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 TKV Desikachar and kundalini
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46 Posts

Posted - Feb 09 2006 :  2:55:34 PM  Show Profile  Visit Bill's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Message
Hi everyone,

Has anyone read TkV Desikachar's book The Heart of Yoga. He says something in there that is a bit confusing. In defining Kundalini he says it is an "obstacle located in the center of the spine that obstructs the movement of prana into the central channel." He talks about an old Yoga text called the Yoga Yajnavalkya where it says that the yogi is to burn up the kundalini making the way clear for prana. Is anyone familiar with this? It is talked about extensively in pages 138 to 140.

Edited by - AYPforum on Feb 06 2007 8:58:29 PM


20 Posts

Posted - Feb 10 2006 :  02:51:23 AM  Show Profile  Visit sean's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
His opinion is that Kundalini is not really a separate energy at all; there is not an energy called prana and an energy called Kundalini. Kundalini is more of a metaphor for the clearing away process that allows prana to move up the spine. I think it's a very interesting view.

From the Heart of Yoga
by T. K. V. Desikachar

"If we want to understand hatha, kundalini, and tantra yoga, we must look closely at a concept that is central to all three, namely, the concept of kundalini. The fundamental idea, shored by all types of yoga that talk about kundalini, is that there are certain channels or nadi in the body through which prana can enter and leave. There are many nadi, but in the context of kundalini we need only concern ourselves with the three most important ones: ida , pingala, and sushumna, all three of which run along the spine. Sushumna runs straight up the spinal column, whereas ida and pingala cross over the spinal column and back a number of times. The ida nadi passes the left nostril and the pingala nadi passes the right nostril. Both have other names such as ha and tha, the two syllables that make up the word hatha. Ha represents ida and the cool energy of the moon (candra); tha represents pingala and the hot energy of the sun (surya). The nadi meet at the six points in the body recognized as the cakras. Figure 33 (see book) shows the locations of the cakras along the central axis of the spine. There is one between the eyebrows, one in the throat, one in the heart region, one in the navel, one just above the base of the trunk, and one at the base of the spine.

Ideally, prana flows unhindered along all these passages, but this can only happen when they are not blocked by impurities and rubbish. Normally prana cannot reach sushumna but only flows through the ida (ha) and pingala (tha) nadi, and often insufficiently at that. When it is possible for the prana to enter the sushumna nadi, the prana of ha and tha unite (yoga), which is why we call the process of getting there hatha yoga.

The sushumna or central nadi is regarded as the ideal path for prana. If prana flows through this central passage, it is concentrated in the body to such a large degree that its effects can spread throughout the body in an ideal way. None of it gets lost outside the body. When I was describing the purpose and effect of pranayama, I said that the state in which prana leaks out of the body is one in which avidya prevails. How and where prana flows in the body, therefore, has direct consequences for our state of mind: if we cannot keep enough prana in the nadi, if blocks hinder its flow and it cannot keep flowing in the right direction, it dissipates outside the body and results in the mind becoming dark and restless. Conversely, the collection of prana in the body brings about inner peace and true understanding. The free flow of prana in the sushumna is not normally possible because something blocks the passage. This block is symbolized by a coiled snake, the kundalini.

The concept of kundalini is confused by many imprecise definitions, and even a text such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika contains contradictory descriptions of it. The definition that follows is derived from what in my opinion is the best, the clearest, and the most coherent text on this subject, the Yoga Yajnavalkya. There kundalini is defined unambiguously as an obstacle. What is to enter the sushumna at some stage or other through your yoga practice is, according to this text, not the kundalini itself, but simply prana. Many books say that it is the kundalini itself that rises up through the sushumna, but this does not make sense if we follow the Yoga Yajnavalkya, one of the oldest texts that deals with this aspect of yoga. One of its central concepts is that prana and the various forms it takes in the body are linked to the practice of yoga, and it says that if we are successful in our practice, the kundalini is burned up, making the way clear for prana.

A snake killed while lying in a curled position unfolds and stretches out, the muscles no longer able to keep it coiled. It is said that when the fire in the body, agni, has killed the snake, the kundalini unrolls and the passage is open to the flow of prana. This does not happen overnight. Even when parts of the kundalini are destroyed, it remains capable of blocking sushumna for a long time.

If you closely consider this image, it becomes clear that kundalini is another way of depicting what we call avidya. In the same way that avidya can become so powerful that it totally prevents us from seeing purusa, kundalini blocks the prana and prevents it from rising through the sushumna. The moment the kundalini is burned is the same moment that avidya ceases to exist. Then prana is able to enter the sushumna and slowly move upward. We can also understand hatha yoga as part of raja yoga, which is defined as the process in which prana, the friend of purusa, gradually rises upward. When it gets to the top, purusa unfolds and the king within us emerges. When the emphasis is primarily on the concept of kundalini, then we speak of the practice as kundalini yoga. Hatha yoga is so named when our practice focuses on removing the division between ha and tha.

Lastly, the term tantra yoga may be used in describing a yoga practice based on kundalini. In tantra yoga the emphasis is on certain energies that are normally squandered being directed in such a way that they can reduce the blocks that stand in the way of the prana. The practices of tantra yoga are distinctive; indeed, the word tantra translates as "technique" in the positive sense, meaning a skill or craft. In tantra yoga the focus is on the body, and a wide range of connections and relationships between the body and other aspects of the world and cosmos is made."
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1608 Posts

Posted - Feb 10 2006 :  10:38:19 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
This post makes a lot of sense to me but I also think that we don't need to get caught up on terminology of what energy exactly is kudalini and how it is not exactly prana etc.

To me all of it is simply energy manifesting itself in different ways as it pushes through the various nadis and purifies the nervous system. The above description is similar to the way energy started to flow for me. Initially the energy flowed up through my chakras and over the next many months of spinal breathing and AYP practices the powerful flows and big experiences of kundalini energy started to subside and quiet down. I did spend time wanting these experiences as I thought they were important for the purification process. Eventually, I let go of looking for these as road-markers which was the best thing I could have done.

After some time of the energy still being present but more in a background kind of way, the energy slowly began to feel more concentrated in the spinal nerve for me. It began as an awareness of this and then progressed slowly over time to oscillating between days of intense heat and others of ecstatic feelings but again concentrated in the spinal nerve and not the chakras. The chakras still do activate from time to time and when they do there is more ecstasy flow but to me this is due to purification.

Ultimately the details are not important as we can not control these and the global clearing out process that powerful systems like AYP facilitate will make things progress in the most ideal way. How this progress manifests itself in each of our nervous systems will be completely unique due to our unique blockages and knots, not to mention past practices.
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20 Posts

Posted - Feb 11 2006 :  12:09:56 AM  Show Profile  Visit sean's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Yogani refers to Kundalini as "the expansion of our sexual function into the spiritual arena, i.e., upward through our nervous system". This is not contradictory to Desikachar in that it's also using the word kundalini as a metaphor for the results of a process, not as an active energetic driver of the process itself. Just a thought. I posted more from Deskichar below ... a lot of it is in the spirit of what you were saying Anthem11, about not getting too caught up in terminology.

More from The Heart of Yoga
by T. K. V. Desikachar


Q: I have read that the moment the kundalini is freed, it feels like a powerful electric shock running through a cable. It also said that if the cable is not strong enough for the current, it will burn out. This is dangerous and you must be prepared for it. Do you have any thoughts on this?

A: It seems to me that kundalini must be described in this way because it surrounded by a lot of mystery and a lot of superstition. It seems mysterious because we can not simply cut the body open and see this power. But if we relate this power to prana, there is no longer anything mysterious about it. This is the beauty of a text such as the Yoga Yajnavalkya. On the experience of the rising of prana in the susmna, the Yoga Yajnavalkya quite simply says, ‘How could I describe what a person then becomes aware of?’ There is no shock such as the one you described. When someone sees the truth, the only shock is to have to see what he or she was before. There is no question of a one-thousand volt shock or the like.

While it is a good metaphor to describe the rising of the kundalini like this, it makes little sense to take it literally. If we were to say that kundalini is an energy force that leads us to the truth, then we would also have to accept that there are two different types of energy existing side by side: prana and kundalini. Many of these ideas are based on superficial and inaccurate translations, or the inability to explain unclear passages in certain texts. For this reason, these concepts and techniques must be explained by someone who has not only a great wealth of practical experience and well-founded knowledge, but also considerable proficiency in Sanskrit, the language in which these texts are written. Very often there is a lack of both.

Q: If we burn up kundalini bit by bit, does more prana gradually enter the susumna?

A: We must be careful that we do not go too far in using images to describe certain experiences. We should never forget that they are images and not the experience itself. Nevertheless, we could imagine it just as you do. Sometimes we move into a state of mind which we could describe as dhyana or Samadhi; then we are back in a distracted state again. If the mind is without peace or clarity, the kundalini is lying curled up, blocking susumna. If the mind quiets, it is less obstructed by kundalini, and we may perhaps experience a state of being in which the mind is operating solely on the level of clear sight and true understanding. All that really means is that prana is rising higher in the susumna and can now flow freely through places that were previously blocked.

Q: According to hatha yoga, is the use of the bandha the only way of moving the kundalini?

A: No. If you read the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, for example, you will discover that none of the techniques given is ‘the only one.’ Various methods are described in different chapters. The same is true for the Gheranda Samhita, the Siva Samhita, and other classical texts. Many different suggestions are made therein.
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46 Posts

Posted - Feb 11 2006 :  8:40:11 PM  Show Profile  Visit Bill's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks Sean and Anthem for your replies. On to practice practice. Its great.
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351 Posts

Posted - Feb 06 2007 :  8:58:29 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Moderator note: Topic moved for better placement
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41 Posts

Posted - Feb 14 2007 :  10:34:56 PM  Show Profile  Visit shivakm's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
I read a book written by Desikachar in my own mother tongue (Tamil) some time back on the subject of yoga and asanas. It is not the same book that you have mentioned here. But the discussion is really interesting. The view that the prana and kundalini are the same is something that I have not come across before.

In the book that I read (about yoga), when questioned about kundalini, Desikachar answered saying that it is just one of the many achievements that can be attained through yoga. He further said that not everyone can do Kundalini. He went on to add that his father and guru Krishnamachar (world renowned yoga teacher) used to say that kundalini is not mentioned anywhere in patanjali's yoga sutras and is not something worth pursuing.

Needless to say, I got confused by this reply and later forgot about it totally.

PS: The name of the book is "Udale unnai aaradikkiren - (rough translation - 'Body, I worship you!')". It started out as a weekly article on a popular Tamil magazine and was later published as book.

I would be happy if some one can trow some light on kundalini not being mentioned in patanjali's yoga sutras. I am ignorant on this topic.


Edited by - shivakm on Feb 15 2007 12:13:46 AM
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41 Posts

Posted - Feb 15 2007 :  10:36:47 PM  Show Profile  Visit shivakm's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply

Thanks for taking the time to write such a lengthy reply. It was very informative. But I have a question on Kundalini opening.


People tend to talk about it a lot more in terms of first opening than in terms of its ongoing flow. So Desikachar (and Patanjali) is's not an end in itself at ALL.

I'm now in my third year since kundalini awoke. Instead of taking months or weeks between awakenings, it's now awakening during every practice period.


Pardon my ignorance. But even after reading the AYP lessons and some other text outside of AYP, I still do not clearly understand what the "opening" means as you have mentioned. You mentioned that its awakening during every practice period, does this mean the energy rises up from muladraha and travels upword? I am assuming that that is what it is, clarify me if I am wrong.


We just need to get past the delusional mindset that convinces us we're "not there yet"


good point. This is all the scriptures state also. And Eckhart Tolle also teaches the same, in his exact words he says that, "you will get there by knowing that you are there already!". The problem I have with this statement is that it sounds so simple. For that matter all enlightened masters make it sound so simple that is right in front of us and only we are not looking at it. If it is so simple then why are we not able to see it at all. There is been lot of answers given to this question saying that our mind is on the way. If it is as simple as it sounds then a lot of people should have got enlightenment by now. But it appears that it is not the case. In the Bhagavat Gita Krishna says "Bahu naam janma naam anthe" when he is talking to Arjuna to indicate that enlightenment comes only after several (normally interpreted as after millions of births by scholars) births. When one is in the seeking mode, this seems to be a very frustrating process. Then the teachers say don't seek happiness/enlightenment at all then you will never get there. All these things make sense intellectually, even the concept of enlightenment is easy to understand intellectually with the mind when we are inquiring about it repeatedly. But only the experience of it seems to be far fetched. Anyway I am just rambling my frustration with the way the masters state that this is so simple while in fact that is not the case. While perceived through the mind it seems to take quite a long time. But if we state that, then we will be questioned as to what time is......

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Jim and His Karma

2060 Posts

Posted - Feb 15 2007 :  11:23:50 PM  Show Profile  Visit Jim and His Karma's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hey, Shiva, sorry to bait and switch. I posted and deleted (because I found I'd written myself into a circle, and there's no point in trying to clarify for others if I get MYSELF confused!), and you replied to my deleted post.

On the other hand, your post (even with my phantom quotebacks) stands very nicely on its own, and I'm sure it'll spike fine conversation.

When people talk about the simplicity of realization, I don't think they're saying it's "easy" per se. They're just making the point that you can work, learn, study, grow, "improve" all you want, but that's the way you learn French or geometry or violin....not the route to this realization.

You wander around the house with your glasses pushed up onto your head, muttering "where the HELL are my glasses?". It's like that. Is it "easy" to find your glasses? Hard? Do you need to take a workshop on eyeglass finding or travel to Tibet to apprentice to eyeglass masters? Of course, the analogy breaks down because eyeglasses are specific material things. But it gives a sense of the conundrum. Most of all: the notion that you're incomplete and there must be movement, progression, journey, change in order to make things just right is not only not the solution, it's the very exact problem. So the notion that we're progressing and improving our way to enlightenment is a white lie of yoga. We do yoga to condition our bodies to open to and tolerate (same thing) What Is, so we can safely embrace What Is (in addition to entirely BEING What Is) if that is our destiny. 'Cuz "What Is" is nothing but energy, and we spend lives recoiling from it (as we recede into the hallucination of our separateness) so even a little bit overcharges us, like too much friction on a clitoris. That said, it doesn't work the other way....learn to handle, like, loads of energy and whammo, you'll be enlightened. That's not it. It's about letting happen, rather than making happen. Again, the more we make happen (even in yoga), the more we exacerbate the delusion. Though the mind will happily supply an emulation of whatever result you'd like.

To answer your 2nd question, most people live their lives with little or no energy traveling in their central spinal nerve (shushumna). Kundalini is the energy that travels through this nerve from the root. It's not an end, it's just an opening. And the bliss that attracts everyone's attention to this particular opening, is just a byproduct, as both Desikachar and Yogani say. Yogani puts it like this: the ecstacy is a manifestation of friction generated as obstructions to energy are worn down. Once this particular energy has worn down the kinks, it becomes less remarkable. that's why most talk about kundalini is about kundalini openings. On the rare occasions you see someone writing about long term relationship with kundalini, it sounds more mundane. And it is. Patanjali didn't need to write about it, because it's a segue to a stage. After the stage is reached (by which I mean 24/7 kundalini flow), you see that it's just part of an opening progression. The segue (first opening experiences) are very ecstatic, very remarkable. But yoga's weird. The ecstatic and remarkable are always mundane. These things are just smoke and mirrors, byproducts, scenery. Things get remarkable when all feels mundane, and energy moves right through you (akasha!). You see that the ecstacy was coming from the caught places, the places where you resisted. Kundalini, shmundalini.

As I said in my erased posting, the more familiar and smooth this energy becomes for me, the more "generic" it gets for me. But that's when I wrote myself into a circle, because shakti (which I'm increasingly able to recognize in myself and others even when it's less than peaking) is ALWAYS amazing, and I don't have articulate-able understanding of how that fits into kundalini. And I may never be able to express it. As I wrote: "The problem is that the more deeply we experience these things, the less there is to report back. It's not like going to Haiti and coming back with slides." The heart is an idiot. And thus a posting now I can't stop editing (my brain spots all the contradictions and wants to clarify and distinguish them into non-existence), and an earlier posting I had to delete for same reason.

Edited by - Jim and His Karma on Feb 16 2007 12:19:03 AM
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Jim and His Karma

2060 Posts

Posted - Feb 16 2007 :  12:10:32 AM  Show Profile  Visit Jim and His Karma's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
That was exhausting and unsatisfying (30 mins of compulsive editing!). I've really got to stop posting. I see every possible way I could be misinterpretted and give wrong impression. I see every logical fallacy. I see every way my words could feed the delusion in people (not saying I'm enlightened...I've just loosened my ties that bind a millimeter or so...I got lots of crud still).

Talking about this is just a mind fu@%. Shut up, sit down, and just say "I am" a lot. It may not make you enlightened, but it increases your receptivity tons, and reduces a lot of the noise and dementia and yearning/recoiling of everyday life (until you start posting about yoga to a message board, that is!).

And that's no lie, white or otherwise!

Edited by - Jim and His Karma on Feb 16 2007 12:14:49 AM
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530 Posts

Posted - Feb 16 2007 :  01:54:00 AM  Show Profile  Visit Kyman's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Jim, today, in the tub, I had a profound personal realization, and that is there is something to be said for a baseline level of peace and joy. Though the rise of energies are amazing at times, you cannot live in the state, nor is the low that can often occur that fanstastic.

Those who like having an illusory sense of control, by staying in a low so they can induce a high for relief, a clear middle way should not be overlooked or underestimated.

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Jim and His Karma

2060 Posts

Posted - Feb 16 2007 :  10:01:13 AM  Show Profile  Visit Jim and His Karma's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
The peace and joy are what's in back of the ecstacy, which is what's in back of the plodding monotony of life. It's the only thing that we truly are.
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41 Posts

Posted - Feb 17 2007 :  8:50:51 PM  Show Profile  Visit shivakm's Homepage  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Originally posted by Jim and His Karma

That was exhausting and unsatisfying (30 mins of compulsive editing!). I've really got to stop posting. I see every possible way I could be misinterpretted and give wrong impression. I see every logical fallacy. I see every way my words could feed the delusion in people (not saying I'm enlightened...I've just loosened my ties that bind a millimeter or so...I got lots of crud still).

Thanks for the post. We can only hope that people understand us the best and put our total effort against that. For that matter every word and statement that was even uttered can be misinterpreted. So your post is welcome. And by saying that you took 30 mins of editing, it clearly shows that you have made the best effort to convey what you wanted to. Rest is up to us whatever way we use the information. I am sure that any statement written with sincerity to help some one will in fact help some.
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