Kundalini yoga is a growing yogic and meditative practice with modern roots in the United States. The practice focuses on the spirit by cleansing the body and soul through a variety of physical, oral, and mental techniques. With a strong celebrity following, Kundalini yoga's popularity is testament to its effectiveness in day-to-day life. While it is not a religion, it most certainly is a lifestyle of perspective and raising consciousness. Like all yoga, it is worth exploring, if not as a loyal devotee and practitioner then as a meticulous observer.
The following 3 practices are inspired by Kundailini’s teachings and are great lessons for all us to lead healthier, happier and more spiritual lives.
What is Kundalini Yoga?
Kundalini yoga, or laya yoga, is a school of yoga dubbed “the yoga of awareness”. Dating back to the 8th century, it has evolved over the years as a synthesis of hatha yoga, Patañjali’s kriya yoga, tantric visualization, and mediation techniques. The term Kundalini refers to the spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine, conceptualized as a coiled serpent that is supposed to rise from its base and up through the remaining six chakras to activate the “golden cord” - the link between the pituitary and pineal glands – to reach the seventh chakra.
Yogi Bhajan (1929-2004) founded a modern brand of Kundalini yoga in the United States in 1968. In creating what he calls the “Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization” (3HO), Yogi Bhajan married yoga postures and techniques with tantric theories and Sikh mantras. His style of Kundalina yoga is founded on the principles of the Sikh Dharma while obeying the pillars of Patañali’s kriya yoga system: discipline, spiritual study, and devotion to God. Yogi Bhajan encouraged his students to engage in society and rather than worship God, experience God – living detached, yet full engaged in the world.
Today, Yogi Bhajan’s version of Kundalini yoga has gained incredible popularity in the United States. The 3HO Foundation is based in Española, New Mexico, and overlooks some 300 centers around the world.
Kundalini yoga sheds light on a few lifestyle activities that can bring more zen to your mind, body, and soul. Here are three, of many, takeaways.
To prep for morning rituals (sadhana), Yogi Bhajan suggested a cold shower. The process is called ishnaan and it works to improve circulation, energize your system, and cleanse your cells. When cold water hits your body, blood rushes to your organs to keep them warm. While blood floods inward, it flushes the capillary system, giving it a proper workout and clearing the body of toxins at the deepest level. Circulation is improved, the skin is more supple and radiant, and the body is kept young and vibrant. The key is to stay under the coldest water you can withstand to the point that your body begins to feel warm under the rush – at least 3 minutes. Women are advised not to take cold showers while menstruating and people who have fever, rheumatism, or heart disease are also advised to avoid it.
And you don’t need to take Yogi Bhajan’s word for it – scientific studies prove hydrotherapy to be a beneficial practice for various systems of the body.
Sadhana means daily spiritual practice. It is time carved out in the morning to devote to yourself and acts as your personal, individual spiritual tool to achieve purpose in life. Sadhana is a sacred ritual you perform consistently to clear your conscious before a new day. Examples of sadhana practices include exercise, meditation, and prayer. The two and a half hour just before sunrise are called the “ambrosial hours”, when the sun is at a sixty-degree angle to the earth and when the effects of your sadhana rituals are maximized.
What I love about the idea of sadhana is that it gives credence to the importance of morning affirmations. Our thoughts in the morning are what create our general attitude throughout the day. By putting aside a few minutes or even an hour or two in the morning each day, we can wipe ourselves clean of negativity and gear up for a day full of productivity, authenticity, and joy.
3. Hair Care
Called “one of the most valuable sources of human vitality” by Yogi Bhajan, the hair on your head is more than a change-with-the-seasons slave to aesthetic approval. In Kundalini yoga, it is believed that hair is a gift of nature that can magnify Kundalini energy and increase vitality, intuition, and tranquility. If left uncut, hair will grow to the correct length fit for each individual.
According to the Kundalini yoga belief system, the bones in the forehead are porous and function to transmit light to the pineal gland – responsible for spiritual connectivity – and directly affect brain function, including the thyroid and sexual hormones. Cutting the hair leads to a loss in energy and nourishment. Meanwhile, bangs cover the forehead stymie the pineal gland’s activities.
Kundalini hair care requires a “rishi knot”, which is a matter of coiling the hair up in a bun at the crown of the head in order to energize the brain cells. At night, hair should be combed and then braided to help to balance out the electromagnetic field from the day.
Yogi Bhajan advised waiting for the hair to dry after a shower before tying it up in a rishi knot and to avoid letting hair hang loose, as it will cause split ends. To brush hair, use a wooden comb or brush, gliding against the hair from front to back, back to front, and side-to-side to refresh the scalp.
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