What is Simple Kriya Yoga? Kriya Yoga is the most advanced of yogic techniques. It can yield immediate results, even when practiced by busy people with no time to spare.
It involves different breathing exercises (pranayamas), combined with specific ways of cleansing the nervous system and internal organs. Once one becomes proficient at this practice, it is said that one can experience exquisite happiness and well-being, and the ability to help others.
The techniques of Kriya Yoga were brought out of India by Lahiri Mahasaya (1828-1895). He was a disciple of Mahavatar Babaji, who initiated him into Kriya Yoga in 1861. Babaji instructed Lahiri to use Kriya Yoga so that his disciples would have a simple and effective system of spiritual development.
Lahiri taught Kriya Yoga to many people, among them Swami Sri Yukteswar (1855-1936). Sri Yukteswar passed this teaching on to Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), who wrote about his experiences practicing Kriya Yoga in his famous book, “Autobiography of a Yogi.”
Here is an abbreviated version of Babaji’s Kriya Yoga techniques. I have not included specific instructions for the various breathing exercises and cleansing processes, as these are explained clearly in “Autobiography of a Yogi.”
This article starts with the basic technique. In the second part, I will explain how to combine this technique with certain movements and physical postures in order to cleanse the nervous system and internal organs.
2 ways to do Simple Kriya Yoga
PART 1: BASIC TECHNIQUE
1. Sit comfortably in a chair or on your bed, with your feet flat on the floor and your spine straight (but not stiff). Close your eyes, relax your whole body, and let it go—you don’t have to do anything right now. Let all thoughts pass freely through your mind without dwelling on them. As you breathe naturally, silently say “Har” in an even rhythm. This mantra is associated with God’s creative, life-giving force.
2. Allow your mind to become calm and peaceful, visualizing yourself as a spiritual being who cares for nothing but selfless service. Imagine the divine flame within you, its brightness like that of millions of suns shining at once—a light that never diminishes no matter how many candles are lit from it. Feel God’s presence inside you, surrounding you, protecting you.
As the divine within fills your consciousness with joy, feel yourself sitting higher and higher above the earth until your spirit transcends all thoughts and feelings associated with the material world. Imagine now that there is only one thing in the whole universe—the bright flame so real to you that nothing but love exists anywhere anymore!
3. Now, envision your mind as a white, glowing funnel that moves slowly down into the part of your body called the solar plexus. As it moves through you, feel an even flow of energy entering at the bottom of the funnel and exiting at your solar plexus. Then allow your mind to move up through your heart area, letting this energy continue to flow out.
4. Keep imagining this ever-flowing stream of pure bright light until you can actually see it before you! Feel how it brightens your entire nervous system with divine light—how by purifying all thoughts, it makes everything clean and clear once again! Imagine now that every cell in your body is filled with brilliant light, sparkling like trillions of tiny diamonds inside!
5. When you feel this cleansing light filling your entire nervous system, allow it to stream out of your heart area and through your arms into the universe. Let all the divine energy flow down over both shoulders, down through both arms and hands, and let it pour forth from your palms in two continuous beams.
Imagine now that these beams are like miniature lasers, traveling up to 20 feet or so out in front of you. They shoot out powerfully for about six inches! Feel them as real, bright rays of pure light—and be aware that they are not visible to others but only to yourself.
6. Keep breathing naturally during this practice, allowing the breath itself to be a source of pleasure as well as relaxation for your body and your mind.
7. When you feel ready to finish, imagine that the two beams of light shoot back up into your palms and become one again with the stream of energy coursing through your heart area. Together, they travel upward, returning to their source in God’s creative life force—the bright light within you!
8. Finally, offer a simple affirmation to yourself: “I am filled with God’s pure divine energy.” Then open your eyes and return gradually to normal consciousness. Later, whenever you are feeling tired or tense, simply close your eyes for a minute or so and visualize the cleansing white light all around you—filling you up completely with its peaceful power!
PART 2: KRIYA YOGA EXERCISES
The following simple exercises are an excellent way to help you relax and maintain good health. Feel free to incorporate them into your daily routine; they need not necessarily be timed according to the instructions given here. The important thing is that you do them regularly, several times a week if possible—and that you really enjoy doing them!
1. SITALI (THE COOLING BREATH)
Sit comfortably on the floor with your legs crossed or stretch out flat on your back, whichever is more comfortable for you. Relax all over and breathe naturally through your nose only. Fold your tongue lengthwise and stick it out of your mouth about half an inch (not as far as it will go). Keep breathing through your nose and let the air stream in gently. Wherever the air feels most cool to you is where it will emerge from your tongue—which means that you are breathing naturally through your nostrils, but far more efficiently than usual!
As you breathe slowly and rhythmically, feel how the cooling sensation of the incoming breath fills not only your nose but all the lower part of your face. After a while, extend this feeling down into your throat. You may even begin to salivate slightly—but don’t swallow yet! Your whole mouth should feel pleasantly relaxed and refreshed with each inhalation.
Now gradually allow some saliva to collect in your mouth. Swallow it once or twice, then let it rest in your mouth without swallowing again for about ten seconds.
At this point, you can swallow it at your own preferred speed—usually once every sixty seconds is a natural pace. The more often you swallow, the faster will be the process of cooling down your entire digestive tract and keeping it moist and comfortable, especially after meals when it tends to get dry!
Not only that—with each inhalation through your tongue, but there is also a slight tug on the diaphragm which helps to open up the breathing passages in between each breath. It’s a wonderful way to reduce any tendency toward wheeziness or shortness of breath due to upper respiratory problems such as asthma. At the same time, regular practice of Sitali brings fresh oxygen into your lungs and bloodstream—and deep relaxation throughout your whole system.
SITE PRANAYAMA (breath of coolness) is especially recommended for people who tend to be hot-natured—or at least for anyone who appreciates the benefits of clean, fresh air all around you! Try it whenever you can during your day—in between other tasks at work, out on the tennis court, riding in the car or bus; or even when you are sitting quietly with a friend talking over coffee. Make this simple breathing exercise a regular part of your life and notice how much better you feel generally as a result!
2. BREATH OF FIRE OR BHASTRIKA PRANAYAMA
This is a type of rapid breathing which has been practiced for centuries in India for clearing the lungs and keeping them clear. In fact, they say that the lungs of an experienced Breath of Fire practitioner can actually expand to several times their normal size!
Nowadays, it is popular with many people in this country as a wonderful pick-me-up—especially when practiced first thing in the morning before breakfast. It’s also a great exercise for young children who tend to be full of energy but not inclined to sit still for too long at a stretch. It helps to get their breath moving and even seems to awaken their brains so that they become more concentrated and attentive afterward. Practice BREATH OF FIRE whenever you feel your body or mind starting to seize up from lack of physical activity or mental weariness; such as while stuck in traffic on your way to work or before an examination.
Start by sitting comfortably with your eyes closed. See that your body is completely relaxed—especially the chest, abdomen, and pelvis (around the sexual organs). Keep breathing through your nose throughout the BREATH OF FIRE without making any effort at all to control it. Avoid all strain and let your breath flow naturally either through both nostrils together or one at a time; whichever feels most comfortable for you. The only exception is during retention when you should breathe exclusively (or primarily) through one nostril and then switch to the other after suspension (see below).
Repeat each sequence as many times as pleases you.