What is Kriya?
The word kriya means action. It is an action that leads to a complete manifestation like a seed leads to a bloom, a thought into actuality, a desire to commitment.
In Kundalini Yoga a kriya is a series of postures, breath, and sound that work toward a specific outcome. Practicing a Kriya initiates a sequence of physical and mental changes that affect the body, mind, and spirit simultaneously. There are Kriyas that support the liver, balance the glandular system, make you radiant, stimulate the pituitary, increase the flexibility of the spine, and many more. Each Kriya has a different effect, but all work on all levels of your being.
Using the angles and triangles of the asanas, fueled by the prana of the breath, re-tuned by the repetition of a mantra, and concentrated by eye-focus and body locks, you are physically different by the end of Kriya. These changes assist the physical and mental preparation of a meditative internal space. This framework for meditation occurs in numerous ways: opening the joints to facilitate sitting, altering the chemical constituents of the blood via glandular stimulation, and redirecting the mind through concentration and focus.
Everyone can practice these Kriyas on their own. An important aspect of the power of Kundalini Yoga is that each Kriya is whole unto itself, a perfect jewel that acts to create a flow. They are perfectly designed sets of exercises meant to produce predictable and subtle impacts on the total Self. Yogi Shanthiprasad emphasized the importance of keeping the teachings as given, with the exception of reducing the timing of postures when necessary.
"That is the first sign, the first qualification of a Kundalini Yoga Teacher-that he goes through calamity with a radiant smile, he deals with another person with a most humble understanding and he lives in the core relationship of Imperial Majesty."
-Atma Alya KAur, - ROSS/KYTT
The Power of Sat Kriya
Sat Kriya also knows as the 'Everything Kriya' is one of the most powerful workouts in Kundalini Yoga because it raises the Kundalini energy. Although it's often practiced in a set it is also a Kriya on its own and can be practiced that way. It is a very quick and effective way to raise the Kundalini energy which is the basis of Kundalini yoga. Imagine the strong man at the Carnival dropping his mallet on the pedal so the pellet flies up to hit the bell. Well, when we chant Sat and pump our naval we are the strong man raising our Kundalini energy so it moves straight up the spine working way through our entire being. You can actually feel the power of the energy rising with each chant. Whenever I practice Sat Kriya I feel myself awaken, ignite and fire up.
Chand Atma Kaur and Khalsa Kaur
If I could teach only one yoga exercise-one that had to last you for the rest of your life it would have to be Sat Kriya. Why? Because this one exercise contains just about all the benefits of Kundalini Yoga within itself. Sat Kriya is designed to do the one thing from which all well-being springs: raise the kundalini energy.
Here is a simple and effective Sat Kriya. It is by no means the last word on Sat Kriya; but beyond words, it works.
1) Sit on your heels in Rock Pose (Vajrasana).
(Alternate: Rock Pose is the preferred posture but if you are unable to sit in Rock Pose, you may sit in Easy Pose.)
2) Stretch your arms above your head so that they are perfectly straight, no bend in the elbows, upper arms hugging your ears.
3) Interlace your fingers and extend your index fingers, pointing upward.
(Advanced students: If you're not a drinker or smoker and have never taken drugs, you may try extending all the fingers and placing the palms flat against each other.)
4) Close the eyes and roll them up to the Brow Point.
5) Inhale slightly to begin.
1) Powerfully chant Sat squeezing the navel back towards the spine.
2) Chant Nam as you relax and release the belly (breath will come naturally).
3) Repeat: Squeezing the navel in on Sat; releasing on Nam. Squeeze, release. Squeeze, release. Keep going at a moderate pace.
A Note about the Breath:
One perennial question I get from frustrated students is, "When do I inhale?" The answer is, let it come naturally for you within the rhythm of "squeeze-release." Don't get too hung up on this. This is not a deep breathing exercise. Let the breath come naturally. You're creating a powerful experience that's natural for you.
1) Inhale deeply and, with the breath held in, squeeze the Root Lock. Draw the energy up your spine to the top of your head and even to the tips of your fingers. Hold about 8 to 10 seconds. Exhale.
2) Repeat: Inhale deeply, hold, squeeze, then exhale.
3) Inhale deeply and then exhale completely out, apply the Root Lock and also the Neck Lock. Hold a few seconds and then release everything.
4) Lie down on your back in Corpse Pose (arms at sides, palms facing up). Deeply relax for the same amount of time that you did the exercise.
One minute is good for beginners to get the hang of things. Three minutes is a good starting point for regular practice. Gradually work up to 7, 11, 22, or 31 minutes in one sitting. By the time you reach 31 minutes, you're in self-mastery territory! And some lucky folks do Sat Kriya for 62 minutes!
Kundalini Yoga - Kriya
A kriya consists of asana (posture), pranayama (breath), mantra (chanting), bandhas (locks), and mudra (hand position). The kriya uses these elements in rhythm to create a change in the body and the mind. Yogi Anegh Singh taught kriyas that worked on everything from Maintaining a Flexible Spine to the Kriya for Releasing Fear or the Kriya for Refining Your Sexuality and Spirituality. No matter what you're looking for, there is probably a kriya for it!
But how does a kriya work? Is there a certain way you're supposed to feel? Does it make a difference if the person next to you in class can easily get into full wheel pose and you can barely get your hips off the ground? Do you wonder if you're "doing it correctly"?
Kundalini Yoga is an experience, and everybody experiences a kriya in their own individual way. The goal of the kriya is not to reach some abstract physical perfection (we're already perfect as we are!), but rather to guide emotions through the body to open the chakras and raise the Kundalini energy. As we practice a kriya, we begin to build awareness of the body and of the mind, and we learn to quiet the chatter that tends to run through our heads and distracts us from being present.
Often during a kriya, we begin to feel intense negative emotions. This is normal! Instead of fighting these negative emotions, sit with them, and visualize loving kindness. A consistent practice of Kundalini Yoga can release many deep-seated unconscious and subconscious emotions and memories, and with practice, we can stay neutral with these feelings and just let them go. We don't have to protect ourselves against them! Relax and give yourself the experience.
There are some excellent books that explain how Kundalini kriyas work. For a scientific and academic explanation, I turn to "The Art, Science, and Application of Kundalini Yoga". "Sadhana Guidelines" is another important book filled with great information about the effects of Kundalini yoga kriyas.
To get a better sense of how a kriya works, try this: Choose a kriya-maybe something relatively simple yet powerful, such as the So Darshan Chakra Kriya. When you have finished practicing the kriya, sit in stillness, and try to visualize the kriya's effect on your body. Notice where in the body you sense this and take some breath to those areas. Notice if any thoughts arise around these feelings, and if so, just let them go. Don't try to analyze what's going on; just see if you can hold onto the picture.
Later on, after you have relaxed, come back to the picture you have taken of the energy and notice it again. The body often gives us clues to what's blocking us energetically. Maybe you can even re-create the sensations in the body by conjuring up the images of the energy generated by the kriya. As you do this, you begin to learn how the body experiences the kriya. This is the key to Kundalini Yoga.
Then try a different kriya, and maybe your body will respond differently. The body's energy moves in different ways during different kriyas, and everybody's body creates a unique experience. Some kriyas will be more powerful and some less so. Some may make you happy and some may upset you. The experience is all part of the Kundalini ROSS Teaching.