Related Terms

  • Ahamkara, asana, Ashtanga yoga, Ayurveda, bheda, Bikram yoga, brahma nadi, chakra, chanting, cleansing techniques, dhyana, gentle yoga, guided imagery, hatha yoga, hot yoga, householder yoga, Iyengar yoga, Integral yoga, Jivamukti yoga, kirtan, Kripalu yoga, kriya, laya yoga, mantra, meditation, muladhara chakra, poses, postures, potential energy, power yoga, prana, pranayama, proprioceptive physical activity, raja, relaxation, Yoya Yoga, Sahaja Yoga, shavasana, subtle body, Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY), therapeutic yoga, transcendental meditation (TM), visualization, yoga nidra, yoga therapy, yogic breathing, yui.
  • Not included in this review: Forms of yoga other than Kundalini Yoga. For a review of related evidence, please visit Natural Standard’s Complementary Practices Database, or click on these links to selected topics: , , .

Background

  • Kundalini Yoga is one of many traditions of yoga that share common roots in ancient Indian philosophy. It is comprehensive in that it combines physical poses with breath control exercises, chanting (mantras), meditations, prayer, visualizations, and guided relaxation. It is an elaborate system focused on healing and “purifying” the mind, body, and emotions. Kundalini Yoga incorporates many aspects of other forms of yoga as well as related techniques of meditation and relaxation. It also offers teachings for all aspects of life including diet (vegetarian), serving others, and yogic life skills such as conscious parenting and partnering. However, the emphasis is more on breathing and meditation exercises, and less on challenging physical postures to build strength or flexibility, as is the emphasis in some other forms of yoga. Kundalini Yoga uses kriyas, specially formulated sets of exercises. There are traditional Indian kriyas and there are adapted Western versions.
  • Kundalini Yoga is advocated as a way to keep the body in good condition and train the mind to be resilient and flexible in response to stress and change. Advocates claim that it increases oxygen capacity, boosts blood flow, balances the glandular system, strengthens the nervous system, and increases self-awareness, vitality, peace of mind, concentration, and self-confidence. It is recommended for people of all ages.
  • The word “kundalini” stems from a Sanskrit term meaning “circular, coiled”. It refers to the concept of the original creative energy of the universe, which is believed to be coiled up in a dormant state at the base of the spine in the coccyx. The practices are intended to awaken and activate this primal energy. It is believed that as kundalini awakens it uncoils and rises upward through the body, purifying the person in body, mind and spirit.
  • The famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung was interested in Kundalini Yoga as a supplement to his psychological theories. In 1932, Jung gave a series of lectures on Kundalini Yoga in Zurich (published under the title The Psychology of Kundalini Yoga by Princeton University Press in 1966). Yogi Bhajan, founder of the 3HO Foundation, introduced Kundalini Yoga in the West in 1969 with the goal of helping ordinary people to live healthy, conscious lives.
  • While research in the broader field of yoga has documented benefits for stress reduction and quality of life in a variety of health conditions, including cancer, there has been little formal research in the techniques specific to Kundalini Yoga. More studies are needed to evaluate the contributions of Kundalini Yoga practices in health.

Evidence Table

    Disclaimer

    These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

    Angina pectoris

    One case series report, but no formal clinical trials, suggests that breathing techniques used in Kundalini Yoga may help people with angina pectoris reduce symptoms and need for medication (). Formal clinical trials are needed to explore this application of Kundalini Yoga before a conclusion can be made regarding efficacy.

    Cardiovascular health

    A specific breathing technique of Kundalini Yoga reputed to help prevent heart attacks was examined in one study to determine its effects on heart function. The technique is a one breath per minute respiratory exercise with slow inspiration for 20 seconds, breath retention for 20 seconds, and slow expiration for 20 seconds, for 31 consecutive minutes. The technique was found to stabilize the heart’s electrical wave patterns, which may have preventive value in heart health. More studies are needed to determine whether this exercise has tangible effects on heart-related problems ().

    Cognitive function

    Breathing exercises are an important part of Kundalini Yoga. There is some evidence from studies with healthy volunteers that use of certain breathing techniques (e.g., breathing solely through one nostril or the other) may improve different aspects of cognitive functioning (;
    ). More studies are needed to determine if these techniques can reliably be used to improve cognitive performance and possibly aid in treating cognitive and nervous system disorders.

    Depression

    There is evidence from one small clinical trial where Kundlini Yoga was practiced (combination of asana, pranayama, and meditation), suggesting benefit in depression (). More trials are needed to establish whether this is a viable therapy for depression before a recommendation can be made.

    Insomnia

    One small study suggests improved sleep quality with the help of a regime of Kundalini Yoga practices (). However, there is insufficient evidence on which to base recommendations for or against this intervention for insomnia.

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)

    Two small clinical trials have examined a specific multi-faceted regime of Kundalini Yoga techniques for obsessive-compulsive disorder. These two studies suggested broad psychological benefits (reduced anxiety and depression) from the practices as well as reduced symptoms of OCD for up to 19 months (;
    ). Both studies were limited by small sample size, inadequate control group, and incomplete description of randomization, therefore more studies are needed before recommendations for or against this approach can be made for OCD.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

    Disclaimer

    The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

Safety

    Disclaimer

    Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.

Attribution

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().

Bibliography

    Disclaimer

    Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.

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    View Abstract
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    View Abstract
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    View Abstract
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