What is Kundalini?

According to ancient Hindu philosophy, the kundalini is a spiral of energy, or shakti located at the base of the spine. This energy can be awakened through the process of spiritual development, causing it to rise up the spine and activate energy centers known as chakras . This is said to produce physical effects as well as spiritual enlightenment. When exactly the concept of the developed kundalini is unknown, but the passages of the Siva Sutras of the eighth century assume that the reader is familiar with it. The energy is described in more detail in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika a Hindu text written between the 12th and 15th centuries that explains the physical exercise that the Western world most often associates with yoga.

In the early 20th century, Sir John Woodroffe referred to the kundalini as "Serpent Power" in his translation of two Hindu texts, leading to a long-standing image of this energy as a serpent in the West. The word actually means "coiled up." Western thinkers CW Leadbeater and Carl Jung also discussed the kundalini in their writings, but critics complain that they did not do the idea justice by taking it out of its cultural context.

Many people who want to explore the idea practice Kundalini Yoga, a combination of physical postures, chanting, and meditation designed to awaken the Kundalini power in the body. Chakra work may also include contemplating certain images, eating certain foods, and engaging in breathing exercises. For many, this is the best form of mind-body exercise, as it emphasizes the physical benefits of spiritual health and vice versa. Recently, this form of yoga has even gained adherents in the medical profession in the West.

Kundalini Yoga practitioners warn that this energy is very powerful and one should not try to awaken it without professional guidance. As the kundalini rises through the chakras, it can become an increasingly intense experience both physically and emotionally, and is believed by some to be harmful if not done correctly and with caution. Kundalini awakening is also said to be a long process, often lifelong.

Some proven side effects of Kundalini awakening include tingling sensations, gastrointestinal problems, headache, depression, mood swings, and anxiety, among others. It is important for people seeking this awakening to secure a spiritual leader and medical professional that they trust before seriously embarking on this work, as diagnosing any medical issues possibly related to the practice is inherently sensitive. Practitioners of kundalini awakening claim that it can have amazing benefits in all areas of a person's life, but it is always advised to consult with a health care provider before beginning any new physical activity.

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