Kriya Yoga (Sanskrit: क्रिया योग) is the active aspect of yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.1 defines three types of kriya (action): The yoga of action (kriya yoga) is asceticism (tapas), recitation (svadhyaya), and devotion (pranidhana) to Ishvara (the Lord). Having considered numerous benefits, Siddha Spirituality of Swami Hardas Life System also recommends the regular practice of Kriya Yoga under the able guidance of Guru so that positive results are achieved for well-being.
Kriya Yoga Meaning
The word ‘kriya’ means ‘activity’ or ‘movement’ and refers to the activity or movement of consciousness.
Kriya Yoga Origin
It originated in antiquity and evolved over time through practice and experience. The full form of Kriya Yoga consists of over 70 kriyas out of which only 20 or so are commonly known. However, the kriya practices are inscribed in numerous tantric texts written in Sanskrit. To date, only a few of these have been translated into other languages. The most authoritative Magna opus on the subject of Kriya.
What are the 20 main kriyas of Kriya Yoga?
Out of 20 main kriyas of Kriya yoga, 16 are:
- Vipareeta karani mudra
- Ujjayi pranayama
- Siddhasana/Siddha yoni asana
- Unmani mudra
- Khechari mudra
- Ajapa japa
- Shambhavi mudra
- Moola bandha
- Nasikagra drishti
- Uddiyana bandha
- Jalandhara bandha
- Shanmukhi mudra
- Vajroli/Sahajoli mudra
Hints on practice Kriya yoga
The following suggestions will help you to master the kriyas and gain maximum benefit:
Avoid physical or mental strain
Do not strain physically or mentally under any circumstance, or you may experience negative side effects. This applies particularly in the case of kriyas such as Maha Mudra, Maha Bheda Mudra, Tadan kriya, Nau Mukhi, and Shakti Chalini. Regular daily practice will gradually make changes in the mind and body so that after some time, you will be able to practice the kriyas almost effortlessly.
Avoid holding breath for longer
Do not hold your breath for longer than is comfortable. In many of the kriyas, such as Maha Mudra and Bheda Mudra, most people will initially find difficulty completing a full round in one respiration cycle without strain. In the beginning, it may be necessary to break in the middle of each round or to take a short rest at the end of each round and take a few normal breaths. As you develop the capacity to hold your breath for long periods and to control inhalation and exhale- this concession may be disregarded.
Breathe in slightly before breathing out
3. After long inner breath retention, it is best to breathe in slightly before breathing out. In many of the kriyas, such as Maha Mudra, Maha Bheda Mudra, Nau Mukhi, and Shakti Chalini, where the breath is held inside for prolonged periods, there is a tendency for the lungs to lock. They let way to overcome this problem and release the lungs to breathe in slightly before breathing out. This will make the kriyas much easier to do.
Who propagated Kriya Yoga?
The practices of Kriya Yoga were propagated by Swami Satyananda Saraswati from secret teachings described in the Yoga and Tantra Shastras. The kriyas, as taught by Satyananda Yoga are one of only two systems of Kriya Yoga recognized the world over, the other being that of Paramahamsa Yogananda.
Kriya Yoga: An ancient yoga system
Who created international awareness of Kriya yoga?
It is also a modern school, described by its practitioners as the ancient Yoga system revived in modern times by Mahavatar Babaji through his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya, c. 1861. Kriya Yoga was brought to international awareness by Paramahansa Yogananda’s book Autobiography of a Yogi and through Yogananda’s introductions of the practice to the west from 1920.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
According to Yogananda the ancient Yogic text the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali contains a description of Kriya Yoga in the second chapter II.49: “Liberation can be attained by that pranayama which is accomplished by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration.”
Kriya yoga system: Pranayama, mantra, and mudra
The Kriya yoga system consists of a number of levels of pranayama, mantra, and mudra based on techniques intended to rapidly accelerate spiritual development and engender a profound state of tranquility and God-communion. Yogananda attributes his description of Kriya Yoga to his lineage of gurus, Sri Yukteswar Giri, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Mahavatar Babaji. The latter is reported to have introduced the concept as essentially identical to the Raja Yoga of Patanjali and the concept of Yoga as described in the Bhagavad Gita.
How is Kriya yoga practiced?
Kriya Yoga, as taught by Lahiri Mahasaya, is traditionally exclusively learned via the Guru-disciple relationship, and the initiation consists of a secret ceremony. He recounted that after his initiation into Kriya Yoga, “Babaji instructed me in the ancient rigid rules which govern the transmission of the yogic art from guru to disciple.”
Corresponds to the twelve astral signs
As Yogananda describes Kriya yoga, the Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One half-minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man affects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.
Frees up the life force
The process of performing Kriya yoga is claimed to lead to a certain purification of the blood which frees up the life force to withdraw into the spine. Kriya Yoga is a simple, psychophysiological method by which the human blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers.
By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues; the advanced yogi transmutes his cells into pure energy. Elijah, Jesus, Kabir, and other prophets were past masters in the use of Kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to materialize and dematerialize at will.
Swami Satyananda wrote, “Kriya sadhana may be thought of as the Sadhana of the ‘practice of being in Atman'”.
Kriya Yoga History
Science of Kriya Yoga was given to Manu
Yogananda says that Krishna refers to Kriya yoga in the Bhagavad Gita:
Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both these breaths; he thus releases the life force from the heart and brings it under his control.
Liberation through Pranayama
Yogananda also stated that Krishna was referring to Kriya Yoga when “Krishna … relates that it was he, in a former incarnation, who communicated the indestructible yoga to an ancient illuminato, Vivasvat, who gave it to Manu, the great legislator. He, in turn, instructed Ikshwaku, the father of India’s solar warrior dynasty.”
Yogananda stated that Patanjali wrote about the Kriya technique. Liberation can be attained by that pranayama which is accomplished by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration.
According to Paramahansa Yogananda in his book God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes Kriya Yoga thus:
By the concentrated practice of Kriya yoga pranayama—offering the inhaling breath into the exhaling breath (prana into apana) and offering the exhaling breath into the inhaling breath (apana into prana)—the yogi neutralizes these two life currents and their resulting mutations of decay and growth, the causative agents of breath and heart action and concomitant body consciousness.
The Bihar School of Yoga, which teaches similar techniques of kriya yoga, claims that the descriptions of kriya yoga in the Yoga Sūtras and the Bhagavad Gīta are not related.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
According to Feuerstein, the Yoga Sutras are a condensation of two different traditions, namely “eight limb yoga” (Ashtanga yoga) and action yoga (Kriyā yoga), the description of the eight limbs being an interpolation into the text on kriya.
According to George Feuerstein, kriya yoga is contained in chapter 1, chapter 2 verse 1-27, chapter 3 except verse 54, and chapter 4. The “eight limb yoga” is described in chapter 2 verses 28–55, and chapter 3 verses 3 and 54.
According to Miller, Kriya yoga is the “active performance of yoga”. It is composed of part of the niyamas, “observances”, the second limb of Patanjali’s eight limbs. According to Miller, Kriya yoga is a threefold discipline, involving ascetic practice, the study and chanting of sacred hymns and syllables, and dedication to god.
Miller also notes that some commentators regard the first five limbs together as kriya yoga, but Patanjali himself states kriya yoga to be a subset of the second limb.
The modern history of Kriya yoga
The story of Lahiri Mahasaya receiving initiation into Kriya yoga by Mahavatar Babaji in 1861 is recounted in Autobiography of a Yogi Yogananda wrote that at that meeting, Mahavatar Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, “The Kriya yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century, is a revival of the same science that Krishna gave millenniums ago to Arjuna; and was later known to Patanjali, and Christ, and to St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples.”
Yogananda also wrote that Babaji and Christ were in continual communion and together, “have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age.”
Yogananda brought Kriya yoga to the US and Europe
Through Lahiri Mahasaya, Kriya yoga soon spread throughout India. Yogananda then brought Kriya yoga to the United States and Europe during the 20th century.
Lahiri Mahasaya’s disciples included his two sons Dukouri Lahiri and,
- Tinkouri Lahiri,
- Sri Yukteswar Giri,
- Panchanan Bhattacharya,
- Swami Pranabananda,
- Swami Kebalananda,
- Keshavananda Brahmachari,
- Bhupendranath Sanyal (Sanyal Mahasaya), and
- Many others.
Haidakhan Babaji made a couple of interesting comments about the “true meaning” of Kriya yoga in the early 1980s. He stated: “The union of morning and evening (that is, the work of your whole day) is the real Kriya yoga. Only that is Kriya, which brings peace and happiness and all kinds of benefits to people. To do good action is Kriya yoga. You must all do service to humanity, that is Kriya yoga”.
Kriya Yoga Techniques
It is a highly advanced Raja Yoga technique of pranayama. Kriya reinforces and revitalizes subtle currents of life energy (prana) in the spine and brain. The ancient seers of India (rishis) perceived the brain and spine as the tree of life. Out of the subtle cerebrospinal centers of life and consciousness (chakras) flow the energies that enliven all the nerves and every organ and tissue of the body.
The yogis discovered that by revolving the life current continuously up and down the spine with the special technique of Kriya Yoga, it is possible to greatly accelerate one’s spiritual evolution and awareness. Correct practice of Kriya Yoga enables the normal activities of the heart and lungs and nervous system to slow down naturally, producing deep inner stillness of body and mind and freeing the attention from the usual turbulence of thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions. In the clarity of that inner stillness, one comes to experience a deepening interior peace and attunement with one’s soul and with God.
Kriya Yoga Benefits
The benefits of the Kriya yoga path of meditation are multiple. Through regular practice of meditation techniques, subtle transformations take place in one’s body, mind, and inmost consciousness. Others unfold progressively and may take more time to become apparent.
- Inner peace is one of the first fruits of meditation. Along with that come greater clarity, understanding, and guidance from within.
- Meditation brings objectivity and intuitive knowledge of how to address the problems that arise in the course of daily life, which improves one’s concentration and efficiency, and one’s attitude toward work.
- It brings greater harmony and joy to relationships and family life, awakening the capacity to give and receive unconditional love.
- Also, it harmonizes the life forces in the body, removing harmful stress and promoting health and vitality.
- Most importantly, it helps to attune one’s consciousness to the Divine, bestowing unshakable inner happiness and security amidst all circumstances of life.
These results come with sincere effort and by mobilizing the will to continue striving toward the ultimate goal in life—ever new bliss and union with God through Self-realization.
Kriya yoga: A divine way
Suppose you are a financial failure, a moral failure, or a spiritual failure. Through deep meditation, affirming, “I and my Father are one,” you will know that you are the child of God. Hold on to that ideal. Meditate until you feel great joy. When joy strikes your heart, God has answered your broadcast to Him; He is responding to your prayers and positive thinking. This is a distinct and definite method.
Light of God baptizing
First, meditate upon the thought, “I and my Father are one,” trying to feel great peace, and then a great joy in your heart. When that joy comes, say, “Father, Thou art with me. I command Thy power within me to cauterize my brain cells of wrong habits and past seed tendencies.” The power of God in meditation will do it.
Rid yourself of the limiting consciousness that you are a man or a woman; know that you are the child of God. Then mentally affirm and pray to God: “I command my brain cells to change, to destroy the grooves of bad habits that have made a puppet out of me. Lord, burn them up in Thy divine light.” And when you will practice the Self-Realization techniques of meditation, especially Kriya yoga, you will actually see that light of God baptizing you.
Finding perfect love
Freedom from fear and insecurity
Cessation of fear comes with the contact of God, nothing else. Why wait? Through Yoga, you can have that communion with Him. When you find God, what assurance and fearlessness you will have! Then nothing else matters at all, nothing can ever make you afraid.
If you love Him you will practice Kriya with the greatest devotion and faithfulness. Continuously seek Him through prayer and Kriya yoga. Be of good cheer, for as Babaji once said, quoting from the Bhagavad Gita: “Even a tiny bit of this real religion protects one from great fear (the colossal sufferings inherent in the repeated cycles of birth and death).”
Mystery of the seven stars
John speaks of the “mystery of the seven stars” and the “seven churches” (Revelation 1:20); these symbols refer to the seven astral centers of light in the spine. The recondite imagery throughout this nonunderstood chapter of the Bible is an allegorical representation of the revelations that come with the opening of these centers of life and consciousness, the “book sealed with seven seals”
Kriya Yoga 7 steps Techniques
Paramhansa Yogananda described the body of the average person as similar to a fifty-watt bulb. It cannot accommodate the powerful transforming energy that comes with regular Kriya practice. The course of study and preparation normally takes about one year. By the time you take Kriya yoga initiation, you should have a daily meditation practice of an hour and a half per day. The 7 steps of Kriya yoga include:
Step 1 – The art of meditation: Basic practices
In just a few weeks, you can experience the benefits of meditation in your life—inner peace, health, and spiritual awakening.
Step 2 – Energy and focusing the mind
The secret of success in life, and in meditation practice, is to be able to generate energy at will and direct it where you wish. Yogananda developed the Energization Exercises, which you will learn as an integral part of this series, as well as deepening your practice of the techniques in “Learn to Meditate.”
Step 3 – Devotion: Opening the heart
As meditation deepens, we begin to experience something greater than ourselves. How do we relate to it? What is its role in our lives? Explore meditation as a means of inner communion, the awakening of the heart, and the beginning of what Yogananda calls the “divine romance.”
Step 4 – Disciple to Guru relationship
If a student wishes, he may become a disciple of Yogananda. Says Yogananda, “The purpose of a guru is not to weaken your will. It is to teach you secrets of developing your inner power until you can stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.”
Step 5 – Expanding awareness – The Aum technique
After we have done our share of talking, meditation leaves an opening for the Divine to respond. Learn how to expand your awareness to embrace much more than you thought possible, with techniques specially designed to cultivate devotion and heart qualities.
Step 6 – Kriya yoga preparation
Some preparation is necessary, to make the body and mind ready to receive the power created by the practice of this technique.
Step 7 – Kriya initiation
Initiation is offered regularly by experts in the field.
What are the benefits of Kriya Yoga?
Gives the true experience of religion
Your life will reflect spiritual consciousness if you meditate and practice Kriya yoga regularly.
God seeks willing hearts
With the regular practice of Kriya yoga, the spiritual eye is opened, the whole world drops away from consciousness, and God is with the practitioner. And why not? We are His child. That is most beautiful, and that is what we should believe. God seeks willing hearts for the bestowal of His gifts. He is willing to give us everything, but we are not willing to make the effort to be receptive.
Opens oneself to the blessings of God
Prayer with devotion is a wonderful means of opening oneself to the freely flowing blessings of God, a necessary link of man’s life to the Infinite Source of all benefaction. But it takes a long time for prayer to be effective when the mind is outwardly roaming. That is why one hour of Kriya yoga meditation can bestow more effect than twenty-four hours of ordinary prayer.
The force of prayer is doubled
Those who practice the technique of Kriya yoga deeply for even a little while, and sit long in meditation in the resultant stillness, find that the force of their prayer is doubled, trebled, a hundred times more powerful. If one enters the inner temple of silence and worships before the altar of God with prayer and invocation of His presence, He comes quickly.
Highest contact method of God
One stanza of Bhagavad Gita reads: “Offering the inhaling breath into the exhaling breath and offering the exhaling breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both breaths; thus he releases prana from the heart and brings life force under his control.”
The interpretation is: “The yogi arrests decay in the body by securing an additional supply of prana (life force) through quieting the action of the lungs and heart; he also arrests mutations of growth in the body by control of Apana (eliminating current). Thus neutralizing decay and growth, the yogi learns life-force control.”
Lord Krishna gave Kriya yoga millenniums ago
“The Kriya Yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century,” Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, “is a revival of the same science that Krishna gave millenniums ago.
Eradicates bad mental habits and Karma
Each of your habits creates a specific ‘groove,’ or pathway, in the brain. These patterns make you behave in a certain way, often against your wish. Your life follows those grooves that you yourself have created in the brain. In that sense you are not a free person; you are more or less a victim of the habits you have formed.
Depending on how to set those patterns are, to that degree you are a puppet. But you can neutralize the dictates of those bad habits. How? By creating brain patterns of opposite good habits. And you can completely erase the grooves of bad habits by meditation. There is no other way.
However, you can’t cultivate good habits without good company and a good environment. And you can’t free yourself from bad habits without good company and meditation.
Beneficial changes take place in the brain
Every time you meditate deeply on God, beneficial changes take place in the patterns of your brain. Suppose you are a financial failure or a moral failure or a spiritual failure. Through deep meditation, affirming, ‘I and my Father are one,’ you will know that you are the child of God. Hold on to that ideal.
Meditate until you feel great joy. When joy strikes your heart, God has answered your broadcast to Him; He is responding to your prayers and positive thinking. This is a distinct and definite method.
Know that you are the child of God
First, meditate upon the thought, ‘I and my Father are one,’ trying to feel great peace, and then a great joy in your heart. When that joy comes, say, ‘Father, Thou art with me. I command Thy power within me to cauterize my brain cells of wrong habits and past seed tendencies.’ The power of God in meditation will do it.
Rid yourself of the limiting consciousness that you are a man or a woman; know that you are the child of God. Then mentally affirm and pray to God: ‘I command my brain cells to change, to destroy the grooves of bad habits that have made a puppet out of me. Lord, burn them up in Thy divine light.’
Frequently asked questions
Before posting your query, kindly go through them:
|What is the meaning of ‘Kriya Yoga’?
The word ‘kriya’ means ‘activity’ or ‘movement’ and refers to the activity or movement of consciousness.
|Which are the important 16 kriyas of Kriya yoga?
Out of 20 main kriyas, 16 kriyas of Kriya yoga are: Vipareeta karani mudra, Ujjayi pranayama, Siddhasana/Siddha yoni asana, Unmani mudra, Khechari mudra, Ajapa japa, Utthanpadasana, Shambhavi mudra, Moola bandha, Nasikagra drishti, Uddiyana bandha, Jalandhara bandha, Bhadrasana, Padmasana, Shanmukhi mudra, and Vajroli/Sahajoli mudra.
|Who gave the science of Kriya yoga to manu?
Yogananda says that Krishna refers to Kriya yoga in the Bhagavad Gita: Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both these breaths; he thus releases the life force from the heart and brings it under his control. Hence, Lord Krishna gave Kriya yoga to manu (human beings).