What is kundalini?
by Tristan Dorling
Are “kundalini” and “prana” the same thing, or are there two different energies?
Prana is the subtle energy flowing in the body. It flows through the chakras and nadis and is the substance that they are made from.
The word “kundalini” refers to the whole process of the energetic awakening of the human being and most often to the expansion of prana upwards into the higher energetic centres of the body.
Usually prana (subtle energy) is stored mainly towards the lower part of the spine and in the pelvis. Upon awakening, this prana is released and flows upwards through the body. There can sometimes be a dramatic experience, often happening during our yoga practice, where the whole body is flooded with prana, or prana rises up the spinal column or centre of the body and onward to the heart or the crown of the head. If this happens, it usually will not last for long, maybe even just a few seconds, minutes, or in rare cases, for a few hours. The prana will then usually return to the base of the spine after which it will begin a very gradual journey up through the body which is a journey which takes many years.
Sometimes there is no dramatic experience associated with the awakening of kundalini, but simply a gradual awakening into a higher state of ecstatic functioning. The process of kundalini awakening is one which takes many years. Even preparing and purifying the body and the mind to come to the point of first awakening can take many months or years.
The awakening, once it begins, is an experience of energy rising and also expanding outwards, at first often radiating outwards from the spinal column, or heart and then later radiating out from the whole body. In the early stages, kundalini can be experienced as heat, or as electrical currents running through the body, but later on it is experienced as ecstasy. At first the ecstasy is localised, flowing in tiny rivers or currents of energy in different parts of the body. Gradually, the ecstasy expands to fill the whole body, and will radiate out beyond the body’s boundaries. At this point it feels as if every cell of the body is vibrating with euphoria.
As the prana rises through the body, the nadis (energy channels) are purified and widened, and the chakras are opened. This opening can happen in a sequential fashion, beginning at the root chakra and progressing up through the seven chakras. But more often, the sequence of the opening of the chakras will follow a pattern unique to each individual.
The heart is often the first chakra to open, sometimes opening even before the process of kundalini begins, and it is also often the last to open as well on a higher level. The first opening of the heart chakra is one of an opening to the experience of individual love (love which takes an object). The last opening of the heart is an opening to the experience of divine love (love which exists in and of itself without any objectification).
Kundalini is an essential aspect of yoga and a process which every yogi has to go through at some point. It is the process of preparing the physical and subtle body for enlightenment.