Kriya yoga is a discipline that focuses not only on physical movement but also on spiritual and mental development. More of a meditative practice than an exercise routine, Kriya yoga is a non-sectarian combination of directed thought, spiritual focus, and body movement. The technique is derived from several ancient sources, including some of the Indian epic scriptures.
According to practitioners, modern Kriya yoga was an ancient practice revived in the mid-19th century. Growing in popularity throughout the world, Kriya is often associated with the teachings of Parmahansa Yoganada, a yogi attributed with popularizing yoga in the Western world. Like many other yoga disciplines, breath, movement, and directed thought are all important parts of a session of Kriya. Instead of being merely an exercise routine, serious practitioners attempt to improve their life, well-being, and daily outlook by embracing the principles of this practice.
According to the philosophy of this type of yoga, physical movement and breath are a means of gaining access to the energy of the body. By regularly practicing yoga and proper breathing techniques, some believe this energy can be directed to the brain to facilitate enlightenment and well-being. Some practitioners report an increased feeling of peace, mental calmness, and a reduction of stress after beginning regular practice. It is important to remember, however, that Kriya is a spiritual discipline, not a scientifically proven exercise routine.
Many yoga classes include Kriya principles as a part of yoga routines, although the discipline may not be specifically referenced. One Kriya yoga technique used in many yoga classes is alternate nostril breathing. This technique is performed by placing the first two fingers of one hand just above the bridge of the nose, then closing off one nostril by pressing the opening shut with the thumb. Air is inhaled through the open nostril and held for a moment, before switching hand position and exhaling through the opposite nostril. This alternate nostril breathing may be repeated several times, to increase oxygen flow to the body.
For those interested in exploring Kriya yoga as a spiritual avenue, check online yoga sites or local yoga centers for basic information. Many of the spiritual leaders of the movement published writings on the practice, which can be valuable in understanding the philosophy behind this form of yoga. For advanced participants, workshops, retreats, and courses of study are often available through major yoga temples and centers. Practicing Kirya yoga may not be beneficial for everyone, but many practitioners consider it a major part of their spiritual beliefs and claim to find great personal value in the teachings and practice.