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Kundalini and the Chakras

by Swami Satyadharma Saraswati

In tantra and in yoga, Shiva and Shakti are considered to be the original principles, or causes, behind all existence, both manifest and unmanifest. Shiva is the supreme consciousness and Shakti the universal energy. These two principles co-exist eternally in the unchanging, unmanifest state. Neither can ever be depleted or exhausted, as they are both total and complete forever in themselves. So then, how did the creation come about? How did finite beings come into the picture? By a third agent called the Kundalini, who acts on behalf of Shiva and Shakti, as the universal creative force. In this sense, Kundalini is the Mother and the original creator, who brings forth the entire manifest creation from the unmanifest existence.

One may well ask, but how does she do this? How does the cosmic energy, which has no limitation, ideation, shape or form, transform itself into the multitude of galaxies, stars, planets, and beings, which comprise the creation? Let us take a closer look at this question, using ourselves as a model for the concept of creation, because we too are a product or progeny of the fabulous Kundalini force. For each level of existence and evolution, the process of transformation varies. However, in human beings, this process can be understood through the catalyst of the chakras, the psychic energy centers, which are situated in different regions alongside the spinal column. 

Kundalini, being appointed by Shakti for the purpose of creation, is also an aspect of Her eternal, cosmic force. For creation to take place, this subtle, infinite energy has to be confined and transformed into grosser levels, which can then become manifest. In our case, the Kundalini first manifests herself into the chakras, and this is the beginning of our individual being. Through the intermediary of the chakras, she makes the transition from pure spirit energy to psychic energy. Let us look at her journey through the chakras, for it is also our journey into creation; it is how we came into existence, how we came about.

So, in relation to you and me, Kundalini makes her first stop at the sahasrara chakra, the crown center. Here she stores the pure energy of consciousness. This is our highest individual consciousness, which remains unaltered throughout our life, as it is never associated with the physical identity. Her next stop is at bindu, the point at the top back of the head. Here she makes an entry into the manifest dimension. Bindu is not an active center, so to speak, but simply the point of entry into, and also the point of exit out of, the material dimension. Sahasrara and bindu are spiritual centers and have no physiological correlations. Together they form a bridge between the two worlds, the spiritual and the material, the unmanifest and the manifest.

From bindu, the Kundalini travels downward and deposits herself at ajna chakra, located at the mid-brain, at the top of the spinal cord. Here her energy is transformed into the individual mind and consciousness. Now, a vehicle for the mind and consciousness is needed, so the Kundalini resumes her journey to vishuddhi chakra, where she transforms and deposits herself as the energy of space, because the body must have a space in which to exist. From vishuddhi, she travels on to deposit herself at anahata chakra, behind the heart, where her energy is transmuted into the element of air. 

From anahata, she continues on to manipura chakra, behind the navel, where she transforms herself into the energy of fire. From manipura, she travels on to swadhishthana chakra, behind the pubic area, at the tailbone, where she deposits herself in the form of water. Finally, she descends to mooladhara, the root chakra at the pelvic floor, where she transforms herself into the energy of earth, and comes to rest. Having transmuted her unmanifest energy into the five manifest elements, which then combine and permutate into our physical form, she settles herself into the earth, which is the meaning of her name, kund - a deeper place, and remains there for as long as we live in the body.

This concept of the Kundalini and the chakras is the gift of yoga to the world, to help us understand our real nature and the source of our existence. Yoga not only offers this unique explanation of our creation, but also the practices, which allow us to attune with the subtle dimension of our existence. All the yogas evolved originally to help us realize our true nature. Practices such as asanas, pranayama, yoga nidra, and meditation gradually lead us into an experience of our inner being, which is ruled by the chakras, and their evolutes, the mind and the prana. For those practitioners who wish to take the express highway, there are specific practices, which can be performed in order to have a direct experience of the kundalini and the chakras.

These are the advanced practices, which belong to the body of kundalini yoga, and were originally undertaken by yogis as a deeper and more dedicated form of sadhana. The practices of kriya yoga, for example, directly align the chakras and awaken the kundalini. The practices of chakra shuddhi are a preparation for kriya yoga and other higher yogas. They purify, rebalance and open the chakras, which has a positive influence on all the organs and systems of the body. Visualization of the chakra diagrams with repetition of their mantras helps to stabilize and awaken these energies. Initially the practices of kundalini yoga should be learned and performed in the yoga ashram, where the atmosphere and lifestyle are conducive to the awakening of the subtle, creative forces.

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BE THE TRUE YOU!

ATMA
Over the years I have walked into many settings as the “yoga teacher” to find faces looking at me questioningly. I’ve even had students approach me and ask, “Do you know the teacher for this class?” The assumption is that someone who is obese can’t possibly be a yoga teacher! There was a time when I believed that to be true as well. I practiced yoga, but to teach it? Who would take classes from a fat person?

My attitude about this shifted when I was first initiated in 1995 by my guru and given the spiritual name Atmarupa. It was explained to me that my name means “to take the beautiful form of the true self.” It doesn’t mean the exterior self. My name means I must see my eternal, beautiful, pure nature within. And to do that a serious practice of self-acceptance - the acceptance of that exterior self began.

Now, 20 years later I have not only found peace with my body, but feel grateful for it. It has inspired others to try yoga that may not have if I, the teacher, didn’t look the way I do. It carries me through my yogic journey and forces me to look deep inside to see that beautiful form of my true self. And when I can see that Self, I know who I truly am.

Hugs and Oms,
Atmarupa