What Is Kundalini Meditation?

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Whether we realize it or not, most of us do a lot of things without really thinking and often react to our environment rather than being intentional about our thoughts and behaviors. For example, we might drive to work, wash dishes, tuck the kids in, or eat a meal without really being aware of what is happening—or what we want to happen.

However, if you want to live your life with greater awareness and intention, one way to enter this state of heightened attention is to practice meditation. A specific form of meditation that may be particularly helpful is Kundalini, which focuses on primal energy. Kundalini meditation is a way of channeling your energy and releasing yourself from stress and living on "auto-pilot."

Kundalini meditation
 Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin

Overview

The exact origins of Kundalini meditation are not known, although its traditions date back to approximately 1,000 BCE to 500 BCE. In Sanskrit, kundalini means "coiled snake" and references the ancient belief that each person carries "divine" energy at the base of the spine. This mediation tradition seeks to awaken, release, and harness this energy.

Kundalini mediation was popularized in the West by Yogi Bhajan, who developed and introduced his own form of Kundalini yoga in the United States in the late 1960s. Since then, the practice has become a popular way to develop greater body awareness, mindfulness, and stress relief, among other benefits.

Purpose of Kundalini Meditation

Kundalini meditation is part of Kundalini yoga and is meant to move energy through the body. It is based on the concept that energy at the base of the spine (also known as the root chakra) needs to be released through the seven chakras of the body and then out through the crown chakra above the head.

This process of releasing energy from the body has the purpose of creating a system of communication between your mind and body to relieve mental, physical, and spiritual issues. This system of bringing awareness to your body by connecting with your breath is intended to facilitate being present, establishing a new rhythm, and communicating with a higher version of yourself.

Kundalini meditation is not a set of beliefs or religion. Instead, it's a system for evoking energy inside yourself and developing mind-body awareness.

The practice should be thought of as a technique, as opposed to a belief system, that helps people clear away the clutter of the world and access the inner self. Additionally, rather than providing instant relief, enlightenment, or "uncoiling," proponents say that perseverance and consistent practice is needed to achieve optimal benefits.

Just like taking a shower each day cleanses your physical body, yogis view Kundalini meditation as a way to cleanse your mind. It's a method to rejuvenate after a stressful day, manage stress in the moment, and/or counteract tiredness. It also aims to help balance your energy (or chakras) and calm your mind so that you're acting with purpose rather than just reacting to your thoughts and environment.

Possible Benefits

The benefits of learning to practice Kundalini meditation can be summarized as bringing more awareness and intention to your daily life. Specifically, this can be seen in several different ways, including:

  • Aiding concentration and preventing random thoughts from throwing you off balance
  • Breaking your automatic daily routines and bringing you into a state of mindfulness
  • Bringing balance to mind, body, and soul
  • Building up your creative energy to tackle projects in your life
  • Creating awareness of the body
  • Enhancing your brain patterns and emotional balance
  • Helping reduce anxiety
  • Helping release stress and find a sense of peace
  • Improving cognitive functioning
  • Improving sleep and sleep-related issues
  • Teaching the proper way to breathe (into your diaphragm) and expanding lung capacity

How the Practice Works

Below are the steps you should follow to begin a very basic Kundalini meditation practice. Remember that it's better to start small. Pick a manageable meditation commitment that you think you can follow through on every day.

Avoid trying to do too much too quickly, which could feel overwhelming and derail your efforts. Even five minutes each day of Kundalini meditation is likely to help you, so don't underestimate the value of even this most basic practice.

1. Choose a Location

Kundalini mediation can be done anywhere. Ideally find a quiet, distraction-free space that's a comfortable (not too hot, not too cool) temperature. This should be a spot that you find peaceful and where you are not likely to be bothered. It could be a place where you gather your favorite things. Keep a bottle of water beside you.

2. Choose What to Wear

Dress in whatever feels right to you. Many practitioners choose to wear loose, comfortable, cotton clothing and potentially a head covering like a cotton shawl. Your clothes should be clean, fresh, and ideally light in color to enhance the feeling of lightness.

3. Choose When to Practice

You could practice first thing in the morning to set your intentions for the day—or to take advantage of a time you are least likely to be disturbed. Or, you could practice before bed at night as a way of winding down from your day. Just about any time works, but try to avoid meditating after a big meal, as your body will be busy with digestion.

4. Get into Position

Sit on the floor cross-legged or sit in a chair with your weight resting on your feet. Most importantly, choose a position that is comfortable to you where you can sit upright with a straight spine. Close your eyes softly so that they are about 90% closed. You can choose to sit on a wool or cotton blanket or put a pillow underneath you for comfort.

5. Choose the Length of Practice

This could be anywhere from three minutes to two and a half hours. Some common choices of meditation length are 11 minutes, 15 minutes, 22 minutes, 31 minutes, etc. Whatever works for your schedule and goals is perfect.

6. Choose a Mantra

While you breathe, you will chant a mantra to help you focus. One good example for beginners is the mantra "sat nam," which means "truth is my identity."

Chant "sat" when you inhale and "nam" when you exhale. You can choose to chant out loud, in a loud whisper, or silently in your head. You can also pick another phrase or sound to repeat. Whatever mantra speaks to you and feels right, is right.

The purpose of chanting is to direct your energy. Actively listen to yourself if you are chanting out loud, or visualize the mantra being written down if you are saying it in your head. You can also repeat your mantra at other times of the day if feeling stressed.

The point of a mantra is to break out of old patterns, so the mantra should always reflect the state that you want to be in rather than the one you are in now.

7. Start to Focus on Your Breath

Notice your breathing and gradually start to slow it down. Your goal will be for one round of inhaling and exhaling to last about seven to eight seconds. Break your inhale and exhale into segments, such that you do short inhales or exhales broken up by pauses.

Aim to do this so that there are four segments of both inhales and exhales during a complete breath. Breath through your nose the entire time. If you feel dizzy at any point, then stop the practice.

8. Feel the Breath Moving

As you are practicing your breathing and chanting, focus on how your breath is moving through your body and helping you to relax. Whenever your mind starts to wander, consciously return your focus back to your breath and mantra.

9. Finish the Meditation

Continue this cycle of breathing throughout the predetermined mediation time. (Set a timer so you'll know when to stop.) Complete the mediation by inhaling deeply, pushing your palms together or raising your arms in the air, and then relaxing and exhaling.

10. Gradually Increase Your Meditation

Gradually, aim to increase the length of time that you meditate. As you practice, focus on letting thoughts come and go, and watch for a feeling of energy moving along your spine and a feeling of euphoria in your body.

Research on Kundalini Meditation

Overall, research on Kundalini meditation is in its early stages. However, many researchers see the potential for using Kundalini yoga with other treatments to help people who are managing high levels of stress-related to chronic conditions, such as:

In addition, there are claims that it can help with other conditions such as:

Also, there is some evidence of the effectiveness of this type of meditation specifically for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). For instance, an 8-week intervention using Kundalini meditation led to lower anxiety for participants compared with those in a conventional treatment group.

A Word From Verywell

If you're interested in learning to practice Kundalini meditation, remember it's fine to start small—and incorporating mediation into your daily life can be hard. At first, even just two minutes of meditation might feel like a struggle. But don't give up. Quieting your mind takes practice, and even just a few minutes can have a positive impact.

With time, it will become easier to call yourself into a meditative state. Once you have that ability, it's the goal for that new state of awareness to translate into other areas of your life. Rather than simply reacting to what happens to you, this practice can help you manage your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with heightened intention and perspective.

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