Kundalini is the energy of nature her-self. It is the ever mutating force of material life. It literally means ‘coiled she-serpent’. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna speaks in detail about this material nature - with special emphasis on its three moods, or gunas.
Kundalini is material intelligence, a complex program of evolving energetic elements of various forms, combinations and refinements. These elements provide, or force upon, the spiritual self (atma) an environment, both physical and mental, to operate within.
Each of us is using a subtle body that possesses a battery charge of life force located at the base of the spine. An orb of concentrated electricity, this kundalini charge supports and carries out all physical and subtle body operations – including thought. It exists causelessly.
Without it, the physical body would be slumped over dead.
It is this kundalini concentration that is the target of hatha yoga practice.
Right now, if you take awareness to the base of your spine and focus on this region momentarily, you may sense its potency radiating in nearby organs, its urging power, and its dynamic, primordial essence.
As I recently described in a previous essay, the personal kundalini is similar to the Freudian psychological concept of “Id”. Western psychology grasps the presence of a generative energy acting as the psychic-material self, an instinctual force operating the functions of physical/subtle living. In the context of Eastern thought, we further understand that the subtle body is inherently compelled to seek and re-seek new bodies through the natural process of reincarnation.
This is the spell that Yoga is meant to break….and is as difficult as you might imagine.
Kundalini is like a little man down in the body, a temporary self that nonetheless feels very real. This little person living down in the base chakras has a periscope-like extension of vital energy reaching up through the center of the body (shushumna nadi), connecting to the intellect. In Sanskrit the intellect is called the’ buddhi’ organ. It is located in the frontal portion of the subtle brain. The intellect is of course connected to the eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin, the sensual receptors of external information.
It makes sense when you study it - that the main source of vital, material energy comes from the area of the genital regions. Peeing, pooping, sexing, orgasming, menstruating, birthing, even hunger, fear and creativity - are directly motivated by the kundalini life force at the base of the spine.
So what about kundalini rises?
In this article I would like to address two kinds.
One is what I will call the ‘natural’ kundalini rise. This type might also be called, involuntary or instinctual. It happens when our senses and/or emotions are stimulated in a way that produces the event. The event involves a rush of pleasure energy that moves through the body and mind, hairs stand on end and the mind feels a sense of elation. Music can provoke it, asmr, stretching, and sudden movements, emotionally-touching events - it can happen on a roller coaster or when you jump out of a plane.
These are natural, spontaneous ways anyone can experience kundalini expressing through the body pleasurably through pre-programmed routes.
I personally remember having the natural type of kundalini rises as a small child of 3 or 4 years old. It would happen when I would hurt myself ironically, like when skinning a knee which hurt like hell. I would be crying really hard and would end up in a state of suspended animation in which I was holding my breath. For whatever reason, I would find myself passing out of my normal physical environment and into a transcendental state of body and mind. A pleasurable energy would move itself through my psyche. I would be stunned into a silent relaxation that I would soon snap out of and return to normal. My mother describes me crying, holding my breath, turning a little blue then losing consciousness and slowly slithering down her leg. The experience for me was one of a blissful out of body experience similar to kundalini rise I provoke during practice.
As I have lived this life in this body I have experienced and internally observed several different types of natural kundalini events. They are abundant if we observe.
Now, on to the other type of Kundalini Rise.
The other type I call ‘unnatural’ or more accurately, ‘yogically produced’ kundalini rises. This kind is voluntarily generated through manipulation of breathing (pranayama), manipulation of the physical body (asana) and internalization of the mind (pratyahara). In the electrical center of the head, the core-self (atma) is awake and alert. It objectively wants to pull the kundalini in a controlled fashion up into itself and then move that same life force into places throughout the psyche. Once a kundalini exercise session is completed the core-self has the great opportunity to practice meditation with the goal of and possibility for, self-realization.
For the first many years of my yoga practice I did not have the proper instruction. I was not performing breath infusion in my postures. During postures I would occasionally have kundalini rises that were unplanned and they involved a painful pounding of energy moving through my head. I did not know at the time it was because contaminated energy was being forced up my spine as I had not properly replaced the carbon dioxide in my system with oxygen. Incorporating breath infusion (bhastrika) into the asana solved this problem.
During a kundalini yoga session we are not listening to music or stimulating the senses. In fact, we aim to greatly decrease sensual stimuli and work to detoxify the subtle body and its parts. We make great efforts to extract burdensome sensual energies out of the system, making way for a meaningful, supremely enjoyable, safely and thoroughly executed kundalini rise.
So what’s in a kundalini rise?
Are they all the same?
How do we gauge their meaning and their effectiveness in regard to our spiritual practice?
Not so much in regard to our material lives and how much pleasure we are trying to experience, but how does it apply to our spiritual practice, how does it benefit it?
Can the overuse of the natural types of kundalini activation actually contribute to our attachments here?
Does the purposeful (yogic) kundalini rise aid us in reaching transcendental places and people in order to ultimately relocate to a heavenly world – a world free of anxiety?
What does kundalini yoga mean to you really?
Is it just a rush? Or is it a means to an end?
Is it a turban and some mantras or is it the core-self as a hacker, going into rewrite part of a set program?
To me the difference between the natural and the unnatural Yoga driven rise is the difference between a gun shot, and an atom bomb.
One is a quick shot; it’s nice and satisfying on a surface level. It is easy to achieve but its effects are redundant and short-lived.
The other is profound, difficult to make and tricky to manage. It has lasting, life changing effects. It has the power to change the current environment.