Kundalini is the great power that exists in every person. It is called the serpent power and is another name for prana shakti. The word kundalini is Sanskrit for 'in a coil'; it means the coiled serpent that resides in the mooladhara chakra and symbolizes man's latent power and potential. The awakening or raising of the kundalini is depicted as the uncoiling of the serpent as it rises and pierces each of the chakras in turn. This ascent takes place through sushumna nadi and finishes in sahasrara, the seat of supreme consciousness.
All the chakras are switches directly and intimately connected to the sahasrara. When activated, t hey awaken consciousness stage by stage. The culmination of this process is called samadhi and in tantra it is understood as the mystical union (yoga) of opposing universal principles within the experience of the individual: Shiva (cosmic consciousness) and Shakti (cosmic energy and power), Paramatma (universal soul) and Jivatma (individual soul), Purusha (universal spirit) and Prakriti(nature principle).
The symbol of the serpent can be found in many societies, new and old, and refers to the unconscious in man. Mystics, shamans and magicians have used a wide selection of magico-religious rites and methods to arouse this power of the kundalini. This leads to ecstasy and also the development of psychic powers (siddhis) such as telepathy, clairaudience, clairvoyance and so forth. These same powers arise from tantric and yogic practices but they are regarded as side-shows on the path of self realization. They are more to be shunned than purposely cultivated, since they can so easily bring suffering and prevent further spiritual progress.
Kundalini yoga is an ancient science of tantra which is designed to bring about rapid awakening of the kundalini. It encompasses a wide range of yogas and includes hatha yoga, kriya yoga and prana vidya. All practices of yoga and tantra raise the kundalini, but the specific techniques of kundalini yoga do it more rapidly. The distinctive feature of kundalini techniques is that they utilize energy (prana) as a means to awaken consciousness. That is, the practices arouse and stimulate the energy level in an individual. This is symbolized by the pingala nadi. Thus all the practices of hatha yoga, kriya yoga, and prana vidya awaken the pingala nadi. This simultaneously leads to awakening of consciousness represented by the ida nadi. When they are in balance, kundalini arises spontaneously through sushumna.
Although the primary centre or storehouse of prana in the body is the manipura chakra, also called the centre of heat and fire, a grosser form of prana resides at the mooladhara and is experienced by most people in the form of sexual energy. The kundalini is thus said to reside not in the manipura but in the mooladhara chakra. It is for this reason that prana or kundalini is generally awakened from the mooladhara, whether in hatha yoga, kriya yoga or prana vidya practice. Prana vidya is a method of tantra and of kundalini yoga which awakens consciousness and leads to illumination, bliss and wisdom.