Kundalini yoga is a Hindu spiritual practice that involves physical, emotional and mental practices that may lead to the re-awakening of kundalini energy. In Hindu mythology, this subtle energy rests at the base of the spine, and is envisioned as a coiled female serpent. Known as a fast path toward enlightenment, or liberation from the cycle of rebirth, kundalini yoga also can be psychologically destabilizing. Indeed, psychologists warn that some meditators may have spontaneous kundalini risings that can be life-threatening. (reference 2)
When kundalini energy releases unexpectedly from the spine, the meditator may experience profound insight coupled with intense physical and emotional symptoms. The way you see and experience the world may be forever changed. While many people strive for this spiritual experience, in reality life can become unbearable, especially if the meditator does not have community and mentor support. In this case, psychologists call the kundalini awakening a “spiritual emergency.” (reference 2)
Painful Physical Symptoms
Gopi Krisha, in his 1971 book “Kundalini: the evolutionary energy of man,” described how he was wracked by pain when he had a spontaneous kundalini rising. Since then, psychiatrists and psychologists describe wide-ranging issues with the heart, spine, gastro-intestinal and the neurological systems. In particular, sensations of burning, hypersensitivity to cold and heat, and tremendous swings in appetite and sexual energy have been described clinically.
Unpleasant Emotional Symptoms
Some emotional symptoms of kundalini rising include confusion, guilt, anxiety and depression. These negative emotions often are interspersed with ecstatic feelings of bliss and wholeness. However, in some cases, the negative emotions can predominate, leading meditators to question their sanity. Kundalini expert Bob Boyd suggests that grounding exercises, such as immersing yourself in nature, can be helpful for those suffering from painful kundalini arousals.
Bonnie Greenwell, a clinical psychologist and author of “Energies of Transformation,” warns that sometimes, emotional upheavals can resemble psychotic breakdowns. Treating these symptoms with medicine may complicate the process. Rather, Dr. Greenwell suggests that sufferers work with a psychiatrist who is familiar with spiritual emergence. She also suggests learning more about the philosophy behind kundalini. In time, you can develop techniques to ground the energy, as well as benefit from its positive manifestations, through activities such as refined meditation, gardening and running, as well as creative endeavors such as music and art.
- Kundalini Survival and Support: Kundalini Survival Guide
- Spiritual Competency Resource Center: Kundalini Awakening
- “Kundalini: the Evolutionary Energy of Man”; Gopi Krisha, 1971