warning: The technique discussed here
may be dangerous. A number of readers have told us that
in some cases, similar practices have caused serious psychiatric
illnesses that required hospitalization. If you are tempted
to try the yoga described in this article, please read
this letter first.
. . . . . . . . .
A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO I became fascinated by the Kundalini
explosion that Gopi Krishna describes in his famous
With Kundalini, and decided to try one myself.
was meditating one morning in a cross-legged posture,
visualizing a shining flower in his head, when a stream
of light entered his skull and expanded into an ocean
of consciousness. He was never the same again.
article explains how I made a similar experience happen
to me. It also describes the elevated spiritual state
can probably use this article as a how-to manual, but
before you do, you should know that Gopi Krishna suffered
terribly for a long time after his Kundalini woke up.
As you are about to see, my experience was milder and
much more pleasant than Gopi's, but yours may resemble
his, so think carefully before you leap.
people say this experiment should never be performed
without the guidance of a competent yogi. They are probably
right, but in a world without board certification of
yogis, this advice is not always practical.
or not, I went ahead on my own. At first I tried concentrating
on a visualized light in my head like Gopi did. This
didn't work for me, so I searched the web for alternative
instructions and found a paragraph like the following
written by an Indian swami (I paraphrase from memory):
the Kundalini is simple. Just move the prana
down and the apana up until they meet and combine.
had to look up prana and apana. The first
word has both generic and specific meanings in yogic
physiology. It refers generally to the energy that animates
a human being, but in this context it means a particular
type of energy, the "upward-moving" one associated
with breathing. Apana is another type, the "downward-moving"
one associated with defecation.
have standard techniques for mixing prana and apana
-- ways of breathing, contracting muscles, and applying
pressure to parts of the body -- but as you've probably
guessed by now, I knew nothing about them.
I were a rational person I would have learned these
techniques from somebody who knows them, but since I'm
the kind of guy who never asks for directions, but instead
drives around for hours until his destination appears
by accident, I decided it would be fun to try to figure
out a method on my own.
first step was to find prana and apana. I was an agnostic
on the question of whether they exist objectively, but
I thought it likely that they exist phenomenologically;
in other words, I expected to find sensations that correspond
to those words. (Whether those sensations occur only
when they are induced by expectations is an interesting
locate these sensations, I focused my attention intently
and continuously on the places where I expected to find
them. Because of my previous meditation experience,
my mind was usually free from other thoughts while I
did this, and when other thoughts did interrupt, they
didn't break my concentration.
is associated with defecation, so I looked for sensations
in my rectum and anus. Prana is associated with breathing,
so I looked for sensations in my chest.
the emphasis on the rectum and anus seems strange or
funny -- and of course it does -- remember that I was
merely trying to follow the directions to move my apana.
Given other things that yogis say about the Kundalini,
these directions made a kind of sense. The sleeping
Kundalini is said to coil around the coccyx, the vestigial
tailbone that curves downward and inward from the bottom
of the spine. The tip of the coccyx is very close to
Moreover, the bundle of nerves that exits from it, the
coccygeal plexus, innervates the skin around the anus.
The nearest plexus above it, the sacral plexus, innervates
the anal sphincter muscles. One or both of these plexuses
are the likeliest anatomical analogues to the first
and second chakras of yogic physiology, the muladhara
and svadhisthana. If yogis can feel these plexuses,
then very likely they feel the places innervated by
their afferent fibers.
facilitate my search for these sensations, I sat and
stood in various positions (not yoga asanas, since I
didn't know any). I also stretched, contracted, and
relaxed my muscles in various ways.
several hours of experimentation, I decided to mainly
lie on my back with my knees bent and my head, neck,
and sacrum propped up with hard pillows to reduce and
even reverse the cervical and lumbar curvatures of my
spine. In this position, the dorsal ligaments of my
cervical and lumbar vertebrae were under tension from
my weight. I made this decision partly because the yogic
literature stresses the importance of straightening
the spine, partly because this posture created a feeling
of hollowness in my spine, and partly because I felt
intuitively that it would help. As it turned out, I
was in this position when my Kundalini erupted.
search for these sensations developed seamlessly into
the method that woke my Kundalini, let me be very specific
about what I did. My search was mainly a matter of focusing
my attention in the following ways:
regard to the interior of my head, I alternately tried
to visualize some sort of light and looked for a light.
regard to my spine, I stretched it physically and
tried to induce a feeling of hollowness in it by relaxation
regard to my trachea and lungs, I tried to perceive
and induce a feeling that some sort of energy was
moving downward as I breathed. This naturally made
me contract muscles in my neck and chest.
regard to my abdomen, I contracted and relaxed muscles
and tried to induce a feeling of accumulating energy.
regard to the lowest part of my spine, I tried to
perceive and induce a feeling that something in it
or near it was moving toward my head. This naturally
made me contract muscles in my lower abdomen, as if
it were a toothpaste tube that I was squeezing to
move its contents toward the top.
regard to my anus, I looked for any sensation that
fit the description, "downward-moving energy."
I looked here, of course,
because of what the directions said about apana.
were two kinds of attention: attempts to induce particular
perceptions and a looking for with imprecise
expectations. I also made voluntary movements of various
be stressed that my mind was quiet during this exercise
(in other words, I wasn't thinking thoughts) and my
attention was focused continuously and exclusively in
the ways I just described. When thoughts did interrupt,
I maintained my concentration despite them.
conducted this experiment for approximately three or
four hours on each of three consecutive days.
By the second day, I was noticing six striking phenomena:
the light in my head was increasingly bright and dense.
It seemed to be a a vaguely delimited cloud in the
middle of my head, usually white but perhaps also
occasionally blue (my memory of the color is uncertain).
I also think my head felt hot but I'm not sure about
there was a sense of something like a voltage potential
building up between my head and the area near my anus,
as if a spark were getting ready to jump between them.
the sphincter muscles around my anus quivered.
there was an intuitive sense that I could help bring
about the Kundalini explosion by making deliberate
isometric contractions of the muscles of my anus,
buttocks, perineum, and thighs. I gave into this urge
and eventually found myself contracting these muscles
so strenuously that my legs shook violently. Sometimes
my thighs pressed together, sometimes they didn't,
and sometimes I intertwined my lower legs with my
ankles locked. These contractions were so tiring that
I frequently stopped them to rest.
there was an apparent link between the sensations
in my head and anus. When I focused on one, the other
intensified, and so did the feeling of an imminent
there was a cold sensation in my abdomen below the
navel. It was like cold liquid filling the cavity,
but without a feeling of pressure or distention. It
was similar to (and perhaps the same as) the icy "sinking
feeling" that often accompanies dread. (I noticed
later that this cold-liquid feeling is often present
during defecation.) It seemed probable that this feeling
first five phenomena happened more or less continuously
while I meditated, though they varied in intensity,
but the cold-liquid feeling occurred only intermittently.
Each time it happened I became frightened because I
sensed that my Kundalini was about to erupt (if you've
read Gopi Krishna's book, you know why I was scared),
so I deliberately aborted the process by relaxing my
the second day I approached the brink this way several
times and chickened out. On the third day I resolved
to see the thing through.
Waterfall of Light
took several hours of meditation on the third day to
work my way up to the explosion, applying my attention
as described above.
there was a key to the whole thing, it was splitting
my attention so it focused simultaneously on my anus
and the light in my head. This
seemed to increase the feeling that a spark was getting
ready to jump between them.
after hour, my mind became quieter as the sensations
grew more pronounced -- the glowing cloud in the skull,
the spasming perineum, the straining leg muscles. Always
a dim determination remained on the horizon of thought
that I must not think, because thought would abort the
process. Eventually the feeling of cold fear reappeared
in my belly, and with it an increasing sense of polarization
between the two ends of the spine. I focused fiercely
and simultaneously on the head and anus, driving the
polarization to the breaking point, creating a weird
certainty that the explosion was about to occur. To
steel my nerves as the brink approached, I fixed part
of my attention on the conviction that the event would
be benevolent. I was clutching that bit of faith like
a lucky charm when it happened.
there was light and noise, brilliant and deafening.
One moment the world was dark, the next a huge jet of
energy, fat and solid as my neck, was emanating at my
collar bone and rushing upward in an incandescent torrent,
white and frothing like a column of water leaving a
hydrant under enormous pressure. It looked like the
beam of a floodlight shining up into a clear plastic
statue of somebody's neck and head, except the light
was boiling and roaring like Niagara Falls. The light,
which may have been slightly yellowish (I seem to have
a bad memory for colors), filled my neck and head completely.
It wasn't confined to my spine or anything like a nadi,
and, as I said, it originated at the level of my collar
bone, not the coccyx.
noise was a brassy metallic roar like a huge waterfall
mixed with cymbals. It was so loud that if somebody
had been physically present in the room with me, shouting
in my ear, I don't think I would have heard him.
noise seemed like a real sound in every way -- it seemed
to come through my ears. The light seemed to be perceived
normally as well -- that is to say, I was apparently
seeing it through my eyes, not knowing its existence
in some other way -- except that my point of view was
at the center of my head and my field of view covered
all directions in three dimensions. This seemed less
strange than it sounds because normally when I close
my eyes, I perceive the darkness as if it's inside my
skull. Now I seemed to have the same view, except the
darkness was filled with light.
panicked. A sort of primitive mental alarm went off,
warning that something this intense might cause physical
damage. I wondered fearfully if I could stop the phenomenon
(Gopi Krishna could not), and that thought ended my
thoughtless concentration, and the light and noise vanished.
There was no climax or sense of ending; with impossible
suddenness, the room was dark and quiet again, as if
the light and noise had never been present. Irrationally
I expected to hear people yelling and screaming in reaction
to the commotion (although of course I knew the light
and noise were subjective phenomena), but everything
was silent. It had lasted only a few seconds. Surely
there had to be some aftermath to such intense violence,
but there was nothing, just the memory. My ears should
be ringing, but there was no ringing. I put my hand
on my heart, expecting to find it pounding like it does
after a near collision in a car, but it was pumping
slowly. This almost seemed weirder than anything else.
I was afraid to move for a while, but eventually I stood
up and moved around. I felt perfectly normal, and this
also seemed odd.
Saint for Three Days
I wasn't normal. It soon became apparent that I was
in an elevated spiritual state. When I went outside
and passed people on the street, they seemed divine
to me, especially children. By this I mean that I was
aware of their essential goodness and their infinite
importance and the casual mundaneness of that infinite
importance and the jovial benevolence of the world we
all inhabit together. This awareness was so overwhelming
that tears of joy came to my eyes.
condition lasted three days. The most striking thing
about it was the conviction that the world is not only
benevolent but also good-humored, almost as if it's
a friendly joke that all of us are in on; all of us
should be winking at each other. But this description
is misleading, because it seemed as if we are
the joke. And that doesn't express it correctly either,
because calling it a joke makes it seem trivial, and
this insight wasn't trivial. It was profound and beautiful
and important; it was what people mean when they say
God; it was love; and for three days it
was tangible to me, to the point that I kept crying
tears of joy intermittently.
maybe the most striking thing was that pedestrians on
the sidewalks of New York City, where paranoia is an
artform and children learn before they are weaned to
avoid eye contact with strangers, kept looking into
my eyes and smiling at me.
why shouldn't they? I loved them -- not in a soppy way,
but as if we were such old friends that we didn't have
to bother saying hello.
maybe the most striking thing was that I was happy.
Or that I was fearless.
three days, the spiritual awareness subsided. Luckily,
it didn't subside completely; an attenuated trace of
it remains to this day, and I'm extremely grateful for
hope this final paragraph will be read carefully, because
I don't want to be misunderstood. I am an ordinary person,
no better or worse than anybody else. But this experience
was a taste of sainthood. If you stayed permanently
in this state which I merely visited for three days,
you would be a saint. And so I conclude that yoga is
a technology for turning people into saints. Should
this be a surprise? Indian scriptures have said so for
several thousand years.
1999 Freddie Yam.
Yam is a contributing editor of Realization.org. The event
he describes took place on March 6, 1998. His website is FreddieYam.com.
READERS' REPLIES TO THIS ARTICLE
From Kurt Keutzer
reply to this article by Kurt Keutzer published in February
Letters to the Editor, December
18 responses to this article.
The Day My Kundalini Woke Up
Turning Blue: Natural
Exercise for Reducing
Visual Hemispheric Dominance
What I've Learned From
Reference Page on Kundalini
extensive bibliography, brief reviews of selected books
and articles, and links to other sites.
page was published on December 5, 1999 and last revised
on November 25, 2000.