Kundalini – the fundamental energy
Kundalini is the energy that exists in a latent state in man at the base of the spinal column. When this force is “awakened”, it springs upwards (or downwards if the person is practising the headstand position ”Shirshasana”). It moves along the central axis of the body (the spinal column) towards the crown or lotus on the top of the head (Sahasrara chakra). Yoga tradition mentions the existence of 7 energetic centres (chakras), whose levels comprise the steps or phases of the process of creation. When rising from one level to another, Kundalini is given different names, according to the chakra where it settles. For instance, in the heart chakra (Anahata), Kundalini is called Hamsa and in the chakra in the middle of the forehead (Ajna) it is called Bindu. Sometimes Kundalini can ascend so much that it goes beyond the top of the head. Here it creates a mystical state ofconsciousness of indescribable ecstasy with duality no longer existing.
Kundalini is present in the body of every man as the aspect of Transcendental Power that precedes and penetrates the whole Macrocosmos. This power exists everywhere in the Universe, even in a tiny atom, “coiled” in the nucleus. Matter, life, consciousness and the supra-consciousness are only different degrees (that also manifest as different frequencies of vibration) of the revealation of the dormant power of Kundalini. Divine power (MahaVidya) embodies itself into individual souls, attaining limits in time and space, but also into matter, becoming coiled into itself, or in other words becoming asleep. The transcendental state is only realized when Kundalini completely ascends from the base to its ideal location at the top of the head and beyond it.
Awakening and Raising Kundalini
As in all ancient spiritual teachings of the world, Integral Yoga
regards the human being as a genuine reflection of the
macrocosm. Unobstructed, unlocalised universal power is present
in man in a place corresponding to the base of the spine in the anal
region. It is associated with the earth element, the sense of smell
and the general distribution of vital force (prana) in the body
(muladhara chaka). When Kundalini ascends towards the top of the head,
beatitude is experienced and a very intense light is perceived. The
light that accompanies Kundalini’s awakening is one of the
essential spiritual experiences as revealed by mystical persons of all
In 1971, Gopi Krishna confirmed the
following: “Every time I focus the eye of mental knowledge upon my
inner being, I invariably perceive an intense light inside and outside
my head, as if a shining and extremely subtle substance has ascended
the spinal column and spread inside and outside theskull, filling it up
and surrounding it with indescribable radiation”.
When awakened, the Kundalini energy can ascend along three channels: Sushumna in the centre, and the other two, Ida and Pingala,
coiled around it, which all join together in Ajna chakra. According to
traditional explanations, the channel on the right performs the
function of “warming up”the body, while the left channel “cools” it
down. From a physiological point of view, these energetic routes
correspond to the two nervous systems: sympathetic and parasympathetic.
and Hatha-Yoga texts are very categorical about the fact that once
awakened, Kundalini must be directed only through the main channel, in
order to avoid the unpleasant or even dangerous secondary effects.
During the ascent, the chakras (subtle centres of force) become active
and according to certain authorities, this is the only time when they
become alive. Passing through every centre, Kundalini temporarily
energises it and then travels further, absorbing its energy. As
Kundalini reaches the next chakra, the rest of the body is de-energized
and the lower extremities tend to go cold and lifeless.
physiological phenomena are in a striking contrast to the intense state
of beatitude, light and super-lucidity felt when Kundalini penetrates
Sahasrara. This experience is not cataleptic, but rather the shapeless
ecstasy of Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
At first the complete ascent of
Kundalini lasts only a very short period of time (in seconds or
minutes). This gigantic force descends then into one of the lower
chakras. Until Kundalini is established for good in the crown centre
(Sahasrara), the aspirant must try to experience these elevated states
as often as possible. Usually the yogi is advised by his master to
consciously guide the descent of Kundalini and not allow it to go lower
than heart centre (anahata chakra). Apparently Kundalini active in the
first three centres is quite dangerous because it includes the
amplification of the ego and an unrestrained sexual desire.
the awakening of Kundalini power is regarded as an intense purification
process that leads to the transcendence of the body and mind,
ecstatically crowning the state of unification of the subject with the
As Kundalini rises it encounters all types of impurities
that are burnt through by its dynamic activity. Sanskrit texts mention
three major structural blockages, known as “knots” or granthi. According to tradition, these knots are located in the centre of the anal region (Brahma granthi), in the centre of the heart (Vishnu granthi) and in the centre between the eyebrows (Rudra granthi).
can be blocked anywhere along its upward trajectory. These blockages
are in fact areas where tension is concentrated. Thus when Kundalini is
ascending it directs the central nervous system to remove these
blockages. This experience is usually painful. When Kundalini meets
those blockages, it acts upon them until they are dissolved. Once the
blockage is dissolved, Kundalini can freely flow on through that point
until it encounters another stressed zone. In addition, Kundalini
energy can be diffused so that it can act upon many levels at one time,
simultaneously eliminating different areas of tension.
moves upwards till it reaches the last chakra, Sahasrara. Although it
may scatter along the way, it becomes coherent when it gets to this
centre. According to traditional Yoga and Tantra texts, this movement
takes place from the base of the spinal column, along the spinal
axis, corresponding to what Swami Muktananda and Gopi Krishna testify.
However, some non-Hindu texts state that the route taken by Kundalini
originates from the feet, to the legs, along the spinal column, to the
head, and then descends through the front along the neck, the chest and
ending in the abdominal zone.
In Charles Luk’s Tao Yoga,
the “microscopic orbit” of the inner fire begins at the base of
the spinal column, ascends towards the brain and from there returns to
the starting point. Nevertheless, the yogi who attempts the ancient
techniques of raising Kundalini relies on the classic model. He expects
the energy to awaken in the lowest chakra and to rise towards the top
of the head where it will generate ineffable ecstasy. It is then easy
to explain why he can ignore any phenomenon that does not meet these
Sensations and experiences in Kundalini
Yoga tradition distinguishes between the partial and the total
awakening of Kundalini. The partial awakening may lead to different
mental and physical experiences. However, the complete ascent of
Kundalini towards the crown centre (Sahasrara) will give birth to the
true impulse of God realisation (or spiritual liberation) and will
bring the much-desired revolution of the consciousness. It is only then
that the body can be transcended into the pure and perfect ecstasy of
The awakening of Kundalini power is accompanied by different sensations and experiences:
- If the energy is awakened and ascends through Pingala Nadi, a
powerful sensation of warmth appears along the back at first and then
in the whole body. On the other hand, if the energy ascends through Ida
Nadi, a sensation of coldness is perceived.
- When Kundalini enters the central spinal channel, called Sushumna,
a specific sensation of unification appears in the whole being and the
respiration may stop for a short time.
- When Kundalini reaches Anahata chakra, heart palpitations can be observed.
- Sometimes itches can be felt in the fingers or the whole body may
start to tremble. Tradition mentions that the ascent along the back to
the top of the head can be felt in different ways: as the slow motion
of an ant, the sinuous movement of a snake, the hopping of a small
bird, the slow advance of a fish in calm water, or as the leap of a
monkey to a distant tree.
All these signs are mentioned
in traditional Hindu scriptures,especially in Yoga and Tantra. The wise
yogi Ramakrishna, one of the greatest masters of mysticism in modern
India, described his experiences regarding Kundalini in almost similar
terms. Speaking of the different ecstatic states towards which he was
naturally “inclined”, he said:
“In these ecstatic states of
Samadhi, the sensation of the Spiritual Current can be felt as the
movement of an ant, of a fish, monkey, bird or snake. Sometimes, the
Spiritual Current ascends through the spinal column, crawling like an
ant. Other times in Samadhi, the soul swims happily in the ocean
of divine ecstasy like a fish. When I recline on my side, I feel the
Spiritual Current pushing me like a monkey and playing joyfully with
me. I rest still. This current can reach Sahasrara in a single jump,
like a monkey. That is why you see me springing up sometimes. Now and
then, the Spiritual Current goes up like a bird, hopping from branch to
branch. When it stops, I can feel it as a fire. Sometimes the Current
is slithering like a snake. Ascending in a zigzag line, it finally
reaches my head and I experience Samadhi. The spiritual consciousness
of a man is not awakened until Kundalini is ascended.”
An Exercise for Awakening Kundalini – Uroboros
Uroboros – the snake that swallows its own tail – is an ancient symbol
of continuity, of the great vital principle and of the union between
the sky and earth. Sometimes the body of the snake that swallows itself
is represented half light and half dark, similar to the Chinese
Yin-Yang symbol. It shows the game of polarities in nature and the
harmony in apparent contrast. Thus Uroboros serves as an important
symbol in the Gnostic tradition, whose adepts aspire to unified
consciousness by transcending the ego personality and the mind.
is also the archetype symbol revealed to the chemist Kekule in a dream
in the 19th century, which gave him the idea that the molecular
structure of benzene was a closed ring of carbon atoms.
modern esoteric school of Arica, founded by Oscar Ichazo, Uroboros is
an exercise in which the energy is accumulated in the being through the
control of respiration. In the inhalation, attention is focused on the
perineum area in order to feel the energy at this level. The energy is
then directed through the spinal column, from the base to the top of
the head. It is next led around the curve of the skull and begins its
downward journey during exhalation. Thus the energy moves from the top
of the head towards the forehead, where it splits into two going
towards the eyes. Further on, the energy descends along two paths, on
each side of the nose and upper lip and it unites again at the chin.
The energy continues to descend down the chest area, down to the
abdominal zone and the genital organs. During this exercise the
aspirant perceives an intense light both within the head area and along
the entire energetic route.
Awakening of Kundalini – Testimonies
One of the richest autobiographies is that of Swami Muktananda, a
master of the Siddha Yoga Indian tradition who has attracted many
western disciples. Regarding kundalini, he sometimes noticed his body
moving involuntarily and other times he stood immobile in strange
positions. He also observed powerful energy currents in the body,
unusual patterns of breathing, inner lights and sounds, terrifying
visions and noises and many other extraordinary mystical phenomena.
During meditation for example, he used to smell fragrances
and taste nectar and often experienced ecstasy.
He also noticed
unpleasant secondary effects. “All my body was hot, my head felt heavy.
Every single cell of my body started to groan.” He specifically noticed
that his anal area was very painful. Moreover, he mentioned that from
time to time he was overwhelmed by sexual desire – a confession also
made by the sufi disciple Irina Tweedie. The connection between the
stimulation of the vital force and sexual energy is recognised by all
esoteric traditions, especially Tantra and Taoism. Swami Muktananda’s
perfecting of the Kundalini process required a few years. It reached
the climax when he traveled beyond such experiences in order to
permanently establish himself “in perfect peace and self-possession”.
the incipient stages of Kundalini’s awakening, Swami Muktananda often
used to be annoyed and afraid, having absolutely no control of his
body’s movements. He felt clumsy performing yoga positions and dazzling
lights appeared in his head. For a while he believed he was losing his
mind. It is easy to imagine the diagnosis he would have received had he
asked a psychiatrist and not a guru (spiritual master). Once the
initial difficulties were overcome, everything progressed along
perfectly. He later became a master himself and so could help many
people on their spiritual path.
Another biography that tells of
spontaneous awakening of Kundalini is that of Gopi Krishna, a teacher
and superintendent in Kashmir. As a child Gopi Krishna had many psychic
experiences. He however became agnostic but constantly
practised meditation for many years. He did not have any further
mystical experiences until 1937 when at age 34, he experienced a
spontaneous awakening of Kundalini which radically changed his life.
Since that time his consciousness remained awake, as a lighted area,
increasing and decreasing mysteriously. Then in 1943 he had a powerful
experience of Kundalini that lead to Samadhi. He described this state
as: “I distinctly felt an incomparable sensation of beatitude in all my
nerves. It moved from the tips of my toes and my fingers and other
parts of the body towards the spinal column where, concentrated and
intensified, it ascended to the upper region of the brain. Thus it made
me feel even better. I felt the beatific and frantic torrent of an
extremely rare radiant neuron secretion. In the absence of a more
adequate name, I called this “nectar”…”
This ineffable sensation
disappeared when he focused his attention upon it, but it continued to
flow even more intensely when he ignored it. Unexpectedly, he felt a
stream of liquid light, murmuring like a waterfall, entering the brain
through the spinal channel. His body started to shake and he was
surrounded by a halo of light. He became one with the surrounding
environment and he felt overwhelmed by ecstasy.
followed by feelings of terror, weakness and indifference towards
others. There was a bitter taste in his mouth, his throat was dry and
burning, he felt his body was pierced by countless hot needles, and
suffered insomnia. In the dark he could distinguish a reddish light
surrounding him. From time to time, he endured back pains. He thought
Kundalini was operating abnormally and that he could die.
the Kundalini process started within him, Gopi Krisha was completely at
its discretion. Many years had to pass for him to reach physical
equilibrium and an inner calm state. When Kundalini was established,
Gopi Krishna obtained extraordinary mental powers that he gradually
perfected, such as mental creativity and complete serenity.