Awakening Scale

Items for the Kundalini Awakening Scale (KAS) were constructed based on the

reports of Krishna’s (1993) experiences, on Sannella’s (1992) studies and Bentov’s

(in Sannella, 1992) model, on Grof and Grof’s (1990) work regarding spiritual

emergency, and on some case studies reporting what were interpreted as kundalini

awakenings. It was also strongly based on Yoga theory and the view that a kundalini

Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 73-83. (April 2008) [Preprint Version]

awakening brings with it not only easily identifiable physical symptoms, but also

some subtle changes of consciousness.

To devise an initial version of the scale (comprising 185 items) a list of

symptoms was taken from the relevant literature and these symptoms were then

incorporated into phrases formulated in the first person, which the participants could

agree or disagree with. This first version was meant to include all the symptoms that

have been mentioned in the literature as being related to a kundalini awakening,

including those most frequently mentioned (such as the sensation of having an electric

current, digestive perturbations, and seeing lights) as well as those mentioned

relatively infrequently. Physical, observable symptoms were included, as well as more

subjective symptoms, for example the feeling of having become more sensitive to

artistic forms of expression, or the feeling of having a more expanded consciousness.

The questionnaire was originally devised in English because the vast majority of

the literature was in English, as well as to make possible the discussion of the items

with the English speaking second author. It was then translated into the Portuguese

language by the first author (who is fluent in both languages) in order to recruit the

targeted participants in Portugal. Because the data collection was done with a

Portuguese version of the scale, we can not necessarily assume that the properties of

the scale would be precisely equivalent to that obtained from an English version.

Examples of items (English originals) are: ‘I’ve experienced light inside my

head’; ‘I’ve experienced having odd breathing patterns at times’; ‘I’ve experienced an

expansion of my being’; ‘I’ve had experiences of elevation and bliss’; and ‘I’ve

experienced an unusual cold in my body moving from place to place’. Responses to

items are made using a 7-point Likert scale, from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly

agree’.

Most psychometric scales are built phrasing some of the questions in a negative

way and some in a positive way. This is intended to minimize possible desirability

effects (the participants might feel the need to answer affirmatively to please the

researcher) or to minimize the tendency of simply answering all the questions in the

same way. For the KAS, all of the questions were asked in an affirmative manner, not

Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 73-83. (April 2008) [Preprint Version]

only because some items would become too confusing if expressed in the negative,

but also because many of the items already have a negative connotation, for example

items regarding the loss of bodily or mental control, or about being frightened by

sounds or visions of people not materially present.

The Portuguese questionnaire of 185 items was given to 140 people (in

Portugal) using a snow-ball technique of sampling (meaning that a number of

questionnaires were given to a few people who accepted the task of passing them

along to other people). As such, the participants came from very different

backgrounds. They included under-graduate students, workers from a court of law,

workers from a swimming pool, workers from a primary school, students from a post-

graduate course, and members of an association of retired women.

The scale also asked for information on the participant’s age, gender,

educational level, and whether the person regularly meditated or engaged in any

spiritual practice or activity. Twenty four people from this group answered that they

regularly participated in some spiritual activities: ten regularly attended Catholic

mass, one attended adult Sunday school, three practised Reiki, one practised Yoga,

seven regularly prayed or engaged in introspection and two regularly attended

Catholic youth discussion groups.

From these 140 participants, 117 answered all the questions and were used for

analysis. These formed a group of 43 men and 74 women. Ages ranged from 19 to 66

years (M = 36.2, SD = 13.1).

Using these data, an item analysis was performed. From this, a final Kundalini

Awakening Scale (KAS) was constructed, composed of 76 questions. Items that were

eliminated were those that the item analysis identified as contributing least to the

Cronbach’s alpha of the scale.

It was decided that the final questionnaire would be a rather longer than is

usually desirable, because the symptoms of a kundalini awakening are so varied and

individual. It was considered that a more extensive scale could also be useful in

Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 73-83. (April 2008) [Preprint Version]

helping to identify different types of awakenings that people might go through, based

on the different symptoms described.

Cronbach’s alpha for the final KAS is 0.981, indicating that the scale is a highly

reliable measure. An exploratory principal components factor analysis was made

which revealed one main component that accounted for 43.56% of the variance. The

second component accounted for only 6.03% of the variance and the twelve other

components that had eigenvalues greater than 1.00 together accounted for an

additional 26.02% of the variance. These results are interpreted as indicating that the

KAS assesses a largely unitary dimension of kundalini experience.

KAS comparisons between groups

The second part of the study used the final revised scale of 76 kundalini items.

This was given to (a) a group of Yoga teachers, (b) a group of Yoga students, and (c)

a group of people from other spiritual traditions. The participants from the two Yoga

groups were all contacted in the main centre of the Yoga Samkhya Institute in Lisbon.

In the group of Yoga students, preference was given to people who had been

practising for a shorter length of time. The group of Yoga teachers was composed of 9

men and 15 women, with ages varying from 21 to 51 years (M = 36.1, SD = 7.2). The

group of Yoga students comprised 14 men and 23 women with ages ranging from 19

to 67 years (M = 35.4, SD = 12.8).

This particular Yoga school was chosen because it practices a structured type of

Yoga composed of 12 techniques, from more physical ones (like asana, the physical

postures) to more mental or psychological ones (like meditation), stimulating the

practitioners to have the required physical health and mental discipline to successfully

awaken and control kundalini. Techniques which have a direct influence on the

energetic body of the practitioners, stimulating kundalini, are also regularly used and

incorporated in their practices.

The group from other spiritual traditions was contacted during a workshop

organised by the Portuguese-Brazilian Transpersonal Association (ALUBRAT). This

group had 5 males and 17 females, with ages ranging from 21 to 73 (M = 41.5, SD =

Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 73-83. (April 2008) [Preprint Version]

13.7) All but one of the participants in this group had been meditating regularly for a

minimum of two months, with most participants (15 of them) having been regular

meditators for three or more years. Only two people in the group reported no

participation in any spiritual practice (although one of them meditates and both attend

transpersonal conferences and workshops). This group was chosen because all but

three of the people in the group reported regular participation in more than one

transpersonal activity. This, together with the fact that the workshop was about

“Magic and psychic protection” were taken as a sign of a relatively unstructured type

of path (when compared with the Yoga groups).

A further comparison group of 28 people who had filled in the first version of

the questionnaire was used to represent a general population (scores were used from

the 76 items in the final scale). Only people who answered that they didn’t meditate

regularly and didn’t participate in any spiritual activities were chosen. Individuals in

this group were also chosen in an attempt to match as far as possible the gender, age

and educational level of the other three groups. This group was composed of 8 men

and 20 women, with ages ranging from 23 to 62 years (M = 31.5, SD = 8.7).

Total scores on the KAS for the four groups of participants were initially

compared using a one-way analysis of variance and revealed highly significant

differences between groups (F(3,107) = 38.977, p < 0.0005). The raw effect size

(proportion of variance accounted for) is 0.522. Post-hoc Tukey HSD tests showed

that all groups differed from each other beyond the 0.001 level of significance, with

the exception of the Yoga teachers vs. ALUBRAT comparison which was significant

at p < 0.05. Means for the four groups are shown in Table 1.

Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 73-83. (April 2008) [Preprint Version]

Table 1. Mean (SD) KAS scores by group

N

Total

Changes

Negative

experiences

Positive

experiences

Involuntary

positionings

Physical

symptoms

* p < 0.0005

Yoga

Teachers

24

341.21

(90.08)

77.17

(16.43)

46.96

(15.32)

41.75

(12.53)

11.00

(5.03)

80.58

(26.79)

Yoga

Students

37

248.08

(99.17)

61.27

(24.02)

37.30

(15.77)

27.27

(14.05)

7.73

(4.47)

56.46

(25.23)

ALUBRAT

22

416.55

(66.93)

90.77

(13.61)

59.86

(13.71)

48.82

(11.20)

15.14

(5.99)

101.86

(22.75)

General

Population

28

161.57

(89.59)

38.07

(22.42)

28.07

(16.92)

16.29

(10.33)

5.82

(4.35)

41.61

(26.09)

F(3,107)

[Effect Size]

38.977*

[0.522]

31.287*

[0.467]

18.963*

[0.347]

35.694*

[0.500]

17.348*

[0.327]

27.701*

[0.437]

Assuming that the KAS is a valid measure of kundalini awakening, these results

support the hypothesis that people who regularly participate in some kind of

transpersonal practice have a number of experiences not commonly present in a

population of non-practitioners and which can be plausibly attributed to a certain level

of kundalini arousal.

It could be argued that people who engage in any kind of transpersonal practices

already have a predisposition to experience the kind of symptoms described in the

questionnaire. However, because the group of Yoga students reported less kundalini

experiences than the teachers, this might indicate that there is a developmental process

resulting from the practice of Yoga. To examine this, KAS scores were correlated

Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 73-83. (April 2008) [Preprint Version]

with the number of years of Yoga practice in the combined sample of teachers and

students. This revealed a small but significant positive correlation of 0.376 (p <

0.005). That this indicates an effect of practice rather than age is shown by an analysis

of covariance which reveals that age is not significantly related to scores on the KAS

(F(1,97) = 0.391, ns).

Further evidence that transpersonal practice may lead to kundalini arousal comes

from an analysis of KAS scores between Yoga practitioners (teachers and students)

who regularly meditate (N = 34) and those who do not (N = 25). It was not possible

to include the ALUBRAT group in this analysis because only one person in this group

reported not meditating regularly. Results from a two-factor (Yoga group x

meditation) ANOVA showed that the regular meditators have significantly higher

total KAS scores than those who do not meditate regularly There was no significant

interaction between Yoga group (teachers and students) and meditation practice,

although the effect of regular meditation was rather more pronounced in the students.

These results possibly suggest that kundalini experiences are greater in the more

dedicated students and teachers who have a more regular practice. This may confirm

the view that the experiences of kundalini awakening are caused by a developmental

process, although it is also possible that the more dedicated individuals have a

predisposition for kundalini experiences.

Despite the evidence from the factor analysis of a unitary factor of kundalini

experience, five conceptually distinguished sub-scales were derived from KAS

responses in order to examine any tendency for the groups to report different types of

experiences, especially when comparing Yoga groups with the ALUBRAT group.

The following sub-scales were scored:

1. Changes: behavioral changes, changes in perception, changes in the modes of

mental functioning and changes of consciousness (15 items).

2. Negative experiences: comprising all items about negative or frightening

experiences or experiences with negative consequences (12 items).

3. Positive experiences: experiences felt to be positive or with positive

consequences (9 items).

Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 73-83. (April 2008) [Preprint Version]

4. Involuntary positionings: experiences where the body assumes a certain

position without the person consciously intending to do it. These positions are

usually asana (the postures used in Yoga) or mudra (gestures also used in

Yoga) which the person had never done before (3 items).

5. Physical symptoms: Physical sensations and experiences (20 items).

Scores on these sub-scales between the four groups were compared using one-

way ANOVA. These results are shown in Table 1 and reveal highly significant overall

differences between groups for all sub-scales, with effects sizes in the moderate to

strong range.

The sub-scale results are generally consistent with those for the total KAS

scores. In all cases, the group from ALUBRAT reports the highest number of

experiences, followed by the group of Yoga teachers, then the group of Yoga students

and finally the group from the general population. Post-hoc Tukey HSD tests showed

that, for negative experiences, involuntary positionings and physical symptoms, the

Yoga students did not differ significantly from the general population. Also the Yoga

teachers did not differ significantly from the ALUBRAT group for changes and

positive experiences. All other between-group comparisons were significant beyond p

< 0.05.

It is interesting to note that the Yoga teachers differ significantly from the

ALUBRAT group only on involuntary positionings, negative experiences, and

physical symptoms (significantly higher in all cases for the ALUBRAT group). These

three sub-scales indicate features of kundalini arousal that may be considered to be

more disturbing for the individual, especially for those who don’t have a coherent

explanation for them. The sub-scale for involuntary positionings in particular involves

a number of symptoms that are not so frequently reported in the literature, but which

are more often associated with spontaneous high levels of kundalini arousal in people

who had no preparation for it. This possibly suggests that the ALUBRAT group

(following a relatively unstructured path) have a type of spiritual development with

more negative and dangerous experiences, perhaps involving more violent and

Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 73-83. (April 2008) [Preprint Version]

uncontrolled bursts of kundalini. In contrast, the Yoga groups (following a more

structured path) may follow a relatively smoother course with more subtle changes.

Conclusions

Results from this study support the following conclusions:

a) There are a number of symptoms common to people who practice some

transpersonal activities which can be plausibly attributed to a kundalini

awakening.

b) These symptoms are not usually present in a population of people who

don’t follow any transpersonal discipline or tradition.

The data also suggest that people who follow different transpersonal paths may

experience different kundalini symptoms. In particular, negative symptoms may be

associated more with unstructured spiritual practice. There is also some evidence that

the process of kundalini arousal may be developmental, with meditation having an

important influence on that process.

This study should be considered as a pilot investigation into the psychometric

assessment of kundalini and the potential research applications of such assessment.

Further research is indicated, both to refine the assessment methodology and to more

accurately compare people following a purely unstructured path with those following

a more structured path. These studies would ideally be longitudinal in nature, where

the KAS (or a future development of this scale) is administered at various points

during the course of development or practice. It would also be interesting to use the

KAS with different populations, for example, people with psychotic disorders

(because kundalini has been related to these disorders in some studies) as well as

people with artistic or intellectual abilities above the average, to test the hypothesis

that they might owe their abilities to a certain level of kundalini arousal.

Generally our results are consistent with expectations from traditional accounts

of kundalini experience and practice. Transpersonal researchers are, however, only

taking initial steps towards the scientific study of kundalini phenomena. For this

Transpersonal Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, 73-83. (April 2008) [Preprint Version]

reason, it remains important for researchers to listen carefully to those who have

experienced these phenomena first-hand and in all their plenitude.

‘… in the real successful cases, the transformative process generated may lead

to that sublime state which carries the erring mortal to superphysical heights, in

joyous proximity to the everlasting, omniscient, conscious Reality, more

wonderful than wonder and more secret than secrecy, which, as embodied life,

manifests itself in countless forms – ugly and beautiful, good and bad, wise and

foolish, living, enjoying, and suffering all around us.’ (Krishna, 1993, p.382)

Acknowledgements

This paper is based on a thesis carried out by the first author and supervised by

the second author submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the MSc in

Consciousness and Transpersonal Psychology at Liverpool John Moores University.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance given by the Yoga Samkhya

Institute, Lisbon, and the Portuguese-Brazilian Transpersonal Association

(ALUBRAT).

Correspondence

Michael Daniels, School of Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University,

Henry Cotton Building, 15-21 Webster Street, Liverpool, L3 2ET, UK.

m.i.daniels@ljmu.ac.uk

Laura Sanches may be contacted by email at laurasalsa@gmail.com

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