What is Kriya Yoga?
Kriya Yoga is ancient form of Yoga that was said to have been widely practiced in ancient India but eventually lost. It’s resurgence came after the book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ (written by Paramhansa Yogananda) became a worldwide best-seller. Since the book was published, many schools of Kriya Yoga have been formed, using strict Kriya Yoga techniques and Kriya Yoga Initiations.
Like all Yoga, Kriya Yoga is focused on using mentally connecting with the energy in your body, and using it for spiritual growth and ultimately the union of the individual consciousness and universal consciousness.
Although the Kriya Yoga discipline was described in the ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’, the specifics of the practice are relatively unknown to the general public. This is because more practicing Yogis or Gurus keep this information secret (much as it was in Ancient India, thus its eventual disappearance) and the only way to truly learn the techniques is to be initiated by a Kriya Yogi.
Kriya Yoga’s Six Spinal Centers
The energy which spirals around the spine circles the ‘six spinal centers’ – medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses – are described in Kriya Yoga as Chakras. Keeping your attention on the spine, the mind travels up and down the spine, passing through various centers of the spine. Below is a list of these Kriya Chakras:
Muladhar: this area is corresponds to the coccyx areas, the lowest part of the spinal cord (tailbone).
Swadhisthan: this area of the spine corresponds with the sacral, a couple of inches above the rectum.
Manipura: this area is the point on the spine directly behind the navel.
Visudha: this is the C-7 area of the spinal cord.
Medulla Point: this is the area of the back of the head called the occipital lobe, which is directly behind the point between the eyebrows (which is called the Agana Chakra).
Temple of Kriya
To learn or take part in Kriya Yoga, you need to visit a Temple of Kriya. These ‘temples’ usually provide classes in the Kriya positions, breathing techniques etc., but will also provide classes on learning the six spinal centers, understanding proper meditation and even astrology. Some fundamental Yogis claim that many of these “Temples of Kriya” are simply open to the public to earn revenue, which can be considered a big faux pas to some Yogis (the teaching of Yoga is universal and specifically not for profit – which is actually the opposite of what yoga teaches). Temples of Kriya open to the general public can be found in almost any large city across North America.
Initiation into Kriya Yoga
As with many initiations, initiation into Kriya Yoga can be interpreted in many different ways. People can literally find initiation techniques published on the internet, and can follow them using their own interpretation. This would be akin to attending a public Kriya Yoga class (that charges a signup fee). Fundamentalists however, believe that the only way to be initiated into Kriya Yoga is through a proper Temple of Kriya, one that is staffed or ‘housed’ by proper Kriya Yogis. These temples are not public, and do not release information on their initiation techniques. It is understood that the Kriya Yoga techniques used by students are generally very strict in the temples, in contrast to the ‘weekday morning yoga classes’ used by many North Americans.
Because the initiation techniques and teachings of Kriya Yoga are kept secret by the Temples themselves, one can’t help but wonder if one day the art of Kriya Yoga will again disappear as it did it ancient India. Fundamentalists believe that the teachings are always present; we only need to acknowledge them. In this, the Kriya teachings are immortalised.