What Is Kundalini?

I often get questions from Vedic Meditators that I think would benefit more than just the person who asked. This question led to a discussion of kundalini, in which I addressed what kundalini is, and what the sensation of the much soughtafter “kundalini awakening” is expressive of, inside and outside of meditation. Before I share this conversation with you, let us briefly discuss the definition of kundalini.

In Sanskrit, kundalini means “coiled snake” and references the lively energy that is everpresent in us all. Knowledge of kundalini and meditation practices date back thousands of years and is discussed widely in Veda, however kundalini meditation in of itself is a relatively new practice, made popular in recent times. While Vedic Meditation is not a form of kundalini meditation, as you will see from this conversation, a nuanced and comprehensive understanding of kundalini energy will awaken the knowledge of how to identify the sensations when they arise, and most importantly, how one need not force any kundalini awakening at all.

Question: For over a year now I’ve experienced significant bodily sensations during, and sometimes outside of, meditation. Often the sensations feel like electric shocks. Sometimes my shoulders jerk up violently or my head will quickly turn left or right. I experience tingles and twitching. These sensations often occur in patterns. Sometimes significant heat is generated followed by a feeling of release. For a number of months I couldn’t meditate in public because of all the jerky motions. I’m assuming that this is stress release procedures, because that is what it feels like. But it has been going on for over a year and I don’t know of other people who have had similar experiences. Can you elucidate and give a context for these experiences?

Because of what I just described, most of my meditation time is devoted to awareness of these body sensations. In one respect, they often replace the mantra as my focal point, and I follow the awareness through my body because it is more charming than other thoughts. The sensations themselves have deeper and deeper levels of subtlety as well. However, I don’t often (as far as I can tell) transcend thoughts (because the sensations are there), and there is limited time during meditation when it is effortless to hear my mantra. Do you have advice on the matter?


“Kundalini” is the name given to consciousness-energy that unites one’s individuality with The Totality. This lively energy stream enters the body through the soles of the feet, rises through the legs and then pools at the base of the spine. From the base of the spine it moves upward through the spine via a chimney, the “shushumna”, which acts as the conduit through which the kundalini reaches the brain. Finally, kundalini exits the body through the crown of the head. Its effect is to awaken consciousness in the direction of Unity Consciousness, from whatever state of consciousness one is in.

A certain minimum flow of kundalini is required to be conscious at all. Complete absence of kundalini means absence of consciousness in the human body (“body death”). A trickle of kundalini, at least, must occur at all times.

When stress is present in the body, one effect is that food fails to be digested completely. One product of undigested food, “ama” (a sticky white viscous substance) builds up in all the conduits (“shrotas”) of the body, including within the shushumna-shrota. When, during meditation, the body gains deep rest twice daily, the digestive system becomes more powerful and ama is dissolved naturally from within all the shrotas, including the shushumna-shrota. The kundalini, which has backed-up in a pool at the base of the spine, is released to travel up the shushumna exactly at the rate that the ama-blocks dissolve from within the shushumna. So, if a sudden dissolution of ama occurs, then a sudden release of kundalini will accompany that. When kundalini rises suddenly like this, it creates the range of sensations you describe (and others), as it flows up the shushumna. When the flash-flood of kundalini meets a new block within the shushumna, it creates impact sensations, heat, coolness, or other sensations caused by friction, as it works at removing the blocks. This is not unlike a flash-flood of river-water being released and removing boulders, tree-trunks, and other obstacles in its way.

When the shushumna becomes cleared of ama, the sensations of kundalini fade to nothing. In a meditator whose shushumna is relatively clear to begin with, the kundalini rises without sensation and is either unremarkable or not even ever detected as a sensation. Likewise, if considerable purification occurs, then the kundalini will have risen and will remain flowing, but without sensation.

In this light, you surmise that your sensations are related to stress-release is absolutely correct.

It is important to note that the benefits of a rising kundalini are present, whether or not we feel anything while meditating. Those benefits include more creativity, greater alertness, heightened perceptual acuity, and a healthier body. In short, the many advantages you’ve reported upon.

Your approach is correct of continuing to meditate effortlessly when kundalini sensations and movements occur.

Our policy is that there is no sensation that causes us not to be able effortlessly to think thoughts. Therefore, effortless favoring of the mantra, even with these sensations, is a possibility, and is our preference. However, we are not willing to use effort to enforce that preference, so if at any time you seem to be forgetting to repeat the mantra, then do not try to persist in repeating it, do not try to keep on remembering it; it is okay if you lose the mantra spontaneously. When consciously you realize that the mantra is gone, then do come back to repeating it, just as a faint idea, and take it as it comes.

Feeling the sensations of the kundalini is an alternative, any time that the sensation is so powerful that you cannot be effortless with your mantra. It is important to remember that, as your meditation progresses, your ability to experience the Absolute field of Being, along with thinking, is going to enhance. The Absolute field becomes less and less transcendental (beyond thought) as practice continues more and more.

Finally, some Vedic Yoga and Vedic Pranayama (breathing technique), done before each meditation, will strengthen the body subtly and lessen the impact of these natural kundalini sensations during meditation.

Love and Jai Guru Deva, Thom