What is Kundalini Yoga? Your Questions, Answered

For those who want a well-rounded yoga practice that engages your mind, body, voice and spirit, Kundalini yoga is a great option. Kundalini yoga leverages chanting, singing, meditation, poses and breathing to create one harmonious practice.

What is Kundalini yoga?

While different instructors may have different integrations of these tools, generally, a Kundalini yoga class follows this basic format:

  • An opening song or chant to welcome the practice and find your energy. This is also known as ‘tuning in’ to your practice. 
  • A warmup of your spine. Kundalini yogis believe that your internal energy rests at the base of your spine. This warmup helps to find that energy. 
  • A sequence of postures paired with different breathing styles. This sequence is known as a ‘kriya’ in Kundalini yoga. Each posture is held for an extended amount of time and is followed by a few moments of meditation to welcome the benefits of the pose and prepare for the next. 
  • Closing meditation or song to embrace your energy and round out the practice.

Where did Kundalini yoga originate?

While its origin is unknown, the teachings of Kundalini energy are noted in texts dating back to 1,000 B.C. and have been taught to ancient royalty and nobility for centuries. The practice is associated with Yogi Bhajan, who introduced Kundalini yoga to the western world in the seventies.

Kundalini yogis believe that dormant energy lies at the base of the spine and often goes unused. The goal of this style of yoga is to activate this energy, help it flow up the spine, through the seven chakras and peak at the crown of the head so the energy can flow freely through the rest of the body. 

What to wear to Kundalini yoga

As with any form of yoga, stretchy, comfortable, zipper-free clothes are the way to go. But on top of that, you will see many Kundalini yogis wearing head-to-toe white clothing. Instructors also may choose to don the traditional white headpiece during their instruction. 

Kundalini yogis believe that there is power in wearing white during practice due to the energy-activating properties of the shade. Chances are, not everyone will be following this tradition in your class. But you will not feel out of place if you wear all white. Try it out and see if it helps you elevate your practice! 

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How much does a Kundalini yoga cost?

Kundalini yoga tends to follow average yoga class prices, ranging from $15 to $30 in the United States. Though it may be slightly harder to find than vinyasa or yin yoga, it is still a popular practice available in most cities. 

How to start Kundalini yoga

One of the best things you can do to prepare for your Kundalini practice is to know what you’re getting into – you could be caught off guard by the group singing and chanting. But with a general overview of the practice, you’ll be able to let go of any initial apprehension and commit to the practice! 

While holding poses and meditation are universally accepted aspects of yoga, the most notable surprises you may run into with Kundalini yoga are the unique breathing exercises and singing or chanting. 

Breathing is an integral aspect of all forms of yoga. But with Kundalini yoga, the breathing exercises may feel like the most challenging part of the practice. More than just controlled breaths of other yoga styles, Kundalini yoga also incorporates incredibly quick, shallow nose breathing (known as ‘breath of fire”) or deep, slow breathing to activate muscles or center your mind around the practice. 

The singing and chanting aspects of Kundalini yoga help tie the practice to its spiritual roots. Each class will include an opening chant, closing chant and the instructor may incorporate sound into the poses. This may seem intimidating, but don’t fret! There are a few common chants used in Kundalini yoga, and you don’t worry about studying the chant ahead of time. Many instructors provide written versions to follow along, and no one expects you to sing perfectly on your first try! 

Accepting these empowering and beautiful additions to your yoga practice will help open your mind and grow your understanding of yoga to new heights. 

Why is Kundalini yoga so special?

While all forms of yoga focus on mental and physical wellbeing, Kundalini yoga hones in on the spiritual aspect of the practice as well. From deep meditation to powerful chants, Kundalini yoga invites you to empty your mind of all outside distractions and channel energy up the spine, reaching past the crown of your head. This stimulation of our dormant energy helps you let go of limiting stressors and focus on finding your purest form of self. 

Even past the powerful spiritual connection of Kundalini yoga, you can find great physical and mental benefits. 

  • The quick, shallow breathing targets overlooked ab muscles that help build a stronger core. 
  • The longer poses activate your muscles for an extended amount of time to increase overall strength. 
  • Deep, slow breathing can lower stress, heart rate, blood pressure and decrease feelings of anxiety. When practiced over time, this breathing also helps enhance memory, increases abilities to focus and boosts metabolism.
  • The chanting and singing can feel awkward or uncomfortable at first, but eventually, this aspect of the class will help you shed insecurities for a refreshed, invigorated and empowered mood. 
  • And as with any active yoga style, you’ll get to enjoy that lovely endorphin-produced ‘yoga high’ after every practice! 

Amanda Rouse is a freelance writer and content strategist living in San Clemente, California. When she’s not actively dodging writer’s block, she’s probably trail running, doing a crossword puzzle, or falling off of waves (She soon hopes to call this “surfing.”). Follow her and send her funny reels on Instagram.

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