How Does Kundalini Yoga Work?
Here's one of the things that I think makes Kundalini Yoga so effective: the psychology of the human mind we call the brain or the thinking mind. I think the mind is the universal intelligence.
And then you have some part of you that can choose to align with that or to just walk around talking to yourself, which doesn't necessarily allow that. It has the potential to serve a connection to the universal but it can also isolate you. There are people like that walking around talking to themselves for 30, 40 years and none of what they're saying is of any use. It creates all kinds of neuroses. They can't connect with other people as a result so thinking is a great gift.
But when you're consumed or controlled by thought, then it can have all kinds of implications and physical issues etc. So basically, the whole purpose of Kundalini Yoga and why it's effective is that it's incredibly effective at cleaning the mind.
There are many yogic techniques that you can do. When I say “yogic techniques” that means it could be Qigong Taichi. They resemble yogic techniques – this clearing of the mind, the settling of the mind into silence so there's a lot of ways to access it. But Kundalini Yoga is incredibly effective because you don't have to be able to do. You don't have to be able to stand on your head for five minutes; not everybody can do that. Or maybe they have to spend a long time learning to do it. But everybody has breath, a body and mind. That's pretty much what you need to work with it.
And so basically, you have this huge part of this thinking mind that you're experiencing called the subconscious mind. And there are two other parts of the mind which are very small. If we could describe it like this, it will make sense. The subconscious mind is this vast space and it gets filled with all sorts of things. They say in the yogic teachings that you have a thousand thoughts per minute. That's why they call the crown chakra the thousand-petaled Lotus. The thousand-petaled Lotus is basically like scanning the universal thought field. Maybe you've had an experience where you're thinking something and somebody else is thinking it. You say it and they say “Oh my God, I was just thinking that!”
Why does that happen?
Because we're all connected to a universal thought field; we're constantly influencing each other. And so this subconscious mind is scanning the universal thought field; that's how we're influencing each other. It's being dumped in with thousands and thousands of thoughts per day. You grab on to one of those thoughts and that thought may become a feeling. Or, that thought may become an emotion or a desire.
If you don't act on those feelings or emotions or desire then where does the thought go?
Back into the subconscious mind! And it's filled with all kinds of things. Some of those things are even from your ancestry. Some of those things are from the culture you live in. Some are from whatever you're experiencing. You just think about how you can pull things like even having a child. There are songs that I sang as a kid that before I had a child I didn't remember. And I can just like pull them out of the subconscious mind they're there. But if it gets too full (which happens) and you're not doing any kind of practice to clear and keep space, they're just like we do with electronics and computers.
What happens is it's if it's not processed?
It starts to fill into the other areas. It starts to go into the unconscious and conscious minds. The unconscious mind is where all of your autonomic functions happen in the body. You're not sitting there beating your heart. You're not sitting there making your liver work. You're not sitting there thinking, “Okay kidneys, now do this.” All of those things happen on their own. But if the subconscious mind is constantly processing and not being cleared, it starts to overload the unconscious mind. Then things show up in the physical body.
Say you have unprocessed anger issues and your mind is filled with resentment. It may show up in the liver. Say you have depression issues and you're not doing anything to deal with those depression issues. You may start to overeat and if you overeat enough you may contract diabetes.
It's all coming from a mind that's too busy.
The most important thing that you do every day is clear the subconscious mind. It also shows up in the way that you behave – in the conscious mind it's influencing the way you know it. Let's say that I'm an anxious person. I'm anxious all the time and I'm not doing anything about that anxiety. How am I going to respond to people when I'm in relationship with them? Well, I'll probably be really quick to react.
If we can get ourselves into a state where we have the capacity to be clear in relationship to what's happening, the body will physically function better. And how we are in relationship to ourselves and others will be better. So in Kundalini Yoga, we're putting stress on the body. We're doing things like holding the arms up. We're moving with the powerful breath. And while we're doing it, your mind is going to tell you all sorts of stories about it.
“It's too hard!”
“How much longer are we going to be doing this?”
“This is stupid.”
I mean you're gonna go through this whole trip and your tendencies are gonna show up. Let's say that you are a person who is more on the depressed side. Or you've got a lot of earth and water in the way that you're experiencing life. Remember we're earthlings first and foremost more than our belief systems and genders and all of these things. So let's say you got a lot of earth and water in the body. Well, earth and water make mud right? So if you have a lot of mud then how do you move? You move slowly. And then let's say I'm saying to you, “We're gonna do this exercise where you're gonna move the body really fast.” Let's say you get two minutes in and you start thinking, “Oh my God! This is taking so long!”
If you have too much mud what you're gonna do?
You'll quit and think “I can't do this.” And so the way that you're creating harmony in the body is you go, “Yeah I know this is hard just keep up.” Follow the breath, go past that point of “I got to stop.” And then you're starting to correct not only your mental tendencies but also with the breathing and the movement, you're starting to clear space in the body through the breathing just like martial arts or Qigong.
You're making space.
Let's say you're doing some challenging exercise and it's really fast and rigorous. And I say to you, “Just relax your brain while you do it. Just relax your brain. Try and move the brain into a state of ease like you're sleeping while you're moving.” While you're doing that, you're going to be talking to yourself the whole time. You're gonna keep forgetting to breathe. And you have to be reminded: are you thinking or breathing? You have to keep coming back, keep coming back, keep coming back. So you're creating a space where there's more clarity or light.
And I found that you can access those same experiences in hatha yoga. But the challenge in hatha yoga is you've got to hold the posture for a long time which is challenging especially if it's hard. And you have to close the eyes and breathe deeply and stay there for a long time. Because what you want to do is strengthen the nervous system.
You're challenging the body.
You may feel like you can't do it. It may start to shake. It may set off an alarm that there's danger. Well, there isn't danger holding your arms up. You may think, “Oh I'm gonna die!” Your mind will tell you that you won't die. You can keep your arms up, you're strong enough. You've heard stories about people who have an adrenaline rush and lift the car up. I mean your body is really strong and the only reason it's not behaving in a strong way usually is because there is some kind of mental disconnect. If the mental disconnect goes on and on and on, the body becomes weaker and weaker. But if you can strengthen the body that's the easy part; the mind, that's the tough part.
So we use these repetitive exercises and a mantra so that you're able to keep a point of focus. If I just said, “Put your arms up in the air and breathe however you want for 11 minutes”, most people couldn't do that including myself. Why?
The body is strong enough but what takes over are your thoughts.
Take a sound of vibration like a secret code of a language that was designed like a Gurmukhi language. It was designed specifically so that people, who were not allowed because of the caste system, learned the spiritual teachings of the time. That's the whole reason why the language was designed and it's written in music.
There are a lot of languages that have been made for communication so we can learn to talk to each other. But this is a language that has only been designed to carry a sound for an elevated purpose. That's what it was born out of and it's been repeated and repeated. So while you're doing something that's strengthening the nervous system – balancing the glands with the breath – you start to repeat these sounds. The birth of the sounds has been for an elevated intention to open up the tenth gate, the thousand-petaled Lotus and scan for thought forms that are in alignment with the best of the best not when you're depressed.
Think about it. Have you had a time in your life when you've been depressed and not feeling happy with your life? What are you drawing more in of? Usually thoughts like that, right when you're anxious, upset, angry or your mind is in that state. What are you bringing more? You don't all of a sudden go, “Oh well, I guess I'm not depressed anymore.” You start pulling that in. We've heard that ‘like attracts like’. So if we can bring ourselves into a state where the body's going through this process of balancing the glands, strengthening the nerves you're going, “I'm gonna keep my mind fixed.”
It doesn't have to be guru Mukhi but that's what I use. It could be anything. You could inhale true, exhale self or whatever you like. But I think there's something to this – having this birth of elevation and oneness and everybody being connected. That was the purpose of the language being created. And then you breathe. Inhale sah, exhale nam. You can go past the point where you're thinking mind is trying to take the wheel.
Try and take the wheel.
There is this experience that you have of levity even in the challenge. And what happens is you reveal to yourself how strong you are. You reveal to yourself how infinite you are. You reveal to yourself your ability to stay calm in the face of what appears to be danger. You tap into this vibration of the sound current that is going to elevate you and the world around you. And it works! You just repeat that as a practice and you could do it for 11 minutes. You could do an 11-minute exercise that would help you deal with your mental stuff so that you could open the tenth gate and scan the thought forms for the best of the best. It would take effect right away.
I haven't experienced anything like that and I do have the yoga. I love it – the best thing for me for health. I love yogic philosophy and learning about these things. But there's something about using the breath and the mantra that clears away the mind. So you're no longer dumping your crap into the unconscious mind which is dumping into the physical body. Then all of a sudden you start feeling light and it doesn't take much. It's not like in hatha yoga.
I feel like it took me 10 years to think I know what this is doing. At first, I was like, “This feels great!” I've just stretched, sweat, lie down, feel amazing, put on good music, feel healthy. Who doesn't want to do that? But I did notice that some of my mental patterns didn't change and if they did it took a while. But with this, it's incredible how that can work.
Anyone can do it.
You could sit in a chair. We have a woman who comes to Dharma Temple now who sits. She calls in advance and says, “I'm coming. Can you set out a chair?” And she goes to the Kunlun yoga practice. She wrote an email recently saying, “These practices changed my life.” She thought she couldn't go to a yoga class because yoga was stretching. Yoga is clearing your head so that the body can function properly so that you can live in alignment with your destiny. And that's what we want for everyone.
Imagine a world where people are walking around with a deep understanding of who they are. Or they have better self-esteem and self-love. Imagine a world like that!
We use a mantra “Wahe Guru Wahe Guru.” It means to stand in awe of that which brings you from darkness to light. It's like the difference between deep listening and listening. We had this conversation the other day about diet with some of the students and AQL. Some people were saying you have to be vegan and you have to be plant-based. I support that. People say you have to listen to your body and do what's right for your body. I also support that.
How do you know that what you're listening to is your best self?
How do know if it's conditioning from society, from your parents? And that can go on both sides of the spectrum:
“A yogi is supposed to be vegetarian.”
“A person from the prairies of Canada is supposed to eat meat and potatoes.”
That’s conditioning like we said. So what's really great for you if you're not able to get quiet and see? Because it's not thinking. That's where it comes in. It's like you take time every day to clear your mind. You'll become so aware of who you are you won't have a question. That's Dharma!
You'll be so aware of who you are that things will come up and you'll say, “I just have to do that.” And people will go, “Why would you do that? That doesn't make sense.“ You won't care because you're so aware of your values. You're so aware of who you are and your values are going to protect you from anybody trying to put their values over yours. But in order to do that, you have to clear your mind. Otherwise, there are these thoughts that are there to align you with your purpose which I connect through repeating “satnam la guru” or whatever it is.
Sometimes I say, “I give my future to God.” If I'm having some worries about something like the government sends the tax bill, the mind starts turning and grabbing in all these thousands of thought forms. Then I say to myself, “I give my future to God.” It doesn't mean that I'm not gonna pay the bill and it doesn't mean I'm gonna pretend it's not there. I know that the real me has the capacity to do harder things than pay this bill.
I learned this thing from my friend Jai Dev. He said when I get in the cold shower in the morning, imagine that I'm stepping into the nectar tank at the golden temple. I step in there and I chant the mantras. I feel the connection to that sacred place where these mantras have been played over the water for hundreds of years. When I bathe in the cold water I say to myself that's where I am because I know that I'm beyond time and space. It isn't me like “I should take a cold shower because the teacher said or I should take a cold shower because it's good for my circulation.” But when I step into the cold shower I step in with the sound current of aligning with the best version of myself. And that's what this is for. When I'm doing my asana, I inhale sat and exhale nam. I'm not looking around saying, “Look at what so-and-so is doing. I wish I could do it like them. I remember when I was 27 and I could do it.” I don't do that. I just breathe.
If you give 10% of your day, that's 2.5 hours a day, and you think of the best version of yourself, it will take care of the other 90%. I walk around and think, “How do people manage?” People are under so much pressure and they're under all of these grabbing and thought forms. They don't know what to do. I've been there. I've been in tough, tough times in my life and I didn't know how to call in my best self.
Every child is born with a Suffolk mind, a clear mind. Every child was born with that and then karma happens. The karma is what I'm explaining, all these thought forms. If they're abused or neglected by their parents, they create all these thought forms that make it really hard for them to show up as their best self. But they're born with a purpose.
How do you get yourself to that state like a baby who just learned to sit up on their own, where the mind is clear and they're just observing the world? Well, you've got to clear your mind every day. If you don't clear your mind every day then you're grabbing on to thousands of thoughts, trying to figure out what the hell to do with it.
And then let's say that you're one of the lucky ones who's born into a loving household. Then you may have a chance to do it without some daily mind cleaning. If you were born into a household where your parents did their best. But, they neglected you or they put in all of these belief systems that are not aligned with your best self, were abusive or there's a lot of addiction in the home. Then it's even more imperative because you're carrying a weight that it's gonna be so hard to get free from. What do you do with a person like that? Do you just tell them to stretch? There's got to be something that even a child could do.
A child can do Kundalini Yoga and it will work.
My daughter does these when she's nervous. You don't say to her this is a practice from India that’s passed. You just say, “If you're nervous and you feel like you're not safe, try this and it will work.” If you're actually not safe, stand firm in your power or get out of there. I think what a great gift to have a practice like this. And that's how it works!
The main things are:
- strengthen the nervous system
- balance the glandular system
- clear the mind
- create some kind of devotional practice
The devotional practice doesn't necessarily mean devotion to something. If something really inspires you to connect to the love then that's devotion.
If you love your plants, that's devotion.
If you pray to something that appears to be outside of you, that's devotion.
Whatever fills your heart would also strengthen the nerves, balance the glandular system, clear the mind, and connect with love. That's what the practice does. And when your mind is telling you “this is nonsense, why am I doing it?” just notice that your mind telling you that may be the tendency that's standing in the way of you experiencing your purpose.
This article is derived from the above YouTube video.