Kundalini Yoga: Keeping It Hot

I’ve taught Kundalini Yoga in some pretty hot places: Costa Rica, Bali, Mexico, and of course, Austin Texas. Sweat trickling down your back as you do Sat Kriya and giving Breath of Fire a new meaning in 105 degree heat.

And some people make their yoga practice in other traditions even hotter – practicing in artificially heated rooms and sealing off windows and doors with tape (yes, it’s been done) to create a heat box that drops water weight like crazy.

But there’s something that many yoga students are missing about all this hot stuff that’s important in all yoga traditions, and especially in the practice of Kundalini Yoga.

Heat is important in yoga because it serves as a purifying process to cleanse and open the energy channels (nadis) which allows for the full flow of prana to move through the body that is ultimately used in the activation of Kundalini energy.

But it’s not the heat of a summer day or an overheated room. It’s the heat that is produced internally within the body.

This “inner fire” is associated with Ayurvedic concept of tejas, or a purifying fire that is essential to good health and valued for its ability to transform the body into a spiritual vessel.

In yoga this fire or “psychic heat” is called “tapas” and it generated by the austerity and discipline of the yoga practitioner. Tapas is one of the niyamas, or observances in yoga, that comes from a disciplined practice of meditation, asana, pranayama and spiritual austerities.

Did you ever notice, especially in your earlier practice of Kundalini Yoga, that you began to sweat when holding a posture, or doing a pranayama practice, or maybe even just meditated but that the heat did not come from within the room but from within yourself?

During a 40-day pranayama meditation practice in our early days of doing Kundalini Yoga, my wife and I had the experience of sweating in a different area every night we did the meditation.

One night the sweat was on the forehead; another time it was behind the shoulder blades, then behind the knees, and finally just around the ears. Very entertaining.

What was happening is that the meditation with the various breath retentions was generating enough internal heat so that successive areas of the body, or energy channels, were opening through the purification of the increased flow of prana.

After the meditation finally did its work, the sweating ceased and there was a lightness to the body.

In fact, the old yogic texts said that the sweat produced during meditation or pranayama is so beneficial that it should not be washed away but rubbed into the skin to give the body lightness and strength.

So this internal (not external) heat is a good thing, and we should cultivate it in our practice, which means two things we should not do when we do Kundalini Yoga:

  • Get naked.
  • Have a drink.

While you can wear less clothing if that’s what you like to do, it is essential that your spine be covered and kept warm to allow the free movement of energy through the chakras. Hence the suggestion to use a meditation shawl or at least have a light natural fiber protecting the back. Keep your clothes on – at least as far as the spine is concerned.

And no drinking while doing yoga. Water puts out the fire you are trying to build. Drink before or after yoga but not during yoga. People confuse the practice of yoga with exercising and working out and think they need to keep hydrating. (Of course if you are in a dangerous high desert climate, then be appropriate.)

For most students, however, reaching for the water bottle is a distractive mechanism that defeats the purpose of creating that internal heat.

So it’s pretty simple – just do what your momma told you: Keep your clothes on and don’t drink too much. At least during class.

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