Dealing with a Painful Kundalini Awakening
by Tristan Dorling
Over the years, I have been contacted by people who are going through a difficult, or even painful kundalini awakening. Usually, they are asking what they can do to relieve some of the symptoms and to slow the awakening down. So, what I want to do here, is to first of all talk a bit about the different kinds of kundalini awakening that people can experience. Then describe briefly what kundalini is, how we can recognise it, and talk a bit about some of the uncomfortable, or painful symptoms, that can be associated with an awakening that is happening too fast. And then talk about what can be done to relieve the symptoms, and to bring someone back on track.
So, the phenomenon of kundalini awakening is becoming more well-known in the world today. Many more people are going through this experience than happened in the past, and that is happening for various reasons. One of those reasons is that more people are engaging in spiritual practices than before, especially yoga. But, all forms of spiritual practice, if they are effective, will lead to the awakening of kundalini. Another reason is that people are experiencing spontaneous awakenings due to changes happening on the planet and changes that are taking place amongst the general population.
Because of this, people are experiencing a variety of different awakenings. We can think of kundalini awakenings as falling into three broad categories. One type of awakening occurs when someone has been engaging in spiritual practices and preparing their body in a certain way, leading to the awakening of kundalini. This type of awakening is usually fairly calm and smooth, resulting in a gradual evolution towards enlightenment.
The second kind of awakening is when someone awakens spontaneously, without having done anything deliberately to prepare themselves for the awakening to happen. If someone has a spontaneous kundalini awakening and hasn’t done anything to prepare their body in advance, the experience can be quite difficult, painful, and emotionally challenging. Usually, spontaneous awakenings are triggered by something. These triggers can range quite widely, but the most common are things like traumatic experiences, or drug taking, or a blow to the head, or simply by being with someone else who is already awakened. Other triggers can include caring for a baby, because of the effect it has on the heart chakra, or horse riding, because of the effect it has on the root chakra. Even a severe illness can trigger a kundalini awakening.
The third category of kundalini awakenings is when people are engaging in spiritual practices that are actually quite dangerous. These practices are designed to awaken kundalini very quickly, but often, there isn’t enough work being done to prepare the body, in advance of an awakening. As a result, people can experience difficult and painful kundalini awakenings because the energetic channels, or nadis, have not been prepared in the right way. These practices can often include aggressive breathing practices such as long breath retentions, or rapid inhalations and exhalations such as the breath of fire, bhastrika. They can also include chakra meditations, especially meditations, or breathing practices, involving the crown chakra at the top of the head. People who engage in especially long periods of spiritual practice, before they are ready, such as eight, or ten hours of meditation a day, can also fall into this category.
So, the real risk, when it comes to kundalini, is for people in those last two categories, either people doing dangerous practices, or doing no practices at all.
A question that often arises is how we can know if we’re going through a kundalini awakening and what the symptoms are? And also, if the symptoms are difficult or painful, what can we do about them? So, one of the easiest ways of knowing if you’re going through a kundalini awakening is if you’re experiencing the symptoms of an awakening. While not everyone experiences all the possible symptoms, many people will experience at least some of the symptoms involved.
One very common experience during a kundalini awakening is the sensation of a rush of energy going up the spine, or up through the centre of the body, starting in the pelvis. This rush can rise to various heights, such as the solar plexus, the heart, the throat, the centre of the head, or even bursting out of the top of the head, and pouring down around the body. It can also be experienced as a spiralling current of energy spiralling up around the spine in one direction, like half of a DNA strand, or in both directions, like a complete DNA strand. In either case, it often doesn’t last very long, ranging from just a few seconds to a few minutes, or hours at most. Eventually, the energy will come back down into the pelvis. This rush of prana can often be accompanied by mystical experiences. When I started out on the spiritual path, in the 1980’s, there was very little information available on kundalini. In India, there was a man called Gopi Krishna, who published a book about his own kundalini awakening. His awakening was a very painful one, for various reasons. But this is how he described the rush of energy that went up his spine during his initial awakening:
“Suddenly, with a roar like that of a waterfall, I felt a stream of liquid light entering my brain through the spinal cord. Entirely unprepared for such a development, I was completely taken by surprise; but regaining my self-control, keeping my mind on the point of concentration. The illumination grew brighter and brighter, the roaring louder, I experienced a rocking sensation and then felt myself slipping out of my body, entirely enveloped in a halo of light. It is impossible to describe the experience accurately. I felt the point of consciousness that was myself growing wider surrounded by waves of light. It grew wider and wider, spreading outward while the body, normally the immediate object of its perception, appeared to have receded into the distance until I became entirely unconscious of it.
I was now all consciousness without any outline, without any idea of corporeal appendage, without any feeling or sensation coming from the senses, immersed in a sea of light simultaneously conscious and aware at every point, spread out, as it were, in all directions without any barrier or material obstruction. I was no longer myself, or to be more accurate, no longer as I knew myself to be, a small point of awareness confined to a body, but instead was a vast circle of consciousness in which the body was but a point, bathed in light and in a state of exultation and happiness impossible to describe.” [Gopi Krishna]
So, this gives a good idea about how all-encompassing and powerful, this awakening of kundalini can be.
This rush of energy is a fairly common experience, but not everyone who goes through a kundalini awakening will experience this. For others, the initial experiences can be much more gentle and subtle, or may come in other ways.
If an awakening happens, before someone is ready, there can be various uncomfortable or painful symptoms associated with it. These can include things like heat in the body, shaking or vibrations and emotional experiences like anxiety or fear coming for no apparent reason. Headaches can be experienced if too much prana is rising into the higher centres. Also pain can be experienced in the body, if there is too much energy moving through the energy channels. Insomnia, when people cannot sleep, or find it hard to sleep, is not uncommon, and in extreme cases, people can become bed-bound and unable to walk.
If people engage in spiritual practices that prepare the body in advance of a kundalini awakening, and those practices are well thought through and effective, any negative symptoms will tend to be infrequent, and only mild when they do occur, and pass quite quickly. However, if there is no preparation for an awakening, or if dangerous spiritual practices are involved, the symptoms can be quite severe and challenging and go on for a long time.
There is a rare situation that can arise, which I can’t prove, where someone has engaged in dangerous, or aggressive spiritual practices in a previous lifetime, and they then come into this life, already wired for a premature and difficult kundalini awakening. In those situations, kundalini can be very easily triggered, and is quite likely to be uncomfortable, or painful.
So, one of the most commonly asked questions is what to do if we experience difficult, uncomfortable, or painful symptoms? There are several things that can be done, and the most important one is called self-pacing. This means that if you are engaged in spiritual practices that increase the flow of kundalini in your body, reducing these practices will help to reduce any difficult or painful symptoms that you may be experiencing. This can involve cutting down on the amount of time you spend on spiritual practices, or even cutting out some practices altogether. For example, if you are engaged in advanced breathing (pranayama) practices, you may need to stop these altogether for a while. Similarly, if you are using mudras or bandhas as part of your yoga practice, you may need to stop using them. So, practices that are quite aggressive in terms of energy (prana) should be cut out, and other practices temporarily reduced. If symptoms are severe, you can even take a complete break from spiritual practices for some time. Remember that even practices such as prayer or reading spiritual literature, can increase the flows of prana in the body and make kundalini symptoms worse. So, even these things should be stopped in severe cases.
The second thing that can be done is called grounding. These are simple physical activities that can be done every day, such as walking, especially walking in nature, swimming, working in the garden, or cleaning the house. These simple, non-athletic physical activities can be very effective at causing kundalini to calm down, and in alleviating any negative symptoms that you might be experiencing. However, certain activities may not work as well. For example, running or weight training can actually cause more prana to flow in the body than walking, and this can aggravate the situation. It depends on the individual, as some people may find running helpful, while others may find it unhelpful.
Another thing you can do if you’re experiencing wayward kundalini symptoms is eat heavier foods. Heavier foods require more energy for digestion, and the energy used for digestion flows downward, which helps to bring the kundalini energy down. Some people deliberately avoid spicy foods, and foods cooked with garlic, as they find this can aggravate kundalini. This would not apply for everyone though. For some people, cutting out spicy food and garlic would make little difference.
If someone is experiencing difficult kundalini symptoms, and they manage to bring them under control using these methods, it is good to spend a period of time such as a few weeks, or months, allowing the situation to remain stable, before increasing, or re-introducing any spiritual practices again.
So, these are the main ways to resolve kundalini issues, and in the majority of cases, they will bring things back into balance fairly quickly. For example, going for a walk in the countryside and then having a heavy meal, could resolve things within a few hours. Or doing that each day, for a few days in a row, could re-stabilise the system. However, if things have got out of hand, or if the crown chakra has been opened prematurely, it can lead to uncomfortable or painful symptoms that can go on for a long time, for many months, or even years.
At the moment, there is very little education in the world about kundalini awakening, how to prepare for it, or how to deal with it when going through the process. It is not taught in schools or universities, and healthcare professionals, nurses and doctors, generally don’t know much about it, if anything. Ideally, everyone should be taught about kundalini awakening, including what it is, how to recognize the symptoms, and what to do if it happens. This would help society cope with this aspect of the human condition more effectively.
Lastly, one reason why many people around the world are experiencing kundalini awakenings at the moment, is that spiritual awakening has a kind of magnetic effect. When one person is going through a spiritual awakening, it can affect the people around them, causing them to awaken. So, there’s a sort of ripple effect that goes out, and as more people awaken around the world, this effect becomes stronger. This isn’t literally a magnetic effect. I’m using the term magnetic in a metaphorical sense, meaning that the awakening of one person can influence others around them even without any physical contact. The transmission of this effect can also happen through spiritual places like temples, churches and mosques, which become charged with the energy of the people who engage in spiritual practices within them.
So, this is actually an exciting time for humanity, and could be extraordinary, if we are able to navigate this successfully. What we are seeing is one of the biggest transformations that has happened in the history of the human race. But the challenge now is to educate people, so that they know what’s going on and how to respond. People need to recognize the signs of spiritual awakening in themselves and others, and know how to respond in an effective way if someone experiences difficult kundalini symptoms.
If you do know someone who is going through a difficult time, feel free to share this page with them.