Yoga and Kundalini

Posted on April 3, 2018

In the yoga style that I practice now kundalini energy is mentioned frequently. This refers to the life energy that, according to almost all yogic traditions, lies dormant in us, and that we can get access to by steady practice of yoga. Indeed, the aim of yoga practice is to awaken this energy in us, and to connect us to our source. This is called `awakening the kundalini’.

Kundalini yoga is, according to a well-informed wikipedia lemma, a blend of several traditions including yogic techniques such as bandha, pranayama, and asana, but is also stresses commitment and self-discipline, in extended sessions of sadhana. Sadhana literally means discipline in pursuit of a goal. In my school, sadhana is disciplined performance of mantra chanting, yoga exercises and meditation.

Kundalini yoga, in the style that I now practice, was exported from the Punjab region of the Indian subcontinent, homeland of the Sikh religion, to the Western world by Harbhajan Singh Khalsa, known in my yoga school as Yogi Bhajan. Sikhism is a relatively recent religious tradition (it dates back to the fifteenth century) that teaches faith in one creator and the unity and equality of all humankind, strives for social justice for the benefit of all, emphases honest conduct, and urges its followers to transform the ‘five thieves’ (lust, rage, greed, attachment, and ego). Sikhism urges us to lead a truthful life and to strive for success, and it cautions against all attempts to monopolize claims on Truth.

Differences between yoga styles do not matter much to me, and talk like ‘my yoga style is superior to yours’ I consider silly. Still, I must say that the relative absence of guru worship in this particular style of yoga comes as a relief.

After a few kundalini yoga classes the link of this yoga style to the Sikh tradition became evident to me. But there is also a clear link to earlier yogic teachings, such as the scriptures of Patanjali.

The concentration of the true spiritual aspirant is attained through faith, energy, recollectedness, absorption and illumination.

Patanjali, Yoga Aphorism 20

Patanjali mentions concentration here as the power of your commitment, so this aphorism is about techniques for holding on to your commitment. Steady focus on commitment is key for all success in life, and Patanjali mentions five qualities that make such commitment possible.

These five qualities are developed through yoga, and together they lead to the ability to commit oneself to one’s self-chosen path.

Harbhajan Singh condenses the essence of his own brand of yoga for our times in five sutras, which I will list here, followed by my current understanding of them. (Note that this blog entry is part of my self education.)

  1. Recognize that the other person is you.

My understanding of this is that we need the other person to really understand ourselves. Qualities we see and admire in the other person are qualities that are maybe still under development in ourselves. Qualities we dislike in the other person may be part of our unowned shadow. The sutra is also an injunction not to be judgmental, i.e., not to project our own stuff onto others. On a deeper level, there is the insight that consciousness is one. The voice that says ‘I’ in me is the same as the voice that says ‘I’ in you.

  1. There is a way through every block.

There will always be blocks on our path, but every challenge has a solution. If we believe there is no solution, then maybe this is a sign that we rely too much on the rational mind. Intuition, the small voice inside, will point out a way through.

  1. When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off.

By our yoga practice we will gradually become sensitive to what the universe is trying to tell us, and we will start to hear the quiet voice that pressurizes us to change. The way to deal with this is to start listening to that voice, without worry, and let the changes happen. This way we will experience less stress while our lives get transformed through our yoga practice.

  1. Understand through compassion or you will misunderstand the times.

Learning to understand through compassion is learning to experience and act from the heart. Living with an open heart is what is first and foremost needed in these times, where every human is connected to all other human beings.

  1. Vibrate the Cosmos. The Cosmos shall clear the path.

‘Vibrate the Cosmos’ means to bring ourselves in harmony with the universe. Getting in tune with the universe is learning to vibrate with “the love that moves the sun and the other stars” (Dante). If we learn to do that our difficulties will be resolved for us.

Practicing yoga is like practicing any other craft or skill: mastery comes through steady practice, and learning is always more a matter of doing than of thinking. So I just keep at the practice, taking care not to overdo it, and I observe how gradually the miracle of inner transformation happens.