Present in many esoteric traditions, Kundalini is a Sanskrit term from ancient India that identifies the arising of an energy and consciousness. Which has been coiled at the base of the spine since birth. And in most of us, it lies dormant. It is the source of the life force energy, known as Prana, Pranic energy, Ch’i, or Bio-energy. Yogic science suggests that this energy triggered the formation of the child in the womb, and then coils 3 ½ times at the base of the spine to hold the energy field in stasis until we die and our life force energy uncoils and returns to source. In a way, it is like a cable with a plug point that might not have found its energy socket. Today, many look for this socket through practices such as kundalini yoga, hatha yoga, and tantra.
The concept of Kundalini is present in the Upanishads, Sanskrit texts with essential philosophical concepts and ideas of Hinduism. Some of these concepts are also shared with Buddhism. No wonder it is such a present word in tantra. Traditionally, tantra comes from the esoteric arms of Hinduism and Buddhism. But the same energy exists in different traditions, with different names. In Kabbalah, for example, it is called Shekhinah.
This mystical energy is described as a coiled snake with heads at both ends. A snake that when awakened can act either creatively, or destructively. The snake comparison is not by chance: the poison of a snake can take one’s life, but if prepared correctly, it can save one from great illness.
What Kind Of Energy Is Kundalini?
Kundalini is the ultimate life force. Creative power and divine feminine energy. Simply, it is our “inner fire”. So simple, and yet so abstract! Once activated, this energy is felt like liquid fire: electric, timeless, paralysing. When we activate this energy, it flows within us resembling the wavy shape of a serpent: curving from the base of the spine, into the gut, into the heart and then into and out of the head.
As the energy flows through this channel, it travels through all of our chakras, activating them and giving them an energetic “boost.” The result is an expanded state of consciousness. Kundalini energy and the chakras reside in the in the subtle body.
“When the sleeping goddess Kundalini is awakened through the grace of the teacher, then all the subtle lotuses and worldly bonds are readily pierced through and through. Let the wise person forcibly and firmly draw up the goddess Kundalini, for She is the giver of all miraculous powers.” Shiva Samhita
What Is So Special About Kundalini?
In traditions such as tantra where Kundalini is often referred to as Shakti, the goal of the practice is for the energy to rise all the way to the head, for that is where resides the energy of Lord Shiva. This represents the union of feminine and masculine energy, which leads us out of duality, and back to our own divinity state. It’s the purest ecstasy of union. Similar work is found in Kabbalah: Shekhinah is to rise and merge with Eheieh.
As the kundalini energy goes up activating each chakra, it expands our mystical spiritual experiences. Positively transforming us along the way. In a way, the more the energy rises and our chakras are activated, the more we merge with the universe and cosmic consciousness of all that is.
Due to the potential of spiritual enlightenment and higher conscious awareness, rising the snake power of the Kundalini is so sought after. This also means that Kundalini awakening becomes both the path and the goal. The effects of awakening this energy include a higher sense of life, creativity, and support to reach our full potential.
“The great goddess Kundalini, the primordial energy of the self, sleeps in the sexual region of the body. She has a form rather like a serpent, having three and one half coils. As long as she remains asleep, the individual soul (Shiva) is limited and true knowledge does not arise. But just as the right key unlocks a particular door, so Hatha Yoga unlocks the door of Kundalini, allowing the self to experience Brahma and obtain Liberation.” Gheranda Samhita
Kundalini, the ultimate life force, is pure creative power. But what can create can also destroy. No wonder Kundalini is often represented by a snake: its poison can kill us. Still, when we uncover its mysteries, it can save us from illness.
For seekers of spiritual mysteries within sexuality, working with kundalini is paramount. And yet sex works the same as a snake: it can hold us hostage or empower us. We are after all in the plane of duality, where all extremes coexist. Discernment and humility are necessary in any kind of energetic work if we are not to get burned.
It’s Not All Sunshine & Rainbows
The awakening does not happen gradually. No, kundalini is not a little more awake one day after the other, giving us time to adjust. It is more of a quantum leap in pure awareness. If you are experiencing something gradual and mild, a little spark here and there… Then chances are it is some other energy rather than kundalini. There is no shortage of energies in the body. Sometimes subtle body energy flows to prepare the way for a future kundalini rise. We are all human and at times, we tell ourselves our kundalini is rising as it makes us feel we are progressing. It fills us with pride, even makes us feel superior. Unfortunately, spirituality often doesn’t walk hand in hand with personal development.
In the pursuit of more pleasure and status, many chase a Kundalini rise to feed their self-image. Remember, pride belongs to the ego, the arch-enemy of spiritual practice. Having a kundalini awakening with a big ego is a recipe for much suffering. That’s why many practitioners focus on ‘cleaning their containers.’
Additionally, many rush to say they had a kundalini awakening after feeling a new surge of energy. The human body contains multiple energy channels, and much activity can happen in our channels or Nadis without that being a kundalini awakening. Once again, we are asked to not jump into conclusions and watch out for our egos.
“Before awakening the kundalini, you must have deha suddhi (purity of body), nadi suddhi (purity of the nadis), manas suddhi (purity of mind), and buddhi suddhi (purity of the intellect).” Swami Sivananda
Again, the serpent metaphor has a clear meaning: the awakening forces are the shedding of our skin and reveals our innermost self. Are we ready to welcome the destruction of our self-image, the dissolution of an individual self?
For those not prepared, this can be scary and even devastating. Kundalini can wreak havoc, provoking an internal earthquake. Its awakening can be a slap in the face. Significant changes come at different levels: physical, emotional, sensate and psychic capacities. What is blissful for some, is a nightmare for others. Once the awakening comes, it will be impossible to avoid those parts of us that we had left under the carpet.
Whatsmore, when and if the awakening happens is out of our control. Which means it can happen without one’s will, or when one is far from ready. People who never heard of kundalini before and have no spiritual practice can experience awakenings. At times, they are taken to existential hell.
In such scenarios, the experience can relate more to a bad drug trip or a psychotic break. I had a friend who had his kundalini awakened in a rather unfortunate way. He had sex with a spiritually gifted woman who gave him a Shaktipat without talking to him first. That was a clear example of someone abusing her power. For months, my friend would have random episodes, spasms, and visions. First, he thought he was sick, and about to go crazy. A bomb of animalistic energy would explode in his body, driving him to feel like a starving predator in the middle of the jungle. Being a shy and polite person as he is, it was a tough thing to deal with. It was hard work to understand what that energy was, and it was even more difficult to learn how to work with it. Yoga, mindfulness, and breathwork were his main allies in this journey.
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Even for those who willingly want the rise and have been preparing, it can be tough. The awakening can stress the body as the energy pushes through. This can bring different sensations including shaking, vibrating, spontaneous movement, visions. Grounding practices are crucial. By removing our delusions of a separated self, kundalini can cause us to go too high up. Yes, this might be a beautiful journey. But at the end of the day we live on Earth, in the material world, and we need to function here. In order to go that far up, it is imperative to know how to come back to Earth and anchor the energy received. The vastness of expanding our consciousness can be overwhelming and disorientating.
I had my first experiences with energy rises during sexual relations. What would happen to me is that I would have intense dreams intertwined with the soul of the person I had sex with. I would wake up many times unable to distinguish reality from dream. The problem was worse the next day, as I would feel disassociated, out of my body, unfunctional, in a never-ending dream state. I couldn’t cope with my head. My mental body was overwhelmed with sound. My mind was charged with many different voices speaking in different speeds and in different volumes. This might sound weird but one thing that helped me ground on such occasions was to eat a lot. It’s almost like the food brought back an element of materiality, Earth. The weight of it brought gravity, and that brought me back to my body and feet. I also learned kundalini impacts my dream state and when I feel it is rising I need to sleep in a room alone.
Again, when it happens it might not be in the safety of our home or in the bedroom with a loved one. Practices can support us to prepare our container, yet the maxim holds true: there is no such thing as control. Our sense of control has to do with fear, pride and self-image and destroying these are some of the tasks of Kundalini.
“The sleeping Kundalini is extremely fine, like the fiber of a lotus stalk. She is the world-bewilder, gently covering the “door” to the central Great Axis. Like the spiral of a conch shell, Her shining snake-like form is coiled around three and a half times; Her luster is like a strong flash of lightning; Her sweet murmur is like an indistinct hum of swarms of love-mad bees. She maintains all beings of this world by means of inhalation and exhalation, and shines in the cavity of the sexual region.” Satchakranirupan
How to Awaken The Kundalini
Taking the kundalini energy from the base of spine all the way up to the crown chakra is a challenge for a whole life. Sometimes we can get it started at Muladhara, the root chakra, and get it maybe all the way up to Manipur, the third chakra. But until we get to connect it to the 1000 watts light bulb Sahasrara, the crown chakra, we don’t manage to stabilize the energy. It’s like a light bulb we can sometimes turn on to 50 watts, but most often it is turned off.
Yogi’s and tantric devotees spend years in preparation for this energy, for the reasons described above. Yes, we can work to stimulate its rising, but when (and if) it will actually awake is completely out of our control.
The energy might awaken spontaneously for some. Yet, for most of us, its conscious awakening demands strength of mind, a well-balanced body, and awareness of the movement of this raw energy. Given the importance of the physical body, a healthy diet and exercise can be of great support. When it comes to strength of mind, clarity of intentions and willingness to do the work are crucial. Modalities such as Hatha, Tantra and Kundalini yoga. Breath-work, and intonations can greatly support the practitioner.
If you google “how to awaken your kundalini”, you will find a vast range of perspectives. Some focus on certain foods, affirmations, cutting distractions and music. How much of that actually stimulates the awakening, I rather refrain from discussing. I will instead focus on what I have experienced that has helped me so far.
Purification Of Body
There is a reason why Shiva is so predominant in tantra and yoga, instead of Vishnu and Brahma: the first step is our inner destruction. That is, the destruction of illusions, of mental models, and conditioning that are limiting us from seeing reality. All these impurities in our physical, mental, emotional and pranic bodies are not allowing the full power of our energy force to circulate within us. Great progress can be made simply by cleaning ourselves, so to speak.
I am a big advocate of not trying to force kundalini to rise and instead focus on unclogging our tubes, a.k.a. purifying our nadis/channels. That is because when we are trying to force it, it has 1 a lot of ego in it, 2 a lack of patience and trust in divinity. 3 a lot of masculine energy, that forgets to simply be and enjoy the process. Progression is all about the inner marriage of our female and male energies. But even worse than that, when we try to force and get results, they are often not sustainable for our container because its not fully ready. One of the results is that the rise destabilises us, causing some havoc in our lives, and this can actually regress our spiritual projection, so be mindful.
Purification requires discipline, willingness, and tenderness. At the same time, many purification techniques are rather simple and powerful.
Sexual contact can stimulate and awaken the kundalini energy. Just as a snake’s poison can kill us, or help us heal from illness, so can sex hold us hostage or set us free. Kundalini energy can transform biological instincts into the urge for transcendence.
Energies can reach new levels of convergence through love-making, leading lovers to experience the awakening spontaneously. To not leave it to hazard, a couple can learn to channel this energy consciously to be taken to timeless bliss.
Here, breathing is key to circulate the energy: deep breathing, and synchronizing the breath with the partner through convergence, and the exchange of vital breaths. Movement of the pelvis and grunting also play an important role.
For such practices, seating love-making positions work best, as they offer the right pathway for the energy to rise. I recommend the book Sexual Secrets: The Alchemy of Ecstasy to learn more about it.
Pure and simply, meditation is a tool of purification of the mind. When we purify and wake up the head centre, the soul and the personality are coordinated and fused. In this way, we get much more inner alignment. When done consistently over long periods of time, meditation awakens the centers of force in the etheric body and stimulates the rise of kundalini in a consistent and safe manner. That is why the emphasis in all esoteric schools is laid upon meditation.
Shaktipat is the transfer of spiritual energy from the teacher to the student. Besides bringing new energy to the student, it helps the student’s energy to remain active and stable. The transfer occurs most often by touch; for instance, the teacher may touch the student’s third eye area. But there are other ways: it is said the transfer can occur by sight, through a mantra, or a word.
The guru might not be transferring her own energy, but the energy of an ancient member of her spiritual lineage that is no longer incarnate. Shaktipat is seen as an act of grace performed by the guru. Also, the transfer of energy does not need to be conscious and official. Spending time around people with awakened kundalini is in itself a way to stimulate one’s kundalini.
Movements: shaking and dancing
Sometimes we are so eager to go up that we forget we are not that connected to Earth. The energy that is to rise is Shakti. That is pure feminine energy, Mother Earth, vibrating. If Shiva sits and meditates on the top of a mountain, Shakti dances around the fire. There is a reason why Osho’s Kundalini meditation has four stages: shake, dance, sit in stillness, lie down in stillness. This is the vibrational path from Shakti to Shiva.
Engage your hips. Make sounds, vibrate. Your body is the energy field. Chakra dance, shaking your body as you feel the shake coming to your feet from the Earth, freestyle dancing, belly dance are all great ways to stimulate the energy.
There’s no such thing as control
As in every spiritual practice, clarity of intention and disciplined practice is crucial. However, if and when we achieve this awakening is out of our control. Different events in life might lead this energy to unravel and arise, intentionally or not. A person who has been preparing for years might never have the energy rise, whereas someone who has never even heard of it can have it spontaneously.
“On your part great patience is needed, and a trust that the whole existence is in support of all those who are trying to grow spiritually. It is not you who are trying to grow spiritually; it is existence who, through you, is trying to reach to its utmost heights.” Osho
Patience is important in this work, first and foremost because it involves trusting the Divine. Enjoy the process of self-discovery, enjoy the dance with the fire inside that is transmuting you. Why are you rushing? You are here, on Earth, take your time to make your container able to hold the energy. Developing patience and acceptance are real grounded ways to transmute our ego in itself — which is needed for anyone’s progression. Everything is part of the healing and the path, not only the time when you sit on your mat. Presence and awareness, above all.