Austin wraps up this blog series with a focus on Kundalini Shakti- the energy that can propel you to fulfill your life's work when properly managed. As always, Austin leaves you with a practice to try out at-home that is sure to elicit opinions one way or another. So give it a read, try it out and let us know what you think! Don't forget, if you have an idea for the blog you'd like to share, please don't hesitate to reach out at
A Pathway To Personal Power Pt. 4
The Search For Shakti With Hatha Yoga
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” -Mary Oliver
If you think shakti is an out there concept as discussed in Pathway to Power Pt. 1, 2 or 3, then buckle up because kundalini shakti might make as much sense to you as socks on a rooster. Kundalini means “coiled one” and represents our ability to tap into our inner spiritual reserve of power. It is imagined as a snake coiled at the base of the spine (hence its name) and really is the major overarching concept in Hatha yoga, to be able to utilize this power for spiritual awakening. All of the practices lead us toward having not control of but rather access to the experience of this type of shakti awakening within. I think of it like each and every person’s inner resource to connect to the divine. It is that type of energy that when tapped into, allows us to do so much more than what we could otherwise.
“God is a comedian playing to an audience who is afraid to laugh.” -Voltaire
To make matters more complex, kundalini can be used in all three realms of shakti. It is the stuff that superhuman feats of physical strength and stamina are made of when applied in the world of maya shakti. Concerning prana shakti, kundalini may influence abilities of the psyche like clairvoyance and telepathy. These extraordinary abilities one gains on the path of yoga are called siddhis but it is warned with great caution that the yogi should not do yoga to gain mastery of these special powers and that they can, in fact, be distractions on the path toward the ultimate goal of yoga. So what is the goal of yoga? In one way or another all of the contemporary schools of yoga tend to agree on one central conclusion: liberation. So this idea of awakening kundalini shakti is only but one way to put that, a very metaphysical way to put it, but there are other ways of languaging this concept of ultimate freedom. Words like samadhi in Classical Yoga, nirvana in the Buddhist canon, and enlightenment in the west all connote this idea of liberation.
“The only whole heart is the one that has been broken.” -Old Yiddish saying
So what are we trying to achieve liberation from? The short answer is suffering. In the Eastern mindset, the belief is that attachment is the root cause of suffering. In yoga, we use the practices to detach from the ways in which the ego identifies with its limited perception of reality. The underlying idea is that this specific type of ignorance that we operate from must be transcended. So thus, yoga is a subtractive process of peeling layers away from this false assumption around reality until at last we are left with the truth. It is that ultimate truth that reveals to us that we are all not only one and the same but that we are all already perfect, complete, and whole. This state of mind is complex however and isn’t as simple as just waking up and then being done with the whole thing; the process of waking up is a multi-level endeavour requiring, at times, steps backwards to go forwards. It can also require readiness beyond our current means/capacity and this is another beautiful aspect of yoga, as already mentioned: it will rise to meet you where you are at. So an appropriate practice will only offer you the next step in your development and will not impose any thing on you that you are not in someway prepared for by the practice itself. Now that we know where we are going with all of this effort lets dial this dizzying labyrinth of intricacy back through the lens of hatha yoga and kundalini shakti.
“God speaks to the heart through silence.” -S. Kierkegaard
Pure experiences of kundalini rising, as it’s often referred to, can be known as moments of waking up coupled with deeply profound sensations of universal unity. Experiences of kundalini shakti can oftentimes be profoundly and inexplicably life changing. Sometimes these experiences occur by chance, other times it is by way of the more advanced practices of Hatha yoga that one begins to hasten and invite this type of transformation into their life. It is an experience that should not be forced or rushed and should not be sought after for purposes of vanity or material gain. Most people who have had any kind of true kundalini awakening hold it as a moment of great reverence and it is a great teacher of humility and respect for one’s place in life. It is useful for those who suffer from feeling disconnected or lost in life, those who feel they have no sense of purpose. It can also be a noble purpose for any yoga practitioner to strive toward but it is also not something easily accomplished as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika states that yoga of this magnitude succeeds in a sixfold requirement: enthusiasm, openness, courage, knowledge of the truth, determination, and solitude.
At Home Practice: Savasana (shav-asana)
The ubiquitous yoga class closer is often times rushed or simply not given the extent of focus and attention that it so absolutely deserves. Practicing savasana is a profound way to downregulate the nervous system, release psychic tension, relax, and connect with an inner source for peace and ease. A lot can be said for the way in which the mind has an intrinsic and psychosomatic effect on the body but relaxing body and mind is only the beginning. The more one increases their relaxation threshold the more they will reap the benefits of deep relaxation. Letting go of tension is not only relieving but it can also allow us to be open to receive. The benefits of good deep restful relaxation are the cornerstone to wellness and optimal health; it is said that savasana restores balance to the endocrine, nervous and digestive systems, balances the chakras, the vayus, the doshas and all five elements. Most of the benefits we are searching for are those that we are somehow in the way of and the very thing we are searching for is being pushed away by our reaching. So suffice it to say that 3-5 minutes of savasana is NOT enough rest to gain the benefits from this most difficult of all poses as Iyengar classified it as, and for good reason. There is a liminal state between sleep and wakefulness, where the attention is soft and open this is the state of being you should be striving for. You know that you have successfully achieved this state when you return to wakefulness as if your mind went somewhere else and you feel refreshed, like a nap but with intention. Below are a few tips on how to practice on your own:
- Lie down in a room that will be undisturbed with a light blanket and maybe even a pillow, just whatever you need to get comfortable. Set a timer for an allotted amount of time so that you can allow your mind to wander unimpeded with the stress of time, I recommend 5-15 minutes and to choose an alarm sound on your phone that will not startle you awake but gently bring your awareness back to the present.
- Take a few deep breaths and bring the mind’s attention to the sankalpa that you chose from yourself form part 3 of this series.
- Once you have settled in, take a deep breath in and hold it squeezing all of the muscles in the body from the feet to the top of the head, be sure to pay attention to the front and back sides of the body. Hold for 3-5 seconds and as you exhale let all of the tension in the body go as well, do this 1-3 times.
- Make a conscious decision to give yourself permission to allow the body to be still, the mind to be quiet, and heart to be open for the duration of the time.
- When the alarm goes off repeat your sankalpa to yourself, and slowly reintegrate yourself back to full wakefulness without rushing, and carry on with your day by noticing how such a simple practice can allow more mindfulness and effortless ease into all of the ways you engage yourself.
This may sound easy but if you find that the mind or body is restless then shorten the time until you begin to build a natural tolerance for peace and quiet or make sure that you do this practice after an exercise when you have already “run the puppy” so to speak. Savasana is a necessary practice to begin to bring a balance and connection to the resource of kundalini shakti, when practiced over long periods of time it will start to lift your sails in all sorts of ways you might not even notice: emotional resilience, more emotional, physical and mental stamina, greater access to focused concentration, general sense of well being,...the list goes on and on. When this pose is practiced properly it assumes all of the forms of yoga, it becomes more than an asana it becomes a yantra and mudra revitalizing the whole physio and psychic system. It is a quintessential aspect of pranayama as it allows the body and mind to be breathed completely and naturally. It becomes a proving ground for the first steps inward and upward to samadhi as it teaches one the basics of dharana and dhyana. It may not be the thing that gives you all the things of your wildest dreams but it will create the atmosphere and environment to realistically invite the things into your life that awareness and gratitude are made of and these two ingredients are the foremost stepping stones towards contentment and fulfilment.
Keep The Search Going
“Hatha yoga is the sanctuary for those suffering every type of pain. It is the foundation for those practicing every type of yoga.” -Swatmarama
If you have made it this far along the path kudos, but just because this is the last installment on shakti here be sure to not let your attention fall off from the ways in which you are working with energy in your own life. Quantifying and classifying the concept of shakti in this 4-ordered method outlines a tangible and practical approach to the deeper intent behind a sincere Hatha Yoga practice but it is not meant to be the end all be all on the subject, just a brief introduction. Each of the three categories are often times classified differently in different schools of yoga but know that they all are interdependent and none exist without the other. Maya shakti is to be mastered so that we can create the proper conditions to work effectively with prana shakti. Once we have begun to master prana shakti then the potential for awakening kundalini shakti can be resourced. As reading this you are likely a yogi yourself, it is my hope that you have found and will continue to find this approach to perceiving the potential of your personal power useful. I hope that this model of energy and personal power inspires practitioner to explore all of the modes of practices that yoga has to offer. if you are curious about those other practices, do what I did so long ago when agitated with a petulant curiosity: don’t take anyone’s word for it, go find out for yourself.
If you have had an experience of awakening akin to what kundalini shakti describes, even if not in the realm of yoga, please feel free to share what happened and how it may have changed you or your perception of the world at