Kriya Yoga is described as a materialization of the many concepts outlined in the Bhagavad Gita; yet it is chiefly derived from Bhakti, Jnana and Karma Yoga. The discipline concentrates on the connection of breath and mind, adhering to the philosophy that “Breath mastery is self-mastery” (kriya.org). Practitioners believe that awareness of the power of one’s soul, as well as awareness of the connection between breath and mind, will lead to self-control and self-realization in due course. Their ultimate goal in practicing Kriya Yoga is to be in constant spiritual union with God.
The actual naissance of Kriya Yoga is unknown, but Mahavatar Bahabji revived the ancient technique in a contemporary context in 1861, through his disciple, Shri Shyamacharan Lahiri. The discipline was eventually popularized in the West as a result of Paramahansa Yogananda’s book, Autobiography of a Yogi. Yogananda was trained by Lahiri’s disciple, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri, at the request of Babaji.
Today, there are three Kriya Yoga Center Headquarters, which function as nonprofit organizations, in the United States, India and Europe. There are also several auxiliary centers around the world.
As a primarily spiritual practice, many of the benefits of Kriya Yoga are grounded in religious beliefs. For example, according to Yogananda, Kriya Yoga eradicates bad karma and negative mental practices. The combination of deep meditation and the pursuit of spiritual union with God leads practitioners to cultivate more beneficial and positive habits; yet these results appear to be contingent on the individual’s perception of a spiritual stimulus.
Since this yoga technique is gentle and fairly easy, it may pose certain health benefits similar to those of Yin Yoga. More specifically, Kriya Yoga likely results in decreased stress, anxiety and depression. The emphasis on pranayama and connecting the mind and breath may also improve one’s mental stability and emotional control.
Individuals may only become Kriya Yoga teachers if they are initiated by one of the authentic yogacharyas. According to the Kriya Yoga institute, those seeking initiation should begin “to prepare their field” by studying the works of past and present Kriya Yoga instructors.
The training program is comprised of a preliminary lecture, followed by initiation, or diksha, and then at least three follow-up group meditations, which must be supervised by a recognized yogacharya. In the first stage of the initiation ceremony, the student undergoes purification of the body and senses. The student must also give three offerings to God, the yogacharya and the masters. These symbolic gifts include fruits, flowers and a financial fee.
Initiation is a somewhat confidential process, as the yogis must maintain the purity of Kriya Yoga tradition. If you wish to receive initiation by Paramahamsa Hariharananda and Prajnanananda, the living disciples of the ancient masters, their touring schedule is listed on the official Kriya Yoga Institute website at www.kriya.org.