Kundalini yoga includes breathing control with a focus on the effects of the breath on each pose. “Kundalini” in Sanskrit refers to untapped energy at the base of the spine that can be tapped and drawn upwards through the body to awaken each of the seven chakras.
The seven chakras are the Root (between the tailbone and pubic bone), the Belly (two inches below the navel and also called “sacral”), the Solar Plexus (two inches below the breastbone), the Heart (behind the breastbone), the Throat (in the nook between the collarbones), the Third Eye (in the forehead’s center), and the Crown (just behind the skull’s top). Each chakra is also associated with certain gemstones, and having a chakra out of balance allegedly has emotional effects. The poses seek to free this trapped “kundalini,” drawing it upwards through the body to heal and “purify” the body, emotions, and mind.
Though an ancient form of yoga, Kundalini yoga has only been introduced to the Western nations within the past half century. Yogi Bhanjan founded the 3HO (the Healthy, Happy, and Holy Organization) in 1969 to introduce it to the public.
Mantras (or chants) are common, with teachers often calling out a mantra and the class responding. This type of yoga is precise, combining certain postures, sounds, and breathing for specific results. People overcoming addictions have found Kundalini yoga particularly helpful to them in managing that.
Movements are most often swift and repetitive, contrary to some other forms that hold positions for a long time or work through a large number of poses. Each pose series has a specific breath associated with it that intensifies the poses’ effects. The Kundalini yoga sequences can involve using the correct breath with some rapid, repeated asanas, or a sequence could be a lengthened time in a pose while breathing in a certain way.
Kundalini yoga classes usually involve a spine-stretching warm-up that also improves flexibility. The bulk of the class is spent in a kriya, a specific sequence of poses focusing on a particular area of the body and in meditation, including chanted mantras, breathing control, and hand positions that focus the energy of a yoga pose or meditation.
Though one of the more spiritually-oriented types of yoga, Kundalini yoga is extremely intense physically. By its emphasis on breathing, chanting, and meditation, it appeals to people who like both mental and physical challenges.
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