Kundalini Rising: It’s Not Supposed to Hurt!

A Systemic Misunderstanding

There is a systemic misunderstanding regarding the construct/phenomenon called Kundalini; well, actually there are several, but the one that stands out for me the most is that of the psycho-physiological side-effects people claim as a result of the spontaneous ‘Kundalini rising’ or ‘awakening’.

The trend has affected the mainstream broadly, and sadly, incipiently, for the term has been appropriated without so much as a passing glance at the tradition that coined it, whereas even scratching the surface with the most basic research would save a lot of heartache. Indeed such research might very well set the stage for the illumination needed to get over oneself and get back to the joy of living. For what is awakening without joy?

In 1932, Carl Jung warned western audiences that the western personality was not geared to deal with the likes of Kundalini. In fact, the common disposition and tendency towards spiritual emergency made the likes of Kundalini akin to putting fire in the hands of children. In 1987, Dr. Lee Sannella MD wrote a book questioning whether the experiences which his psychiatric patients spoke of when referencing Kundalini were psychotic or transcendent, highlighting the thin line between the descriptors.

If one is experiencing heart palpitations, migraines, burning rashes, paralysis, loss of sleep, loss of appetite, maladies related to adrenal fatigue, endocrine imbalance, and/or parasympathetic nervous system disorders of any kind, you must understand that none of that is related to Kundalini except by the most tenuous of threads. Get yourself checked out by a doctor immediately. Chances are very good that you can be taken care of by modern medicine. The sages have spelled it out very clearly: the body/mind vehicle must be purified and prepared to take on the new reality that is the total reckoning and acceptance of the expression of unbounded light of Divinity within this severely limited body/mind vehicle.

Classical Depiction of Kundalini

Kundalini Means Something

Kundalini has a very specific meaning; its awakening is a very specific occurrence, and it unfolds and manifests in a very specific way. If you are not experiencing that, then what you are experiencing, is not Kundalini rising. Or rather, that is only part of the story. Literally. It is the consciousness aspect of the Kundalini force, observing itself in a state of imbalance, which is being subsumed into the narrative of an identity caught up in habit patterns. Maybe that was a bit dense and I’ll try to unpack it a bit, but basically it means that there’s a lot more to the story and that it’s well worth the read.

Kundalini is a Sanskrit word with several connotations to power. Imagine it as the Force that binds the galaxy together – the energy that makes up everything, including us. It is Nature. Mother Nature. And the nature of humanity. The concept/construct of Kundalini comes to us from a tradition in which we might consider ourselves to be but individual aspects of a more unified reality, a Oneness construct that views a Source as progenitor and a Force as instigator, preserver and even ultimately a destroyer. In the world of yoga we call this pair Shiva & Shakti. This force, or energy (Shakti) is as integral to the human condition as the air that feeds it life; there’s no separating ourselves from it. We are verily gods in a human form, but the ultimate reality of this status is veiled from our perception, for several reason, not the least of which is the narrative by which we’ve convinced ourselves of something else entirely.


The path and practice of coming to terms with a worldview that introduces us to both the idea of an ultimate reality and unity of Nature, as well as promising us the ultimate freedom of supernatural potential in alignment with a God that has evolved Itself willfully, knowingly and actively from a condition of unbounded light into the human condition we all enjoy today, by endowing itself with a vast array of limitations and capacities, the very same limitations and capacities that we ourselves are invested with to varying degrees, is called Tantra.

This is not to be confused with the neo-tantra of the west which satisfies itself with only the sexual rites of a minor discourse found in the teachings of the Kaula lineage, perpetuating the new age’s incomplete approach to the wisdom traditions – and what a shame! For the neo-tantrik, too, acknowledges in one way or another that the goal is an evolution of sorts. Unfortunately this new school does not unpack the original teachings of Tantra on the whole in the same manner that the Neoplatonists sought to unpack and transform Plato’s teachings. Which brings us back to Kundalini, Kundalini Yoga or Kriya Yoga, and the cautions of the sages who first instructed us in Her dynamics.

Two Kundalinis


You probably understand that Yoga, in all of its forms, is an art, or exercise, a spiritual practice that is enjoyed by different people at different stages of development, and practiced in different ways according to one’s readiness and ability, as well as one’s inclinations and proclivities.

See Hatha Yoga for instance, the yoga of poses and stretches and core muscle training, balance, breathing and the like. A newcomer to the path, say a man or woman in their mid-thirties, looking at fitness or spirituality for the first time, but really never having ventured too far from the sofa before, would have to approach the practice of hatha slowly. His/her tendons would be tight, muscles not quite toned and strong yet; she would start with basic stretches and warming up routines before advancing to more intermediate flows. What would happen if her Guru were to try to tie her in knots from the start? Quite simply, she would break.

Hatha Yoga is full of warnings and contra-indications. Those suffering from sciatica should not attempt such and such. Those with asthma should not attempt such and such. It is common sense. Consider then what might happen if one’s consciousness were treated with unbalanced force. This is also one reason why the ancient traditions advocated for proper initiation onto the path under a qualified Guru.Sometimes we slip, fall and break a bone. Sometimes our experience leads to trauma and dramatic breaks in the mind. Sometimes a dream can awaken within us glimpses of the ultimate and we come screaming back to earth because the vision burns our eyes. Sometimes we rise on the wings of grace, moving from one karmic rung to the next effortlessly. Sometimes we’re enabled to leave the past where it lay and walk fearlessly into a blank future with nothing but the awe of the miracle guiding our steps. Sometimes. Sometimes. There are outliers and there are trends.

Would the Real Kundalini Step Forward

Read what the sages of ancient and modern times alike have said and continue to say about Kundalini:

  • Adi Shankaracharya (7-8 C.E) in his treatise ‘Saundarya Lahari’, which might be translated as The Beautiful Individuation’ writes: “The invincible Kundalini Shakti pierces the six chakras and enters its abode slowly step by step.”
  • In the Mundamalatantra (Ch. 6), Kundalini Shakti is called the basic force of the body.
  • In the Varahopanishad (5.51) Kundalini is called the Supreme Power.
  • In the Yogashikhopanishad (6.55) it is stated that when Kundalini Shakti rises above its resting point (the kanda), the yogi attains liberation.
  • In the Yajurveda, Kundalini is mentioned as a virgin energy which moves like a devoted wife and destroys all evils.
  • In Hatha Yogpradipika She is described as an aspect of the Eternal Supreme Consciousness.
  • Guru Vashistha asserted that Kundalini is the seat of Absolute Knowledge.

Kundalini is mentioned in Gyanarva Tantra, Lalita Sahastranam, Laghustuti Vamkeshwar Tantra, Kshata Chakta, Nirupana, Ghetanya Samhita, and many more, and in no text is it ever mentioned that the Kundalini awakening brings about a terrible physical side effect the likes of which have become like so much more chaff on the modern social media meme.

Imbalance or Illumination

The sages cautioned on what to expect were the force to become unbalanced. They cautioned not to use force, but to coax Her with sweet words. And there is ample literature instructing in the contraindications to practice, and the remedy to imbalance, because that is precisely what symptomatic expression means: something is not balanced. We acknowledge the same when we have symptoms of a cold, when the car rattles, when the weather becomes too hot. How is it that the present age has turned symptomatic expression onto its head and taken it as a sign of illumination? Yes, the power courses through all of us. We are all made of the same stuff, and by that right, She is verily awakened already in each of Her children. So what on earth is any of this metaphysical mumbo-jumbo really pointing to?

Illumination is liberation! That means total and unequivocal release from all mental suffering. What does scripture tell us? (She, the risen, the conscious) destroys all evils! (She is) Supreme Consciousness! Sure, there’s dogma. We’re not going there. We’re looking at established wisdom traditions with centuries, eons, of verifiable experience to back up the veracity of a view that serves a purpose one way or the other, the same way we acknowledge any other scientific claim in any other genre of intellection.


Kundalini Yoga and Yoga philosophy in general are an Eastern mindset, an Eastern art form and lifestyle that we in the west have to a certain extent appropriated and turned to our own uses. Bridges span great divides, but cultures and predispositions exist all the same. Taoist memes go down easy with a glass of wine, but if you haven’t been brought up in the culture of oriental thought, practicing the path of the Tao, like many Chinese are born and bred to, may not be as easy as digesting a meme. So it is, too, with Kundalini Yoga. And the Yogin warn against the same, advocating for a purification of mind and body as absolutely necessary before approaching austerities, and long before proper meditation might even be considered.

Only meditation is going to awaken the Kundalini and allow it to rise permanently. There is the spontaneous rise of consciousness certainly, but it is only the dedicated devotion of a being intent on piercing the veils in order to get at ultimate truth that is going to herald the complete shift in the narrative, finally to go to that place where narrative no longer exists.


The grace of the Guru is an extraordinary catalyst and a shaktipat might lend a fleeting hand, urging the light of consciousness in the right direction. But in the same manner that energy healing is a real thing and some people can manipulate energy certainly, that manipulation by a master of the arts of energy will manifest a physical reaction, like a physically verifiable healing, or a bubbling up of profound clarity or deep insight – something good and wholesome!

Kundalini Awakening means Enlightenment. The Masters, whomever you want to call Master, exist to enlighten, to show the way, to guide into happiness and release from suffering, not create more suffering. If you are suffering, if your suffering has become heightened due to some practice or someone’s touch, if you are in pain, something is wrong, not right.

Piercing the Veils

I read posts on social media daily of people being taken in by false gurus – paying for pain! Giving away their innocence blindly in the hope of salvation. I feel anger at the injustice and sadness for the lost innocence and might despair if it weren’t but just another aspect of the larger story. One more layer that needs to be revealed. It’s not hopeless, though Kali Yuga might seem so with all the suffering and power-hungry who feed on that suffering.

Good News! Suffering can be remedied by right action, right thought, right attention. Suffering can be removed! Suffering is not the natural state of things. A return to balance is not difficult and does not take much time if you can just be mindful, employ common sense and not give yourself into any hand holding out something that looks like candy.

Take care of your health. Mind your food system. Understand the self-healing systems. Use meditation to still the mind somewhat. Moderate your exercise. Control your speech. There is more, all equally simple and fulfilling ways to bring you on to the path of balance. The setting and stage for real awakening.

Guru Anandamayi Ma

This is what the modern day sage has to say about Kudnalini:

“The Kundalini is your own mother – your individual Mother. And She has tape-recorded all your past and your aspirations — everything! And She rises because She wants to give you your second birth. But She is your individual Mother. You don’t share Her with anybody else. Yours is different, somebody else’s is different because the tape-recording is different. We say She is the reflection of the Adi Shakti who is called as Holy Ghost in the Bible. But She rises without any difficulty. Hardly any time it takes.”

This is what the sage Gyaneshwara said about Kundalini in the late 13th century.

“Kundalini is one of the greatest energies. The whole body of the seeker starts glowing because of the rising of the Kundalini. Because of that, unwanted impurities in the body disappear. The body of the seeker suddenly looks very proportionate and the eyes look bright and attractive and the eyeballs glow.’ – (Gyaneshwari, Chapter VI).

The Human Nature

The Buddhists liken Kundalini rising to the walking of Buddha’s Middle Path to Enlightenment or Liberation. Buddha was a Master Yogi who only decimated his body willfully through the most austere of penances. But it was very intentional. You don’t have to do that.

Kundalini is our very own Nature! It is our own energy, there to nourish and support us. Keep us whole. The power of Kundalini is that of absolute purity, innocence, auspiciousness, pure love, enlightened attention. It gives pure and total joy. It is the fullness of God residing within the man. When Kundalini is elevated, the result is a state of happiness. Not giddiness. Not a bliss that never knows anger or sadness or anything negative. An enlightened personality grieves consciously. An awakened spirit will anger at injustice and move to remedy it.

There should not be so much misunderstanding around the phenomenon of enlightenment, Tantra, Kundalini and Yoga. But it is easy to see how it has resulted. When the go-to texts show a common man like Gopi Krishna suffering from something he calls a Kundalini awakening, people will equate their own symptoms with the same. The experiences that the 20th-century mystic writes about have been echoed by many, but a large and empathizing readership does not make a man a master.

Neither is Shamdasani, though somewhat-researched, possessed of any particular mastery. When he equates psychosomatic symptomology with Carl Jung’s depictions of Kundalini rising, people are bound to be confused. In this day and age the right source texts have been translated. Good teachers exist. And with a little impeccable attention to the words and to our own minds, real truth might be uncovered and lead to lasting joy.

Get This Part

From this essay I hope that readers might takeaway the following at least:

1) If it hurts, it’s not good. If it hurts, it’s not Yoga. If it hurts, somebody is doing something bad to you or you are doing something bad to yourself. Even diving into the shadow and uncovering the darkness doesn’t necessarily have to be a painful experience.

2) Any yoga requires preparation and practice. Any yoga is best practiced under a master until you yourself become the master. The arts of Tantra/Kundalini required initiation for a reason. Purification and preparation for the journey followed a close second.

3) Kundalini is Nature. She is benevolent, though She may sometimes be severe. Ultimately She has your best interest at heart. She is supportive and empowering, strengthening and nourishing. Awakening feels good.

That is not to say that there isn’t a roller coaster of thought and feeling on the developmental paths – there is. But the pathway of energy, the nadis, the channels, the paths – they should be clear of debris before one attempts to drive through them. Purification. Right preparation for this journey like any other journey.

Kundalini is your birthright. Nurture your nature and your nature will nurture you in all ways.