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Kundalini meditation is a part of the practice of Kundalini yoga, a psycho-spiritual discipline that aims to raise consciousness using techniques that connect practitioners with their spiritual selves. The practice is said to increase self-awareness and heighten a person's creativity. The techniques used in kundalini meditation are intended to strengthen and refine the brain and neural pathways, making them more receptive to spiritual energy. In the philosophy of yoga, kundalini is considered the life force that resides at the base of the spine. During meditation, the kundalini energy, which is sometimes symbolically illustrated as a coiled snake, rises through the practitioner's six lower chakras to reach the seventh or crown chakra, where self-realization occurs.
As with other yoga meditation practices, Kundalini yoga involves regulating the breath to focus concentration. The yoga student may be given mantras to repeat during practice. These are groups of words intended to help the student achieve transformation, with most mantras being drawn from Indian spiritual texts. They are intended to quiet the mind so the student can concentrate on spiritual evolution. The ultimate aim of kundalini meditation is the achievement of enlightenment and union with Brahma — the foundation all creation.
In classic Kundalini yoga practice, techniques are transmitted directly from a teacher or guru to the student. When practiced incorrectly, kundalini meditation can cause both physical and psychological distress, so many yoga teachers insist that this master-student relationship is critical to the safety and well-being of the student. Kundalini yoga was introduced in the West in the late 1960s by Yogi Bhajan, an Indian master of the discipline who saw it as an alternative to the psychoactive drugs then popular in western culture. His teachings marked the first time the practice was exposed to a general audience.
There are many different schools of yoga today that incorporate kundalini meditation into their practices. Yogi Bhajan taught that it should be a part of three traditional schools of practice. These include Raja yoga for mental power and focus, Bhakti yoga for devotion and Shakti yoga for the generation of spiritual power and creativity.
Kundalini meditation has also been integrated into the practice of Ashtanga yoga, which focuses on the alignment of movement with the breath. While some of its principles resemble those of the more physically based Hatha yoga school, Ashtanga practice symbolizes its aims through the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga. This is a symbolic conception of the various aspects of yoga practice and includes moral codes, self-purification and study, attention to posture, and breath control. It also values the qualities of sense control, intention, meditation, and contemplation.
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