Kundalini Yoga is a dangerous form of Yoga. On the other hand, it is also the most powerful Yoga tradition and the keeper of its most profound potential. Anything with great potency can become dangerous if handled improperly. Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening nowadays with Kundalini Yoga.
Just as there are steps to learning how to play the violin, reaching the level of an accomplished athlete, or becoming a master chef, there are also stages for the safe, successful study and practice of spirituality, which includes Kundalini Yoga. Here is a thorough introduction to authentic Kundalini Yoga (beware the imposters!), how it can benefit you as a spiritual practitioner, the dangers it poses, and how best to prepare for the practice of this great subsystem of Yoga.
It is said that there is no single founder of Kundalini Yoga. It is traced back to Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath, two great and legendary gurus, who founded a spiritual branch known as the Nath, or Natha, tradition. Dating back to the 10th or 11th century CE or later, the Nath is an order of religious ascetics who asserted that the practice of Hatha Yoga and its theological philosophy was a combination of ideas stemming from Buddhism, Shaivism, and the yogic and tantric traditions of India.
A notable aspect of practice within the Nath tradition has been its use of Yoga, particularly Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga, to refine and transform one’s body into a sahaja siddha state, in which a practitioner awakens his or her self-identity with absolute reality through the rising of kundalini shakti – the fundamental force of the human being. For thousands of years, this sacred science and technology was veiled in secrecy, passed along only via oral tradition, from masters to chosen disciples and initiates.
Teaching Kundalini Yoga outside the secret society of the Indian Yoga elite was unheard of. The dangers of practicing before a person was properly primed and prepared were well known, and it was believed the general public was not worthy to access such powerful knowledge without the necessary discipline and study.
This cloak of secrecy prevailed until the late 1960s when a Sikh rebel named Yogi Bhajan challenged the age-old tradition and brought an impoverished and diluted version to the West, which he deemed “Kundalini Yoga.” Luckily, this neo-adapted style strayed far from the original teachings and the authentic tradition and knowledge remain rare and safeguarded even today.
Kundalini comes from the Sanskrit language and translates into the word “coiled” in English, as in a coiled snake or serpent. Kundalini shakti, or energy, is a cosmic potential that is located in the root chakra of every human being but lies dormant and asleep for most. It is the means for deepening our connection to our ultimate spiritual purpose and for reuniting us with the Divine Source itself, our true nature.
In her contained state, kundalini shakti is a tightly coiled static power with an incredible amount of potentiality. This is where Kundalini Yoga can serve a great purpose. The techniques and practices contained within this extraordinary science can slowly awaken the latent potential of this divine spiritual power and drive it upward through the subtle channel of the spine.
What ensues is nothing short of magical and mysterious. Practitioners of authentic Kundalini Yoga can experience an entire remodeling of their beings – physically, mentally, emotionally, energetically – as well as spiritual illumination of great magnitude.
Kundalini shakti cannot be turned off and on, as though today it is off and tomorrow it will be fully turned on and activated with the flip of a switch. This supreme power acts with a functionality more akin to a dimmer light switch, whereby the cosmic force is incrementally turned on and activated slowly to allow for harmonious integration and assimilation into the multi-structured energetic system and subtle bodies of the practitioner.
At advanced stages a state of enlightenment may be reached – a state technically called samadhi in Yoga. In this pivotal moment a practitioner becomes one with all of creation, transcending duality and the clutches of karma as well as emerging as his or her own guru.
Now that the power and potential of kundalini shakti are better understood, the dangers that can ensue become clearer when a premature arising occurs in a beginner practitioner. In order for kundalini to seamlessly rise through the proper energetic channels, the pathway must be clear, pure, and unobstructed.
Such purity is rare to find in modern people of today. Our lifestyles are such that we accumulate unwanted toxins and impurities through the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, toxic substances such as alcohol and tobacco, ill health, past surgeries, medications, stress, poor posture, inactive lifestyles, negative emotions, traumas, and mental discord.
These various sources of pollutants soil our physical body, the subtle bodies, and our interwoven energetic substructure beyond that. To try and push kundalini shakti through such a system would be the equivalent of trying to push 10,000V of electricity through an old, faulty wire that is only designed to sustain 120V. A burnout is inevitable and negative and damaging effects can result.
Kundalini shakti, or energy, is a cosmic potential that is located in the root chakra of every human being but lies dormant and asleep for most.
Kundalini Yoga is in fact a very powerful path within the spiritual system of Tantra that can catapult a practitioner to the next realm of evolution and spiritual development. It is the crème de la crème in terms of powerful techniques and practices that are both obscure and secret to non-initiates.
However, it is fair to say that practicing Kundalini Yoga before a practitioner is ready and has taken the necessary steps to prepare his or her mind, subtle energetic bodies, and spirit can be quite dangerous. A genuine teacher will caution practitioners and not seduce them to stretch their practice beyond their capacity. The efficiency of the Kundalini Yoga techniques is exactly both the catalyst for the powerful effects – in fact, the practice is said to defeat all illnesses and even death in the original texts – and may potentially be the source of the negative effects for unprepared initiates.
The danger is due to the exponential accumulation of energy or intense pranic friction which can have destructive results at the physical, astral, and mental levels if a practitioner is not prepared. For example, a blood vessel may burst in the brain, a schism could arise in the personality, even energy may not be directed as expected, such as by descending instead of rising. All disturbing reactions should be considered warning signs that lead teachers need to reassess practitioners’ fitness for kundalini practice.
An important distinction needs to be made here between modern Kundalini Yoga and that of the ancient and classical order. What is taught in more mainstream Yoga establishments throughout the world is not reflective of the traditional Kundalini Yoga that is described in the original tantric texts and which is what we refer to here. The texts themselves are written in a codified language and the practices that encompass the kundalini path are encrypted in such a way that only initiates or spiritual masters possess the key to unlock their meaning and execution.
This modernized version of Kundalini Yoga is a blend of several practices stemming from different spiritual principles and ideologies, and therefore it does not carry the same potency and efficacy as the ancient original art. Nevertheless, many people still gain some nice and subtle effects, even from such a new-age approach.
In our Tantra Yoga module, the Kundalini Program is introduced at Level 15. This gives spiritual aspirants 14 levels, and anywhere from three to seven years, to properly cleanse, prepare, and develop their fragile infrastructure into a refined and powerful system capable of receiving and managing the force of kundalini shakti.
This may sound like a long and arduous road to a beginner, but rest assured the journey to the Kundalini Program is both exhilarating and mesmerizing in and of itself.
Luckily, there is a well-beaten path that spiritual aspirants can follow if they have an unquenched thirst for reaching their highest spiritual potential. The following practices are extremely effective and efficient in preparing a person for the higher tantric teachings that follow as well as the Kundalini Yoga Program:
Different from the Kriya Yoga of Yogananda’s lineage, this Kriya Yoga system is derived from the Shatkarma Kriyas, classified as a system of purification techniques that help to restore the body to a natural and healthy state and internally cleanse the mind, body, and emotions for spiritual beautification and development. Kriya Yoga is a crucial step for preparing the physical body for the Kundalini Program.
Ancient Hatha Yoga is not a stretching type of Yoga but rather a meditative practice that is energetically based. The yoga poses that make up this style of yoga help to purify the body while enlivening important energy channels and centers. Hatha Yoga is a crucial step in preparing the energetic body for the Kundalini Program and techniques.
Likened to hyperventilation techniques nowadays, pranayama in fact is the act of controlling the prana, or life force energy. Once practitioners have sufficiently purified themselves through Kriya Yoga and opened their vital energy channels through Hatha Yoga, they are ready to practice pranayama. This technique is the driving force behind raising kundalini shakti along the spine.
The mind plays an important role in awakening and raising kundalini shakti. Ultimately energy flows where the mind goes. If the mind is very chaotic in nature the energy will flow chaotically as well. Therefore, a disciplined and commanding mind is essential and also of the utmost importance in preparing for the Kundalini Program and tantric meditation can help get you there.
The readiness of a practitioner is not a new-age concept but rather an age-old principle documented in many spiritual texts.
Take Autobiography of a Yogi, for example. Yogananda was a motivated spiritual aspirant and deeply desired to reach enlightenment. After only six months under the supervision of his guru, Sri Yukteswar, Yogananda asked that he be granted this higher state of consciousness. His great guru denied him, which provoked Yogananda to embark on a journey to the Himalayas in search for a guru who would fulfill his wish. After many challenges and some misdirection, Yogananda finally reached Ram Gopal, the sleepless saint.
Upon prostrating before him the young yogi asked, “Sir, why don’t you grant me a samadhi?”
And the great saint replied, “Dear one, I would be glad to convey the divine contact, but it is not my place to do so. Your master will bestow that experience shortly. Your body is not tuned just yet. As a small lamp cannot withstand excessive electrical voltage, so your nerves are unready for the cosmic current. If I gave you the infinite ecstasy right now, you would burn as if every cell were on fire.”
This short story is just one small, yet poignant example of the seriousness of preparedness when it comes to Kundalini Yoga. Yogananda was a very pure and innocent young man who was not only ascetic his entire life, but also lived at a time when living conditions were much more pristine than today. Even he had to accomplish years of practice and purification and succumb to the grace and discernment of his guru before he was ready for the all-pervading, all-encompassing kundalini rising.
As mentioned above, Tantra is a compendium of knowledge and a comprehensive spiritual system. Within this system exist several different branches or paths, all leading to the same pinnacle of spiritual success. Kundalini Yoga is one path or branch that falls under the great system of Tantra and the tantric umbrella. You can learn more about the other paths of Tantra in this thorough blog.
It is important to understand the distinction between modern Yoga and authentic Yoga. Modern Yoga can be likened to a more physical training in which stretching and flexibility, gymnastics-like rigor, and body toning and fitness are the name of the game. Authentic Yoga, on the other hand, is a spiritual practice with the evolution of the soul of the human being as its goal. As you can see, these are in stark contrast and represent dramatically different pursuits.
Kundalini Yoga differs from other types of authentic Yoga – such as Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, and others – in that it works specifically with the kundalini energy. This energy is extremely unique and the most cherished of all, as it contains the cosmic and spiritual potential of a human being. It is the only energy that can bring a person to spiritual perfection and exoneration.
As an initiate of Kundalini Yoga, you will learn the great mudras which help to propagate the kundalini energy and move it upward along the primary energy channel of the spine. All of the chakras are altered and spiritualized, and this rising can lead to fast and powerful transformation of a human being, paranormal abilities, high states of consciousness, and – ultimately – enlightenment. Working with kundalini is the most effective and efficient way of working with energy and reaching spiritual success on the tantric path.
Other genuine styles of Yoga also have the spiritual evolution of the practitioner in mind. However, they employ alternate forms of energy which do not perhaps contain the same power and potential as kundalini shakti. Therefore, they are considered slower paths.
As explained above, not everyone should practice Kundalini Yoga. To maintain not only secrecy but also safety, you cannot learn Kundalini Yoga from a book. The real techniques are simply not written about or accessible in any modern literary works. There are some ancient Sanskrit texts on the subject, but they are extremely abstract and written in an enigmatic, cryptic manner that cannot be deciphered by a neophyte or amateur practitioner.
If you are keen to practice the authentic Kundalini Yoga then it is compulsory that you seriously go down the path, become an initiate and prepare the body, mind, and spirit diligently as prescribed by tradition. There are no shortcuts, nor should there be, when it comes to Kundalini Yoga.
Founder and Head Teacher
Spiritual yogi, lecturer, teacher and author, Somananda is the founder and head teacher of Somananda Tantra School.
True Tantra starts here!