Kundalini Yoga gets its name from Kundalini, which in Indian Hinduism and spirituality is believed to be Divine Energy (associated with feminine energy or Shakti) located dormant at the base of the spine in the Muladhara Chakra. Muladhara is the root Chakra and one of the seven primary Chakras (life energy centers in the body) according to Hindu Tantrism.
The practice of Kundalini Yoga aims at awakening this Kundalini energy through practice of Mantras, Chanting, Pujas, Tantras, Yantras, Yoga, Devotion, Self-Discipline, Self-Study, Bandhas, Pranayama Breathwork, Tantric visualizations, and Meditation, or directly through mediation and initiation by a Guru (spiritual teacher).
It is believed that by awakening this dormant Shakti energy, it will be channeled upwards through the other Chakras, along the spine, up to the crown Chakra (Sahasrara Chakra) resulting in a process of spiritual perfection, Divine Union, Enlightenment and Bliss.
The terms Kundali and Kundalini start to appear in Indian sacred texts, the Upanishads, as from the 7th century BCE. In the Sanskrit language it has different meanings and connotations, such as circular, annular, snake, bowl, rope, ring, water-pot, or coiled.
The active practice with Kundalini energy comes about around the 11th century CE and as from the 15th century CE, it was also adopted in Hatha Yoga. Later, it became a more mainstream thought in Hinduism, and today it’s a well-accepted concept in modern spirituality, and within the New-Age and Neo-Tantra movements.
Kundalini energy can be awakened in a prepared or unprepared “state,” but it’s believed that in order to control and integrate this spiritual energy, a period of purification and strengthening of the body and nervous system is necessary beforehand. In more ancient times, people would visit ashrams in India to support this practice and to awaken their Kundalini energy with meditation, mantra chanting, spiritual studies and Yoga asana practices.
Today, what is known as Kundalini Yoga are rather modern practices and interpretations, rising strongly in popularity in the West between the 1960s and 1980s. This renewed Kundalini Yogic practice is primarily based on the works of Swami Nigamananda Paramahansa (1880 – 1935), Swami Sivananda (1887 – 1963), and Yogi Bhajan (Harbhajan Singh Khalsa | 1929 – 2004) and is a synthesis of Bhakti Yoga (devotion and chanting), Raja Yoga (physical practices and meditation) and Shakti Yoga (the expression of feminine power and energy).