Kundalini is a Sanskrit word meaning either "coiled up" or "coiling like a snake." The caduceus symbol of coiling snakes is thought to be an ancient symbolic representation of Kundalini physiology.The concept of Kundalini comes from yogic philosophy of ancient India and refers to the mothering intelligence behind yogic awakening and spiritual maturation. It might be regarded by yogis as a sort of deity, hence the occasional capitalization of the term.
Within a western frame of understanding it is often associated with the practice of contemplative or religious practices that might induce an altered state of consciousness, either brought about spontaneously, through a type of yoga, through psychedelic drugs, or through a near-death experience.
According to the yogic tradition Kundalini is curled up in the back part of the root chakra in three and one-half turns around the sacrum. Yogic phenomenology states that kundalini awakening is associated with the appearance of bio-energetic phenomena that are said to be experienced somatically by the yogi.
This appearance is also referred to as "pranic awakening". Prana is interpreted as the vital, life-sustaining force in the body. Uplifted, or intensified life-energy is called pranotthana and is supposed to originate from an apparent reservoir of subtle bio-energy at the base of the spine. This energy is also interpreted as a vibrational phenomena that initiates a period, or a process of vibrational spiritual development.
Kundalini awakening results in deep meditation, enlightenment and bliss. This awakening involves the Kundalini physically moving up the central channel to reside within the Sahasrara Chakra at the top of the head. This movement of Kundalini is felt by the presence of a cool or, in the case of imbalance, a warm breeze across the palms of the hands or the soles of the feet. Many systems of yoga focus on the awakening of Kundalini through meditation, pranayama breathing, the practice of asana and chanting of mantras. In physical terms, one commonly reports the Kundalini experience to be a feeling of electric current running along the spine.