“Yog”, says Yogiraj Siddhanath my Satguru, “is an inner ascent through evermore refined and evermore expanded spheres of mind to get to the godessence that is at the core of our own being.”
And Kriya Yog as discussed in an earlier blog is a lightning path that takes us to this godessence at our core- faster!
As always the points put forth are my own arrived at by realisations through practice and inner and outer study and learning, anyone is welcome to disagree and have other points of view. These blogs are an attempt at studying my own thoughts and are used as playful recreation, shared with those who may find them helpful.
In part 1 of this same topic we had discussed the beginning of Kriya Yoga as we know it today; its introduction to the modern world, around 1861 to be exact, by Lahiri Mahasaya; the Kriya Yoga lineage starting from Mahavatar Babaji to Lahiri Baba and branching out through his various disciples and their disciples to present day teachers; understanding why Yogiraj Siddhanath calls Mahavatar Babaji, Shiv Goraksha Babaji. Also briefly discussed was the process of entering the stream of this practice today.
In this part I would like to touch upon the actual practice itself, drawing upon what I have learnt and understood from my master, my own realisations from my practice and from sharing it with others over many years, from this and other lives past. And how while being a practical and scientific method of speedy recovery Kriya Yoga also unlocks an esoteric, secretive and mystical world to its dedicated sadhaks.
Kriya Yoga is a subtle pranayam technique practiced in the central Sushumna channel in the spine. Yogis and Rishis in ancient Bharat discovered early on the connection between the breath and the mind and how it can be used to holistically heal the human body of its ailments while taking the practitioner towards the yogic goal of Self realisation.
The Kriya Yoga practice- speedy, scientific, and practical
Though earlier the emphasis in science was physical and applied, science moved swiftly towards the empirical, once the influence of the mind on the body became apparent in studies of psychology. At first, the role of the breath was confined to oxygenation of body cells, but science today is fast discovering the importance of breath in treating many cardiological, respiratory and neurological diseases at a deeper level. The use of breath work in the psychiatric field, for hypertension, for children with ADHD syndrome and people suffering from PTSD amply reveals the connection between the mind and the breath in controlled environment of science. Yoga at the level of asanas/postures and pranayama/breathwork is a field of much scientific research today and is being accepted as means of post trauma healing and recovery from surgery and mental health issues. Even the mulabandha a technique of applying a yogic lock and an important part of Kriya Yoga is practiced under the name of Kegel exercises to improve the pelvic floor muscles. Meditation with medication is a new mantra now.
Kriya Yoga is universal, easy to learn, simple to practice and is available to all; it does not need any prerequisites. It can be practiced sitting on the floor or on a chair. There are no age restrictions, no restrictions on diet or require any kind of lifestyle change. The results of Kriya Yoga, if practiced with regularity are apparent very quickly. Each step in Kriya Yoga is conducive to a good physical, emotional and mental health.
In the primary practice of Kriya Yoga a rythm is established between the incoming and outgoing breath that in turn effects the brain waves and the agitated waves of stress and tension start to slow and the mind responds by calming. This systematic breathing is conducive to lowering blood pressure and hypertension. It gives a much needed rest to the organs in the body; the heart and the lungs along with the rest of the body are deeply oxygenated and decarbonised preventing premature decay of tissue.
The spine is used as the medium of transport for the inhaled and exhaled breath. The gentle friction of the regulated and concentrated breath calms the central nervous system, popularly called the command centre. Like the stroking of a parents hand on the back of a child, the practitioner is immediately relaxed and feels supported. A harmony is formed between the brain and the body, the benefits are too numerous to count. The central nervous system is a conduit between the brain, the cerebellum, the cerebrum and the nervous system that regulates the functioning of the whole body. The practice is conducive to stimulate and regulate the vagus nerves achieved by controlled breathing and holding of the breath. The Kriya breath, by its very nature, balances the left and right brain hemispheres.
Certain steps of Kriya Yoga work upon the various plexuses aligned along the spine. The plexus are a hub of intersecting nerves situated along the spine and simply put, communicate information from the body to the brain. A healthy non corrupted exchange of information is necessary for a healthy functioning of the organs and the various biological systems of the body, respiratory, digestive, lymphatic, excretory et al. A special mention is required here of the glandular or endocrine system, and though working on all the glands, the pituitary, pineal and the hypothalamus receive an immense amount of care and attention in the practice and are responsible for the overall feeling of quiet and joy that results from the practice of Kriya Yoga.
A quick look at the diagram below reveals the scope and expanse of the nervous system and its reach into every portion of the human body.
The physical stretches in the practice elongate the muscles and make room around the organs for better absorption of the oxygen for better health.
Quantum physics is another field that is studying the deep correlation between matter and energy and may one day be able to bring the mystical and the scientific together on the same board. At present Kriya Yoga does this in a wonderful way for the practitioner.
The Kriya Yoga Practice- esoteric, secretive and mystical
For me the scope of Kriya Yoga from scientific to esoteric is beautifully explained in this verse from the Shikshavalli (initiation of students into an education system in the Vedic times), the first chapter of the Taittreya Upanishad,
नमो ब्रह्मणे ।नमस्ते वायो । त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षं ब्रह्मासि ।त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षं ब्रह्म वदिष्यामि ।ॠतं वदिष्यामि ।सत्यं वदिष्यामि ।
namo Brahmaney. namaste Vayo (vayu). tvameyva pratyaksham Brahmaasi. tvameyva
pratyaksham Brahma vadishyaami. Hritam vadishyaami. Satyam vadishyaami.
Here the student while bowing to Vayu, the diety of air, one of the panch bhutas (earth, water, fire, air and space) proclaims it to be the perceptible and tangible aspect of Brahman -the ultimate reality. The student continues to proclaim this as right and truthful. A simple verse repeated by rote by many but with a very deep understanding for practicing kriyabaans who understanding the connection use the tangible Kriya breath (the inhaled pran vayu and the exhaled apan vayu) to access and merge into the Brahman- the ultimate reality in the Kuthasta Chaitanya.
The fact that I cannot share the technique or completely reveal the practice here is the esoteric nature of this practice. Though meant for everyone there is a unique code of sharing between the teacher and the student. From the time of Lahiri Mahasaya a discipline has been established of sharing the actual technique in the environment of the Guru-Shishya Parampara. That is, the technique is taught in a sacred environment; a dakshina- fee, not necessarily monetary, as prescribed is charged; and the knowledge is passed on from the teacher to the student in a special and sacred manner with an oath of secrecy. The mystique of this technique is maintained even in the ancient texts that though obliquely referring to this practice does not ever reveal the whole method. Of course, now one can find all of it exposed on the internet and in books. Bur serious practitioners still prefer to receive it from a Guru and there is a reason for it.
After observing how science is in the process of discovering and adopting yogasanas and pranayam for benefit in the field of healing trauma, here is what I understand the rishis and yogis discovered through inner study and practice. The yogis went a few steps further and discovered that the breath is not only invested with oxygen but is infused with the even more subtler pran, called the life force energy by the western world today, that permeated every breath taken by a living being, whether human, animal or plant. In fact they realised that the whole universe was held together by this intelligent force of pran and by connecting with it a yogi could become part of this universal source! A giant leap from unified field theory to practice, methinks with amusement.
The Kriya practitioner goes beyond the perceptible breath and becomes aware of the 5 Pran or vayus in the body which are referred to as the pran, apaan, samaan, vayan and udaan; though inherently same, these descriptions are according to the function they perform and all of them are infused with the intelligence of the Pran the life breath. In Kriya Yoga also called the Kundalini pranayam, the tangible spine is let go of and the practing kriyabaan enters into the subtler central Sushumna Naadi and as the practice improves penetrates even further into the Vajra, Chitrini and Brahma naadis. These lead to heightened states of awareness and are subjective to individual practitioners, their level of concentration, grace of the Satguru and karmic load. In the advanced stages of practice the Kriya practitioner achieves the task of transmuting the body of flesh into a body of light.
The inhaled and exhaled breath become the subtle pran and apan. The kumbhaks, antari and bahiri and the three bandhs combined with purak and rechak are used in prescribed ratio to bring all the 5 pran to flow seamlessly towards the divine indweller.
Interpenetrating the plexus in the physical body are the subtle chakras in which the Kriya yogi experiences the deeper truths of existence, personal and cosmic. The practice dissolves past karmas while emboldening the practitioner to face present karmas, with grace. Remember karma here refers to both, those perceived as positive or negative.
Called the lightning path by Yogiraj Siddhanath and the aeroplane path by Yogananada, the practice of Kriya Yoga expedites once journey towards the inner guru exponentially. In the esoteric practice of the Kriya Yoga as the student immerses in the inner cosmic body they realise the microcosmic body as the reflection of the macrocosmic universe.
Since none of these realisations can be computed by science, are individual in nature and are extremely hard to share or explain they remain in the realm of esoteric and mysterious.
The Role of the Satguru- enlivening the pran
A compassionate and healing Light
A Hamsa in its splendid flight
Away oh darkness! Fly oh night
The yogi comes in radiant might.
– Yogiraj Siddhanath
In the Indian context a lot of importance is given to the role of the Satguru in ones spiritual unfoldment. A living guru seen as a necessary ingredient in the shishyas inner journey towards the realisation of the Self. This is not because one cannot achieve significant progress on ones own but because at certain points in the journey a special wisdom or information needs to be imparted according to each individual seeker, a key so to say to unlock a door to further progress. One size here does not fit all. Though many seekers are happy to progress at their own pace reading and following innumerable techniques given in many of our texts and treatises; learning from many and adapting the techniques to their own liking, the training done under one true guru overrides lifetimes of wandering, is my understanding.
In the Kriya Yoga lineage, the living Satguru transforms and enlivens the pran in the disciples spinal channel giving a boost to the disciples progress along the path. Simply put, the pran is enlivened to become capable of penetrating the kuthasta and taking the seeker to the highest of samadhi. This pran is referred to as the marut pran. For this service the disciple is forever beholden to the guru with whom they often travel from lifetime to lifetime until final salvation.