I was someone who adopted a world view that was atheistic growing up as the only way to make sense of the world. To see the world through a lens of chemical chain reactions with no faith in Spirit was my coping mechanism growing up as a queer kid in a traditional Chinese family. Along the way, I somehow stumbled upon the path of self-discovery and spiritual growth through acting conservatory training as a young adult, especially through my somatic movement and yoga classes. Along the way, I started to have mental, emotional and energetic experiences that were expressed either in body twitching, hysterical laughing or deep grief, electrical shivers throughout my spine and finger tips. My faithless way of viewing the world was finally challenged, and I slowly embarked on a spiritual journey that took me deeper into the energetics of yoga chakras and I also studied to become a Reiki master and shamanic energy medicine practitioner. These experiences early on in my spiritual journey were what the ancients were calling Kundalini awakening.
Discovering the Dormant Power
Kundalini is depicted as the serpent rising at the base of the spinal cord as a reservoir of latent potential energy. In Sanskrit, kunda refers to the concavity of the brain where the sleeping serpent rests. Kundalini in Sanskrit also means snake and represents the feminine force of unawakened dormant potential that lives within every person.
In the tantric tradition, kundalini is raw primal energy, while in modern Jungian psychology lingo, kundalini would be labeled as the unconscious in man. Across Northern Europe, the Americas, and the Middle East, the serpent has been seen across many ancient wisdom traditions as a symbol of the unconscious potential of man. In the Christian tradition, the phrase ‘stairway to heaven’ refers to the ascent of kundalini energy through the sushumna nadi (central channel)
What is Kundalini Awakening?
Kundalini resides in everyone. The practices of pranayama, yoga asana and meditation are a system towards strengthening the physical, mental and emotional bodies in preparation for a smooth awakening. The yoga asanas create strength and suppleness in the muscles and connective tissue. The connective tissue is piezoelectric, meaning it conducts electrical signals as energy. Dense tissue and physical adhesions between the muscles and tissue equate to poor circulation and low energy. To create the physical space inside, we cannot ignore the expansion of the mind (opening our horizons), and the command of the emotions (rechanneling raw/wild emotions with purposeful intent). When the kundalini is safely awakened, it expresses itself uniquely through each individual, as we have seen throughout the ages in many saints, artists, scientists, warriors, writers (i.e. Einstein, St. Teresa de Avila, Jesus, Yogi Paramamsa Yogananda, Mozart, etc). Some child prodigies or inspired artists, inventors, etc and those who are considered geniuses have gone through a partial awakening.
The Kundalini journey is intrinsically linked to the chakras, the energy centers of our body. Each chakra, from the Root at the base of the spine to the Crown at the top of the head, is a step on the ladder to spiritual enlightenment. As a practitioner of shamanic breathwork and meditation, I understood that awakening these chakras could lead to a profound transformation.
Kundalini is an experience that is not mired in belief systems and religious dogma. You can call it Christ consciousness or whatever name pleases you. It is a truth that can only be felt through the body versus being analyzed by the mind. Once kundalini is awakened, one’s entire perception will be changed. There is a quickening in the shedding of one’s karmas, and a new relationship with the Ego. The butterfly emerges from chrysalis. Physically, “the voice changes, the smell of the body changes, and the hormonal secretions also change. In fact, the transformation of cells in the body and brain takes place at a much higher rate than normal. These are just a few observations. However, scientific researches are still taking their first steps into this field.” (p.19 Kundalini Tantra, Swami Satyananda Saraswati).
When kundalini is awakened, there is an energetic upgrade in the physical, mental and emotional bodies – as they lighten in frequency and harmonize deeper into alignment with the realm of spirit. There is a more graceful and direct connection to the level of the subatomic realms, the home of energy in its purest state. And from this state, a new self emerges in great alignment with the Source of all that is.
Kundalini awakening is associated with the blessings of divine inspiration that can come in the form of visions and psychic experiences. It brings a direct experience with an inner knowing that goes beyond the desires of the ego mind.
Physiologically, the body changes in the emission of electrical signals which can be measured with modern equipment. You can liken it to a light bulb that has expanded to contain 60 W of electricity upgrading to hold 1000 W or more.
Now, the physical vessel is able to contain more energy, and can fully assist the manifestation of one’s soul purpose into reality with more fearless certainty because the veil of illusion which separates the mundane from the spiritual becomes thinner. This stage of evolution in the energy body allows one to walk as the embodiment of the divine in human form, an embodiment of the infinite in the 3D.
The scientist Itzhak Bentov theorized that a kundalini awakening “is caused by rhythmical pressure waves which result from the interaction of the heart beat, breathing and the fluid inside the skull, thereby causing the brain to oscillate up and down, which stimulates specific nerve currents in the brain.” (p.36 Kundalini Tantra, Swami Satyananda Saraswati).
The spontaneous activation of kundalini is rare, and the yogis have formulated a systematic process of awakening this dormant potential through yoga asanas, pranayama, kriya and meditation. Without the cohesive mindful interface of consciousness (which includes the body, mind and emotions) with the energy body – kundalini will not fully awaken.
As kundalini awakens up through the chakras, it moves through the chakras like climbing through a ladder. Along the way, as kundalini energy settles in each of the chakras, the most aligned qualities of each of those chakras amplify. And when it finally pierces the crown chakra, the rebirth of the self will emerge.
When there is mental instability, and old belief systems and stories if doubts, worries and fears still linger in the psyche and have not been dealt with, the awakening of kundalini can be turbulent. I’ve witnessed this firsthand with a couple of clients who experienced the awakening of kundalini through various classes and workshops that I’ve led which facilitated a strong physical and emotional release followed by difficulty containing the expression of this initial awakening.
In the yogic tradition, this terrible overwhelming subduing of this level of unconscious awakening is represented through the deity Kali who stands on Lord Shiva with mouth agape, tongue out thirsty for blood. Kali represents the raw explosión of the creative shakti (force) and Shiva represents the static force of structure. This is the eternal dynamic between yin and yang, and the full integration of the kundalini rising needs a balanced relationship between the feminine force and the masculine.
When the raw explosion of kundalini (which can feel like a raging storm) is distilled, she is represented by the goddess Durga, who is the softer aspect of Kali – still fierce and powerful, however showing up with a level of refinement and grace – to function in participation with Life instead of seeking to tear it down like a relentless hurricane.
While kundalini is rising up through the first 6 main chakra centers, it is rising in its unconscious state, when it rises into the two higher centers of the brain (the bindu point and sahasarsa point), kundalini rising becomes conscious.
The bindu point is located at the upper back of the skull responsible for the optic system and is the seat of amrit (divine nectar akin to ambrosia of the gods) that Can then drip down to nourish the entire mind body system.
Kundalini moves through the pituitary centers (the master control gland) before piercing the sahasrara point, which is the final culmination point of the kundalini rising at the top of the head.
The role of pranayama is to pump energy up from the mooladhara chakra through the 6 chakras vía the sushumna, the central nadi. Mooladhara is like the generator and the sushumna that runs up the spine is like the tube. Without spinal work to clear the central channel, the kundalini has nowhere to flow.
There are various layers of energy that surround the physical body, kundalini resides in the causal body where the laws of matter existing in a time space continuum do not apply. The causal body, or the seed body (karuna sarira) is said to contain the highest form of Self, the atman. The causal body is the most subtle body and one of the three bodies containing the individual soul (the others are the physical and the astral body). It is the body that is responsible for the ferrying of the soul from one incarnation to the next. The record of one’s karmic imprints and the multitude of lifetimes’ of experiences are here. It is through meditation, that one can connect to the seed body and start to witness the various gifts learned through their various incarnations.
In the male body, kundalini is located in the perineum between the pubic bone and the coccyx. In the female body, it is located at the base of the uterus in the cervix. This is known as muladhara chakra or the root chakra. In this region, kundalini is situated in a small gland (the perineal body (male) or posterior surface of the cervix (female)) that can even be extracted and squeezed, however, it will not activate merely through physical stimulation.
Kundalini is trying to make its way to the brain center and activates the dormant parts of the brain. An awakened one, would have one or more centers of the brain activated. Even in partial glimpses of genius, you’ll have a momentary awakening. Examples of partially awakened ones would be child prodigies, inspired artists, inventors, prophets, etc. A fully awakened being where kundalini is fully activated becomes like an avatar and is very rare.
The pathway of the kundalini energy moves upwards towards the crown chakra, but not always in a linear fashion. If there are any blockages, in the way of psycho-spiritual imprints, kundalini returns to the base chakra and resets because the energetic network cannot sustain the sustainability of the awakening – which explains those who experience moments of great inspiration, followed by a depression after. (This is why consistent practice is important).
Kundalini yoga focuses on changing the foundation of the physical body. The list below is a summary of the points that kundalini moves through on its ascent upwards.
- Mooladhara – first chakra in spiritual evolution. Last chakra in the completion of animal evolution. Human excretory and sexual functions. Soul of feet chakras = development of the animal and human qualities of instinct and intellect.
- Swadhisthana – 2nd chakra – Termination of spinal cord. Coccygeal plexus of nerves at the sacrum. Controls the unconscious.
- Manipura – 3rd chakra – Level of the navel – corresponding point on the spine. Digestion, assimilation and temperature regulation.
- Anahata – 4th chakra – Base of the heart, at the level of the depression in the sternum. Cardiac plexus of nerves. Controls, heart, lungs, diaphragm
- Vishuddha – 5th chakra – Throat pit in the vertebral column. Cervical plexus of nerves and controls thyroid complex. Systems of articulation, upper palate and epiglottis.
- Ajna – 6th Chakra – Pineal gland. Lying in the midline of the brain directly above the spinal column. Controls the muscles and the onset of sexual activity. Tantra and yoga say that ajna has complete control over all the functions of life.
- Bindu – Top of the head, where Hindu Brahmins keep a tuft of hair. Feeds the whole optic system and is the seat of amrit (nectar).
- Sahasrara – 7th Chakra – Final culmination of kundalini Shakti. Seat of Higher awareness. Pituitary gland, controls each and every gland and system of the body.
- The Unnameable – Source, Unity Consciousness, Divine Oneness
Some physical manifestations of a kundalini awakening in progress are:
- An involuntary electrical twitch, tremors, shakes, tingling energy sensations.
- Increase physical heat or cold in different energy centers of the body.
- Spontaneous mudras or asanas
- Experiencing visions or sounds
- Diminished sexual desire
- Extreme sexual desire (whole body orgasm)
- Surfacing of repressed emotions, feelings and thoughts
- Emotional numbness
- Antisocial, reclusive moodiness
- Moody, depressive, manic
- Headaches, migraines, skull pressure
- Increased blood pressure, irregular heartbeat
- Sensitivity to light, sound and touch
- Trance like altered states of consciousness
- Change in sleep pattern (oversleeping or insomnia)
- Loss or appetite or overeating
- Effervescent sensations of joy, interconnected feeling of connectivity and global awareness.
Shamanic Practices: The Deep Dive
In my teachings and retreats, I often integrate shamanic practices to explore and balance the chakra system. Techniques like breathwork, visualization, and engaging with sacred geometry help tap into deeper states of consciousness. It’s a journey that beckons us to confront our shadows and embrace our light, aligning the physical, mental, emotional, and energetic aspects of our being.
What fascinates me is that when I studied with my Q’ero paqo shaman teachers in the high Andes of Peru, they also had their own chakra system and way of describing how the immeasurable cosmic energy of Spirit moves through the physical experience through what they called ñawis. Ñawis in Quechua are translated as eyes, which is how they perceived the whirling discs of energy. Each of the 7 eyes, or chakras, corresponded to a matching color of the rainbow, exactly as the yogic chakra system does.
While the yogic chakra system uses certain mantra sounds to awaken the dormant centers, the Q’ero paqos associated each energetic center with an various archetypal energies that were either in animal form, goddess, or other Spirits of the invisible realms. There are many associations with each of the centers, however, I will use the main archetypes below.
- Puka Ñawi – 1st eye – Connects to Machahuay (the Black Serpent) – the one who helps to shed, cleanse and rid the unconscious body of anything that does not belong. (Unconscious)
- Huilapi Ñawi – 2nd eye – Connects to Puma (the Puma) – the one who helps you to face obstacles with strength and courage. (Subconscious)
- Kello Ñawi – 3rd eye – Connects to Q’ente (the Hummingbirds) – the ones who help you connect to the sweetness of purpose and the joy of your service.
- Comer Ñawi – 4th eye – Connects to Taita Mailku (the Condor) – the great bird of the East who assists with bridging higher wisdom and higher love through the symbolic.
- Curosa Ñawi – 5th eye – Connects to Mama Quilla (Mother Moon) – the archetype of the mother who helps to heal all that is untrue within us.
- Ankas Ñawi – 6th eye – Connects to Mama Chaska (Mother Venus) – the one who is able to help with dreams and retrieve lost parts of the soul.
- Tiritika Ñawi – 7th eye – Connects to TaitaInti (Father Sun) – the one who receives the blessings from the divine.
- Wiracocha – The Great Creator, the source of all the suns, the Supreme.
- Hanakpacha – The Higher Unseen realms where all higher vibrational beings reside like the angels and ascended masters.
In both the yogic and the Q’ero system, there is a quality of invoking the power of the archetypal energy in each of these areas through inner visualization. It is through this interface between your intellect and your imagination that intuition emerges as your original state. As a result, you are able to perceive messages through your inner seeing, hearing, knowing, sensing and all the other ways you can perceive, often in the language of symbols and metaphor.
The Continuous Journey
The awakening of Kundalini and the alignment of your chakras is an ongoing journey of self-discovery. It is a path of perpetual learning, growing, and transforming. To those who are ready to embark on this path, I offer this advice: be patient, stay open, and embrace the journey. It is a transformative process that leads to a life of balance, harmony, and profound spiritual connection. We have been conditioned in modern society to be frightened of things without labels, things that are inarticulable. Though I offered two main frameworks from the yogis and the Q’ero people of viewing kundalini energy, that too is simply a map. Once you traverse the realm of retaining information in your head, and embark on experiencing it in real time through your body and heart, do not be frightened of the sensations that will arise. This is the remembrance of who and what you truly are – a cosmic being that is interconnected to all of Life around you.
And of course, for those of you who feel you would benefit from going on these spiritual experiences in a group, I extend a continuous invitation to join me in any of my workshops, programs and retreats to explore this knowledge for yourself. To know in the mind is merely an informational experience. To know with your mind, body and heart evokes a truly transformative experience. We are not designed to go the path alone; very few are. We were designed to come into conscious relationship with one another as we hold each other up on this path of breaking up with our old conditioned selves and re-emerging like the beautiful butterfly – Free.
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