There are many different types of yoga popular in the United States, the most common being hatha and vinyasa yoga. However, many proponents of the increasingly popular kundalini yoga state that kundalini yoga is particularly effective at boosting energy and relieving stress. So what exactly is kundalini yoga and how is it different from other popular yoga varieties?

What is kundalini yoga?

Kundalini yoga has been practiced for centuries, but was first introduced into western culture in the 1960s. Kundalini yoga involves activating energy at the base of the spine and moving it through different energy centers, or chakras, throughout the body. As this energy moves through the body it helps to promote mindfulness and spiritual wellness. This is achieved through a combination of breathing techniques, physical movement and meditation.

What is different about kundalini yoga?

Kundalini yoga is more spiritual than other popular types of yoga. The primary goal of many other types of yoga is to increase strength and flexibility. This is why both hatha and vinyasa yoga focus on physical poses. While kundalini yoga includes many physical poses, it is more focused on activating energy though spiritual awareness. This is accomplished primarily through breathing patterns, chanting, and meditation. The goal of kundalini yoga is to improve mental and spiritual awareness, increase vitality, and boost energy.

How is kundalini yoga done?

The practice of kundalini yoga is more precise than most types of yoga. Sessions typically follow six steps, beginning with an opening chant to help participants tune in and focus on the session. After the opening chant, participants complete breathing exercises, or pranayama, in order to gain control of their breath. The next stage of a kundalini yoga session is the kriya. A kriya is a sequence of poses, hand positions, breathing exercises, and meditations. This stage of the process helps awaken the energy in the participant’s spine and move it through the different chakras in the body. The fourth stage is focused on relaxing and feeling the energy that was activated during the kriya. Participants then meditate to become more mentally and spiritually aware. Finally, a closing chant is completed to end the session.

Kundalini yoga and stress relief

The practice of kundalini yoga has many well-documented wellness benefits. A 2017 study published in the International Journal of Yoga found that people who participated in kundalini yoga had an immediate decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, as well as a perceived decrease in stress after 3 months of practicing kundalini yoga. Other studies have found that kundalini yoga can be effective in reducing anxiety if practiced regularly over an 8-week period.

Kundalini yoga and cognitive functioning

Kundalini yoga has also been known to improve cognitive ability. A 2017 study published in International Psychogeriatrics found that people 55 years of age or older with mild cognitive impairment who participated in kundalini yoga for 24 weeks experienced improved cognitive ability and emotional wellness. When compared to an active control group of participants receiving memory enhancement training instead, the participants who conducted kundalini yoga showed better executive functioning and lower instances of depression.

Like all yoga, kundalini yoga should be practiced in a safe manner. Exercise caution if you have breathing issues, injuries, balance problems, or are pregnant. Consult a doctor before participating in kundalini yoga if you have any of these conditions.