. When consciously focused upon, it allows a person to maintain a sense of honor, confidence, and inner strength.
The first Chakra is the resting-place of the serpent power, known as Kundalini. This is the energy that rises up the spine leading to Samadhi.
Ancient manuscripts state that the Yogi who steadfastly meditates upon this Chakra gains the ability to levitate.
On the other hand, when an individual is out of balance with his first Chakra, there is a continued sense of insecurity and paranoia. The individual may possess a convoluted attitude towards his surroundings and see the world as continually adversarial. From this, anger is born and the individual enters into a constant state of confrontation.
The Second Chakra
The second Chakra, Svadhish Thana Chakra, or “The Base Wheel” is located at the genitals. Its element is water. Its color is white. Its Mantra is “Vam.”
The second Chakra is the source point for interpersonal love and creative energy in the human being. This center is where not only the desire for relationships and procreation occurs but it is also the birthplace of imagination and creative vision. When Prana flows freely to and from this energy center the individual projects inner and outer beauty to the world. When Prana is blocked from clearly accessing the second Chakra, sexual obsession and out of control jealousy become the defining factors of the individual’s life.
The Third Chakra
The third Chakra, Manipura Chakra, or “The Jeweled City Wheel” is located just below the navel. Its element is fire. Its color is red. Its Mantra is “Ram.”
The third Chakra is the Center Point of the human body, known in Japanese as Hara. This is a very sacred bodily location as it is where Prana congregates.
At this energy point, all seventy-two-thousand nerve endings of the human body converge. From this energy center advanced Martial Artists, Acupuncturists, and Accupressurists focalize their Ki and then unleash it as necessary.
In ancient manuscripts it is detailed that the Yogi who meditates upon this Chakra conquers disease and dying as well as possesses the ability to metaphysically enter into another person’s body at will.
Manipura Chakra is the place where human good will and the desire to help others is born. If this Chakra is out of balance it is also the location where greed and the thirst for power is generated.
The Fourth Chakra
The fourth Chakra, Anahata Chakra, or “The Wheel of the Silent Sound” is located at the central chest. Its element is air. Its color is smoke gray. Its Mantra is “Yam.”
The fourth Chakra is the Heart Center. It is the place where compassion, divine love, and universal oneness is experienced. It is the Chakra where the ego is lost and selfless acts are given birth to. When one meditates upon this Chakra, Siddha, and “Mystical Powers” are born, including clairvoyance and deep wisdom.
When Prana is blocked from flowing freely to the fourth Chakra, compassion degenerates to passion and selfishness becomes the individual’s motivating factor in life.
The Fifth Chakra
The fifth Chakra, Vishuddha Chakra, or “The Pure Wheel” is the Throat Center. Its element is ether. Its color is blue. Its Mantra is “Ham.”
The fifth Chakra is the source of personal and divine Satya “Truth.” When this Chakra is clear and open, the individual embraces a profound sense of honesty and universal understanding. When this Chakra is blocked the individual is lost in personal delusion, believing that he should be the continual center of everyone’s attention. Many times spiritual practitioners become lost at this Chakra and believe that due to their being on the Spiritual Path, they somehow are more than other people.
The Sixth Chakra
The Sixth Chakra, Ajna Chakra, or “The Control Wheel,” has come to be known as the Third Eye. This energy center is located in the central forehead, just above the eyebrows. Its color is pure snow white. Its Mantra is “Om.”
This Chakra is one of the primary focal points for meditation, as it is the energy center of telepathic powers. If you close your eyes and enter into a peaceful state of mind, your attention will naturally be drawn to this location.
Ajna Chakra is the energy center of intuition. The more you focus upon it through meditation, the clearer your understanding of human consciousness becomes and you begin to instantly see into the psyche of all human beings you encounter. This Chakra is also the channel where the individual may travel into the Astral Realm and communion with divine spirits.
Many novice Yogis become lost in the low-level mind reading powers they develop from meditating upon this Chakra. From this, they become forever bound to Maya and the realms of personal ego gratification, as they believe they possess a seemingly more advanced consciousness than does the average person.
It is important to note that the more one advances through the techniques of Yoga, the easier it is to become lost in the naturally developing Siddha. It is for this reason that the true Yogi never even takes notice of these seemingly supernatural feats and simply focuses his attention upon the goal of Cosmic Consciousness.
The Seventh Chakra
The Seventh Chakra, Sahasrara Chakra, or “The Thousand Spoked Wheel” is often called the “Thousand Petal Lotus.” This energy center is located at the crown of the head. This is the Chakra where the individual encounters Ananda “Divine Bliss” and merges with Cosmic Consciousness—the state of divine union. Here, the individual leaves behind all constraints of physical body and psychological make up and becomes one with the universe. Thus, there is no element, color, or Mantra assigned to this Chakra as it is beyond all forms of physical definition.
An extended chapter on this subject can be found in the book: Yoga: A Spiritual Guidebook
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No part of this article may be used without the expressed permission of Scott Shaw or his representatives.