Indian Tantric illustration of the subtle body channels that are transversed by Kundalini.
The Sanskrit adjective kuṇḍalin means “circular, annular”. It does occur as a noun for “a snake” (in the sense “coiled”, as in “forming ringlets”) in the 12th-century. It has become known as “Kundalini yoga” in the 20th century, after a technical term particular to this tradition, is actually a synthesis of many traditions which may include haṭha yoga techniques (such as bandha, pranayama, and asana), Patañjali’s kriya yoga (consisting of self-discipline, self-study, and devotion to God), tantric visualization and meditation techniques of laya yoga (known as samsketas), and other techniques oriented towards the ‘awakening of kundalini’. Laya may refer both to techniques of yoga, and (like Raja Yoga) its effect of “absorption” of the individual into the cosmic. The exact distinctions between traditional yoga schools is often hazy due to a long history of syncretism, hence many of our oldest sources on Kundalini come through manuals of the tantric and haṭha traditions such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika and the Shiva Samhita. The Shiva Samhita describes the qualified yogi as practicing ‘the four yogas’ to achieve kundalini awakening while lesser students may resort solely to one technique or another: “Mantra Yoga and Hatha Yoga. Laya Yoga is the third. The fourth is Raja Yoga. It is free from duality.
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