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Kundalini Yoga: The Awakening of the Self
by Shakta Kaur Khalsa

People who do yoga, or have at least some understanding of yoga, are curious about Kundalini yoga. In the past, the Kundalini energy has been referred to as "serpent power," and other exotic sounding terms, but Kundalini Yoga, as taught by my teacher, Yogi Bhajan, is much more simple and close to home than you might think.

Kundalini comes from the root word, kundal, in Sanskrit, which means "the lock of the hair from the beloved." The uncoiling of this "hair" is the awakening of the kundalini, the unlimited potential that already exists in every human.

The easiest way to understand kundalini is to acknowledge that there is the universal spirit, sometimes referred to as God. God uncoils him/her/itself. This uncoiling process is known as kundalini. What is uncoiling and awakening is you, nothing more and nothing less. It is a normal capacity that most people simply are not utilizing. Yoga is the science of the self, and kundalini is the awakening of the self. It is that simple.

A unique and distinctive yoga form that encompasses elements that are found in all other forms of yoga, Kundalini yoga is sometimes called the "mother yoga." Here are a few of the ways that Kundalini yoga shares paths with other traditions of yoga.

1. Links movement with rhythmic breathing patterns.
2. Has an introspective quality of listening to the body and releasing emotions, as well as drawing on inspiration, such holding a pose with fearlessness, etc.
3. Incorporates chanting and singing as yogic technology.
4. Is directly focused on moving the energy through the chakras (your body's energy centers)
5. Encompasses the eight limbs and all seven branches of yoga
6. Includes pranayama (breathing) techniques and uses the bandhas (body locks).
7. In addition to yoga and meditation, Kundalini yoga incorporates teachings for all aspects of life; for example, vegetarian diet, serving others, and yogic life skills such as conscious parenting and partnering.

Often people are afraid to try yoga, and no wonder. Yoga magazines and books are filled with images of rubber-bodied yogis in acrobatic twists, or muscular body-builders in perfect handstands. Unfortunately this portrayal of yoga scares most folks away, but fortunately, yoga, and especially Kundalini yoga, is not really like the "macho yoga" image. Kundalini yoga meets you where you are, and takes you to your potential. In fact, I always say that if you can breathe and move your body, you can do Kundalini yoga. Strong, rhythmic breathing coupled with fluid movements is one of the strong foundations of Kundalini yoga.

So what does a Kundalini yoga class look like? First we tune in using a centering technique to call upon our inner guidance. Then we warm up and stretch out our bodies using movement and strong breathing. Each Kundalini yoga class is unique, but each will contain a yoga "set" of postures and exercises that work on specific areas of the body, mind, and spirit. There are literally hundreds of these yoga sets to choose from -- yoga for your back, your radiance, your mind/heart balance, your ability to keep up through hard times, in short, for every aspect of you as a human being.

After the yoga set, a Kundalini yoga class will culminate with a deep relaxation, supported and uplifted by divine music, and often times, the sound of the gong. After the restful period, most Kundalini yoga classes end with breath or mantra meditation -- the icing on the cake, so to speak!

Now that you know more about this ancient, yet very modern yogic science, you are even more curious than before, and if you're up for an "inner adventure," try some Kundalini yoga. It delivers you to yourself, and fast!

About the Author
Shakta Kaur Khalsa has been teaching Kundalini yoga for twenty-five years, and has been a Montessori teacher for almost as long. She lives in Herndon, Virginia, with her husband and their son. She also is the author of Fly Like a Butterfly: Yoga for Children (Rudra Press) and a new book, Kundalini Yoga (Dorling Kindersley Inc.). She teaches adults and children at the Kundalini Yoga Center in Sterling, Virginia, as well as teacher-trains for children’s yoga.

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