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What is Kundalini Yoga?


Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is considered the most comprehensive of yoga traditions, combining meditation, mantra, physical exercises and breathing techniques; it is a Raj Yog, encompassing the eight limbs of yoga into a singular practice of excellence and ecstasy. “Kundalini” literally means “the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved.” This poetic metaphor alludes to the flow of energy and consciousness that exists within each of us, and enables us to merge with – or “yoke” – the universal Self. Fusing individual and universal consciousness creates a divine union, called “yoga.” The Upanishads, dating back to the fifth century B.C., describe the kundalini, although the oral tradition reaches back even further into history. For thousands of years, this sacred science and technology was veiled in secrecy, passed along verbally from master to chosen disciple.


  • How do you describe Kundalini Yoga?

Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is also known as the Yoga of Awareness; its focus is on self-awareness and delivering an experience of your highest consciousness. The technology of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is a science of the mind and body, to elevate the spirit, which has no boundaries, no discrimination. Therefore it is for everyone, universal and nondenominational.
 

In the ancient tradition that is yoga, Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is a householder path; that is, it has always been practiced by those with families and jobs as opposed to a renunciate’s path of celibacy and removal from society, which was the usual path of a yogi.

  • What is the focus of Kundalini Yoga? What is the primary objective of the practice?

The primary objective is to awaken the full potential of human awareness in each individual; that is, recognize our awareness, refine that awareness, and expand that awareness to our unlimited Self. Clear any inner duality, create the power to deeply listen, cultivate inner stillness, and prosper and deliver excellence in all that we do.
 

The focus of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is on one’s personal experience and awareness through the practice of kriya and naad. We awaken the kundalini in order to be able to call upon the full potential of the nervous and glandular systems and to balance the subtle system of chakras and meridians within the body. “Kriya” is an orchestrated pattern of movements, sound, pranayam, mudras, concentration and meditation that automatically guide the energies of the body and the mind to a specific result or change of consciousness.
 

Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® does not rely on any one of these techniques per se, although we use many. Instead, it is the unique and tested syntax, within the structure of each kriya as shared by Yogi Bhajan, which provides steady, predictable progress and which leverages these basic functions of the body and the mind to create rapid, sustainable, personal growth and healing. In this tradition, meditation is not considered separate from asana or yoga; it is integral to the practice. The exercises in the kriya bring the body and mind to a state where deep meditation is easily achieved.


Our fundamental objective is to awaken the power of the individual to excel—to experience their Infinity and fulfill their personal destiny.

  • Who founded the school? When?

Yogi Bhajan (aka Siri Singh Sahib Bhai Sahib Harbhajan Singh Khalsa Yogiji) came to the United States in 1969 and founded the 3HO nonprofit that same year. In 1970 he completed his first teacher’s training and the Kundalini Research Institute was formed in 1971 and went on to formalize the certification and training of teachers internationally.

  • Who or what were the major influences are apparent in the creation of Kundalini Yoga? Please include a little bit of history about the style’s lineage.

Kundalini Yoga as a practice is a Raj Yoga and combines all the traditional eight limbs of Yoga. Yogi Bhajan was the student of two Masters. Sant Hazare Singh declared Yogi Bhajan a Master of Kundalini Yoga at the age of 16 ½. Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Sikh Master, gave Yogi Bhajan his own Gur Mantra many years later, in the early years of his teaching in the West.
 

Kundalini Yoga was taught from Master to student for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years and intersects with the lineage of the Sikh Masters such as Guru Nanak, Guru Ram Das and Guru Gobind Singh for the past 500 years. Its sources include many other yoga Masters of the Northern Punjab region of India as well as the unique contributions of the Gurus in the use of naad and Shabd Guru. Guru Nanak started the Udasi line through his son Baba Siri Chand, a Master who served and taught for more than 100 years. He taught to all existing lineages of that time and educated several of the Sikh Gurus in their youth. Yogi Bhajan was the first to openly teach Kundalini Yoga in the East or the West. The lineage is now held in legacy through the technology of the Golden Chain—a connection to the Masters through the subtle body.

  • How would you describe a typical Kundalini Yoga class? How does it start and end? How long does it last? What is emphasized?

Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is probably the most formalized style of yoga currently taught throughout the world. In any class, anywhere in the world, you can expect it to include six major components: 1) tuning-in with the Adi Mantra, 2) pranayam or warm-up, 3) kriya, 4) relaxation, 5) meditation and 6) close with the blessing song, “May the Long Time Sun Shine Upon You”.
 

Kriyas are complete sets of exercises that are performed in the sequences given by the Master, Yogi Bhajan. They can be simple short sequences or they may involve vigorous, even strenuous exercises, and strong breath techniques such as Breath of Fire, which challenge and strengthen the nervous and endocrine systems and test the will of the practitioner beyond the limitations of their ego.
 

The typical class is 60-90 minutes: 5-10 minute warm-up, 30-45 minute kriya, 5-15 minute layout, 11-31 minutes of meditation.

  • Does a Kundalini Yoga class typically include meditation or pranayama? Does it include chanting? Does it include other yogic practices? If so, please describe them.

Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® typically includes pranayam and meditation. Pranayam practices range from One Minute Breath, Breath of Fire, alternate nostril breathing, Dog Breath, Sitali Pranayam, and suspended breath techniques, to name a few. Meditations often involve movement or mantra, and generally have an eye focus (drishti) in addition to mudra (hand position) and asana (body posture). Many Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® kriyas and meditations include mantra and chanting. One of the first signs of the awakening of the kundalini is a new awareness of the power of our words. You begin to meditate on and develop inner sounds using mantra and naad. Kundalini Yoga was often mistaken for Mantra Yoga because of its frequent integration of sound in its kriyas and meditations. The use of mantra throughout the practice of Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is very effective in attaining two particular goals of the practice—expansion of the Self and elevation of the spirit. Mantra also supports those new to meditation, who find silence and absolutely stillness very challenging. In this way it is a ‘beginner’s practice’ and can be used by anyone to attain clarity, balance and equanimity. In addition, there are many meditations that are silent, practiced in a profoundly transformative stillness called shuniya.

  • Who are the leading teachers of Kundalini Yoga? Where are the leading centers or schools for learning this style?

Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is an international school and there are senior-level teachers and trainers across the globe. Major international centers include: Munich, London, Madrid, Lisbon, Vancouver, Toronto, Singapore, Bangkok, Shanghai, Mexico City, Guadalajara, Belo Horizonte, La Paz, Cape Town, Togo; and in the United States there are major schools in Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Miami, Boston, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Phoenix.
 

Española, New Mexico, where Yogi Bhajan resided for many years, is the home of the Kundalini Research Institute (KRI) and the KRI International Training Center. The Director of Training at KRI is Gurucharan Singh Khalsa, PhD, who studied with Yogi Bhajan from 1969 on, and co-founded KRI in 1971; the CEO of KRI is Nirvair Singh Khalsa, who taught for 30 years at the University of Alaska and worldwide; the head of the Aquarian Training Academy is Tarn Taran Singh Khalsa who developed European programs and continues to train internationally; and Hari Charn Kaur Khalsa, who directs the Reach Out-Teach Out program, providing scholarships and training opportunities to underserved populations around the globe. These are KRIs Core Training team and they support the international trainers and teachers throughout the world.
 

As an example of some of our lead trainers around the globe: Satya Singh and Simran Kaur Khalsa (Germany), Shiv Charan Singh Khalsa (Great Britain and Portugal), Karta Singh Khalsa (France and Russia), Guru Raj Kaur Khalsa (Vancouver, BC), Sunder Singh Khalsa (Asia), Pritam Pal Singh Khalsa (Mexico), Guru Sangat Kaur Khalsa (Brazil), Nam Nidhan Kaur Khalsa (Chile), Krishna Kaur Khalsa (Togo and Los Angeles, CA), Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa (Los Angeles, CA and Boulder, CO), Guru Singh Khalsa (Los Angeles, CA), Sat Jiwan Singh and Kaur Khalsa (New York), Sangeet Kaur Khalsa (Arizona), and Deva Kaur Khalsa (Florida). Go to www.kundaliniresearchinstitute.org for a full listing of international trainers. See also www.ikyta.org for more information about local instructors in your area.

  • How many Kundalini Yoga teachers are teaching in the US? Are there geographic concentrations of them? Do you certify Kundalini Yoga teachers? What does certification entail?

The Kundalini Research Institute licenses international training programs around the world and certifies Level One, Two and Three Kundalini Yoga Instructors, Practitioners and Teachers, respectively—this program is called the Aquarian Teacher and is affiliated with Yoga Alliance here in the United States. We also have a training program for trainers known as the Aquarian Training Academy, which licenses Lead, Professional, Associate and Intern Level Trainers.

Certification as a Level One Instructor is a 250-hour program which includes

  • Postures, Kriyas & Meditation.

  • Role of a Kundalini Yoga Teacher.

  • Yogic Philosophy & the Origin of Kundalini Yoga.

  • Yogic & Western Anatomy.

  • Humanology & 3HO Yogic Lifestyle.

Certification as a Level Two Practitioner is a 250-hour program which includes five separate modules:

  • Conscious Communication

  • Authentic Relationships

  • Lifestyles & Lifecycles

  • Mind & Meditation

  • Vitality & Stress

Certification as a Level Three Teacher combines an experiential, 10-day program, plus an individualized community-building service project and peer-review for certification.

  • What makes Kundalini Yoga unique (that is, different from other styles/schools of yoga)?

It’s efficiency and effectiveness—its power. Kundalini Yoga is quick. Because it’s a system built for the householder, the changes you want to affect in your life happen much more quickly with Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® than many other styles of yoga. It’s variety of techniques and meditations is enormous, allowing the instructor to tailor programs that support the individual and her goals. It’s a safe way to stimulate the body’s natural resources and become healthy, happy, and holy—in body, mind and spirit. It’s a proven path to the Self and the Soul—to an experience of your highest destiny.

  • Please share any other information that will help our readers understand the essence and/or scope of Kundalini Yoga.

Beyond kriya and the traditional structure of a Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® yoga class, the Teachings of Yogi Bhajan comprise a vast array of topics, which he called humanology: philosophy and Sikh Dharma, lifestyle teachings, communication, relationships and marriage, nutrition, hygiene, child-rearing, women’s and men’s teachings, meditation and mudra, Naad Yoga and mantra, numerology and much more. In this way, Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan® is known as a Raj Yoga because it incorporates aspects of all paths of yoga: service, devotion, posture, breath, sound, concentration, wisdom and so on.


 

 

© 2009 The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan