Kundalini Yoga

Can the Yoga of Yogi Bhajan--be harmful to your health?

By Terry Michelle Kurtz, MA

Yogi Bhajan says:

"Kundalini Yoga is not an ordinary science. It is a science of awareness. It can make a dummy and demon, if he is not consciously right...it is the science of energy. It is technical know-how in which man can know his unknown and use it." (Winter Solstice, 1993)

"All these yogis and swamis had a conference in Canada. And they came out like fire, 'Kundalini Yoga is dangerous, Kundalini Yoga is dangerous’ and ‘Yogi Bhajan is crazy!" (Summer Solstice, 1974)

Kundalini Yoga is not dangerous--that is life-threatening. However, the approach that Yogi Bhajan promotes as Yoga--seems like nothing more that an eclectic assortment of unrelated, improper, contra-indicated, body moves. His Yoga combines an occasional, recognizable Yoga posture from classic Hatha yoga, but for the most part seems more of a grab bag of old-fashioned, grade school style calisthenics. The whole system seems concocted or made up. Yogi Bhajan claims it is "a science of energy"--"ancient energy". But let's take a closer look.

Let's examine the "Advanced Kundalini Yoga" set--"Beads of Truth" (Summer- 1982). Now let's illustrate exercises 1-4 & 7 to demonstrate a point.


  1. "Lie on the stomach, hands beneath shoulders; push up until arms are straight and the spine is all the way up (cobra pose)...let the head fall way back and start kicking your buttock as fast as possible with alternate heels for 1 minute".


The directions are odd--they do not give the leg position. Are the legs closed or open? This is important because the 5th lumbar, last vertebrae of the spine, meets the top of your sacrum--"fused" vertebrae. If you arch "the spine all the way up" as directed, you will grind the 5th lumbar into the sacrum--OUCH! This is better known as "hyperextension of the spine" and is considered contra-indicated. If you then start "kicking your buttock as fast as possible"--you will have to lie forward on your ribs/chest, or it is almost impossible anatomically to execute. The shear force of moving that hard and "fast" is actually called "ballistic movement"--this could potentially exacerbate a lower back problem. Cobra pose is a classic Hatha stretch movement for the lower back/sacrum area. It is not an aerobic kick-a-thon.


These instructions are essentially all the same--with some variations regarding the arms.

  1. "Come into a squatting position, (frog pose) on the toes, heels touching. Knees apart so arms can come straight down through legs and fingertips. Inhale; come all the way up. Exhale; return to the squatting position. Do 2-3 minutes.

Bhajan's claims that "...this exercise is good for the digestive energy"

  • "Continue frog pose, but cross your arms in front of your chest. No break. Two to three minutes".

Bhajan's claims that--"This version is good for sexual energy!"

  1. "Continue as above, but, fingers interlace, palms down on top of the head. Keep this up another two to three minutes. No relaxation.


Anatomically, the only way you can squat and execute the move is to allow the knees out over the toes. For every inch the knee (patella) is out over the toe, you will put five times your body weight on the knee--and surrounding ligaments/muscle.

Also--this position will sandwich the femur (thighbone) and tibia (shinbone)--possibly pulling the knee joint apart ( patella from the socket), which stretches over the ligaments at the joint. Now add to this the ballistic pumping up/down motion for six to nine minutes--several hundred times. Also the complication of the hands folded on the head and you just might have added a compression to the cervical through increased weight. The "frog pose" is actually old-fashion deep-knee bends, which are now on almost every banned exercise list. This exercise could cause a knee injury.


  1. "Kundalini Prann Dandh"--"Grab one ankle and extend the leg straight out as you balance on the other...two to three minutes. Focus on your third eye point".


A standing balance posture should not be done with crossed, closed eyes, as in "focus on your 3rd eye"--this would obviously make balancing difficult. You can’t balance easily while standing on one foot with closed eyes as directed--that's common sense. Standing postures require brain and muscle coordination in order to "balance". Most Yoga books will give you helpful hints--so you can make that body/brain connection through planes of motion and develop procedures for breathing and concentration.

Note that the hamstrings were never stretched prior to the leg extension (frog pose works quads). Also that the lower back is not positioned properly when you hold an ankle--instead of the foot/big toe--as you do in Hatha posture (Uttihitta Hasta Pada "extended hand foot"). Moreover, it is not good to hold this "posture" for "two to three minutes"-- the ankle ligaments will become too tired and move laterally. This may cause sprains-- without being quite careful while balancing.

The exercises not included in this random sampling of Yogi Bhajan's "Yoga" are not really much better than those previously mentioned.

Five and Six--seem to be a cross between an Indian dance and Tai Chi--with ballistic twisting, conflicting planes of motion and axial rotations.

Eight--a windmill exercise--another frequently banned move that is also ballistic and can cause a compressed discus.


Of the six books and assorted magazines reviewed it seems that the overwhelming majority of Yogi Bhajan's "Yoga"--contains at least one contra-indicated, often banned movement or posture.

How can this be the "Yoga of Awareness" when it appears that Yogi Bhajan is ignorant of human anatomy and basic body mechanics. Is this just another example of ignoring any meaningful outside input or criticism? Is he consciously teaching these risky, potentially problematic and possibly harmful movements? 

Note: Terry MIchelle Kurtz (1952-2021), received her undergraduate degree from Webster University in Webster Groves, Missouri and her Masters in Psychology from Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona. She worked with child protective services in Phoenix and was an advocate for those victimized by cults. Ms. Kurtz was also a yoga teacher and a former member of 3HO known as "Kartar Khalsa."


Copyright © 1998 by Rick Ross

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