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July 1999
Kundalini Yoga: The Yoga of Awareness

By Deborah Clapp


I have been teaching kundalini yoga for over 18 years in New York City, and I still get a joyful, faster heartbeat as I pass on the basic instructions on to my students. When I think of kundalini yoga and its meditation techniques, and how both have helped me change, I feel both passionately enthusiastic and deeply grateful for this transformational gift. Passing it on to others is a way of expressing my gratitude and sharing the wealth.

Kundalini yoga requires discipline, patience, persistence, sweat, willpower, and a desire to change. The word “kundalini” literally means “the curl of the lock of hair of the beloved.” This is a poetic way of describing the flow of energy-consciousness that already exists in each one of us. The way kundalini energy travels as it goes up and down the spine through nerve channels is like the curl of a lock of hair and the “beloved” is a metaphorical image of the divine Creator. When the kundalini energy flows up the spine and reaches the top of the skull, the activation of the pineal gland in the brain brings about a major change of consciousness. When the energy returns down the spine, the activation of all energy centers, called “chakras,” occurs and a major change in the person’s life comes about.

The essential daily practice of kundalini yoga is called sadhana. It involves reciting the “seed” mantra “Sat Nam” meaning “true identity”, which is chanted silently or out loud to produce a higher vibration in one’s being. Practitioners then tune in with the Adi Mantra which links one with the Higher Self. Central to kundalini practice is the “breath of fire” a relaxed, rapid, rhythmic breathing, which keeps the body still, pumps the navel, and focuses the mind. Other tools in the practice involve the repetition of postures or asanas, positions with arms or legs held at an angle, deep relaxation to integrate all the effects of these exercises, and chanting meditations to transform and break through physical and emotional habit patterns.

Kundalini yoga works specifically to open and balance all of the chakras. Chakras are focal points of potential development in the human being. Six are in the body, a seventh is just above the center top of the head, and an eighth is in the electromagnetic field or “aura” of the individual. Where the kundalini energy has access to flow and focus affects how we are with ourselves, our lives and others in our lives. If we only vibrate in the lower chakras we have no chance of true happiness; we remain ruled by our appetites and habit patterns. It is only when we increase our vibration and achieve a higher frequency by accessing the upper chakras that we can begin to realize our spiritual identity and life’s purpose. Only then can we feel happy, healthy, and whole.

Foundations and Daily Practice

For centuries, knowledge of kundalini yoga was kept secret. However, my teacher, Yogi Bhajan, brought the practice of kundalini yoga to America from India in 1969. There has been much misinformation about kundalini. Moreover, while some people have had a spontaneous experience of kundalini energy, they have not had the preparation and understanding necessary to integrate and apply this energy properly. Under Yogi Bhajan’s guidance, however, accurate knowledge and application of working with kundalini energy to access and balance the chakras is provided properly and naturally. Raising the kundalini energy is relatively simple: keeping it flowing is the challenge.

Technically, kundalini is the increased energy of the glandular system combined with that of the nervous system. This affects the perception and interpretation of the brain, causing one to become totally and wholesomely aware. That is why it is called the “Yoga of Awareness.” The kundalini energy refers to an individual’s creative potential—the infinite, “blue light” of consciousness—some flowing through the system and most present as a vast reservoir of untapped, dormant energy stored under the fourth vertebra on the spinal column. Through the practice of kundalini yoga we stimulate and release this dormant energy, allowing it to rise and integrate to develop our fullest human potential. Practicing kundalini yoga causes one’s consciousness to literally “wake up.”

I am continuously asked what the difference is between kundalini yoga and the other forms of yoga (hatha, astanga, Iyengar, vedanta, raja, etc.). It is important to know that they are all from the same source and yet can be, experientially, very different. Each person must find which type draws him or her and inspires them to practice. Very generally, hatha yoga concentrates on postures (asanas) and long deep breathing, astanga offers a physically challenging flow of postures; and Iyengar uses many physical tools to assist one in finding the correct posture.

Kundalini yoga uses breath manipulation, body locks (bhandas), dynamic, rhythmic, coordinated breath and movement exercises, postures, chanting meditations and mudras (hand and finger positions) to allow one to experience deep, immediate effects on all levels of being. Kundalini yoga appealed to me because it changed how I felt deeply and quickly. The yoga has transformed and helped to integrate my body, mind, emotions, and spirit.

Kundalini yoga is a true labor of love, a royal discipline, a spiritual devotion, and a doable daily practice. It is intended for everyone living a busy day-to-day life. Yogi Bhajan tells us that all of us are responsible for cleansing and strengthening our bodies, healing our pasts, practicing meditation, and coming to know, understand, and express our true essence of identity—the soul. The practice of kundalini yoga is our opportunity to wake up, keep up and grow up!

Deborah Clapp teaches yoga classes around New York City, including at Kundalini Yoga East, 873 Broadway (between 18th and 19th Streets), Suite 614 (buzzer #0037), Tel. 212-982-5959, and at New York University. For more information contact her at Kundalini Yoga East.


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