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. The goal is to 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 1/2. 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 Shabad Guru. Guru Nanak started the Udassi 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?
In any Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan 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.
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.