Advanced Yoga Practices
Lesson 69 - Kundalini Symptoms, Imbalances and Remedies
Date: Mon Jan 5, 2004 4:08pm
Q: I am new to this group. I have been experiencing various symptoms of kundalini awakening including but not limited to burning sensations at random places on my body. Before beginning regular meditation (similar kind from another source) a year and a half ago, I was experiencing an intermittent aching at the third eye. I undertook some other practices as well from yet somewhere else. Now the third eye has an almost continuous burning sensation. At times I have felt prompted to focus on moving the energy upwards and circulating it in a systematic manner through my body. I have an almost continuous burning sensation at the base of my spine, however at the moment if I release the energy I experience ‘devastating’ emotions such as despair, isolation, and emptiness. Yet, I feel the need to continue and refine this practice. Any suggestions, comments, feedback would be appreciated.
A: You are wise to be taking a measured approach, gauging your practice to you experiences. The most important thing is to find a stable platform of daily practice that brings balance to the inner energies. Once you have that in place, then you can facilitate the expansion of kundalini in a more comfortable and pleasurable way, while being more aggressive at the same time. Finding this stable platform may involve doing some things outside your regular sitting practice as well.
First off, if you have not already, it is suggested you begin a light session of spinal breathing before meditation, only five or ten minutes. See if that brings some balance. See if you can find a platform of practice with only pranayama and meditation that is smooth. Don’t do any mulabandha or sambhavi yet. Make sure you take plenty of rest coming out of meditation. It is suggested you suspend the other things you are doing for the time being, as they may be exacerbating the kundalini energies. If you are heavy into bhakti, having intense spiritual emotions, you should consider tempering that also. That means lightening up a bit for the sake of building a stable, effective spiritual practice. Bhakti is great until we hit a wall. Then it can become problematic. It can surely test us.
After all that, if you don’t notice an inner balancing, consider backing off on your meditation time a bit for a while, keeping the spinal breathing at the same level, unless the spinal breathing adds instability. It shouldn’t, but anything is possible. See if you can find a routine with just pranayama and meditation where you come out into your daily activity feeling smooth, with less intensity in the symptoms you described. From that stable platform, you can begin to add things on, step by step.
All of this may seem limiting, given your desire to continue even in the face of some difficult obstructions. There’s no doubt the racecar can go, and there’s no doubt you want to get on with it. However, it is a good idea to make sure the wheels are on straight before you put the pedal to the metal. Once you have done that, much greater speeds will be possible, and it will be a faster, safer, and more pleasurable ride.
Let’s look at some of the principles involved in rising kundalini and how imbalances can occur. As we do, we will look at some other measures you can take.
The metaphorical mythology of kundalini describes a union between Shakti (a name for kundalini in motion) and Shiva (pure bliss consciousness). As you know, Shakti starts out near the base of the spine in the huge storehouse of prana there, i.e., sexual energy. In the mythology, Shiva is located at the top of the head. So the way it is described is Shakti awakens, goes up through all the chakras until she reaches the top of the head, and there she finds union with Shiva who is waiting there for her. He is just hanging out there doing nothing, you know. They make love and nectar overflows downward, enlightening the practitioner. Very romantic, isn’t it? Especially for Shiva, who sits up there doing nothing while Shakti fights her way upward (through your nervous system!) to find him.
While it looks great on paper, this scenario does not work very well. In practice, most of the time this approach is a flop because it assumes that Shakti will do all the work, and find Shiva at the crown. She will sure try, and tear up your nervous system in the process. Hence the excessive kundalini symptoms. Things can get so uncomfortable that practices can’t continue, and then it goes into a long slow burn from then on.
The answer to this is to get Shiva off his butt and doing something. He has to get off his lofty perch and “get down” with Shakti wherever she may be in the body, which is everywhere once she is awake and coming up. While their union may finally end up somewhere “up there,” Shiva and Shakti must be brought together everywhere in the body first. If this is done, some craziness may still be there, but it will be the craziness of the ecstatic union of Shiva and Shakti going on in every nerve and cell in the body, rather than the blistering chaos of Shakti’s energy alone burning through everything it meets, all of which is in your body. In short, which do you prefer, ecstasy or agony?
This is why spinal breathing is the first recommendation. It directly activates both masculine and feminine energies, and it brings them together in a balanced way. The ascending breath brings Shakti to Shiva, and the descending breath brings Shiva to Shakti. It is a balanced relationship. Then, in union, they go out together to every nerve and cell in the body. With this approach, much more energy can be moved with far less stress to the system. It opens the possibility for much more aggressive spiritual practice than is possible using the Shakti-only approach. And it is a lot of ecstatic fun too.
It should be mentioned that with the I AM mantra, the balancing of masculine and feminine energies is taken into account also, as was discussed in the lesson, “Q&A — Some mantra particulars.”
The rest of our advanced practices are also designed to be dual-pole in nature. We introduced mulabandha at the root and sambhavi at the third eye. In the future we will continue to take this approach of introducing new practices in a dual-pole way. Balance. The rise of ecstatic conductivity in the spinal nerve is a manifestation of this balance, the ecstatic union of Shiva and Shakti in the sushumna.
What about the crown? We have deliberately left that out of the lessons so far. It is called the sahasrar, the “thousand-petaled lotus.” Later we will deal with it. It too must be addressed. But to do so prematurely can lead to the kind of “devastating emotions” you mentioned. First we want the third eye to root spinal nerve cleaned out and ecstatic conductivity fully established. Then, the crown comes into play naturally. It has its own connection to the sushumna. If we go there too soon and and try to make a shortcut, we will pay the price. The surest way to approach the crown is via a sushumna that has been well purified before hand. Going to the crown first and then purifying the sushumna is a formula for unpleasantness – lots of excessive kundalini symptoms can happen.
Even in the smoothest kundalini awakening there will be some symptoms. There can be some aching and/or heat around the extremities of the spinal nerve, just as you described – third eye and root. With easy spinal breathing and meditation they should not become extreme. If they do, back off practices somewhat, as recommended, and try some of the further measures mentioned below. Many other things can happen: Light burning sensations here and there. Some lurching of the body or sudden movement of air from the lungs during practices. The feeling of insects crawling on the limbs, or little pricks like they are biting occasionally during the day. Strange feelings in the feet that are both pleasurable and itchy at the same time — this can be smoothed by walking regularly. It can happen in the hands too. There can also be a varied assortment of goose bumps, occasional shivers, sexual arousal, inner buzzing and humming sounds, hot pinpricks, slight headaches, and other weird sensations. All of this stuff settles down in time. To the extent any of it remains, it is overshadowed by the experience of pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy coming from inside. You will find things like these in a normal kundalini awakening. All of them are symptoms of obstructions coming out, making way for a new life in unending ecstasy.
If symptoms become extreme and we cannot smooth them in pranayama and meditation, even by reducing times of practice, then more measures are necessary. These can also be considered by anyone doing spiritual practices for prevention of kundalini difficulties.
There are three factors affecting the way kundalini energy moves in us – bodily constitution, lifestyle, and practices. These factors determine our tendencies for kundalini energy to be balanced or unbalanced.
First, is the bodily constitution. This is what we are born with. We each have certain tendencies in us that determine how energy (prana) will flow through our body. These are delineated well in the Indian system of medicine called “Ayurveda,” which is all about balancing energies in the body. There are three aspects to our constitution, and we can have too much or not enough of any of them:
Vata – Is our nature flexible, or moving around too much?
Pitta – Is our nature focused, or fiery and angry?
Kapha – Is our nature steady, or stuck in inertia?
These are the three “doshas” (aspects) of our constitution. We are each a different mixture of the positive or negative traits mentioned. Much can be done to balance the doshas. Ayurveda has many means for compensating for imbalances in the constitution, and this can help with excessive kundalini symptoms. Particularly helpful are diets and herbal supplements designed to pacify too much fire (pitta) and/or movement (vata) in the body, mind, and emotions, which are classic for kundalini symptoms. You can check out the writings of Deepak Chopra, and others, for more on ayurveda. See Ayurveda Resources here.
The second factor affecting the way kundalini moves in us is our lifestyle. Are we doing too much spiritual practice and not getting enough activity? Are we working too much, or not enough? Do we keep enough of the right kind of company that is supportive of our spiritual commitment? Things like this are important. If we are having excessive, or even minor kundalini symptoms, activities that are “grounding” can be helpful. Taking long daily walks with a relaxed mind is one of the best therapies for smoothing out surging kundalini energies. Tai chi, practiced regularly, is very grounding also. Yoga asanas (postures), which we will get into in the next few lessons, can help. Physical exercise in general is good for grounding the energies. A heavier diet during periods of excessive kundalini energies can help ground them. Grounding activities do not do away with kundalini. Rather, they bring in the Shiva component that helps integrate the kundalini energy into our nervous system. Such activities are good to do in addition to spinal breathing, meditation and other advanced yoga practices.
The third factor affecting the way kundalini moves in us is our practices. We have covered that up and down and sideways, but can always say more.
The trick is to look at your life from all these angles and determine where the root of an imbalance lies, and then deal with that. We started out on the high level of balancing the masculine and feminine energies inside our practices of pranayama and meditation. This is where we’d like to find the balance first, built right into our practices. If this works, then we can charge ahead, adding on more practices and going into constantly expanding experiences of pure bliss consciousness and divine ecstasy. If there is something else somewhere in our constitution or lifestyle causing an imbalance, then we will have to deal with that. Once we have, we can also go at a good rate of speed with our practices without unnecessary discomfort.
For those who don’t have kundalini symptoms, just keep practicing as always, following the procedures of practice given, adapted for your personal capacity and timeline. Keep this lesson handy for a rainy day. Maybe everything will go as smooth as silk, and you will glide blissfully into enlightenment without a hitch. That would be wonderful. If there are a few kundalini symptoms here and there along the way, you will not be surprised after reading all this. This lesson will give you a way to review what is happening, and to consider making some adjustments, as necessary.
The guru is in you.