Hatha Yoga and Kundalini

From the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati

The conductor of the mental energy is known as ida, which flows up the left side of the spine. The conductor of vital energy is pingala which flows on the right side of the spine. Both of these channels emerge from the bottom of the spine and cross each other at junctions situated in the sacral, solar, cardiac and cervical points. From these points thousands of nerves spread out all over the body distributing the two forces of energy.

These two forces are necessary for existence, but actually this is a lower energy system. It is not powerful enough to maintain the total functioning of the brain. Therefore, only a small portion of the brain is participating in the activities of human life; the rest is dormant. If we had a greater system whereby the whole brain could be brought into conscious action, perhaps mankind would achieve a higher creative level. Therefore, the awakening of kundalini is a most important subject for modern man.

Ida and pingala

The four junctions which supply energy and life throughout the body are blocked. Energy doesn't flow through them because they are disconnected. There fore, yoga means connecting the source of energy with the distributing channels. The name of the distribution channel for the higher energy is known in tantra as sushumna. These three nadis – ida, pingala and sushumna – should be understood in an absolutely technical sense. They are not religious or symbolic expressions, but actual physical structures.

The nerve on the left controls the functions of consciousness, and the nerve on the right controls the functions of vitality and mobility. They function serially and not simultaneously. You must have observed your nostrils – one of them is freely flowing while the other is blocked. When the left nostril is open, the lunar energy is flowing. When the right nostril is open, the pranic energy is flowing.

It has been noted by investigators that when the right nostril is free, the left hemisphere of the brain is more actively functioning than the right. Similarly, when the left nostril is free, the right hemisphere of the brain is more actively functioning.

This finding has great significance as the left and right hemispheres of the brain govern all of our linear and spatial faculties. In addition, investigators found that the left nostril is cooler than the right. This is how these two nadis control the events of life. If they could be made to function simultaneously rather than serially, then both the hemispheres of the brain could participate and regulate the mental and vital processes. But this simultaneous function only occurs when sushumna nadi, the central nerve channel, is connected with the source of energy.

Kundalini shakti

Kundalini is the source of energy. If it can be connected with the physical body, it will reactivate the brain cells, create a new physical structure, and explode the archetypes existing at the depths of human consciousness. Kundalini shakti has been variously described. Its awakening is considered to be an important event in man’s transition from lower to higher life, from inability to ability, or from ignorance to knowledge. The ultimate purpose of yoga is to awaken kundalini.

The yoga postures, no doubt, are good for physical and mental health; pranayama gives a lot of alertness and vitality, but the prime purpose of hatha yoga is the awakening of man’s potential. In the course of evolution this energy will come to the point of illumination. That is the destiny of man. It will explode itself but by that time millions of years might have passed.

The great seers and sages in their intent application to the truth found out the way by which a person could become aware of his potential in this life. Now the path of yoga that is spreading all over the world is the kundalini way. People are talking about tantra and yoga like never before.

Whenever people ask me about asanas I tell them that the yoga postures are definitely very good for health but that is a by-product. The real purpose of these practices is to give a mild stimulus to the chakras. For instance, we have sirshasana, the head stand pose. That is good for many diseases, particularly the ovarian disorders or hormonal imbalances. At the same time, it has an impact on the plexus at the top of the head – sahasrara chakra.

Take shashankasana, the hare pose. This is excellent for stimulating the adrenals thereby clearing respiratory congestion and helping to accelerate circulation. But the prime objective of this posture is to create a mild awakening in manipura chakra, the solar plexus behind the navel. So the yoga postures are intended to regulate and stimulate the various chakras and plexuses in the body. When these are awakened through the practice of yoga postures then the energy can start to flow freely.

Experiencing the final sphinx

Man today is suffering both physically and mentally from a blockage of energy. This is very difficult to understand because people have become so materially minded. They know many things about the physical nature, but very little about the spirit, the final sphinx.

When people hear music they start jumping because it affects their gross body. The mind is limited to the material base of experience, so they are unable to perceive the subtle sound vibrations of the music. How to break this addiction to material ism? Man should begin to see the mind behind the mind, the matter behind the matter. Scientists could see, so they came up with the concept of energy. For the ordinary man, matter was just matter, but for the scientist it became the base of energy. Therefore he could liberate energy from matter. In the same way, we should conclude that mind and consciousness are final and absolute and that it is impossible for man to transcend this realm and have a wider range of experience.

Perhaps all of our frustrations, illnesses and emotional problems are due to the limitation of understanding. We no longer care for our husband or wife or children; we feel fed up with life and want to commit suicide. This particular behaviour of the mind is due to the inability to have better experiences. There seems to be a cataract on our inner vision and due to that we are unable to experience life as it should be experienced.

Improper experience creates pain. Experience depends on the quality of consciousness. How can we improve the quality of consciousness? This must be done practically, not intellectually, through the practice of hatha yoga.