Kriya Yoga


Kriya yoga is the branch of yoga that involves purification or cleansing practices. The word kriya in Sanskrit language means ‘exercise’ or ‘action’ …





In yoga, the human is seen as a ‘multi-layered’ or ‘multidimensional’ being, and not merely the composite structures of the physical form.

There are five levels of the being, which are known as the pancha kosha (5 bodies), that yoga is concerned about. They are:

  1. the ‘physical body’
  2. the ‘energy body’
  3. the ‘mental sheath’
  4. the ‘sheath of higher intellect’ (or ‘super conscious mind’)
  5. and the body of ‘Cosmic Consciousness’

Each one affects the one, or the ones adjacent to it, which means that factors on any one level can eventually affect the being on all of the others. The mind, for instance, can affect the state of emotions. The emotions, in turn, can affect the state of the body. Therefore, purification on many levels is needed for health and harmony.

The Practice of Kriya Yoga

Yoga reveals for us many practices of purification, which are referred to as kriyas. Many of these practices deal with purifying the physical body, many with decongesting the energetic (or pranic) body, and still others with the mental fields. There are even specific methods in kriya yoga that deal with purification on higher, psychic levels.

Modern lifestyles lead to states of health which are very polluted and contaminated — physically, energetically, mentally and emotionally. Thus, as a beginner in yoga, the necessity for cleansing is great on every level and must be undertaken in a systematic, progressive way.

There are many specific purification practices in kriya yoga, ranging from basic practices for the beginner, to more involved practice such as the shat karma kriyas (the six cleansing action), which the dedicated yogi engages in for further physical purification.

Purification is an ongoing necessity in yoga. In order to reach higher states of consciousness and to experience more readily the subtle energies within the advanced practices, we must continue to purify our physical, mental and energetic selves, which are constantly being polluted through our environment, lifestyles and daily habits. So then, kriya yoga always remains an integral part of any yoga practice.

In this basic course, you will be instructed in a few simple kriyas, such as the kaya kriya, the whole body cleanse learned in an earlier lesson, which are basic practices for mental and physical cleansing.

Asana vs Kriya

Many of the postures (yoga asanas) in hatha yoga can also be used as a form of kriya, meaning that motion is added to the static position of the asana, along with specific breathing directives, in order to achieve a desired cleansing, purifying or physically stimulating effect (i.e., on the movement of blood, nervous energy, lymph or subtle prana).

These practices are highly beneficial in one’s ‘physical sadhana’, and take a predominate position in the beginner and intermediate levels of the physical practices of yoga.

We can see essentially two distinct ways in which asanas are generally being taught and practised today, one where postures are maintained in strict, static form, and the other (perhaps most popular in Western yoga circles) where intense, gymnastic-type movements are performed, with their underlying form relating in some way to that of some of the classical asanas.

It is important to understand that merely adding motion to an otherwise static asana — jumping or moving in succession from one position to the next — does not necessarily reveal the beneficial effects of a kriya. Kriyas are specifically designed movements from or within certain asanas, with inherent physical and energetic effects.

Throughout these lessons you are being instructed in various techniques, some of which will be performed as asanas, and others as kriyas. Even at this basic introductory level, this is a unique and powerful system which purifies on many levels, invigorates and enlivens the being, and prepares one in a systematic fashion for higher and more advanced practices along the yogic path

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This page is an exerpt from one of the 21 lessons of The Basic Yoga Trainer eCourse at www.theyogatutor.com. To view the rest of this lesson, you must enrol here .

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