Kundalini yogis believe that energy exists, like a coiled snake, at the base of the spine. Through Kundalini yoga, this energy can be released to travel upward along the spine, causing spiritual awakening. Kundalini energy is carried through three nadis, or channels. The shushumna is parallel to the spine, and the ida and pingala, which spiral around the spine. The intersection of the channels forms the chakras, or energy centers of the body.
Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa
Yoga Journal has featured a number of Kundalini yoga teachers over the years. One of the most popular is Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa. Born Mary May Gibson in rural Illinois, Kaur Khalsa has had a lot of unusual experiences. She attended San Francisco State in the 1960s. After that, she lived in a tent with a friend, doing without money or a car and scrounging for food. She moved to Maui, where she lived for three years before moving back to California. She became a Sikh after a friend introduced her to Kundalini yoga at an ashram in Tucson, Arizona in 1970, where she met Yogi Bhajan.
Today, Kaur Khalsa has her own yoga studio, Golden Bridge Yoga, which has locations in Los Angeles, California, and in New York City. Kaur Khalsa also teaches meditation and pre- and post-natal care. She has several books and DVDs out on the market.
The Three Gurus
The following three gurus have been friends since the 1970s, and all took their vows from the late Swami Muktananda.
Swami Shankarananda was born in New York and migrated to Melbourne, Australia. He is the spiritual director of the Shiva School of Meditation and Yoga. He is also a meditation master in the tradition of Kashmir Shaivism. He has been a member of the Columbia University national chess championship team and a United States chess master. He has also taught Renaissance poetry and English literature at Indiana University. He met American guru Ram Dass in 1970. He then traveled to India and studied with several important masters of meditation and yoga.
Shankarananda uses a classical practice, which involves bringing attention to the primary chakras, and asking oneself a series of questions. He also uses deep breathing and mantra chanting in his meditations.
Swami Chetananda, the abbot of the Nityananda Institute in Portland, Oregon comes from a different tradition. His spiritual lineage is descended from Ghagawan Nityananda, a renowned Indian sage. Chetananda was ordained in 1978, and has traveled extensively. He studied Kashmir Shaivism in Srinigar from 1980 to 1986. He adopted the practice of Triki Yoga, which regards every ethnic group and lifestyle as equal.
Chetananda understands the difficulty in silencing the mind. He believes that by focusing on the breath and the flow of energy through the body, the mind’s thoughts will become like background static.
Master Charles Cannon is the founder of the Synchronicity Foundation in Faber, Virginia. He uses technology-enhanced music to assist students with their meditative efforts. He has an educational background in the arts and philosophy. He spent many years in India studying with Paramahamsa Muktananda. He has been ordained as a monk in the Vedic/Tantric tradition. His CDs use Holodynamic Vibrational Entrainment Technology (HVET) in specific frequency ranges. The Synchronicity Alpha series, for example, are in the Alpha range of 8 – 14 Hz. Synchronicity Theta soundtracks feature a lower vibration of around 3.5 – 7 Hz, for a deeper meditative experience. Synchronicity Delta soundtracks are recorded in the Delta range of 0 – 3.5 Hz for the deepest form of meditation.