#5: Leading the Kundalini upward: After Kundalini Awakening (section #4), its full force is then guided through the Sushumna channel, much like the Prana that came before (though now in its full force), systematically piercing, and moving through one after another of the chakras along the way. Kundalini Awakening is followed by Kundalini Rising. After Kundalini Rising, the Kundalini is guided to the Crown.
The seven major chakras: As was described in section #1, the energy of Prana flows in the nadis, and the major vortices of the energy intersections are the chakras. Energy is concentrated and stored at these chakra intersections. They are the subtlety which is underneath, or provides the support for the nerve plexuses along the spine. Briefly, the seven major chakras are:
Muladhara: coccyx, base of the spine, at the perineum
Svadhistana: sacral plexus, genital area
Manipura: solar plexus, navel center
Anahata: cardiac plexus, heart center
Visshuddha: thoracic plexus, throat center
Ajna: pituitary center, eyebrow center
Sahasrara: crown of the head
As the Kundalini moves upwards during the phase of Kundalini Rising, it encounters and fills each of the lower chakras, one after the other. The Ida and Pingala nadis, coursing through the chakras, are felt more deeply, and seen as well. During Kundalini Rising, each of the chakras is experienced in its subtler and subtler ways, including the subtler aspects of the five elements and the ten indriyas, which are associated with the first five chakras..
Rajas: The third and fourth chakras, the navel and the heart centers, involve a subtler relationship with the world, working with one’s individuality rather than just engaging the physical world.
Sattva: The fifth and sixth chakras, the throat and the eyebrow centers, begin movement away from the outer towards the inner world of purity, intuition, creativity, and wisdom, from which the outer arises.
Open and Closed chakras: If a chakra is open, then Kundalini Rising continues to upwards to the next chakra. If they are all open, then it rises all the way to the Sahasrara. However, this is commonly thought of in an opposite way. If a chakra is closed, then the Kundalini stops its upward journey, and one experiences that chakra more fully in an external way (what is typically called open). This can seem to be evidence of an open chakra, but the fact that the Kundalini does not keep going upwards means that the chakra is actually closed.
Three knots or granthis are broken: Along the Sushumna channel there are three knots (granthis) of energy that will be broken or untied along the upward journey of Kundalini Rising, allowing the flow to go into and through the various chakras above that point:
Brahma granthi: Blocking the flow from the first chakra, the root chakra, muladhara, upward to the others; related to bondage to desires.
Vishnu granthi: Blocking the flow from the third chakra at the navel, manipura, upward to the fourth chakra, anahata, the heart; related to bondage of actions.
Rudra granthi: Blocking the flow beyond the sixth chakra between the eyebrows, ajna chakra, upwards towards sahasrara; related to bondage of thoughts (compared to pure knowing).
Urdhva retas or upward traveling: The energy which is normally dissipated in the lower chakras can be rechanneled to the upper chakras through Kundalini Rising, not being released outward from those chakras, and brought further up the Sushumna nadi towards the upper chakras. Such practices as siddhasana (the accomplished pose), mahamudra (an asana), kapalabhati (a breathing practice), and mahabandha (locks) are used along with concentration of the mind. This allows the lower energy (retas) to move upward and become transformed into a higher energy (ojas), sometimes called effulgent, vital, creative, or spiritual energy that is used for higher realization.
To rise part way is most common: It is most common for the awakened Kundalini to rise only to one of the lower chakras, rather than to awaken and arise through all of the chakras, all the way to the crown. Having the Kundalini awaken and even partial Kundalini Rising is an encouraging and inspiring experience. It is also an experience to observe with humility, as the ego can claim ownership of the experience and delay further advancement.
Confusing Prana and Kundalini: It was already described that when Ida and Pingala are balanced, and Prana begins to flow in Sushumna channel, there comes feelings of peace and a calmness of mind. While this is definitely a desired step along the way, it is sometimes confused with Kundalini Awakening. Sometimes there are jerks and jolts in the nervous system that come along with this; these too are not Kundalini Awakening or Kundalini Rising. It is useful to be aware of the difference between the flows of Prana and full Kundalini Awakening and Kundalini Rising. Then, when those very useful steps along the way come, they are seen as signposts, and as inspiration for the deeper experience.
Kundalini itself becomes a guide: As the sadhana (practices) progress, Kundalini itself becomes a guide. This does not mean that one does not follow external guidance, nor does it mean not questioning the validity of inner insights that might be mental habits masquerading as inner wisdom. Rather, it means that there is a magnetic pull, a directing energy that comes from the Kundalini Shakti itself, which is drawing one towards home through Kundalini Rising.
Shakti becomes like a lion: While the energy of Kundalini Shakti is a guide, it is also like a lion that is running through the body and the mind, searching out and eating away the imperfections that remain. If one is not prepared for this, it can be very shocking and difficult to integrate into daily life. This is not said to cause fear, but respect for the journey. Once again, it means that it is necessary to prepare for the onslaught of such intense purifying experience. If one is not prepared, then the experiences from Kundalini Rising that should bring joy brings physical or mental suffering instead. Paradoxically, notice that if one does not purify, no progress is made, while at the same time, the progress itself brings purification.
Purify to be ready to purify: To prepare for this intense purifying experience requires preparing, by doing the grosser aspects of purifying through work with the body, breath, and mind. This is done through integrating practices such as meditation, contemplation, prayer, and mantra. The practices of Yoga Nidra and bhuta shuddhi (chakra meditation) are very useful. Notice the way an athlete will practice intensely to gain strength and stamina. Then there is a period of rest before the day of the athletic event. At the time of the event there is an intense outpouring of effort. The same is done with Kundalini Awakening and Kundalini Rising. First, you purify and practice. As you do this, you live your daily life. Then, after being fully prepared, there comes the times of advancement in the experiences.
Awakening versus leading Kundalini: The process of Kundalini Awakening is not only one of awakening the energy, but also of leading it upwards, through each of the chakras. The many practices with body, breath, and mind, each have their effect on these various centers, and pave the way for the Kundalini Rising to further upward over time and with practice.