Yoga for Beginners: 10 Things That Make Kundalini Yoga Different from Hatha Yoga
How is Kundalini Yoga different from Hatha Yoga and its offspring (Iyengar, Vinyasa, Jivamukti, Bikram, Anusara, etc.)? Well, let’s start out with how it’s the same. Both Kundalini Yoga and Hatha Yoga contain asana and breath. They both aim to increase flexibility and awareness, decrease stress, and move you toward the union of body, mind, and spirit. But then, the differences begin…
Here are my top 10 things that make Kundalini Yoga different:
1. Yogi Bhajan. The man who brought Kundalini Yoga to the West from India was Yogi Bhajan. He taught and inspired many and, though he died in 2004, his teachings are carried on by his students. You’ll often hear him quoted by KY teachers, many of whom call him their spiritual teacher.
2. Kundalini Energy. In Kundalini Yoga, there is a belief that each of us has within us a dormant energy that resides at the base of the spine. Many asanas target this energy and aim to activate and awaken it.
3. Tuning In. Right from the get-go, KY distinguishes itself. Instead of “om,” we tune in with the mantra “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo,” which means “I call on the divine teacher within.”
4. Breath of Fire. KY uses an energizing, rapid, rhythmic pranayama called breath of fire. Breath of fire is done by itself or along with certain postures.
5. Kriyas. Each Kundalini Yoga class features at least one kriya (or series of exercises) designed to have a particular effect, such as Kriya for Elevation, Navel Adjustment Kriya, or Kriya for Conquering Sleep.
6. Mantras. Kundalini Yoga has an enormous cannon of beautiful mantras. There are mantras for everything under the sun: for protection, for inner peace, for courage, for intuition, for happiness… I could go on and on. Unlike most yogic traditions that draw on Sanskrit mantras, almost all of Kundalini Yoga’s mantras are in the Gurmukhi language.
Instructional for most Kundalini yoga mantras
7. Dynamic Postures. Many asanas in KY involve vigorous movement as opposed to static postures.
8. Meditations. There are thousands of meditations in the KY tradition, each with a specific purpose. I’ve never been to or taught a KY class that didn’t include at least one meditation. Cultivating the meditative, neutral mind is paramount.
Jai-Jagdeesh guides you through 3 powerful Kundalini meditations on this CD
9. Not Alignment-Based. In Iyengar and Anusara classes, the teacher may emphasize very specific alignment issues, such as the placement of individual fingers on the mat. KY focuses less on alignment and more on the internal energy — circulation, glandular secretions, and raising the Kundalini energy.
10. Music. The music of KY features Gurmukhi and English mantras, and it’s a gorgeous, inspiring, integral part of every class.
Play a little Gurunam Singh during your Kundalini yoga class…and feel a “Change”!
Those are the parts of Kundalini Yoga that stand out as different from what you encounter in a Hatha Yoga class. But, I think the real heart of it is that it’s the combination and the interaction of all of these tools — breath of fire, kriyas, chanting, dynamic postures, meditation, music (and there’s more I didn’t mention) — that makes Kundalini Kundalini.
For a more in depth understanding of the workings of Kundalini Yoga, check out the online course ‘The Fundamentals of Kundalini Yoga‘ taught by 24 master teachers.
(Author’s Note: Although I’ve landed in the Kundalini Camp, I wholeheartedly believe that any yoga you choose to practice is wonderful and beneficial.)
Yoga Styles De-Coded
Origin: Introduced in 15th-century India by Hindu sage, Yogi Swatmarama, Hatha poses-Downward-Facing Dog, Cobra, Eagle, and Wheel for example-make up most yoga sequences practiced today.
Philosophy: The goal of Hatha yoga is to bridge the body and mind with the breath in a series of physical poses-called asanas.
What to Expect: Prepare for a gentle routine that often includes Sun Salutations, balancing poses, forward bends, and back bends to work the body and focus the mind. These movements all lead up to the final relaxation-the blissful savasana-at the end of class.
Try it if…
… you want an easy-going class that will challenge without overwhelming.
Origin: One of the oldest forms of yoga, Ashtanga yoga was first recorded in ancient Indian manuscripts, but brought to life by K. Pattabhi Jois, who has been teaching it since 1948. Ashtanga (which literally translates to eight-limbed yoga) is influenced by Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, a yogic guideline for a meaningful life.
Philosophy: The Ashtanga technique is concerned with linking breath and movement-also known as vinyasa. The advanced practice utilizes the dristi (the gaze) and the bandhas (internal body locks), which assist in holding the challenging poses of the sequence.
What to Expect: Think of traditional Ashtanga as the zen form of yoga. You'll flow from pose to pose with your breath-no props, no music, and no self-help lecturing-staying present in the moment. You'll earn your savasana, the final relaxation pose, with plenty of arm strengthening chaturangas, inversions, and other advanced poses.
Try it if…
… you're looking for an old-school, kick-ass practice that's rooted in tradition rather than trend.
Origin: The iconic white turban-wearing Yogi Bhajan is the modern visionary who brought this ancient form of yoga to the West in 1969. Students flock to the Kundalini Research Institute in New Mexico for certification.
Philosophy: This mysterious form of yoga is focused on breathing and chanting-and less so on movement. Controlled breathing is practiced to create spiritual transformation by releasing the powerful Kundalini energy found at the base of the spine.
What to Expect: The Kundalini experience is quite different from your typical flow class. Prepare for intense breathwork that can leave the inexperienced feeling light-headed, but stick with it to enjoy a significant increase in energy and a calm of the mind by the end of practice.
Try it if…
… you're looking more than just a yoga body and want to work out your inner yogic spirit.
Origin:B.K.S Iyengar-considered the world's greatest living yoga teacher-is the creator of Iyengar yoga, which emerged in India in 1975. Yoga's popularity in the West can be attributed to Iyengar, whose technique is the most widely practiced form of Hatha yoga.
Philosophy: A precise focus on structural alignment (often with the aid of props, such as blocks and straps) is what gives Iyengar yoga a high level of integrity, and makes it the foundation of many spin-off styles of yoga.
What to Expect: Prepare to work your legs with lots of standing and balancing poses spread throughout the sequence. Teachers are very verbal, correcting misalignment and encouraging full engagement of legs and core in each pose. You'll emerge with a new strength and confidence that goes beyond the mat.
Try it if…
… you like explicit instruction. Or if you have the blues-this therapeutic practice is said to alleviate depression, anxiety, anger, and fatigue.
Origin:Judith Lasater, a PhD of Eastern-Western psychology, physical therapist, and a founder of Yoga Journal, is the authority on this relaxing, therapeutic form of yoga, which originated in the States the 1970s.
Philosophy: The goal is to combat the physical and mental effects of everyday stress and ease common ailments such as headaches, backaches, anxiety, and insomnia with the use of restful poses and deep breathing techniques.
What to Expect: Don't come prepared for a workout-these quiet classes are all about rejuvenating the body in a group "nap-time" environment. Expect to use lots of props (bolsters, blankets blocks and straps) to relax into passive poses while the teacher guides you through your body, encouraging release.
Try it if…
… you love the last ten minutes of a yoga class-savasana. The entire hour-long restorative class requires nothing but letting go.
Origin: In 1973, Choudhury Bikram brought this form of "hot yoga" to the United States, quickly attracting celebrities and hoards of devotees to create a multi-million dollar worldwide franchise.
Philosophy: More like boot camp than mediation hour, the goal of this vigorous form of yoga, according to Bikram, is simply to give organs, veins, muscles, and ligaments "everything they need for optimum health and maximized function."
What to Expect: Skip the yoga leggings and opt for shorts and a sports bra. The room is heated to 105 degrees to help you stretch deeper and release more toxins through a systematic routine of 26 set poses repeated throughout the strenuous 90-minute class.
Try it if…
… you've ever said yoga is "too easy."
Origin: This modern, intellectual style of yoga emerged from David Life and Sharon Gannon's well-known New York City studio in 1984.
Philosophy: "Unapologetically spiritual," Jivamukti was created to bring the depth of Eastern yogic philosophy to the everyday life of Westerns. Celebrating a non-violent lifestyle and the limitless potential of the individual is at the heart of this practice, which literally translates to liberation while living.
What to Expect: Enter the incense-filled studio, notice the framed photos of the rich Jivamukti guru lineage, and prepare for a fast-moving class set to a wide-range of music from the Beatles to Moby. Classes typically include Sanskrit chanting, meditation, breath work, and a spiritual theme woven throughout the 90-minute practice.
Try it if...
...you're looking to add more om to your down-dogs. Or, if you just hope to catch a glimpse of devoted students Russell Simmons,Sting, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Christy Turlington practicing next to you.
Origin: This ancient form of yoga is rooted in China, but has recently been modernized by Paul Grilley, the California-based yogi who is now synonymous with Yin yoga.
Philosophy: A slower, more introspective form of yoga, Yin focuses on deepening postures, stretching the connective tissues, and working to create greater flexibility.
What to Expect: Prepare to acquaint yourself with the hips, pelvis, and lower spine-and their level of tightness. You'll feel challenged to remain relaxed and focused in the large spaces of time you are held in the poses-sometimes up to ten minutes.
Try it If…
… you want to deepen your flexibility and target tight hamstrings, hips and back.
Baptiste Power Yoga
Origin: Inspired by the more fast-paced forms of yoga (Ashtanga, Iyengar and Bikram), bandana-wearing Baron Baptiste, a San Francisco native, created his own form yoga-loved by celebrities and professional athletes-in the early 1990s.
Philosophy: According to the founder, Baptiste Power Yoga is all about adaptation. Students are challenged to adjust to a series of Hatha-based poses that steadily, over time, build heat, transform the body, and create stronger muscles and alleviate tension.
What to Expect: No statues of Ganesha in this studio-Baptiste Power Yoga is more like your favorite gym class. Be prepared to sweat, sigh, and kick it up a notch higher than you ever thought you could.
Try it if…
… you call your yoga teacher an "instructor"-not a "guru."
Origin: Founded in 1997 by John Friend, Anusara is one of the fastest-growing forms of yoga with over 1,000 certified teachers and hundreds of thousands of devoted students around the world-inspiring Friend's nickname, the "Yoga Mogul."
Philosophy: Anusara focuses heavily on alignment-and what Friend calls the energy loops, which help students connect with their bodies and fine-tune their form. Strongly rooted in positive thinking and spirituality, Friend considered heart-centered Anusara to be the "yoga of yes."
What to Expect: Students leave feeling warm and fuzzy with a heat-producing exercise and uplifting mini-sermons of Anusara classes. Expect to practice with lots of Lululemon-wearing, Starbucks-sipping students enjoying motivational tidbits and attention to alignment in their every asana.
Try it if…
… you long to "find yourself" like Julia Roberts did in Eat, Pray, Love. The leader of the Ganeshpuri ashram depicted in the blockbuster movie is Friend's former guru.
Kundalini Yoga Vs. Hatha Yoga
Kundalini yoga and Hatha yoga share similar physical poses.
Image Credit: shironosov/iStock/Getty Images
The most popular form of yoga in the Western world today is Hatha yoga, but there are some other forms of yoga that have gained popularity. One such practice is called Kundalini yoga, which began to gain popularity in the late 1980s. Hatha yoga emphasizes the physical practice of yoga more than Kundalini, which incorporates mantras and meditation as foundational parts of its practice.
Kundalini Yoga Origins
Kundalini yoga was brought to the West by a man named Yogi Bhajan, who was deemed a Kundalini master at age 16. He emigrated from India in 1968 to Canada, then moved to Los Angeles and began teaching Kundalini yoga to Westerners. His goal was to make everyone healthy, happy and holy. Today, a non-profit organization appropriately named "3HO," after the healthy, happy and holy mantra, seeks to keep his goal alive.
While there are some aspects of Kundalini yoga that are similar to a more popular practice like Hatha, the core beliefs are different. Kundalini means energy that is coiled like a snake at the base of the spine, which is the location of the first of seven chakras in yoga. A chakra is a center of energy in the body. The goal of Kundalini yoga is to unravel that coiled energy at the base of the spine and unleash it up through the six other chakras. This is supposed to be very energizing and peaceful.
Kundalini Yoga Practice
A traditional Kundalini yoga practice includes an even distribution between breathing exercises, meditation and physical yoga poses. Kundalini yogis practice different types of breathing, such as the Breath of Fire, alternate nostril breathing, and Dog Breath, to name a few. They include a variety of mantras to help those who are new to meditation cope with the silence of meditation.
Since Hatha is the physical practice of yoga, the physical poses of Kundalini yoga are taken from Hatha. The biggest difference is that Kundalini yogis incorporate their mantras and breathing exercises with physical poses. This combination of different aspects of yoga is called a "kriya," which means "action."
A kriya usually has a certain focus, like a mental or physical health benefit. Some of the mental health benefits of kriyas are eliminating anger or finding intuition. Some of the kriyas focused on physical health help with digestion or decreasing lower back pain.
Kundalini yoga has more emphasis on meditation and mantras than Hatha yoga.
Image Credit: Petardj/iStock/Getty Images
Hatha Yoga Origins
Hatha yoga is the most popular version of yoga in the West. The practice is derived from Tantric Yoga, which believes that enlightenment can be attained through connection with your physical self. There are some estimates that Hatha yoga is 5,000 years old, but the oldest known Hatha text was written in the 15th century by Swami Swatamarama, according to Yoga Basics.
Hatha is really an umbrella term meaning the physical practice of yoga -- so anything from vinyasa to Bikram are technically Hatha. Today, a "Hatha" class listed on a schedule will mean a gentle sequence of postures.
Hatha Yoga Practice
A typical Hatha yoga class involves some breath work or brief meditation and then flows through different yoga poses. Typical Hatha yoga poses include Downward Dog, Child's pose, Mountain pose and the three Warrior poses, just to name a few.
The focus is on the various poses and the pace is generally slow, which allows you time to get into the correct position. Most classes labeled "Hatha yoga" are just not fast-paced and physically demanding style of yoga.
Hatha yoga and Kundalini yoga share many of the same physical poses and some of the same breathing exercises. Hatha yogis may even use some of the same mantras that a Kundalini yogi would. The two types of yoga are similar in that they share many of the same techniques, but the way that their sessions are structured makes them very different.
If you're looking to work on your physical self through stretching and gentle strengthening, Hatha yoga is probably best for you. A Kundalini yoga class is better for someone looking to have a spiritual experience in their yoga class through meditation, mantras, and some physical poses.
Find Your Match Among the Many Types of Yoga
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As studies continue to reveal yoga’s many health benefits, this centuries-old Eastern philosophy is fast becoming the new soul mate for workout enthusiasts. Contemporary devotees trying out different types of yoga range from high-powered execs trying to keep hearts beating on a healthy note to image-conscious Hollywood stars striving for sleek physiques. Even prominent athletes are adding yoga to their training regime to develop balanced, injury-free muscles and spines.
To applaud yoga for its physical benefits alone would only diminish what this entire system has to offer as a whole. By practicing yoga on a regular basis, you may be surprised to find that you’re building much more than a strong, flexible body.
“Americans are usually drawn to yoga as a way to keep fit at first, but the idea behind the physical practice of yoga is to encourage a deeper mind-body awareness,” explains New York yoga teacher and author Beryl Bender Birch. “Healing and balancing the physical body helps bring clarity and focus to the mind as well.”
Initially, the sole purpose of practicing yoga was to experience spiritual enlightenment. In Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), yoga translates as “yoke” or “union,” describing the integration of mind and body to create a greater connection with one’s own pure, essential nature.
ReadBeyond Power Yoga: 8 Levels of Practice for Body and Soul
Classes that have gained popularity in the United States usually teach one of the many types of hatha yoga, a physical discipline which focuses mainly on asanas (postures) and breathwork in order to prepare the body for spiritual pursuits.
To get started on your individual yoga quest, it’s helpful to begin with a list that clearly prioritizes what needs you want to fulfill: Are you looking to sweat your way into a lean form, or does a gentler, more meditative approach sound more appealing?
“Not all practices fit into nice little cubby holes,” warns Bender Birch. “There’s a great deal of crossover among the various yoga schools, and there’s even a diversity in teaching approaches within each discipline.”
Try attending a few different types of yoga classes, and you’ll quickly discover the right match to suit your needs. Below you’ll find brief descriptions of some of the hatha yoga types that are being practiced in the United States.
Vinyasa-style yoga combines a series of flowing postures with rhythmic breathing for an intense body-mind workout. Here are a few different types:
The practice of Ashtanga that’s getting mainstream attention today is a fast-paced series of sequential postures practiced by the late yoga master K. Pattabhi Jois, who lived in Mysore, India. Jois was later accused of assault, but yogis continue to practice Ashtanga worldwide, making it one of the most popular schools of yoga around.
The system is based on six series of asanas which increase in difficulty, allowing students to work at their own pace. In class, you’ll be led nonstop through one or more of the series. There’s no time for adjustments with this type of yoga—you’ll be encouraged to breathe as you move from pose to pose. Be prepared to sweat.
In 1995, Bender Birch set out to challenge Americans’ understanding of what it really means to be fit with her book Power Yoga. Bender Birch’s intention was to give a Western spin to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, a challenging and disciplined series of poses designed to create heat and energy flow.
“Most people wouldn’t take a class called Ashtanga Yoga, because they had no idea what it meant. Power Yoga, on the other hand, was something Americans could relate to and know that they’d get a good workout,” says Bender Birch.
This type of yoga’s popularity has spread to health clubs across the country and has taken on a broad range of applications. The common thread is a rigorous workout that develops strength and flexibility while keeping students on the move. For specifics, consult individual instructors before signing up for a class. For more information visit Thom Birch and Beryl Bender Birch’s website, power-yoga.com.
ReadJourney Into Power
Looking for a highly meditative but physically challenging form of yoga? Try Jivamukti. You won’t be alone.
In 2020 the Jivamukti Yoga Center in New York City closed its doors due to the pandemic. But prior to that, more than 2,000 people visited each week. Its popularity lies in the teaching approach of cofounders David Life and Sharon Gannon, who opened their first studio in 1986, combining an Ashtanga background with a variety of ancient and modern spiritual teachings. In addition to vinyasa-style asanas, Jivamukti classes include chanting, meditation, readings, music, and affirmations.
“Over the course of time, students [who take a Jivamukti class] will get a broad yoga education,” Life promises. “One week, a class may focus on a particular asana, while the next week’s theme may discuss more metaphysical issues.”
Beginner classes start by emphasizing standing poses, followed by instruction on forward bends, backbends, and inversions. These classes also introduce chants.
ReadJivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul
Kali Ray TriYoga
A series of flowing, dancelike movements intuitively came to Kali Ray (Kaliji) while leading a group meditation in 1980. In 1986, after developing these movements into seven distinct levels, Kaliji established the TriYoga Center in Santa Cruz, California (it has since closed), offering a system of yoga that is taught in a meditative environment.
The first level is a slow, relaxing, and rejuvenating practice. The class, often accompanied by music, focuses on natural alignment and breath within the flow, and ends with meditation. A union of asana (postures), pranayama (breathwork), and mudra (seals), this practice is deeply meditative, promoting relaxation and inner peace.
White Lotus Yoga is the collaborative effort of Ganga White and Tracey Rich, who meld two eclectic backgrounds and years of experience into a nondogmatic teaching approach dedicated to helping students develop a well-balanced personal practice. At their 40-acre retreat in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santa Barbara, California, this husband and wife team offers a complete yoga-immersion experience with programs ranging from weekend and weeklong getaways to 200- and 300-hour teacher training programs.
White Lotus Yoga is a flowing vinyasa practice which ranges from gentle to vigorous depending on your ability or comfort level. In addition, class formats incorporate alignment, breath, and the theoretical understanding of yoga.
Attention to Detail
This yoga type is the trademark of Iyengar Yoga—an intense focus on the subtleties of each posture.
In an Iyengar class, poses (especially standing postures) are typically held much longer than in other schools of yoga, so that practitioners can pay close attention to the precise muscular and skeletal alignment this system demands. Also specific to Iyengar, which is probably the most popular type of yoga practiced in the United States, is the use of props, including belts, chairs, blocks, and blankets, to help accommodate any special needs such as injuries or structural imbalances.
“In forward bends, for example, if someone’s hamstrings aren’t flexible, he or she can use a prop to help extend the spine. The wall is often used for support in a variety of poses,” explains Janet MacLeod, who teaches at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco. “Using props gives the student support, allowing them more freedom to breathe deeply into the pose.”
ReadB.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health
Photo: Getty Images
This method, developed by Noah Mazé, includes detailed anatomy studies and intelligent sequencing to create classes that are safe. This approach emphasizes a skillful ordering of postures. Workshops and trainings also include yoga philosophy to help students to think critically and to approach their practices with inquiring minds. In asana classes, you will:
- Practice more familiar shapes and movements before less familiar ones.
- Progress from symmetrical poses that establish balance (such as Warrior Pose I) to asymmetrical poses (like Warrior Pose III) that challenge stability. This will create poise to move from more grounded shapes to less anchored poses.
- Repeat architectural shapes to increase familiarity and prepare the body for more challenging postures. For example, in a Maze Method class, you will likely do core work that in some way mimics the shape and key actions of a peak pose, but from a supine position or Tabletop or Plank position.
- Establish key actions in simple poses, then repeat them as you move on to more complex or difficult poses. Props can facilitate this process.
- Work on peak poses between two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through class, when your body is prepared but not too fatigued.
- Use closing poses to lengthen muscles that have been shortened by weight-bearing and contracting poses done earlier in the sequence. If early shapes are asymmetrical with bigger ranges of motion, let your closing postures prioritize symmetrical shapes with a smaller range of motion to re-ground the body and counterbalance the stretches.
Healing Types of Yoga
Integrative Yoga Therapy
In 1993, Joseph Le Page, M.A., founded Integrative Yoga Therapy (IYT) in San Francisco. Le Page developed a yoga teacher-training program designed specifically for medical and mainstream wellness settings, including hospitals and rehabilitation centers.
Two-week IYT intensives are offered worldwide, training health-care professionals, yoga teachers, and bodyworkers to adapt gentle postures, guided imagery, and breathing techniques for treating specific health issues such as heart disease, psychiatric disorders, and AIDS.
“Healing happens through connection with the deepest part of who we are,” says Le Page about this type of yoga. “The program emphasizes the healing process in detail by addressing all levels of the patient—physical, emotional, and spiritual. An example of this therapeutic application is to teach patients with heart disease to become more aware of themselves and their condition at all levels, using yogic lifestyle changes, breathing techniques, asanas suitable for their condition, guided imagery for the circulatory system, and meditation with a focus on healing the heart.”
As we travel through life, it’s no mystery that we are constantly evolving on all levels—physically, emotionally, and intellectually. So why not tailor a yoga routine that will help address and integrate these transitions? Viniyoga, in fact, is an empowering and transformative type of yoga designed to do just that.
In this gentle practice, created by the late T.K.V. Desikachar, poses are synchronized with the breath in sequences determined by the needs of the practitioner. According to Gary Kraftsow, owner and teacher at The American Viniyoga Institute on the Hawaiian island Maui, Viniyoga is a methodology for developing an integrated practice for each person’s needs as they grow and change.
“As children, our practice should support balanced growth and development of the body and mind. As adults, it should protect our health and promote our ability to be productive in the world. And as seniors, it should help us maintain health and inspire a deeper quest for self-realization,” says Kraftsow.
This style of yoga teaches different ways of doing familiar poses, emphasizing the opening of the spine by beginning at the tailbone and progressing through each spinal area. Every pose integrates the foundational principles of asana, anatomy, and yoga philosophy, and emphasizes the development of transcendent inner experience, which is called svaroopa by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra. This is a consciousness-oriented yoga that also promotes healing and transformation.
Svaroopa Yoga was developed by Rama Berch, who founded and directs the Master Yoga Academy and created the yoga program for Dr. Deepak Chopra’s Center for Well Being, both located in La Jolla, California. Berch says teaching asanas became increasingly frustrating, because the students seemed to be trying to “impose the pose upon their body rather than unfolding it from within.” She began looking for ways to guide her students to the deeper effects of each asana, speaking of them as “angles that provide opening, rather than poses to be learned.” New students find this a very approachable style, often beginning in chair poses that are comfortable and have a deep healing effect in the spine.
When you take a Bikram yoga class, expect to sweat. Each studio is designed to replicate yoga’s birthplace climate, with temperatures pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Why the sauna-like effect? “Because sweat helps move the toxins out of your body,” explains Radha Garcia, owner of Bikram’s Yoga College of India in Boulder, Colorado. “Your body is like a sponge. To cleanse it, you need to wring it out to allow fresh blood and oxygen to circulate and keep your immune system running smoothly.”
This method of staying healthy from the inside out was designed by Bikram Choudhury, who sequenced a series of 26 traditional hatha postures to address the proper functioning of every bodily system. According to ABC News, since 2013, six women have come forward accusing Choudhury of alleged sexual assault and rape. Choudhury denies the allegations, in addition to denouncing the Netflix documentary itself.
Choudhury first visited the United States from India in 1971 on a trip sponsored by the American Medical Association to demonstrate his work using yoga to treat chronically ill patients. Choudhury continues teaching students of all ages and abilities from his studio in Los Angeles where he also conducts a certified teacher’s training program. For more information, visit bikramyoga.com.
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is a combination of classical yoga and elements of contemporary client-centered and body-mind psychology. It can facilitate a powerful release of physical tensions and emotional blocks. Through assisted yoga postures, guided breathing, and nondirective dialogue, you can experience the connection of your physical and emotional selves, encouraging release, personal growth, and the healing of body, mind, and spirit. For more information, visit pryt.com.
Paul Grilley explains that there are two principles that differentiate yin practice from more yang approaches to yoga: holding poses for at least several minutes and stretching the connective tissue around a joint. To do the latter, the overlying muscles must be relaxed. If the muscles are tense, the connective tissue won’t receive the proper stress. You can demonstrate this by gently pulling on your right middle finger, first with your right hand tensed and then with the hand relaxed. When the hand is relaxed, you will feel a stretch in the joint where the finger joins the palm; the connective tissue that knits the bones together is stretching. When the hand is tensed, there will be little or no movement across this joint, but you will feel the muscles straining against the pull.
We must remember that connective tissue is different from muscle and needs to be exercised differently. Instead of the rhythmiccontraction and release that best stretches muscle, connective tissue responds best to a slow, steady load. If you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer and stronger—which is exactly what you want.
Although connective tissue is found in every bone, muscle, and organ, it’s most concentrated at the joints. In fact, if you don’t use your full range of joint flexibility, the connective tissue will slowly shorten to the minimum length needed to accommodate your activities. Try Yin Yoga to explore new ways of caring for your body and to complement your more active, yang practice.
Calling all prop and relaxation enthusiasts! Pioneered by Judith Hanson Lasater, restorative yoga is a restful practice that holds yoga poses for several minutes. This approach supports the body by using props such as yoga blocks, blankets, and bolsters. Restorative yoga aims to make the body comfortable so that practitioners can focus on the meditative qualities of yoga.
This approach sets the stage for the body and mind to release tension. Restorative yoga practice should never feel like work. Set up your props so that you feel supported, notice your breath, and cultivate gentle awareness of any thoughts or sensations that arise during your session.
Ease Into Enlightenment with these Types of Yoga
At its core, Sivananda Yoga is geared toward helping students answer the age-old question “Who am I?” This yoga practice is based on the philosophy of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, India, who taught disciples to “serve, love, give, purify, meditate, realize.” In order to achieve this goal, Sivananda advocated a path that would recognize and synthesize each level of the human experience including the intellect, heart, body, and mind.
In 1957, his disciple Swami Vishnu-devananda introduced these teachings to an American audience. A few years later, Vishnu-devananda founded the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers, summarizing Sivananda’s system into five main principles: proper exercise (asanas); proper breathing (pranayama); proper relaxation (Savasana); proper diet (vegetarian); and positive thinking (Vedanta) and meditation (dhyana).
There are more than 80 centers worldwide, as well as ashrams and teacher-training programs, all of which follow a hatha yoga practice emphasizing 12 basic postures to increase strength and flexibility of the spine. Chanting, pranayama, and meditation are also included, helping students to release stress and blocked energy. For more information, visit sivananda.org.
In 1966, the Reverend Sri Swami Satchidananda introduced an entire generation of young people to his yogic philosophy: “an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life.” His goal was to help people integrate yoga’s teachings into their everyday work and relationships, which he hoped would promote greater peace and tolerance worldwide.
“Integral Yoga uses classical hatha postures, which are meant to be performed as a meditation, balancing physical effort and relaxation,” says Swami Ramananda, president of the New York Integral Yoga Institute in Manhattan. In addition to a gentle asana practice, classes also incorporate guided relaxation, breathing practices, sound vibration (repetition of mantra or chant), and silent meditation. For more information, visit integralyogaofnewyork.org.
For those who aspire to loftier goals than simply building a hard body, Ananda Yoga provides a tool for spiritual growth while releasing unwanted tensions. During the 1960s, Swami Kriyananda developed Ananda as a particular style of yoga after returning to California following a period of intense yoga training under Guru Paramhansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi). “The most unique part of this system is the use of silent affirmations while holding a pose,” says Rich McCord, director of Ananda Yoga’s teacher-training program at The Expanding Light retreat center in Nevada City, California. McCord explains that the affirmations are intended to help deepen and enhance the subtle benefits of each asana, providing a technique for aligning body, energy, and mind.
In a typical class, instructors guide their students through a series of gentle hatha postures designed to move energy upward to the brain, preparing the body for meditation. Classes also focus on proper alignment, easeful posture transitions, and controlled breathing exercises (pranayama) to facilitate an exploration into the inner dimensions of yoga and self-awareness. For more information, visit expandinglight.org.
ReadKriya: Yoga Sets, Meditations and Classic Kriyas
Kundalini Yoga, stemming from the tantra yoga path, at one time remained a closely guarded secret practiced only by a select few. In 1969, however, Yogi Bhajan decided to change this tradition by bringing Kundalini to the West. Yogi Bhajan’s reasoning was based on the philosophy that it’s everybody’s birthright to be “healthy, happy and holy,” and he believed Kundalini would help spiritual seekers from all religious paths tap into their greater potential.
The practice of Kundalini Yoga incorporates postures, dynamic breathing techniques, and chanting and meditating on mantras such as “Sat Nam” (meaning “I am truth”). Practitioners concentrate on awakening the energy at the base of the spine and drawing it upward through each of the seven chakras. For more information, visit 3HO.org.
ISHTA, an acronym for the Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda, is the yoga brainchild of South African native Alan Finger, who currently runs workshops at his yoga studio in Irvington, New York. Finger blends 37 years of teaching experience with his eclectic studies under Sivananda and the tantric hermit Barati, helping students of all ages and abilities to get in touch with life’s boundless energy.
“The sequence of postures is designed to help students integrate their individual sensations with a life energy force that’s beyond sensing and perceiving,” says Los Angeles-based ISHTA instructor Rod Stryker. “It’s a tool for visualization and a way to become more fully oneself.”
A typical ISHTA class mixes flowing Ashtanga-style asanas with the precise method of Iyengar, while including pranayama and meditation exercises as well. Instructors begin classes with warm-up poses, then gradually build to a more challenging practice. For more information, visit beyoga.com.
Located in the Berkshire region of Western Massachusetts, the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health has helped guide thousands of people along their path of self-discovery by teaching a system of yoga developed over a 20-year period by yogi Amrit Desai and the Kripalu staff.
During the 1970s, while studying under Indian guru Kripaluvananda, Amrit felt his body begin to move in a spontaneous flow of postures without the direction of his mind. This deep release of prana (life’s energy force) brought about a profound transformation in Amrit, so he developed these movements into three stages of practice which he could then teach to others.
The three stages of Kripalu yoga include: willful practice (a focus on alignment, breath, and the presence of consciousness); willful surrender (a conscious holding of the postures to the level of tolerance and beyond, deepening concentration and focus of internal thoughts and emotions); and meditation in motion (the body’s complete release of internal tensions and a complete trust in the body’s wisdom to perform the postures and movements needed to release physical and mental tensions and enter deep meditation). For more information, visit kripalu.org.
Tibetan Yoga is a term used among Buddhists to describe a range of tantric meditation and pranayama practices. Though little is known in the West about the physical practices of Tibetan Yoga, in 1939, Peter Kelder published Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth, describing a sequence of postures of Tibetan origin called “The Five Rites of Rejuvenation.” In 1994, yoga teacher Christopher Kilham published a modern version of these exercises called The Five Tibetans: Five Dynamic Exercises for Health, Energy, and Personal Power (Inner Traditions). Composed of five flowing movements, this active workout keeps students on the move. Beginners start with 10 or 12 repetitions and progressively work their way up to the 21 repetitions of the full routine. Classes may be difficult to find.
Tibetan Buddhist monk Tarthang Tulku adapted another ancient movement practice for the modern West called Kum Nye. More contemplative in nature than the vigorous Five Tibetans, Kum Nye strives to integrate body and mind and means “interaction with the subtle body.” For more information, see Tulku’s Kum Nye Relaxation or visit nyingma.org.
Energy Medicine Yoga
As the creator of Energy Medicine Yoga, yoga teacher Lauren Walker helps her students find balance, calm, and healing by combining EM and yoga. This approach weaves yoga practices with varied EM tools including acupressure, vocalizations, tracing, and tapping to ground and strengthen the body, clear the mind, balance the endocrine system, boost the immune system, and help you heal from anything—simply by balancing energies in the body.
Energy Medicine aims to rebalance the body’s energy systems to facilitate healing and vitality. Western medicine still cannot measure these subtle energies, but based on quantum physics and client experiences, Lauren Walker’s teacher, Donna Eden, and her thousands of students and teachers, believe that life-force imbalances are the root cause of illness—and that working with the body’s energy fields can influence the function, growth, and repair of cells, tissue, and organs. Eden, who says she can see things like auras, says, “Changing impaired energy patterns may be the most efficient, least invasive way to improve the vitality of [the physical body] and psyche.” Once Walker began adding Eden’s Energy Medicine techniques into my own yoga practice, my spiritual, mental, and physical well-being increased exponentially.
If you are browsing through a yoga studio’s brochure of classes and the yoga offered is simply described as “hatha,” chances are the teacher is offering an eclectic blend of two or more of the styles described above. It’s a good idea to ask the teacher or director of the studio where he or she was trained and if the poses are held for a length of time or if you will be expected to move quickly from one pose to the next, and if meditation or chanting is included. This will give you a better idea if the class is vigorous or more meditative.
Please note that we independently source all of the products that we feature on yogajournal.com. If you buy from the links on our site, we may receive an affiliate commission, which in turn supports our work.
Vs vinyasa kundalini
Yoga: a beginner's guide to the different styles
The myriad benefits of yoga – including lower blood pressure, increased strength and bone density and reduced anxiety – should be enough to get anyone on the mat. However, as a yoga teacher I meet many people who hesitate to embrace this ancient form of fitness due to some pervasive myths. Yoga is too slow and boring; it's practised in stuffy, incense-filled rooms – or in 90C heat; it's just for girls and people who are into chanting. And – most misguided of all – yoga is only for the flexible.
The truth is that there is a class to suit you whatever your body type or temperament. Yoga develops strength and balance as well as flexibility – the latter is a consequence of practising yoga, not a prerequisite. No one has turned up to their first yoga class (unless they were a dancer or a gymnast) able to execute advanced yoga poses.
All yoga styles create a feeling of lightness, ease and relaxation. But to get the most benefit and the most enjoyment, you need to find a yoga style and a teacher that suits you. For example, if you're already doing lots of strength training your best choice is likely to be a yoga style that focuses more on flexibility. That way, you can balance your fitness routine. Perhaps try yin or hatha yoga. Those who have an injury or live with a chronic medical condition such as arthritis might want to try Iyengar yoga, or one-to-one sessions with a teacher where you will be able to focus on alignment and your unique needs. If you are drawn to experience the spiritual side, you could try jivamukti. And for those who are relatively healthy and want a challenge, ashtanga vinyasa or vinyasa flow might be a good choice.
Before you make a decision, try a few of the most common styles of yoga that you might see on a yoga studio (or gym) timetable. Some classes – marked general or open level – are suitable for all. This is how I started my yoga journey – by watching and copying. When you think you've settled on a style of yoga you enjoy, try a few different teachers. All teachers have their own unique focus based on their personalities, their own yoga practice and where and with whom they've trained.
Yoga can be expensive, especially in the larger cities. The most cost-effective way is to take advantage of studio offers. Newcomers can sign up for deals such as £20 for 14 consecutive days of classes. Aim to go to a class every few days – later, you can consider committing to a course. Regular attendance is needed to really reap the benefits. A good teacher will not do his or her own practice at the front of the room. They should be roaming around adjusting, correcting and giving alternatives to people who cannot do the full pose or have an injury. They should be helping you to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can't. A good teacher won't expect you to be anything other than a beginner and they want you to have – and enjoy – a beginner's experience.
A guide to the most common yoga styles
Iyengar and ashtanga yoga come from the same lineage – the teachers who developed these styles (BKS Iyengar and the late Pattabhi Jois) were both taught by Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Many of the asanas (postures) are the same, but the approach is different. Iyengar yoga is great for learning the subtleties of correct alignment. Props – belts, blocks and pillow-like bolsters – help beginners get into poses with correct alignment, even when they're new to them, injured or simply stiff. Anusara yoga is a more modern form of Iyengar.
Ashtanga is a more vigorous style of yoga. It offers a series of poses, each held for only five breaths and punctuated by a half sun salutation to keep up the pace. You can either attend a regular class or the more traditional Mysore style (see below).
Ashtanga yoga taught one-to-one in a group setting. Students turn up at any time within a three-hour window to do their own practice as taught by their teacher. This is my preferred style of learning yoga and, I think, the safest and most traditional. You go at your own pace, on your own breath.
Teachers lead classes that flow from one pose to the next without stopping to talk about the finer points of each pose. That way, students come away with a good workout as well as a yoga experience. If you're new to yoga, it is a good idea to take a few classes in a slower style of yoga first to get a feel for the poses. Vinyasa flow is really an umbrella term for many other styles. Some studios call it flow yoga, flow-style yoga, dynamic yoga or vinyasa flow. It is influenced by ashtanga yoga.
Bikram yoga is the favourite of anyone who loves to sweat. It was created by Indian yogi Bikram Choudhury in the early 1970s. He designed a sequence of 26 yoga poses to stretch and strengthen the muscles as well as compress and "rinse" the organs of the body. The poses are done in a heated room to facilitate the release of toxins. Every bikram class you go to, anywhere in the world, follows the same sequence of 26 poses.
Kundalini yoga was designed to awaken energy in the spine. Kundalini yoga classes include meditation, breathing techniques such as alternate nostril breathing, and chanting, as well as yoga postures.
Hatha yoga really just means the physical practice of yoga (asanas as opposed to, say, chanting). Hatha yoga now commonly refers to a class that is not so flowing and bypasses the various traditions of yoga to focus on the asanas that are common to all. It is often a gentle yoga class.
Yin yoga comes from the Taoist tradition and focuses on passive, seated postures that target the connective tissues in the hips, pelvis and lower spine. Poses are held for anywhere between one and 10 minutes. The aim is to increase flexibility and encourage a feeling of release and letting go. It is a wonderful way to learn the basics of meditation and stilling the mind. As such, it is ideal for athletic types who need to release tension in overworked joints, and it is also good for those who need to relax.
Restorative yoga is all about healing the mind and body through simple poses often held for as long as 20 minutes, with the help of props such as bolsters, pillows and straps. It is similar to yin yoga, but with less emphasis on flexibility and more on relaxing.
Founded in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon, Jivamukti means "liberation while living". This is a vinyasa-style practice with themed classes, often including chanting, music and scripture readings. Jivamukti teachers encourage students to apply yogic philosophy to their daily life.
Geraldine Beirne is a yoga teacher based in London, yogawithgeraldine.com.
How is Kundalini Different from Hatha/Vinyasa? Read This.
Kundalini yoga is unlike any other type of yoga that you might practice. Where hatha yoga and vinyasa flow might focus on the physical exercises (asana) that yoga has to offer, Kundalini focuses on the spiritual practice of yoga.
Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds.
Unlike what western philosophies believe, eastern philosophies believe that your spiritual practice has a lot more to do with you, your consciousness, and how you experience the present moment.
And so Kundalini helps you connect with yourself and your consciousness through a set of practices (or kriyas), like meditation, mantras (like the Adi Mantra), breathing exercises, and certain postures.
This is the main idea behind Kundalini awakening. The awakening of Kundalini is basically the awakening of your own awareness and consciousness.
Pretty cool, right?
Before you begin your Kundalini process, though, take some time to understand its history, how it works, and how you can use it in your own spiritual practice.
It’s all beautiful and inspiring, making the entire Kundalini experience even more powerful.
So, are you ready? Let’s dive in.
What is Kundalini?
Yoga has been around for thousands of years and is a totally different practice than what you might experience today.
In fact, it’s meant to be just as much a spiritual practice as it is a physical one (if not more). According to the eight limbs of yoga, the postures (asana) is just one aspect of yoga. The rest have to do with the spiritual stuff. All of it stems from ancient Tantric principles, which are meant to help you live your fullest life.
And by full, they mean a fully conscious life. Kundalini yoga is the practice that will help get you there. This is why it is known as the ‘yoga of awareness or consciousness’, because it gives you the exact tools needed to attain consciousness.
This is the idea behind Kundalini awakening.
Kundalini yoga is not an original form of yoga. Its origins aren’t totally clear, though Kundalini energy was referenced in the Upanishads, which is a collection of ancient Vedic texts that serve as a sort of historical account of spiritual practice in India. Kundalini yoga, as it’s understood, was almost a secretive practice that was passed on from teacher to students for years and years. It was shared as a sort of ‘body science’, where certain kriyas (or practices) helped prepare the body for the movement of energy throughout.
These teachings were eventually passed down to Yogi Bhajan, who is responsible for consolidating it into a structured practice and bringing it to the west.
Kundalini yoga as we know it today pulls on various yogic principles and mechanics together to form a comprehensive practice that would allow practitioners to not only commune with God, but to also experience the feeling of God in the mind (aka the awakening of Kundalini).
The first is Bhakti yoga, which is the practice of devotion and is why chanting is an important part of the Kundalini process. The second is Raja yoga, which is the practice of meditation, mental power, and control. The third is Shakti yoga, which is the ultimate expression of power.
Together, these three forms of yoga bring us the physical postures, deep meditation, pranayama breathing exercises, and chanting that make up Kundalini yoga.
What is Kundalini Energy?
One of the most beautiful things about Hinduism is the use of storytelling to convey an idea, feeling, or experience. And the most beautiful (and fundamental) story of all is that of Shiva and Shakti, which is where Kundalini energy comes from.
The story goes that Shiva, the all-knowing and steadfast source of power and consciousness, had been in deep meditation for thousands of years. Being the unmoving observer that he was, he sat in silent observation while Shakti, who represents divine energy, danced for him. She longed to be united with him so intensely that she continued to dance for thousands more years, in hopes of provoking Shiva to join her. She felt, in all of her longing, that the two of them belonged together.
Eventually, he does wake and joins her in a harmonious union, which is said to be how all of nature was created.
Her divine energy, with the ability to create and grow, combined with his reliable source of power and consciousness, created enough swirling energy that life formed.
This life comes from a life force energy, or prana, that had previously sat dormant, thanks to Shiva’s unmoving period of meditation. Just like a snake sits coiled around itself when it is dormant, so too does this life force energy.
In terms of Kundalini yoga, prana sits coiled at the base of the spinal column, waiting for an awakening. Just like Shakti danced for Shiva, pulling him out of his dormancy, Kundalini yoga ‘dances’ for our dormant energy, pulling it upwards along the spinal column, eventually awakening Kundalini energy. As it moves along the spinal column, it passes through seven major chakras, which is why many Kundalini classes focus on the chakras. A stagnant or blocked chakra can interfere with energy flow, getting in the way of your awakening.
So the entire process of awakening the Kundalini involves a set of practices that allow that flow of energy.
You might also like: What Are The Chakras And Kundalini Energy Flow? Here Is My Complete Breakdown.
Kundalini Awakening (And Kundalini Syndrome)
Okay, so we know all about this life force energy, or prana. But what exactly is an ‘awakening’ and what are the symptoms of Kundalini?
The entire Kundalini process really just comes down to the movement of energy. Unless we bother to awaken the energy, it will sit dormant at the base of our spine, near the Root Chakra (Muladhara), coiled up like a snake.
With certain physical exercises and postures, breathing exercises (aka pranayama), chanting mantras, and meditation, we can awaken the sleeping serpent and generate some movement.
Movement for the sake of movement is not necessarily a good thing. Too much disruption can create an extremely unpleasant experience.
Think about it.
Think back to the last time there was major upheaval in your life that you just weren’t ready for. Maybe you changed your job, ended a relationship, move to somewhere new, changed your diet… or all of the above! While these changes may not be bad (ultimately), they can be extremely difficult to handle.
That’s why so many people go on a major soul-searching experience after a major breakup…
…because something deep within was awakened and they feel it in their soul to reconcile with it.
So when we venture to awaken Kundalini, we need to be mindful of the path that prana must take to both enter and exit our subtle energy body (basically, the energetic body that works within our physical body). We do this through our exercises, pranayama breathing, chanting mantras, and meditation.
Some of these practices, or kriyas, will leave you feeling totally blissed out and in deep relaxation. Other times, it might trigger you (aka Kundalini syndrome).
Because it’s meant to trigger your ego, to shed light on it, to push your buttons and help you become more aware of it. And that doesn’t always feel that good.
For me, the first time I ever practiced Kundalini yoga, I became very angry and agitated. I basically had an emotional breakdown in the middle of the class because my mind wanted to stop doing the yoga postures and breath exercises…
…which is a perfect reflection of how I handle difficult situations in my life.
But this is the power of Kundalini and what many of the benefits of Kundalini come back to. It sheds light on all those little demons that cling onto your mind, the ones that make it impossible to progress in any self-development.
The Kundalini kriya of different breathing techniques, chanting mantras, or holding certain Kundalini yoga poses, is meant to reveal your ego and help you move beyond it.
And when you do, when you’re able to be an active observer of your life instead of a victim of it, that is the awakening.
So, What is Kundalini Yoga Anyway?
Ever wondered how a Kundalini yoga practice is different from the kind of yoga you do now?
Well, it’s a powerful form of yoga and is indeed very different from vinyasa style or hatha yoga, which often focus on the physical exercises of yoga more than the breath exercises or mantra chanting.
Though it’s certainly still a form of yoga, it’s not the kind that you’re used to. It’s more of a spiritual experience, using asana, pranayama breathing, and mantra chanting to awaken Kundalini energy within you.
So how exactly does that work?
Here’s the 411…
How is Kundalini Yoga Different?
If you’re not totally sure what types of yoga you’re currently practicing, it’s probably some form of vinyasa style or hatha yoga.
At least, these are the go-to forms of yoga typically practiced at most gyms and yoga studios.
Because flow Vinyasa yoga and hatha yoga can be adapted to many levels and move through the basic yoga postures to increase both flexibility and balance. Basically, they’re solid forms of yoga.
But you’ve likely heard of the power of Kundalini yoga and all of the divine healing benefits that come with it (aka awakening the Kundalini, vital prana energy).
Not only that, but practitioners of Kundalini yoga swear that it helps them in all areas of life, including stress, anxiety, relationships, abundance, relaxation and more. Kundalini yoga helps them calm the mind and balance all that swirling energy that sometimes takes over in our day-to-day tasks.
And I gotta say, it’s true. I experience the benefits of Kundalini yoga every single day. Heck, I have experienced the healing benefits so much that I even created an entire prenatal yoga course around it.
Why is Kundalini Yoga dangerous?
Kundalini meditation and yoga are not dangerous when practiced safely and correctly. Any Kundalini yoga teacher worth their salt will know how to guide students through this ancient practice safely and will know when to scale back for beginners. A typical Kundalini yoga class will include a hand mudra, breathwork, meditation, and different kriya techniques.
Each Kundalini kriya is designed by Yogi Bhajan and has been passed down from one Kundalini yoga teacher to the next. So your standard Kundalini class won’t unknowingly create some bad energy or physical danger if it follows the guidelines of this ancient practice.
That being said, my very first Kundalini yoga class was so intense and so disturbing that it wrecked me for a few days. Though I was safe and healthy, I was not mentally well. I wasn’t used to working with Kundalini energy and the breathing technique used in the class was far too advanced for me. Though the yoga instructor should have noticed me struggling and helped me, she did not (which is NOT a good practice for yoga instructors!).
So if you begin to feel unwell during this practice, slow down and observe. While this practice is not dangerous, it can be powerful.
What is Kundalini Yoga good for?
Kundalini yoga provides a sort of spiritual awakening, at best, and boosted pranic energy with a steady practice. Through a Kundalini yoga practice, the yogi moves spiritual energy along the spine where the chakras lie. Connected to the Earth through the root chakra at the base of the spine, the kriyas used in the practice are meant to facilitate movement of the Earth energy through the chakras via the root chakra. When this movement of spiritual energy begins, there can be a lot of physical, emotional, and spiritual changes. This process of awakening Kundalini energy can be extremely powerful and life-changing.
Can beginners do Kundalini Yoga?
Absolutely! Many of the kriyas are safe enough for beginners, though they might be uncomfortable at first. Even celebrities practice Kundalini yoga. Most yoga studio classes will be designed for beginners and many of my online videos are perfect for people new to Kundalini.
The 3 Key Characteristics of Kundalini Yoga
There is a lot more to a yoga practice than just the yoga asanas. With Kundalini yoga, there are specific breathing techniques, sequencing, postures held for certain periods of time, and chanting meditation mantras.
It’s an entire experience that is both incredibly challenging and insanely rewarding. Here are the main ways that Kundalini yoga is different than other types of yoga:
Kundalini Yoga incorporates repetitive movements (think, twisting left to right over-and-over-again), pranayama breathing (or breath work such as breath of fire), meditation, and chanting mantras (like Sat Nam – truth is my identity) for prolonged periods of time to shift our consciousness.
The reason repetition is so important in Kundalini yoga is that it helps get the energy flowing. Our bodies are energy systems that pull energy from the universe around us on a continuous basis. When we have blockages in our chakra system, the energy gets stuck and we begin to feel it either mentally, emotionally, or physically.
Repetition of chanting of a Sanskrit word, meditative focus and pranayama breathing helps rejuvenate our bodies by facilitating a flow of energy, or awakening Kundalini.
In flow Vinyasa yoga, we typically warm up, flow through Warrior Poses or Surya Namaskar while linking breath and movement, and then cool down into forward folds. It’s a set sequence that moves you through the physical practice of yoga asanas and measured breathing that builds strength and flexibility.
For a start, it gives you a lot of the physical benefits that yoga offers…
…but it leaves out a whole lot of the other good stuff that yoga offers.
Kundalini yoga, on the other hand, has its own unique structure and methodology. The repetitive movements and accompanying pranayama breath work are numerically precise (e.g. performs 42 squats inhaling with your head to the right and exhaling with your head to the left). The duration of how long you do each movement in a sequence is also very precise (e.g. 11 minutes).
So in a typical Kundalini practice, you will be moving through certain postures over certain periods of time in a set routine, whereas Vinyasa and Hatha-based yoga styles offer a little more room for creativity.
In fact, your vinyasa or hatha experience can vary greatly depending on the yoga teacher or yoga center where you practice!
The idea behind this set structure is based on the ancient teachings of Tantra yoga and is designed in a way to move the flow of Kundalini Shakti energy through the chakras, from the root chakra, or Muladhara, upward toward the crown chakra, or Sahasrara.
When this happens, a Kundalini awakening occurs and serves as a sort of launching pad from which your most love-filled abundant life can take place. It’s beautiful stuff.
These set, Kundalini sequences of movement, breath and mantra are called kriyas. These were designed by Yogi Bhajan (founder of Kundalini yoga in the West), and are never altered or changed. This is because these kriyas direct your subtle body energy to stimulate the nervous system and glandular system in a specific manner.
Some Kundalini kriyas will leave you blissed out with a profound sense of calm, relaxation, clarity and joy…
…others, will trigger you.
Keep in mind Kundalini Yoga is called the “Yoga of Awareness.” It is designed to slay your ego and trigger you. If you find the exercises confronting (or you don’t want to do 42 frog squats in a row and begin to get tired, angry, frustrated), this is precisely the point.
Kundalini Yoga shows you how you react when you’re in a difficult situation. It serves as a mirror to how you react to difficult situations in life.
If you want to know more about this ancient Tantric yoga practice then check out my podcast on this exact topic. I go over where this ancient technology originally came from, how chanting helps foster healing, what the different breathing techniques are, and why the Kundalini yoga poses are so important to becoming awakened.
I also talk a bit about how to take this ancient Tantric yoga practice off the yoga mat so that you can experience the benefits of Kundalini in your daily life.
Whether you’re ready to deepen your spiritual practice or you’re simply looking for a way to strengthen your current yoga practice, you’ll get all of your questions answered in this podcast.
And if not, then drop your questions in the comments section. I am more than happy to answer them and help you find the best yoga practice for you!
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