What are the differences between Kundalini Yoga vs Hatha Yoga? What do they have in common? We’ll go over all of these questions and more in this post. Let’s first understand what the purpose of yoga itself is. For many people, yoga is nothing more than a workout or a way to stay flexible. But there’s actually so much more to yoga!
Yoga means ‘union’. When you practice yoga, you are essentially trying to unite with your core, the self, the very source of creation that resides within you, and within each one of us. The ultimate aim of any yoga practice is to push you towards liberation or Moksha which is the ultimate freedom from the process of life and death itself. So, it’s important to understand that whether it’s Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, or any other kind of yoga, all these methods are designed to help you attain Moksha. Essentially, they are different roads to the same place.
The Science of Hatha Yoga
If we explore the 8 limbs of yoga as described by the sage Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga comes under the category of Asanas or physical postures. It involves a profound understanding of the physical body, how it works, and how to move it in order to evolve the system to perceive the higher dimensions of life. When you practice Hatha Yoga, you primarily use your body as a tool to reach your highest potential as a human being.
All kinds of Hatha Yoga practices be it Surya Kriya, Asanas, or Bhuta Shuddhi, tend to function as purification processes for the body. Their aim is to purify the physical aspect of you by refining and fine-tuning the 5 elements (water, earth, air, fire, and ether) of the body.
Starting your journey towards freedom by practicing Hatha Yoga is ideal since it creates the right kind of foundation for your lifelong yoga practice. It brings stability and strength to your body and your energy system and as a result, your consciousness begins to rise. You start perceiving the subtler dimensions of life and this enhanced awareness prepares you for more advanced meditative yogic processes like a Kundalini Awakening.
Understanding Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini is the fundamental life force in nature. But usually, it refers to that dimension of energy which is yet to realize its full potential. As humans, we are blessed with a huge reservoir of energy that sits at the base of our spine, coiled up like a snake, undisturbed and therefore, untapped. Most human beings do not experience the presence or the power of this energy but if you work towards activating it and learn how to use it properly, you can completely transform every aspect of your life.
The basic concept of Kundalini awakening is – to activate this energy and then to make it rise through the 7 chakras (energy centers) which are located along the length of your spine. From the base of your spine or the Muladhara Chakra (base chakra) to Sahasrara (which is located a few inches above your head).
So, the main objective of Kundalini Yoga is to make this energy rise. There are various ways to make that happen. Depending on where your energies tend to get stuck among these 7 chakras, your Guru makes suggestions as to what exactly can be done in terms of kriyas, mantra chanting, asanas, meditations, mudras, breathwork, and yogic rituals to awaken your Kundalini energy.
Differences Between Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga
1. Hatha Yoga Works on the Body While Kundalini Yoga Aims the Energy System
Hatha Yoga utilizes the science of asanas or the body’s geometry to help you reach your higher potential. Kundalini Yoga, on the other hand, works on a subtler dimension of your physiology called the Energy Body. It helps you evolve by activating and balancing the flow of energy through your 7 chakras. Even the asanas which are practiced in a KY class are targeted towards activating your chakras.
2. Use of Pranayamas and Kriyas
While doing Hatha Yoga practices you need to focus on the alignment and postures of your body more than anything else. Though breathing techniques are employed by Hatha Yoga as well, when it comes to Kundalini Yoga, their role becomes primary in nature. Kundalini Yoga involves a variety of pranayamas (breathing techniques) as well as kriyas (a sequence of pranayamas) like the Sukha Kriya, Dog Breathing Technique, and the Breath of Fire.
3. Use of Mantras
Mantra chanting is an integral part of a Kundalini Yoga session while Hatha Yoga uses no such mantras. There are many different kinds of mantras which are used in a KY class. Essentially, you need to combine your breath with these mantras to activate your energy system in very specific ways.
4. Kundalini Yoga Involves Meditative Processes While Hatha Yoga Doesn’t
If you have a sufficiently healthy body, a stable mental and emotional structure, and a certain level of mastery over your own life energies, raising your Kundalini via meditation alone is very much a possibility. No need for asanas, breathwork, or mantras, just sitting with your eyes closed and you can make this energy rise!
Even beginner level classes of Kundalini Yoga involve some kind of simple meditative processes while if you are a Hatha Yoga practitioner, you don’t need to practice meditation of any kind. Usually, Kundalini yogis establish a strong Hatha Yoga practice to gain control over their physicality so that when they sit for meditation, their body doesn’t become an impediment to their progress.
5. The Element of Spirituality Attached to Kundalini Yoga
In its true essence, even Hatha Yoga is a completely spiritual process. But you’ll find most Hatha Yoga practices are devoid of that element. Kundalini Yoga, on the other hand, is a profoundly spiritual process. People who are inclined towards learning this kind of yoga usually have a deep longing to understand the very nature of the existence itself.
That’s because once your Kundalini rises, a new sense of awareness or consciousness comes into your experience. And this newfound awareness helps you perceive the bigger picture in every situation.
Hatha Yoga can be a great start for any yogi who’d like to bring balance and strength to his or her body, mind, emotions, and energies. It deals with the physical laws of this dimension and helps you explore your true potential as a human being.
On the other hand, Kundalini Yoga may be better suited for those who already have some mastery over their physical body and have a fairly stable mind and emotions. Once you are in this kind of space as a person, you will likely also want to understand the non-physical or spiritual realms of life. That’s when practicing Kundalini Yoga will provide the most profound benefits.