Kundalini is the power of consciousness. As Muktananda poetically describes it, “She is the supreme creative power of the Absolute Being. . . .Dwelling in the center of the universe, she holds it together and maintains it. Similarly . . . she dwells at the center of the human body, in the Muladhara chakra (first chakra) and controls and maintains our whole physiological system through its network of 72,000 nadis . . . she makes everything work in our bodies . . . our mind, senses, power of motion.”
Another term for Kundalini energy is prana. In Yoga, the term prana is used to describe three different manifestations of the same basic universal energy. One is the prana that is intelligent, aware of itself, and that permeates all creation as the supreme creative power of the Absolute Being. This is known as cosmic prana, or all-pervading or universal prana. The Yogic scriptures teach that Universal Consciousness evolves into prana and that the entire universe arises from prana. A scientific term we will use, analogous to universal prana, is the virtual energy state. It is the all-pervading, cosmic energy state from which energy condenses at a rate faster than the speed of light, to tachyon field-particles, and ultimately condenses to particles of matter moving at the speed of light. Another way the term prana is used is as the life force within the body, called mundane Kundalini. It is the form that Muktananda referred to as maintaining and controlling our whole physiological system. It is on this level, as the energizer of the human body, that the Kundalini is considered already awake. Although the vital force prana of the body is only one, there are five active forms of it at work in the body: apana, which expels waste; samana, which governs digestion on all levels and distributes nourishment in the body; vyana, which pervades the power of movement and governs circulation on all levels, moving from center to periphery; udana, which brings the energy upward in the body; and prana, which is breath. Prana as breath is the most common association people have with the word.
The aspect of Kundalini we refer to when we use the term Kundalini awakening is the Shakti Kundalini. This spiritual, potential energy is said to be stored in the etheric body below the base chakra. When it becomes sufficiently energized, it emerges out of its potential state and begins to move throughout the subtle nervous system, which consists of 72,000 nadis. It moves upward through the central nadi, or sushumna. Once activated, it begins a process of cleansing.
In the Jewish-Kabbalistic system the analogous description of the Shekhinah is comparable to the Kundalini stored at the base chakra and emanates from the grandmother Atik Yomin. She is the crown of glory that channels the Eternal Light on all creation. In Kabbalah it is the feminine principle of the Shekhinah that descends to do the work of repairing the world. The Shekhinah descends into the realms of time, space, and Being to be the Presence in all Beings. This is an accurate description of the spiritual (cosmic) and Shakti Kundalini.
From Spiritual Nutrition, by Dr. Gabriel Cousens, M.D.