Last updated on August 15th, 2023.
Of all the disciplines of yoga and meditation, there is perhaps none more spiritual and introspective in nature than kundalini. And within the sphere of kundalini is one of the most powerful symbols in the meditative and yogic arts, the kundalini serpent. But why a serpent and what does it mean?
The kundalini serpent represents the powerful life-force energy that lies dormant within all of us. While everyone has this life-changing power coiled at the base of their spine, it is only through a process known as an awakening that this energy can be harnessed, and true enlightenment attained.
The serpent imagery that is closely associated with kundalini is an aptly chosen symbol that represents the essence of this mysterious and often misunderstood, practice. The pursuit of a kundalini awakening is not for everyone and is an endeavor that requires a strong spiritual commitment. It also requires a deep understanding of its inner workings, starting with its powerful symbol – the kundalini serpent.
What does the Word “Kundalini” Actually Mean?
The word “kundalini” comes from ancient Sanskrit and translates to “coiled snake”. Kundalini refers to the vital energy that resides in all people but which remains a largely untapped force except for the very select few who have experienced what is known as an awakening.
Explore the origin of Kundalini explained in this article to know how it differs from other yoga practices.
Why is Kundalini in Reference to a Serpent?
Throughout the history of the yogic and meditative arts, powerful imagery and symbolism have been used to represent various concepts and beliefs. One of the most notable examples is the serpent symbol in kundalini, which embodies the internal life force existing within all people which lies dormant until it is awakened through deep, introspective meditation (or in rare instances by pure happenstance).
So why a serpent? For starters, this creature has certain attributes that lend themselves to the core messaging of kundalini. For example:
- The manner in which a serpent sheds its skin and emerges renewed represents the transformation and rebirth of a person’s body, mind, and spirit, and this is an important theme in kundalini
- It is said that once awakened, the life force energy of kundalini winds its way upward from its nesting place at the base of the spine and through the chakras, much in the way that a snake slithers on the ground to travel to and fro
- Perhaps most significantly from a symbolic perspective, while it is in its dormant state, the pent-up energy that lies within everyone is said to be coiled at the base of the spine like a snake protecting itself from danger and readying to strike if necessary
The kundalini serpent is a powerful symbol representing the immense spiritual power and enlightenment that lies within all people. It also symbolizes the release of this energy through the process known as awakening. And like the serpent shedding its skin, those who unleash the life-altering kundalini energy within themselves will experience a rebirth beyond description.
What Exactly is Coiled Within Us?
The life force energy symbolized by the kundalini serpent and described as lying coiled within all of us is known as the shakti, meaning “power, ability, strength, might, effort, energy, capability.” Kundalini ideology describes the kundalini serpent as being coiled three and a half times around as it lays dormant until such time as when it is released through awakening.
According to Hindu belief, shakti is actually the name of a powerful goddess whose incredible powers encompass two domains:
- The essential energy, known as prana, that permeates the world and all of its inhabitants
- The powerful but dormant energy lying at the base of our spines
The transformative force that the kundalini serpent symbolizes is a power that transcends our very existence and represents the pinnacle of self-awareness and enlightenment. To uncoil the kundalini serpent and release its energy is to undertake a spiritual journey that only a relative few have traveled.
How does Kundalini Work Then?
The objective of kundalini is to uncoil the kundalini serpent that dwells within all people from the time they are born and release the powerful, life-changing energy it stores within itself. This incredibly challenging undertaking entails harnessing the stored kundalini life force and directing it from the base of the spine upward to the crown of the head. Learn about the evolution of yoga over time to know more about how different meditation practices have evolved with time.
The process by which this transformation occurs is known as a kundalini awakening and here’s how it works:
- An awakening requires the diligent and thoughtful practice of meditation, pranayama, yoga, or prayer (it can also occur spontaneously and unintentionally)
- The most common position for kundalini meditation is seated, be it in a chair or on the ground, while maintaining a straight spine
- Proper breathing techniques are essential, with mindful breaths that are carefully measured to last approximately 8 seconds
- Chanting (mantras) is routinely used during kundalini sessions and can be done aloud or quietly
- Hand movements (mudras) can help maintain the right focus throughout a kundalini meditation session, such as touching the forefinger to the thumb to achieve a sense of calm or touching the middle finger to the thumb to nurture patience
- Other physical movements (even dancing) are said to spark the kundalini energy source deep within the body and spur its outward and upward movement
- Newcomers to kundalini meditation are encouraged to limit their initial sessions to no more than 5 minutes and gradually increase the duration as experience is gained.
Once summoned from its dormant state, kundalini energy is channeled through the 7 vertically-aligned chakras (energy centers) within the body, culminating with the highest point in the body, the 7th chakra at the crown of the head. The purported benefits of achieving an awakening are potentially life-changing and include:
- Increased spirituality and self-awareness
- A heightened sense of creativity
- A greater sense of happiness and fulfillment
- Increased compassion and sense of humanity
- Reported boost in psychic abilities
While achieving a kundalini awakening is considered by many practitioners to be a crowning achievement in their pursuit of the meditative arts, it is also a profoundly spiritual and emotional experience that can have unexpected, and sometimes undesirable, consequences. The key takeaway here is to be deliberate and well-informed when engaging in kundalini.
Where can I Learn More About Kundalini Yoga?
There was a time not too far in the distant past when learning the ways of kundalini yoga required a one-on-one relationship with an instructor (a guru) deeply versed in its ways or poring through ancient scriptures and sacred texts. Find 7 ways of using yoga cards for kids to introduce them to yoga practice.
But today, yogis and practitioners of all skill levels can learn about kundalini yoga through more modern and convenient ways. For instance, the Mind is the Master website is a comprehensive online resource that not only contains informative articles about topics like kundalini yoga but also provides a wealth of information about the meditative and yogic arts.
You can get yourself started by reading the Three Commonly Used Mantras In Every Kundalini Class to help you attain a spiritual awareness in your next practice.
To pursue a kundalini awakening is to embark on a spiritual journey where the final destination is true enlightenment and self-realization. It is a difficult path that starts with the uncoiling of the kundalini energy source and travels through the 7 chakras. And for those who successfully navigate their way through it all, profound introspective wisdom awaits.