by Snatam Kaur: Kundalini yoga is for people of all walks of life, yet there are sacred Sikh traditions at its core and in every aspect of the teachings…
You do not have to be a Sikh to practice Kundalini yoga. In fact, most are not. I’d like to explore one avenue of the teachings of Kundalini yoga that dips into one sacred Sikh practice in particular, the practice of covering one’s head while chanting. Often, people do not really understand the reasons why this practice is done. There is not much information out there on the subject and what information exists, appears from a religious perspective. Religion seems to really repel people and I can understand that. But let us remember that the practices of all sacred religions come from an experience, a deep experience, before the word religion was assigned to it. This place of experience is where I have journeyed into recently—searching for the reason for why we wear a head covering while chanting.
In the Kundalini yoga tradition we practice yoga sets, chants, and meditations—all working with the energy of “Kundalini”, a coil of healing energy that sits at the base of the spine. Once we have done the work of the practice and applied our consciousness with love and humility, this Kundalini energy can rise up the spine. As we chant and our tongue taps the roof of the mouth, the combination of this along with the breath and the rising energy up the spine awakens what is called the Crown Chakra. This is an energy center whose physical location is at the pineal gland, which sits in the middle of the skull and is the size of a pea. The yogis see this center not just in the physical realm, but in a spiritual and subtle realm in which a beautiful lotus sits here—crowning our being with its thousand petals and connecting us to the Divine. I could never try to describe the size, shape or color of this lotus, except to just say that it feels like love.
Once the Crown Chakra is awakened, it illuminates and the nectar of the universe, the “amrit,” is collected within it. Then something really incredible happens! Instead of the energy dispersing at this point, the thousand petal lotus has the opportunity to invert. With the right signals and messaging, it turns upside down and the nectar rains down upon the being. We see this happening on a physical level through the nervous system and glandular system as powerful messages of well- being are sent through these systems to every part of our body. We also experience it on a subtle level through the power of love as it manifests within our beings at this precious moment. All one thousand petals begin to vibrate and send healing energy throughout our entire being. It is no wonder that after chanting every problem or energetic block that I experienced before hand is profoundly shifted within me. I feel a sense of bliss, peace and joy without fail – every single time. Guru Arajan the fifth Guru of the Sikhs, who was born in Northern India in 1563, relayed this sacred experience through the following beautiful line. (1)
Oondh kaval(u) jis(u) ho-e paragaasaa tin(i) sarab niranjan(u) deeṯhaa jee-o. ||2||
Those, whose inverted lotus of the Crown Chakra is illuminated, see the Immaculate Lord everywhere. ||2||
A few hundred years later, in 1989 at a yoga camp for women, Yogi Bhajan who brought Kundalini yoga to the west spoke of this same concept.
“There are two things in spirituality in which you can be sold. One is to open the third eye and the other is to open the lotus, the Kamal Vigaasay. When the lotus turns and the cavity of the moon is created, man knows all knowledge.” (2)
The inversion of the thousand-petal lotus is encouraged by the rising Kundalini energy. It is a total connected system with each element supporting the other. Kundalini energy is very sensitive. The stability of the inverted lotus gives a sense of protection to this energy—providing a sacred space for it to reside. This is how we can live as enlightened beings on this planet, even as householders. However, this experience requires deep inner focus, an unwavering dedication and a humility that can only come from a place of miracles. Truly, it is between each soul and the Divine Cosmic Soul as to how and when this happens. The Guru, which is Divine wisdom, is the direct arm that we can reach for—the one who has promised to deliver this experience.
In the meantime, while Grace manifests, I have discovered one technique that helps me immensely along the way. By covering my head, I communicate to my being in a very subtle way that the inversion process of the thousand-petal lotus is important and can happen. It doesn’t take much to communicate and shift energy once we begin to operate in these more subtle realms. As these sacred words are vibrated on my tongue this consolidation, my head covering, provides a sense of stability, internal strength, protection, and deep self nourishment.
As Yogi Bhajan said,
“We cover our head. People today cover their head with a wig. They pay five thousand dollars for a face-lift. We do it with a little cloth. Pull it up. Perfect. It is a very good face-lift which you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on. ” (2)
There are many different ways to cover one’s head in the Kundalini Yoga tradition. There is the full expression of Yogi Bhajan’s teachings in which the uncut hair is coiled at the Crown Chakra, and is covered with a turban. You can see the different kinds of head covering ideas here to experience the teachings while honoring different lifestyle choices.