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Kundalini Yoga (Sanskrit kuṇḍalinī-yoga कुण्डलिनी योग), also known as laya yoga, is a school of yoga. Based on a 1935 treatise by Sivananda Saraswati, kundalini yoga was influenced by the tantra and shakta schools of Hinduism.
Kundalini yoga derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through regular practice of meditation, pranayama, chanting mantra and yoga asana. Called by practitioners "the yoga of awareness", it aims "to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others."
What has become known as "Kundalini yoga" in the 20th century, after a technical term peculiar to this tradition, has otherwise been known[clarification needed] as laya yoga (लय योग), from the Sanskrit term laya "dissolution, extinction". The Sanskrit adjective kuṇḍalin means "circular, annular". It does occur as a noun for "a snake" (in the sense "coiled", as in "forming ringlets") in the 12th-century Rajatarangini chronicle (I.2). Kuṇḍa, a noun with the meaning "bowl, water-pot" is found as the name of a Naga in Mahabharata 1.4828. The feminine kuṇḍalī has the meaning of "ring, bracelet, coil (of a rope)" in Classical Sanskrit, and is used as the name of a "serpent-like" Shakti in Tantrism as early as c. the 11th century, in the Śaradatilaka. This concept is adopted as kuṇḍalniī as a technical term into Hatha yoga in the 15th century and becomes widely used in the Yoga Upanishads by the 16th century.
The Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad is listed in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads. Since this canon was fixed in the year 1656, it is known that the Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad was compiled in the first half of the 17th century at the latest. The Upanishad more likely dates to the 16th century, as do other Sanskrit texts which treat kundalini as a technical term in tantric yoga, such as the Ṣaṭ-cakra-nirūpana and the Pādukā-pañcaka. These latter texts were translated in 1919 by John Woodroffe as The Serpent Power: The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga In this book, he was the first to identify "Kundalini yoga" as a particular form of Tantrik Yoga, also known as Laya Yoga.
The Yoga-Kundalini and the Yogatattva are closely related texts from the school of Hatha yoga. They both draw heavily on the Yoga Yajnavalkya (c. 13th century), as does the foundational Hatha Yoga Pradipika. They are part of a tendency of syncretism combining the tradition of yoga with other schools of Hindu philosophy during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad itself consists of three short chapters; it begins by stating that Chitta (consciousness) is controlled by Vayu (Prana), and Prana is controlled by moderate food, postures and Shakti-Chala (I.1-2). Verses I.3-6 explain the concepts of moderate food and concept, and verse I.7 introduces Kundalini as the name of the Shakti under discussion:
Swami Nigamananda (d. 1935) taught a form of laya yoga which he insisted was not part of Hatha yoga, paving the way of the emergence of "Kundalini yoga" as a distinct school of yoga.
"Kundalini Yoga" is based on the treatise Kundalini Yoga by Sivananda Saraswati, published in 1935. Swami Sivananda (1935) introduced "Kundalini yoga" as a part of Laya yoga.[clarification needed] Together with other currents of Hindu revivalism and Neo-Hinduism, Kundalini Yoga became popular in 1960s to 1980s western counterculture.
In 1968 Kundalini Yoga was introduced to the US by Yogi Bhajan who founded the "Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization" (3HO) as a teaching organization. While Yoga practice and philosophy is generally considered a part of Hindu culture, Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan is founded on the principles of Sikh Dharma. Although it adheres to the three pillars of Patanjali's traditional yoga system: discipline, self-awareness and self-dedication (Patanjali Yoga Sutras, II:1), Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan does not condone extremes of asceticism or renunciation. Practitioners are encouraged his students to marry, establish businesses, and be fully engaged in society. Rather than worshiping God, Yogi Bhajan's teachings encourage students to train their mind to experience God. Yogi Bhajan sometimes referred to the Sikh lifestyle as Raj Yoga, the yoga of living detached, yet fully engaged in the world.
In respect of the rigor of his teachings, Yogi Bhajan found kinship with other 20th century Sikh sadhu saints, such as Sant Baba Attar Singh, Sant Baba Nand Singh, and Bhai Randhir Singh. In the outreach of his teachings, Yogi Bhajan's contributions are unparalleled in modern times.:200–208
In addition to inspiring the founding numerous yoga studios and centers of practice across the US, in 1971 Yogi Bhajan launched a pilot program for drug-treatment with two longtime heroin addicts in Washington, D.C. in 1972, and opened a drug-treatment center under the name of "3HO SuperHealth" in 1973 in Tucson, Arizona.
Kundalini Yoga continues to grow in influence and popularity largely in the Americas, Europe, South Africa, Togo, Australia, and East Asia, the training of many thousands of teachers. It is popularized through books and videos, charismatic teachers such as Gurmukh (yoga teacher), new research by David Shannahoff-Khalsa, Dharma Singh Khalsa, Sat Bir Singh Khalsa and others, and through the publicity accorded it by various celebs who such as Madonna (entertainer), Demi Moore, Cindy Crawford, Russell Brand, Al Pacino, David Duchovny, and Miranda Kerr who are known, or have been known, to practice it. One 2013 article in a New York wellness magazine described Kundalini Yoga as "The Ultra-Spiritual Yoga Celebs Love."
Kundalini is the term for "a spiritual energy or life force located at the base of the spine", conceptualized as a coiled-up serpent. The practice of Kundalini yoga is supposed to arouse the sleeping Kundalini Shakti from its coiled base through the 6 chakras, and penetrate the 7th chakra, or crown. This energy is said to travel along the ida (left), pingala (right) and central, or sushumna nadi - the main channels of pranic energy in the body.
Kundalini energy is technically explained as being sparked during yogic breathing when prana and apana blends at the 3rd chakra (naval center) at which point it initially drops down to the 1st and 2nd chakras before traveling up to the spine to the higher centers of the brain to activate the golden cord - the connection between the pituitary and pineal glands - and penetrate the 7 chakras.
Borrowing and integrating the highest forms from many different approaches, Kundalini Yoga can be understood as a tri-fold approach of Bhakti yoga for devotion, Shakti yoga for power, and Raja yoga for mental power and control. Its purpose through the daily practice of kriyas and meditation in sadhana are described a practical technology of human consciousness for humans to achieve their total creative potential. With the practice of Kundalini Yoga one is thought able to liberate oneself from one's Karma and to realize one's Dharma (Life Purpose).
The practice of kriyas and meditations in Kundalini Yoga are designed to raise complete body awareness to prepare the body, nervous system, and mind to handle the energy of Kundalini rising. The majority of the physical postures focus on navel activity, activity of the spine, and selective pressurization of body points and meridians. Breath work and the application of bandhas (3 yogic locks) aid to release, direct and control the flow of Kundalini energy from the lower centers to the higher energetic centers.
Along with the many kriyas, meditations and practices of Kundalini Yoga, a simple breathing technique of alternate nostril breathing (left nostril, right nostril) is taught as a method to cleanse the nadis, or subtle channels and pathways, to help awaken Kundalini energy.
Sovatsky (1998) adapts a developmental and evolutionary perspective in his interpretation of Kundalini Yoga. That is, he interprets Kundalini Yoga as a catalyst for psycho-spiritual growth and bodily maturation. According to this interpretation of yoga, the body bows itself into greater maturation [...], none of which should be considered mere stretching exercises.
"Kundalini Yoga consists of active and passive asana-based kriyas, pranayama, and meditations which target the whole body system (nervous system, glands, mental faculties, chakras) to develop awareness, consciousness and spiritual strength." —Yogi Bhajan