Kundalini is the latent shakti or spiritual energy in man. It is described as a serpent that is coiled three and a half times, face downwards, sleeping in mooladhara chakra, at the base of the spine. Until this kundalini awakens, no samadhi is possible. When it is awakened, kundalini hisses like a serpent beaten with a stick and enters the hole of sushumna, travels from chakra to chakra, and layer after layer of the mind opens up. Eventually this force of shakti is united with Shiva, seated on the sahasrara or thousand-petalled lotus, at the crown of the head.
The ultimate effect of pranayama is the udgata or awakening of the sleeping kundalini. The practice of kumbhaka in pranayama produces heat and thereby kundalini is awakened and passes upwards along the sushumna nadi. One must have knowledge of the nadis and chakras and be perfectly desireless and full of vairagya, non-attachment, before attempting to awaken kundalini by pranayama.
Nadis are psychic tubes made up of psychic matter that carry pranic currents, visible to the psychic eyes only. They are not nerves. Only gross prana moves in the nerves, whereas the vital force or pranic current moves in the nadis. Above the genital organs and below the navel is the energy centre known as kanda, which has the shape of a birds egg. Arising from the kanda are 72,000 nadis. Of these, 72 are commonly known to yogis. Of those the chief are ten: ida, pingala, sushumna, gandhari, hastijihva, pusha, yashasvini, alambusa, kuhu and shankhini. Of these ida, pingala and sushumna are the important ones and sushumna is the most important of all.
On either side of the spinal column flow two pranic currents. The left one is called ida and the right one is known as pingala. These nadis are not the right and the left sympathetic cords, but the subtle currents that carry prana. The moon moves in the ida and the sun travels in pingala. The poison is of the sun and the nectar is of the moon. Ida is cooling and pingala is heating. Ida flows through the left nostril and pingala through the right nostril. Observation shows that generally the breath flows through the right nostril for one hour and then through the left nostril for one hour.
Sushumna is the most important of all the nadis. It is the sustainer of the universe and the path of salvation. When the breath operates through sushumna, rather than fluctuating between ida and pingala, as is the usual case, the mind becomes steady. This steadiness of mind is called the mindless state, the highest state in raja yoga. If you sit for meditation when sushumna is operating, you will have wonderful meditation. The real work of a yogi begins when sushumna begins to function. Yogis try their level best to make the prana, which is generally alternating between ida and pingala, move in the sushumna nadi instead.
The prana cannot enter the nadis if they are full of impurities. Therefore, first of all, they should be purified and then pranayama should be practised. By regular practice of pranayama, the nerve centres and the nadis become purified and the prana easily forces its way up through the mouth of the sushumna. The nadis are purified by two processes: samanu and nirmanu. Nirmanu is done by physical cleansing or the shatkarmas. Samanu is done by a mental process with bija mantras or bijaksharas, seed sounds or seed letters, and is described below.
Chakras are centres of spiritual energy. Wherever there is an interlacing of several nerves, arteries and veins, that centre is called a plexus. Similarly there are plexuses or centres of vital forces in the subtle nadis. These are called chakras. They are located in the astral or psychic body, but they have corresponding centres in the physical body also.
While the breath is retained, the prana is guided into sushumna at one of the three places where it yields space for entrance through contraction of the muscles of the neck, or the perineum, or through the navel. If the coiled-up energy of kundalini moves up along the sushumna nadi it must be taken up from chakra to chakra.
There are six important chakras. They are: mooladhara (containing four petals) related to the perineum; swadhishthana (6 petals) related to the genital organ; manipura (10 petals) at the navel; anahata (12 petals) at the heart; vishuddhi (16 petals) at the throat and ajna (2 petals) at the space between the two eyebrows. The seventh chakra is known as sahasrara, which contains one thousand petals. It is located at the top of the head. The sacral plexus tentatively corresponds to mooladhara chakra; the prostatic plexus to swadhishthana, the solar plexus to manipura, the cardiac plexus to anahata, the laryngal plexus to vishuddhi and the cavernous plexus to ajna chakra.
When you practise the following, concentrate on the mooladhara chakra at the base of the spinal column, which is triangular in form and which is the seat of the kundalini shakti.
Close the right nostril with your right thumb. Inhale through the left nostril while you count three Aums slowly. Imagine that you are drawing the prana in with the atmospheric air.
Then close the left nostril with your little and ring fingers of the right hand and retain the breath for 12 Aums. Send the current down the spinal column straight into the triangular lotus, the mooladhara chakra. Imagine that the nerve-current is striking against the lotus and awakening the kundalini.
Then slowly exhale through the right nostril counting six Aums.
Repeat the process starting with an inhalation from the right nostril as stated above, using the same units, and having the same imagination and feeling.
This pranayama will awaken the kundalini quickly. Do it three times in the morning and three times in the evening. Increase the number and time gradually and cautiously according to your strength and capacity. In this pranayama, concentration on the mooladhara chakra is the important thing. Kundalini will be awakened quickly if the degree of concentration is intense and if the pranayama is practised regularly.
In this pranayama, the bhavana, the feeling, is more important than the ratio between pooraka, kumbhaka and rechaka.
Sit in padmasana or siddhasana, facing the East or North. After mentally prostrating at the lotus feet of the sadguru and reciting stotras, hymns in praise of God and guru, commence this pranayama, which will easily lead to the awakening of the kundalini.
Inhale deeply, without making any sound. As you inhale, feel that the kundalini lying dormant in the mooladhara chakra is awakened and is going up from chakra to chakra. At the conclusion of pooraka, have the bhavana that the kundalini has reached sahasrara. The more vivid the visualization of chakra after chakra, the more rapid will be your progress in this sadhana.
Retain the breath for a short while. Repeat the pranava, the mantra Aum, or your ishta mantra. Concentrate on sahasrara. Feel that by the grace of Mother Kundalini, the darkness of ignorance enveloping your soul has been dispelled. Feel that your whole being is pervaded by light, power and wisdom.
Slowly exhale now. And, as you exhale, feel that the kundalini shakti is gradually descending from sahasrara, and from chakra to chakra, to the mooladhara.
Now begin the process again.
It is impossible to extol this wonderful pranayama adequately. It is the magic wand for attaining perfection very quickly. Even a few days of practice will convince you of its remarkable glory. Start from today, this very moment. May God bless you with joy, bliss and immortality.