Yoga is an ancient discipline that originated in northern India during the Indus-Sarasvati civilization. Yoga has been scientifically proven to enhance the quality of human life. Various yoga techniques have been practiced over hundreds of years by sages all over the world. It also assists in bringing harmony between the mind, body, and soul. Kriya yoga is a crucial form of ancient yoga. It is also among one of the traditional disciplines that are known to have manifold effects and benefits.
Kriya Yoga is known as a simple yet highly effective form of yoga. The practice of kriya yoga is a psychophysiological process aimed at decarbonating the human body and enriching it with fresh oxygen. The opposite of Karma yoga, which mainly focuses on external action, kriya yoga is all about internal action.
Let us learn more about this disciple of yoga. We will also see how its implementation could improve your way of life.
History of Kriya Yoga
Kriya Yoga is an ancient meditation technique of pranayama, also known as breathing control practice, Kriya Yoga was unknown to humankind for several centuries before it was taught in 1861 by the highly revered yogi, Mahavatar Babaji, to his beloved disciple Lahiri Mahasaya.
It is mentioned in the records which document Babaji’s conversation with Lahiri. He states that the use of Kriya enabled Jesus, Kabir, and other prophets to materialize and dematerialize their body as they pleased.
He further added that the gift of Kriya is to be passed on to the world in the 19th century. It is only a revival of the same science that Krishna bestowed Arjuna with. Later, it came to be known by sages like Patanjali, St John, St Paul, and even Christ.
In fact, Kriya yoga has been mentioned in Bhagavad Gita twice by Lord Krishna, the greatest prophet of India. Lord Krishna mentions that it is only by securing an additional supply of life force, a yogi can control the decay of his body.
Withdrawing from external factors via meditation and by neutralizing the life energy and flow within his nostrils and lungs has several benefits. In this way, a sage can not only control his mind and intellect but also reject fear, anger, and desire.
It was only then that Lahiri preached the discipline to Sri Yukteswar. After years of practice and dedication, Sri Yukteshwar passed on the learnings to many of his disciples. These disciples also included the imminent Paramhansa Yogananda.
It was not until 1920 that Yogananda introduced this practice in the west. In 1946, he wrote about this form of yoga in his book, ‘autobiography of a yogi’.
What Does Kriya Mean?
Simply put, kriya implies internal action. When you perform any action that doesn’t involve your body and mind, it is kriya. This is because all these actions are external to the self. Kriya is when you have the control to perform actions only with your energy.
The principles of kriya are contrasting to karma. Karma takes into account an action that is performed by including the mind and the body. Both actions can be kriya at one point and karma on the other. However, there is an easy way to differentiate between the two. Karma is what binds you and kriya is what liberates you.
Whatever you choose to do with your body and your thoughts are ever-changing. One day, your thoughts may be in one direction and another day, it could be somewhere else. But working with your energies is different. It offers a very distinctive kind of depth to your life. You feel a sudden change in the dimensions of every aspect of your life. This is because of the way you have activated your energies.
What is Kriya Yoga?
Paramhansa Yogananda introduced Kriya Yoga in his book ‘autobiography of a yogi’. Kriya yoga is the yoga of internal action. According to Yogananda, Patanjali’s yoga sutras have also mentioned kriya yoga.
Sri Yukteswar introduced kriya yoga to Yogananda in his book. After this, Yogananda wrote that the path of kriya yoga is that of a spiritual nature, where you work directly with spiritual energy rooted deep in your spine, to open those channels.
Additionally, he explained that all yoga techniques, mostly indirectly, work with this energy. For instance, yoga asanas can lead to opening up the spinal channels and balance it while pranayama, or yogic breathing, can assist in awakening the energy.
What Is The Kriya Yoga Technique?
The technique of kriya is more direct. With awareness and determination, kriya yogis can control this life force, also known as prana, by mentally regulating the energy up and down their spine. As Yogananda claims, half a minute of one kriya practice is the same as a year of natural spiritual development.
He further adds that the technique of kriya yoga can only be learned via receiving kriya initiation. He claims that due to a few ancient yogic restrictions, it is impossible to explain kriya yoga entirely in the pages of a book. The real kriya technique must be learned from a seasoned kriya yogi or Kriyabhan.
A combination of mantra, mudras, and bandhas, the aim of Kriya yoga is to accelerate the evolution of your spiritual development to bring you a sense of a profound state of serenity.
A very powerful yet demanding way of walking on the spiritual path, Kriya yoga requires an extreme level of discipline and exactness. Constantly looking for comfort may hinder the path of this form of yoga.
A kriya yogi is able to redirect his life energy upward or downward through the different chakras of their body, which further correspond to the 12 astral zodiac signs – an aspect that can only be achieved through guided study and practice of kriya yoga.
What this video to know more about what exactly is Kriya Yoga:
Although acknowledged as a dedicated form of yoga, kriya yoga is adapted in various other yoga forms due to its nature of the practice. Meditation, an important aspect of Kriya yoga, is often used after every yoga practice to still the mind before ending the practice.
What Are The Techniques of Kriya Yoga?
As mentioned above, kriya yoga is an ancient discipline of yoga which predominantly revolves around the inner energy. This ancient method of spiritual meditation has been defined as the process of balancing your life energy in a manner that it not only heals your mind and body, but it also elevates your consciousness to a level that culminates in self-realization.
Yogananda explains that if one and a half minutes of one kriya practice gives you a year’s worth of spiritual evolution, then a thousand kriyas rehearsed in eight hours of a single day brings you a thousand years of natural evolution or 365,000 years of the same in only a year.
The Guiding Techniques of Kriya Yoga
That being said, it is important to note that the spiritual path of kriya yoga can only be appropriately ventured upon under the careful guidance of a seasoned Kriyabhan or a spiritual master.
Whether you take an online course or visit a master for a yoga class, it is important that you trust in the guru-disciple relationship with all your heart. This is because there are certain things during this path that cannot be explained until they become clear to you eventually. And, you must devote yourself and your faith in your master.
Let us now talk about the six important techniques of kriya yoga, also known as the six kriyas
1. Kriya Proper
Also considered to be the most important technique, Kriya Proper is the root of all yogic practices. Believed to be the highest technique ever discovered for self-realization, Kriya Proper or First Kriya technique comprises Maha Mudra, Navi Kriya, and Yoni Mudra- the three pillars of initiation of kriya yoga.
As you would learn in kundalini yoga, there are seven primary chakras in the human body. Mental pranayama, an important part of Kriya proper, enables you to descend and ascend your breath through each chakra to bring a deep silence in your consciousness.
2. Kechari Mudra
Unlike most meditation techniques that are either mental or spiritual in nature, this is the only technique that is physical. Through gradual practice, you can learn to control your breathing patterns.
An important thing to note here is that despite its importance, the practice of kechari mudra may or may not be convenient for everyone. It is also known to create physical discomfort for practitioners in the initial stages. This is why this must be performed only under the supervision of a well-trained master.
3. Guru Pranama
A modified version of yoga mudra, this highly effective technique enables you to stretch, relax, and strengthen the flow of life energy through the spine. By invoking Guru Pranama, a practitioner submits himself to his guru and to the Almighty to seek his blessings before he begins his practice.
The major difference between Guru Pranama and yoga mudra is that the former is laced with the power of spinal breathing which heightens the power of yoga mudra when it is practiced as Guru Pranama.
4. Hong Sau
The third technique of kriya yoga is the Hong Sau technique. A fundamental part of Kriya yoga, Hong Sau technique and kriya go hand in hand as the former is a passive technique of meditation while the latter is an active one. However, both are interdependent.
In fact, it is important to practice the Hong Sau technique right after practicing yoga mudra or Guru Pranama. A 15-minute practice of this style of yoga meditation can reduce stress and anxiety by focusing within yourself, guiding your breath towards the space between your eyebrows, also known as the third eye.
5. Maha Mudra
The fourth kriya yoga technique is the Maha Mudra which is an advanced technique to strengthen the main energy channel of your body – Ida, Pingala, and Sushumna. A combination of yoga asanas and pranayama, this technique can benefit the entire spine, abdominal organs, heart and leg joints. The regular practice of this helps in diminishing knots and blockages in your body that hamper the flow of life energy in the spine.
Watch this video to learn more about Paramahansa Yogananda’s energization exercises.
6. Yoni Mudra
The last technique of all, yoni mudra is usually advised to be practiced at night. A combination of meditation and pranayama, the practice of yoni mudra helps in quieting the mind and inflicting inner peace. It also helps in calming the nervous system and stabilizing your mind so you can redirect your attention within.
Even though you should practice yoni mudra at night, there are practitioners who also do it during the day. You should practice it at night so you can calm your mind and nervous system before going to sleep.
This practice during the day could be interrupted if you had to engage in an activity that requires your brain and nervous system to function rigorously.
What is Kriya Yoga Meditation?
As you have learned by now, Kriya yoga puts a major emphasis on meditation, a significant element in the practice of raja yoga. In fact, kriya yoga is often considered a part of raja yoga.
Also known as Royal Yoga, raja yoga comprises teachings and practices that apply to all the different aspects of human life including hatha yoga that is physical, meditation that is mental, and devotional chanting.
Meditating deeply and regularly helps you awaken your soul – the innermost core of your existence. Kriya yoga meditation is an age-old method of unlocking your soul’s boundless potential. It comprises not a vague process of philosophical pondering but a direct means to freeing your attention from the many distractions of life that prevent us from connecting to our real self.
Through meditation kriya practice, you learn to concentrate within yourself and discover the epicenter of an unshakeable calamity and joy. In your most glorious state, you find your soul one with God – the ultimate goal of meditation, which is to attain the state of samadhi.
You can know more about this process by watching this video:
Before you begin your practice of meditation, you need to follow these instructions:
The right space
The utmost important factor in practicing meditation is to have the environment for it. This means that before you begin your practice, you need to create a peaceful, quiet place where you can meditate without any external distractions. You must create your own sanctuary to get the most out of your practice.
Whether you prefer to sit on a chair or the floor, put a light cushion under so you feel comfortable sitting on a softer surface. Also, keep your phone on silent, ensure your space is clean and tidy, go to the bathroom if you have to, and set a timer unless you are following a guided meditation.
The second most important aspect to start a meditation practice is your posture. Depending on your flexibility you can sit in a quarter, half, or full lotus position. Ensure that your spine is as straight as possible. Rest your hands gently on your thighs with palms facing down. Draw your shoulders slightly back before putting them down.
Tuck your chin slightly in to maintain the length of your spine in the back of your neck. Keep your jaw slightly open to keep it relaxed. And, finally, gently close your eyes. Do not forget to check in with your body regularly to ensure that you maintain the posture throughout the practice.
It is important to feel relaxed and comfortable during any yoga and meditation practice. This is why you should wear yoga specific clothes or something light and made out of cotton. This allows your body enough room to breathe. If the temperature around you is too hot or too cold, make adjustments so you do not freeze or suffocate during the practice.
If you plan on meditating at home instead of a studio, ensure that your meditation space is free from any interference. Ask your family members to keep away and be away from an area that is prone to loud noises.
The quieter your surroundings are, the better experience you would get during your practice.
What Are The Benefits of Kriya Yoga?
The benefits of kriya yoga are many:
Kriya yoga helps in calming the mind and gaining full control. This quietness helps in better absorption of oxygen and quickly decarbonate which helps in the general well-being as well as prevents many psychosomatic diseases.
By learning to control the flow of energy in your spine, your body becomes energized. This, in turn, helps in activating all the internal organs in your body, including but not limited to the pancreas, liver, and thyroid. These organs then secrete the essential hormones to maintain your health.
It also helps in self-awareness and mindfulness. You are able to free yourself from negativity and falsehood and dedicate yourself to positivity, truth, and divinity.
Recommended Books for Further Reading
Understanding the techniques of kriya yoga is very intricate. Great yogis and sages have spent years of practice and research before compiling their findings in written literature. Here is a list of some of the most illustrious books on Kriya yoga:
- Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
- Kriyā-yoga: The Science of Life-force by Swami Nityānanda Giri
- The New Path by Swami Kriyananda
- Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
- The Essence of Kriya Yoga by Paramahansa Yogananda
- The Art and Science of Raja Yoga by Swami Kriyananda
An essential discipline of yoga, Kriya yoga is an ancient form of yoga. It has numerous effects and benefits on the human body and mind. However, one needs to practice it under supervision.
It requires extreme dedication and determination to master Kriya yoga, but once you attain that, you would be able to unite your soul with the divinity.
Namrata is a Doctor i.e. dentist turned writer and a clinical researcher. Eager to learn about anything and everything, she is what you would call a jack of all trades and master of none. With a zeal for reading novels, books, and anything she could get her hands on ever since she was little, she embarked into a writing career purely out of luck. After indulging in a freelancing career for nearly two years, she can now write on anything - from dentistry to decor, travel to technology, medicine to management - but the psychology remains her first love. Having dealt with mental health issues in the past, she hopes to raise awareness for the same and help people with her work in association with The MindFool team