Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Kundalini Syndrome

I'm often asked if Kriya Yoga is dangerous. So just like driving a car or anything else, it isn't dangerous if you learn it thoroughly and practice it carefully. With a car, if you try to drive on a highway at high speed without first learning how to maneuver at low speed, you will increase your probability of having an accident, or if you are sleepy or there is bad weather or you are being distracted by a passenger or many other situations can also increase your likelihood of having an accident. Kriya Yoga is no different, just learn it thoroughly and practice it carefully and you will be fine.

I was motivated to write this post after reading JCS's and SNG's books on the original Kriya Yoga (as opposed to Swami Satyananda's variant), for I feel these books are lacking in terms of the necessary theory and practice required for someone to practice Kriya Yoga safely. These books give me the impression that any person off the street can start practicing Kriya Yoga directly without having any issues. In my opinion, this is akin to giving someone a million dollar supercar to drive on the autobahn at 300 km/h (190 mph) and expecting them to have no issues.

There are two types of problems I hear about from people practicing the original Kriya Yoga: either they have been practicing for a long time and have not experienced anything (i.e. they are stuck in 1st gear at 30 km/h since they never learned how to use a clutch); or they have had an extremely powerful experience that has left them feeling terrified (i.e. 300 km/h is way faster than they can handle).

The most important thing that anyone wishing to practice Kriya Yoga needs to know, is that it leads to Kundalini awakening, so before starting to practice you need to fully understand what that entails or you may end up with Kundalini syndrome instead (i.e. turning a positive awakening into a negative syndrome). Here is the list of possible "symptoms" from Wikipedia:

The Physio-Kundalini Syndrome Index
Category Symptoms
Motor symptoms 1. Body assuming and maintaining strange positions for no apparent reason.
2. Body becoming frozen or locked into strange positions and immovable.
3. Breathing spontaneously stopping or becoming rapid, shallow, or deep for no apparent reason.
4. Spontaneous involuntary bodily movements.
Somatosensory Symptoms 5. Spontaneous deep ecstatic tickle or orgasmic feeling.
6. Physical sensations starting in the feet, legs or pelvis, and moving up the back and neck to the top of the head, down the forehead, over the face, then to the throat, and ending in the abdomen.
7. Extreme sensations of heat or cold moving through the body.
8. Moving pockets of bodily heat or cold being extreme enough to burn or otherwise affect someone else or an inanimate object.
9. Pains in specific parts of the body that begin and end abruptly.
10. Tingling, vibration, itching or tickling on the skin or inside the body.
Audiovisual symptoms 11. Internal noises, such as whistling, hissing, chirping, roaring or flutelike sounds.
12. Internal voices.
13. Internal lights or colors illuminating parts of the body
14. Internal lights bright enough to illuminate a dark room.
Mental symptoms 15. Observing oneself, including one's thoughts, as if one were a bystander.
16. Sudden, intense ecstacy, bliss, peace, love, devotion, joy, or cosmic unity.
17. Sudden intense fear, anxiety, depression, hatred or confusion.
18. Thoughts spontaneously speeding up, slowing down, or stopping altogether.
19. Experiencing oneself as physically larger than the body.

The second thing you need to understand is that these are not symptoms of a syndrome that needs to be cured, these are positive spiritual experiences that are working to cleanse and purify your body, mind and spirit and eventually lead you to enlightenment. This is why you are practicing Kriya Yoga: to achieve Kundalini awakening and enlightenment.

The third thing to understand, is that with proper preparation you can significantly reduce the severity of your Kundalini awakening experiences. Swami Satyananda has devised a systematic approach to cleanse and purify the body-mind-spirit complex in preparation for Kundalini awakening. I've covered this in my Kriya Yoga Course 1 and 2. First, Hatha Yoga must be practiced to open the spiritual pathways (nadis) in the body; second, Pranayama (i.e. Nadi Shodhana) must be practiced to balance the flow of spiritual energy (prana) in the pathways; finally, each of the spiritual centers (chakras) must be awakened individually. This will provide a milder experience of the table items above, allowing one to become accustomed to spiritual experiences without being overwhelmed by them.

Only after all of the previous steps have been taken is it then safe to practice Kriya Yoga in my opinion. However, you may still notice that your mind wanders or your body fidgets with the original Kriya Yoga, and this may be due to being unable to achieve the advanced form of Kechari Mudra (i.e. inserting the tongue into the nasal cavity). If this is the case, then I would recommend Swami Satyananda's Kundalini Kriyas (my Kriya Yoga Course 3) instead of the original Kriya Yoga, as you are pretty much guaranteed to experience the powerful flow of Kundalini in your spine with his Kriyas in my opinion.

After all of this you may be wondering if I find any value in the original Kriya Yoga. Well, I do, for after Kundalini awakens the journey is still not over, for enlightenment still needs to be reached. This is when the original Kriya Yoga is most useful, for after inserting the tongue into the nasal cavity, it becomes easier to achieve the breathless state (see Ennio and Steve) and experience absolute stillness of body and mind.