Although the aim of Kundalini Yoga is to awaken the coiled energy at the base of the spine, the practice itself provides a number of benefits that can be enjoyed while striving to achieve a full awakening. With the help of effective breathing techniques and gentle movements, this form of yoga can greatly reduce stress and bring happiness into your life.
Kundalini focuses greatly on yogic breathing (pranayama), and there are quite a few techniques that provide varying positive effects on the mind and body. Many of these techniques encourage long, deep breaths, which help to relax the body and melt away stress. The movements that are practiced also help to stretch and loosen muscles. Simply relieving tension in the body can greatly reduce your stress levels and improve your mood.
Many Kundalini movements and techniques work the core or abdominal muscles. Breath of fire, in particular, works the navel center. A strong core is essential in yoga and helps to improve your posture in daily life. The navel chakra is also associated with emotions, so strengthening your core muscles can go a long way in helping you better control your emotions and handle life’s many triggers to stress.
Present Moment Awareness
Part of the reason why so many people are drawn to this particular type of yoga is the fact that it allows them to easily bring themselves into the present moment. Breath of fire, left nostril breathing, and the movements associated with Kundalini Yoga, all require great concentration and awareness. Practitioners find that they are able to leave their past behind and forget their anticipation of the future during their yoga sessions. Being in the present moment, allows you to appreciate what you already have and worry less about what you do not have.
Improved Lung Capacity
The breathing techniques practiced in Kundalini Yoga greatly improve lung capacity. Most people today do not know how to breathe properly, which can be detrimental to both physical and mental health. When lung capacity is improved, more oxygen can flow through the body. In turn, memory is improved and mental clarity can be achieved. Higher oxygen levels also allow the body to move freely and reduce muscle tension.
A Sense of Peace and Joy
Much like other forms of yoga, Kundalini improves the practitioner’s overall emotional well-being. Meditation plays a major role in this practice, which keeps the mind grounded and provides peace of mind. Taking time out of your day, to relax and calm your mind, will bring forth great joy and happiness.
The Safety of Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga, the "yoga of awareness," which is also known as Laya Yoga, incorporates all branches and aspects of yoga traditions. Some Kundalini practitioners refer to it as "the mother of all forms of yoga." Through the awakening of Kundalini energy, the practice aims to bring individuals, not only personal awareness, but to also unleash the ability to compassionately serve the needs of others. Practitioners feel it is Kundalini’s life force energy that can balance the nervous and glandular systems, chakras and meridians. Through a wide range of techniques, students of Kundalini Yoga are often able to arrive at intense physical and emotional states.
It is such powerful experiences that cause some to question the safety of Kundalini Yoga. It has been touted, however, as not only safe, but also therapeutic for complex emotional disorders. This appealing possibility is precisely what David S. Shannahoff-Khalsa, PhD of Bangalore’s Sri Vivekananda Yoga University, an expert in both yoga and psychiatry, claims in his 2010 book "Kundalini Yoga Meditation for Complex Psychiatric Disorders." His case histories include examples ranging from ADHD and Autism, to personality and mood disorders, that were all treated with Kundalini Yoga. This drug-free therapy, he claims, has more than proven itself, not only safe for personal growth, but also an effective tool for healing.
Dr. Shannahoff-Khalsa’s view of yoga, as a safe therapeutic option, has been supported by numerous scientists, including researchers from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Neurology Department at RML Hospital and PGIMER, GGS-IP University in New Delhi. Their 2007 study concluded that patients received statistically greater relief from symptoms by practicing yoga, as compared to controls that received medication.
With so many researchers hailing the safety and therapeutic value of Kundalini Yoga, why is there reason for concern? Lifelong yoga practitioner, William J. Broad, covers the potential problems of Kundalini Yoga in his comprehensive 2012 book, "The Science of Yoga: The Myths and Rewards." He describes that nerve damage, including thoracic outlet syndrome and quadriplegia, has arisen in certain cases during poses such as headstands. Practitioners, however, do not as often mention these rarities as being their primary fear. They instead describe anecdotal evidence, that unleashing the power of Kundalini energy, can be a mentally destabilizing experience, requiring precise breathing to direct this force toward either destruction or healing. Science has shown, however, that guided Kundalini Yoga practice can bring mental clarity, and even mental healing, to its practitioners.