Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How Right/Left Brain Affect Spiritual Practice

When I was training to teach Kundalini yoga, one of the qualification requirements was to do a kriya (a set of postures designed to have a specific effect on the body) for 40 consecutive days. Because Kundalini works primarily on the nervous system, the number of consecutive days that one practices a certain kriya or meditation has a definite effect.  According to Yogi Bhajan, who brought Kundalini yoga from the East to the West, there is a natural 40-day rhythm to the habits of the body and mind. It takes 40 days of consistent practice to break a habit or for Kundalini to act on the nervous system. It takes 90-days of consistent practice to establish new neural pathways (a new habit) and 120-days to establish that habit permanently.

Altering the alter ego
Kundalini Resolves Conflicts of Being
The 40 days have to be consecutive, so if I missed one, I had to begin all over again. Since I wasn't sure about my ability to sustain this, I decided to start the day after my first weekend of teacher training in December 2010. The purpose of the kriya we selected was to strengthen and balance the third chakra and it involved lots of abdominal exercises, which have never been my favorites. The third chakra which I have written about in other posts is all about power and will.

The 40 days were to run over Christmas of 2010. The day after Christmas 2010 my dad died. In the days following his death I continued with my kriya. On the evening we brought him home from the hospital to spend the night before being buried the next morning, which is customary in Irish funerals. I went to bed at 12:00am — got up 3:00am had a cold shower, did my kriya and then I sat with my dad, playing all the music he loved until my mum got up at 8:00am in the morning and we buried him.

I finished the 40 days, so euphoric at the end. It wasn't easy, especially the final five days. I had battled with my mind, which had had enough of it. Yet, the thought of beginning again — if I missed one day — acted as such a spur, that on the last day, even though it was late in the evening when I completed it...I did it. It was done.

Looking back, I can see how the right and left brain played their respective roles. In the early days of doing the kriya, it was all fresh and new, pure experience, the domain of the right brain. Then, as the days wore on, I saw how the left brain began to categorize the timing of certain exercises so I could recognize when a certain point in the music arrived, indicating there was only one minute before the timer was due to go off, signifying the end of a particular exercise. I could also see how, as the exercises in the kriya became more familiar and automatic, more thoughts would surface — mostly on how bored I was. It was like the left brain used the vacuum created by the novelty of becoming familiar with the kriya to bombard me with thoughts.

When something is new, fresh, unfamiliar, the right brain uses spacial and muscle memory to grasp the whole, and then, as the operation becomes familiar, the elements of that experience are "processed and managed" by the left —categorized and made familiar, which, counter-productively, it would seem, renders the experience lifeless and inert. For me when this happened, the kriya became something I did rather than experienced.

Perhaps it's inevitable that the left brain does this with any new experience; perhaps it's a way of making space for the right brain to take on new experiences. From my perspective as a right-brain dominant individual, it is only since Kundalini rose that I have been able to find the words to describe my experiences. Kundalini has activated more of my left brain so I can now order and make sense of my experiences and for this reason I have come to realize its value in expanding consciousness. Without the input of the left brain, there would be no art or poetry, only experience without expression, which is fine if you want to be a mystic, but not so fine if there is any inclination to inspire people about what's possible.


  1. Based on new evidence culled from their brain-scan studies on memory patients ... how spiritual experiences affect the mind-How God Changes Your Brain offers ... Not only do prayer and spiritual practice reduce stress and anxiety. psychic development

  2. Hithis was a great read thank i was doing a kriya today one of my first and i notice my left side wasn't as strong as my rite and i ended up here and thank you because not only did i learn alot more but i now know why they go for 40 days thanks so much

  3. I am unquestionably making the most of your site. You unquestionably have some extraordinary knowledge and incredible stories.  center for spirituality and healing