Kundalini: The Underlying Spiritual Force of Chakra Awakening

Excerpt from Anodea Judith’s Chakra Yoga

No discussion of the chakras would be complete without discussing Kundalini, the underlying spiritual force of chakra awakening. Often misunderstood and always mysterious, this serpentlike goddess of the chakras is the form that Shakti sometimes takes as she rises up the spine. As Kundalini-Shakti, she rises in search of her eternal lover and counterpart, Shiva.

Kundalini is a force that lies latent within each person. Latent, there is little drive toward awakening or perhaps the drive is scattered or sporadic. Spirituality may well exist, practices may be beneficial, but the underlying force that activates these practices may be absent. Many people have said to me over the years, “Oh, I’ve tried meditation (or yoga or pranayama or…) and it just didn’t do much for me.” I’ve never met anyone with a Kundalini experience who would say that.

Kundalini is like the electricity that runs through a string of Christmas lights. The lights are there, and they may even have pretty ornaments hanging from them, but until the energy shoots through the wire, there is nothing special about them. Once lit up, they provide a whole new experience. When Kundalini energizes the chakras, they are no longer an intellectual concept but a direct experience.

Kundalini is an archetypal force that needs to be understood symbolically, if not experientially. Symbolically, she is said to lie coiled three and one-half times around the root chakra, perhaps holding matter together. (Kundala means coiled.) When she awakens, she journeys up the spine, piercing and activating each chakra in turn. Her final goal is to reach the crown chakra and merge with Shiva, then reside with him in eternal union in the heart.

Experientially, Kundalini is an electrifying spiritual force that runs through the body, shaking you to your core. Her power and presence can be invited through prayers and practices, but she is only activated through grace. Whether that grace comes from a qualified guru giving shaktipat (direct transmission), from years of yoga or meditation, from stress that breaks down defenses, or even from drugs or fasting, once Kundalini awakens she is an autonomous healing force that moves within you of her own accord.

Most people can neither start nor stop Kundalini with their will. She may appear briefly for moments, intermittently for years, or become a constant presence that changes your entire perspective on life. Always she is a teacher, seeking to dissolve illusion and blockages in order to reveal the true spiritual nature of creation.

As such, Kundalini is a tricky force to play with. My many years of traveling and teaching have exposed me to countless people telling me about their Kundalini experiences—all of them profound but not all of them pleasant. Awakening is not always gentle. Some have had trouble sleeping, eating, having sex, or doing many of the mundane things previously taken for granted. Some have been visited by visions, twisted into postures by spontaneous movements called kriyas, or heard sounds or voices in their head. Some thought they were going crazy, as Kundalini can sometimes resemble psychosis. Some were completely rearranged by the experience, generally for the better, as if the central organizing principle within their body and their life had suddenly taken charge and pulled everything together in a more cohesive form. Inevitably, Kundalini pushes up against our blocks. Until those blocks are dissolved, the experience can be very uncomfortable.

Because Kundalini’s spontaneous movements, or kriyas, are often wavelike or trembling, she is equated with the movement of a serpent slithering up the spine. Kriyas often resemble yoga postures and may be the origin of some of the asanas, or yoga postures, that we practice today. Practicing the asanas consciously is a good way to prepare the body to tolerate and handle the intense pranic rush of Kundalini. This is why people are advised to engage in years of practice and study under a true master before engaging the Kundalini force.

Anodea Judith, PhD is the founder and director of Sacred Centers, and a groundbreaking thinker, writer and spiritual teacher. Her passion for the realization of untapped human potential matches her concern for humanity's impending crises — her fervent wish is that we "wake up in time." She holds Masters and Doctoral degrees in Psychology and Human Health, with lifelong studies of alternative medicine, yoga, mythology, history, sociology, systems theory, and mystic spirituality.

She is considered one of the country's foremost experts on the combination of chakras and therapeutic issues and on the interpretation of the Chakra System for the Western lifestyle. She spends much of her time on the road teaching, with workshops and trainings offered across the U.S., Europe and Central America.

Click here to visit Anodea’s website, Sacred Centers.

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This article appears in: 2017 Catalyst, Issue 12: Yoga Day Summit