WHAT IS RAISING YOUR KUNDALINI?
Envision a sleeping serpent coiled up at the base of your spine. The serpent represents ignorance, the spirit of a serpent represents rebirth, transformation, healing through the shedding of an old skin that no longer serves. When the snake is coiled up tightly it is unable to shed its skin and transform. Now see the sleeping serpent awaken and stretch out, rising up your spine where it sheds its skin as it rises piercing through each layer of nerve complexes known as chakras. Each chakra represents a certain element of being human. As the serpent rises through each chakra the lessons within that chakra are learned. As the serpent rises it illuminates your feelings around your family and culture, your relationships, your vocation, the core of who you think you are, how well you love, how well you communicate; it illuminates your subconscious thoughts and patterns and your spirituality.
Raising your kundalini is integral to yoga. Ancient yoga texts written by Vedic sages known as rishis, “seers” or “knowers”, identify the purpose of yoga as union or yoking up to a higher universal understanding or power. The Vedic sages taught that as being conscious, staying present.
The 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika also advises you to use yoga practices to raise our kundalini to be more aware and present, which is allows one to yoke to a higher universal power. Yoga is much more than physical health, thought it is good for your physical health.
What do all these rules and practices of yoga postures have to do with a higher understanding or staying present and illuminating our natures? Not much if you don’t put it to practice off your mat. The yoga postures do release tension and tightness which helps remove distractions from doing the inner work of yoga.
What is raising your kundalini?
Kundalini means “coiled one” in Sanskrit. Many yogis consider kundalini to be a dormant magical energy that once awakened through the practices of yoga becomes enlightening energy. Kundalini is a negative energy, a blockage, whose raising and release bring an individual into higher awareness.
Kundalini as explained by the Sikhs makes the most sense to me. The Sikh description of kundalini is explained by American yoga instructor David Williams, in his 2020 book, My Search for Yoga, as “ignorance”, “delusion”, being “unlearned”, being “unwise”. K. Pattabhi Jois, who in the 1970s introduced Ashtanga Yoga to Americans and Europeans at his yoga school in Mysore, India, said similarly, “Kundalini means ignorance, yes you will release your ignorance through the practices you are learning”. (Williams, Ch. 88.)
Kundalini is explained as a snake we want to burn up or kill, in the classic Hindu yoga text Yoga Yajnavalkya (attributed to Vedic sage Yajnavalkya, and in the contemporary book, The Heart of Yoga, by T.K.V. Desikachar), because a dead snake cannot make itself coil. The live, coiled snake is what blocks the flow of our energy: if you kill it, then the blockage is removed. The “killing” is really a relaxing of the nervous system.
As the snake uncoils it rises through a subtle pathway up the center of the spine, called the “sushumna nadi”. As it rises up the spine it pierces energy centers, or “chakras” that are along the spine. This unrolling of the kundalini allows positive energy to flow upward toward the brain helping us to reach higher states of consciousness.
Kundalini and the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is the kundalini and the kundalini is within the sushumna nadi. According to the Upanishads, the sushumna nadi is located within the upper fibers of what we now know is the vagus nerve — specifically rising from the space of the heart, behind the upper palate and into the skull. And his is indeed part of the path of the vagus nerve.
Kundalini as ignorance is in the lower fibers of the vagus nerve in the lower abdomen. You “kill” or relax the lower vagal fibers (meaning remove tension from the abdomen) so the energy moves to the upper vagal fibers from the heart to the brain, where you now can make more enlightened decisions.
The term “kundalini rising” is about the vagus nerve. The upper fibers of the vagus nerve is the area that is connected to the senses and brain. We want that area to be active. When the upper fibers are active, it makes for vibrant, happy, productive beings the prefrontal cortex dominating over the amygdala, reducing the stress response. Raising kundalini is, having the upper fibers of the vagus nerve more active than the middle or lower fibers.
The lower fibers of the vagus nerve that are in the gut are responsible for the “freeze” reaction of fight, flight, or freeze when faced with a severe life threatening situation. This also makes it hard to get out of bed if facing a non-life threatening but still stressful event.
The middle fibers of the vagus nerve activate the SNS. The vagus nerve activates the sympathetic nervous system, we don’t want the middle fibers to be more active than the upper fibers.
The upper fibers are the area of the vagus nerve we want to be most active. Stress deactivates the upper fibers and activates the lower and middle fibers. When our upper vagal fibers are active we are usually engaging socially, doing something enjoyable, creating harmony.
Yoga practices send the message via vagus to the brain that all is ok — I’m safe and protected, therefore I can heal and digest and regenerate. We come into the world wired to feel safe and the autonomic nervous system is that wiring. The vagus nerve is 80% of our PNS, which is why we want the vagus nerve toned — not too strong, but toned correctly — lower fibers relaxed and upper fibers active.
Practices of yoga from asanas to bandhas to drishti to chanting to sun salutes, are all about calming and strengthening the vagus nerve, toning it.
A strong vagal nerve is how some people have more grace under pressure. Equanimity is a core tenet of many ancient philosophies and religions. Equanimity is having mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially when under stress or in a difficult situation. Equanimity has biological roots in the vagus nerve.
Once you have an awakened kundalini and tamed the stress response the mind is more subtle and can better experience “inner states” — not just the five senses, emotions, and thoughts, but other states of consciousness. With awakened kundalini, you are more aware of how your thoughts are driving you in your life; positive or negative, gross or subtle.
You want your kundalini to uncoil and escape. This may not be a moment of realization as the sun streams through the clouds on a beautiful day, but maybe it will happen that way. We can raise our kundalini through yogic practices, or we might notice that our kundalini is rising without us making a conscious effort. Many times that non-conscious effort is emotional or painful, or a breakthrough on some level, it tends to be an upheaval of some type, or a catharsis.
Often what causes your kundalini to wake up and rise is frustration, boredom or ennui. Kundalini might start rising when you get fed up with how the world operates, or sick of being “in the box”, meaning within the constraints of how someone else wants you to live your life. It can happen when you start looking for something but you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for.
Kundalini rising is said to be your Self creating experiences to “wake you up” or better yet, “shake you up,” to seek answers to life’s basic existential questions: “What is this world?” “Who am I”? Kundalini rising can also be your Self trying to urge you to shift your world, change your life or maybe just look at your world in a different way.
Everyone’s kundalini is active to varying degrees. We have all had experiences that have made us see our world in a different way.
Kundalini awakening illuminates what is called in yoga language your “vasanas”, meaning roughly your Default Mode Network (DMN); your habitual or automatic response to a situation. Methods of your DMN could be helpful or destructive, but once your kundalini starts to escape it illuminates your bad mental patterns and behavioral tendencies so you can replace them with productive patterns.
Of course the kundalini does not rise the same way in everyone. Some people have very dramatic experiences, others not. Carolyn Myss, a renowned medical intuitive says “hold on tight” if your kundalini starts rising, this is not a fun experience. When your kundalini rises it shakes the earth you stand on because it changes your beliefs or your whole belief system, you see things in a new way that can be scary at first.
Your kundalini piercing each chakra is not some psycho-spiritual mystical awakening, it is a down to earth, shaking of the ground you’re standing on. Once the kundalini reaches your brain it escapes and you can be forever enlightened.
Awakened kundalini is often associated with attaining enlightenment. But I believe that it may be a form of enlightenment, because when your ignorance is removed the darkness is removed and you can see clearly now. That may be enlightenment, it may be a step in the direction toward enlightenment, or it may be flashes of enlightenment.
You can assume your kundalini is escaping if you have a new or stronger interest in religion, mysticism, meditation, yoga, chanting, going on pilgrimages, visiting spiritual places or teachers, or other similar endeavors.
Sometimes it takes a trauma or drama to wake us up to see things differently. Other times not. You can you let your kundalini escape without the drama.
Chakras are real
Many yoga teachers explain chakras as energy centers that are situated along the spine and head that are not tangible and can not be seen on an x-ray. Chakras are tangible; each chakra coordinates with a major nerve plexus in the body, to me the nerve plexuses are the chakras.
Each chakra or nerve plexus deals with different emotions of being human. You might have heard the common phrase in a yoga class is to align your chakras or balance your chakras. This means to balance your nervous system. If your chakras are not aligned, your sympathetic nervous system is overpowering your parasympathetic nervous system, and you are stressed.
Prana in Biophotons
In yoga it is said we want to get prana into the sushumna nadi, prana is required for kundalini to rise.
In past chapters I spoke of prana and biophotons; biophotons are quantum particles, light emitting photons in the body. These are tangible. Some believe prana is biophotons, maybe so, I conclude biophotons may be concentrated with prana and perhaps we can use biophotons like they are little packets of prana. Prana can also be likened to the bioelectricity of the body, how the cells generate energy to communicate via the ion fluxes.
Biophotons support the bioelectric cellular communication and help our body communicate instantly. The health of your body and mind is reliant upon the speed of communications your body can send and receive, giving us vitality and the best health. Prana is associated with vitality in the body.
For our kundalini to escape we need to get this bioelectric/biophoton energy into our sushumna nadi or spinal cord where the nerves are housed that communicate messages between the body and brain. This would equate to instant communications creating supreme health and vitality allowing one the faculties for the union that yoga is. If you are dulled by disease or stress you can’t access the higher faculties of the mind.
How do we get our biophotons in our spine? I speculate filling our body with biophotons may be a good start. How do we fill our body with biophotons in other words with prana? The five main ways we fill our body with prana are:
- From the sun
- Grounding with the earth
- Air through breathing
Conscious breathing and yoga are also ways to increase prana. With right lifestyle which will get you in touch with the 5 was we take in prana, mindset, breath, and intentions along with a yoga or spiritual practice of some type are the ways the ancient yogis spoke of increasing prana in your sushumna nadi raising your consciousness.
Years and years of vague yogic lore posit that we should use yogic exercises to get prana in our sushumna nadi to raise our kundalini, as it rises the kundalini pierces each chakra, balancing them along the way, leading to higher consciousness. I explain it this way, get biophotons into your spine, and balance your nervous system so your entire body communicates instantly and effortlessly leaving your brain with more power to access higher states of functioning.
Morality and raising your Kundalini
The practice of yoga, and raising your kundalini are not just for your wellbeing, but also for others’ because you are more aware of how your thoughts shape your words and your actions. Yoga is not often associated with improved morality.
I like how the Indian philosopher Jiddhu Krishnamurti described the connection of yoga and morality, I rephrase it here:
The real yoga which is to lead a highly moral life (not morality according to circumstances or culture); True ethical activity; not to hurt, clear thinking, acting morally, getting the right amount of sleep and food, and doing the right thing. Another of my favorite Buddhist sayings: Just do the next right thing. Which means the highest good for all involved.
The physical asanas are necessary, they are exercise for a healthy body, and for some discipline, discipline is necessary in life. We sometimes have to do things we just don’t feel like doing and in modern life exercise is more needed, in the old days lifestyle naturally had more exercise built into; no longer today.
Kundalini rising removes ignorance. If you have the right amount of sleep, good food, and exercise you have more energy. This increased energy makes you feel better and be happier and more caring toward others. This demonstrates your kundalini is rising!
I want to expound on kundalini rising energy and leading a highly moral life. This means we get rid of hidden motives. No longer do we want to operate looking for what is best for ourselves only. It’s not just about me or you; we want to operate in a way that what we do — even in our vocation — is for the highest good for all. And being universally moral takes into account societies that suppress women or minorities. Even if you steal because you are poor and hungry, it is still not moral.
On the way to enlightenment, I want give examples of how what enlightenment looks like, enlightenment is not just for super gurus who can sit for hours with little responsibility. Enlightened beings can have jobs and family and live normal lives, they just use more of their brain and are able to access functions in the higher parts of the brain.
On this journey toward higher brain functions you will spiral up and spiral back down a little, it’s not always a straight journey upward. You’ll have movements of realization and moments of slipping into habitual behaviors. Be patient with yourself, when you catch yourself speaking unconsciously or slipping back into less aware tendencies, take pause, acknowledge it, correct in your mind pulling back the misused energy, then redirect it to the way your enlightened being would behave.
Here I will try to put in tangible terms what it is like when your kundalini begins to rise piercing through each chakra:
The first chakra (the root chakra) is located at the base of the spine and deals with family or sense of belonging to a community, your home and basic needs like food, water, and shelter. As one learns to accept the predicaments they were born into and love their family members even though they may feel radically different from you, or you may feel radically different from them, you are acting in a higher minded way. To begin the rise toward higher consciousness we need to resolve our defensive mechanisms. For example if your yoga makes your family uncomfortable you don’t need to talk to them about it or convince them its good for you. If you are vegetarian and your family is not, do not expect them to have vegetarian food at family gatherings. And if you live modestly, in a comfortable home without being wasteful or indulgent, you are conserving, not wasting earth’s resources. These may be signs your kundalini has pierced your first chakra.
Second chakra (the sacral chakra) is in our lower belly and is the energy of relationships and vocations. Signs of kundalini rising through your second chakra may be caring for your partner without trying to control him or her. Other signs of kundalini energy in your second chakra might be choosing a vocation that gives back to humanity, not just choosing a vocation earn the most money. Ideally, our job is based on our strengths and skills, and hopefully something we enjoy as well as something that helps our community or world. Then pray to God we can earn a comfortable living from it! There is a balance with income; too little and you are struggling with not enough time for spiritual pursuit and too much comes with another whole set of issues. We do want to be comfortable. Obviously we do need to earn money, but keep it in perspective. Money is not what makes life happy or fulfilling.
Third chakra (naval chakra) energy is the solar plexus, the core of your personality. Ego is housed here. The absence of ego gets a lot of attention as one starts on the yogic path. Ego is not having an inflated idea of yourself, ego is believing you are your body which you are just inhabiting. Having a big ego means you think your body is superior when in fact it is the being inhabiting the body that is superior, superior in everyone. Kundalini piercing the third chakra might take the form of something along the lines of realizing the you is inside the body that is housing you. Signs of giving up the ego might include not identifying your self worth with your body; if you notice you no longer measure your self worth by how well you can do yoga postures or by how sexy or handsome you are, this is a good sign your kundalini has made it to your third chakra. Other signs you have realized your dis-indentification with your body might include not talking about yourself incessantly, not trying to get attention, not trying to pretend you are important or your job is more important than someone else’s.
Fourth chakra (heart chakra) is at the heart and is about kindness, compassion, joy, trust passion for life, and ultimately love, unconditional love. For example, give love even if you don’t receive it in return. Can you love someone who dislikes you? Fourth chakra kundalini rising is also about emotional attachments to another person. A realized individual will not attach themselves to someone because of what they can give them or do for them. For instance, money; many stay in an unhealthy relationship because they feel they can’t support themselves financially, this creates an attachment to someone who gives you something you think you can’t give yourself. On contraire when you step out of the attached relationship you may find support in many other ways you didn’t realize were possible or available to you. You are free to be with someone you desire, not need.
If you can respond with love in all your dealings and doings, even to those who have wronged you, then your kundalini has probably made it to your fourth chakra.
Fifth chakra (the throat chakra) shows up as sincerity and authenticity. Fifth chakra kundalini rising is evidenced by giving up your will, in other words don’t throw a fit if something does not go your way. Let the universe is guide you, having full faith you will either be given solid ground to stand on or wings with which to fly, and not being afraid to take the leap. Our 5th chakra also governs what goes in our mouth and what comes out. Eat smart and speak kindly. As the yoga practice of satya or truthfulness holds, speak the truth, but don’t hurt, very difficult. If you can do this your kundalini may have risen through your fifth chakra.
The Sixth charka (the third eye or ajna chakra) is located at the space between the eyebrows where a third eye is often depicted. Sixth chakra piercing may give us clear visions and clear thinking. We are not bound to who we think we are. In challenging situations one can realize the big picture, remain calm and composed and not get caught up in little details or challenges. When our kundalini makes it to our sixth chakra we are more easily able to operate in a meditative state most of our day, feeling equanimity in all situations. We do not have grand ideas about ourselves or our works, and we can handle our realities.
- Not opening the sixth chakra first might be the basis of the drama that Carolyn Myss writes about when our kundalini rises. The yogic textbooks (ref. Kundalini Tantra by Bihar School of Yoga) state that it is important to open your sixth chakra first when you start to work with your kundalini, then go base to crown with your openings. According to these texts if kundalini starts rising before the sixth chakra is open it will rock the stability of the practitioner. One may experience physical, mental, and/or emotional shocks, as your lower chakras start to open you may feel the need to make big changes in your life. The awakening of the sixth chakra brings a great degree of detachment, which allows one to withstand the lower chakra awakenings without excessive shock. When the sixth chakra is opened first one is able to observe challenging changes in their life with the attitude of a witness. How do you open your sixth chakra? Meditate.
The seventh chakra (the crown chakra), at the crown of the head is where the sense of oneness, of bliss, of the divine is. It is depicted as a thousand-petaled lotus flower where we connect with our spirituality. As the kundalini ascends to the 7th chakra we broaden our beliefs, we are not bound on one idea being right. We realize there are many paths and each person has to find theirs. Then we can travel our different paths together peacefully. When we identify too strongly with something, it closes us down to other ways of being. Losing identity with ourselves broadens our horizons of who we are, broadens our circles of friends and gives us more peace and calm in life. Wow, I guess when the kundalini escapes out the body we go sit by the river all day completely content with few needs.
Think of the movement of kundalini through our chakras as building a pyramid:
- Solid base, First we must get our home, health, and family stable. This is our base.
- Then we need to feel safe, loved, and have a job that is meaningful to us. This would be the second tier.
- Next we need connection to people and community, we need self-esteem and strength.
- Then we need to love ourselves and respect others.
- After all this is in place we are ready to work on our spiritual journey, the rising of our consciousness would be the top point of our pyramid representing higher brain functions
The practices of yoga are aligned with this principle in raising your kundalini, yoga asana gets the body and mind healthy, creates community, and improves self-esteem and strength. The yoga practices of breathing and meditation calm the nervous system and tame the mind curtailing the stories the mind spins that will never happen. When these fall into place we are able to follow a higher path of understanding and serving our communities.
And the flip side, making “what is raising your kundalini” a question; what is raising your kundalini? What excites you, what makes you want to do the work of starting your kundalini to rise? The words of Joseph Campbell ring clear to me here “Follow your bliss”. What do you really want to do in life that serves a higher good? Don’t be afraid to make the changes necessary. They can be big frightening steps involving life changes: jobs, relationships, where you live, changes that require the faith the fifth chakra represents. They are not easy to do, require much work and preparations . . . but when the efforts are made the changes in life can be blissful.
The world does not need more status quo. Status quo means the mess we are in, and it led us wo where we are. The world needs enlightened individuals to step up into serious positions that can make positive differences in the world today.