Kriya Yoga

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Kriya Yoga
FounderMahavatar Babaji transmitted to Lahiri Mahasaya

Kriya Yoga (Sanskrit: क्रिया योग) is the active aspect of yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.1 defines three types of kriya (action):

The yoga of action (kriyayoga) is: asceticism (tapas), recitation (svadhyaya), and devotion (pranidhana) to Ishvara (the lord).

It is also a modern school, described by its practitioners as the ancient Yoga system revived in modern times by Mahavatar Babaji through his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya, c. 1861. Kriya Yoga was brought to international awareness by Paramahansa Yogananda's book Autobiography of a Yogi[2] and through Yogananda's introductions of the practice to the west from 1920.[3]

According to Yogananda the ancient Yogic text the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali contains a description of Kriya Yoga in the second chapter II.49:[4] "Liberation can be attained by that pranayama which is accomplished by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration."[5]

The Kriya yoga system consists of a number of levels of pranayama, mantra, and mudra based on techniques intended to rapidly accelerate spiritual development[2] and engender a profound state of tranquility and God-communion.[5] Yogananda attributes his description of Kriya Yoga to his lineage of gurus, Sri Yukteswar Giri, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Mahavatar Babaji. The latter is reported to have introduced the concept as essentially identical to the Raja Yoga of Patanjali and the concept of Yoga as described in the Bhagavad Gita.[5]


Lahiri Mahasaya (1828–1895).

Kriya Yoga, as taught by Lahiri Mahasaya, is traditionally exclusively learned via the Guru-disciple relationship and the initiation consists of a secret ceremony.[6][2] He recounted that after his initiation into Kriya Yoga, "Babaji instructed me in the ancient rigid rules which govern the transmission of the yogic art from Guru to disciple."[7]

As Yogananda describes Kriya Yoga, "The Kriya Yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centers (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic Cosmic Man. One half-minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of Kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment."[5]

The process of performing Kriya Yoga is claimed to lead to a certain purification of the blood which frees up the life force to withdraw into the spine. "Kriya Yoga is a simple, psycho-physiological method by which the human blood is decarbonized and recharged with oxygen. The atoms of this extra oxygen are transmuted into life current to rejuvenate the brain and spinal centers. By stopping the accumulation of venous blood, the yogi is able to lessen or prevent the decay of tissues; the advanced yogi transmutes his cells into pure energy. Elijah, Jesus, Kabir and other prophets were past masters in the use of Kriya or a similar technique, by which they caused their bodies to materialize and dematerialize at will."[8]

Swami Satyananda wrote "Kriya sadhana may be thought of as the sadhana of the 'practice of being in Atman'".[9]


Yogananda wrote in God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita that the science of Kriya Yoga was given to Manu, the first man according to the Vedas, and through him to Janaka and other royal sages.[10] According to Yogananda, Kriya Yoga was well known in ancient India, but was eventually lost, due to "priestly secrecy and man’s indifference".[5] Yogananda says that Krishna refers to Kriya Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita:

Offering inhaling breath into the outgoing breath, and offering the outgoing breath into the inhaling breath, the yogi neutralizes both these breaths; he thus releases the life force from the heart and brings it under his control.[11]

Yogananda also stated that Krishna was referring to Kriya Yoga when "Krishna ... relates that it was he, in a former incarnation, who communicated the indestructible yoga to an ancient illuminato, Vivasvat, who gave it to Manu, the great legislator. He, in turn, instructed Ikshwaku, the father of India’s solar warrior dynasty."[5] Yogananda stated that Patanjali wrote about the Kriya technique when he wrote: "Liberation can be attained by that pranayama which is accomplished by disjoining the course of inspiration and expiration."[5] A direct disciple of Sri Yukteswar Giri, Sailendra Dasgupta (d. 1984) has written that, "Kriya entails several acts that have evidently been adapted from the Gita, the Yoga Sutras, Tantra shastras and from conceptions on the Yugas."[6]

Bhagavad Gita[edit]

Krishna instructing Arjuna

The Bhagavad Gita does not teach kriya yoga by name, though Yogananda claimed that the practice was described there.[12] According to Paramahansa Yogananda in his book God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes kriya Yoga thus:

By the concentrated practice of Kriya Yoga pranayama—offering the inhaling breath into the exhaling breath (prana into apana) and offering the exhaling breath into the inhaling breath (apana into prana)—the yogi neutralizes these two life currents and their resulting mutations of decay and growth, the causative agents of breath and heart action and concomitant body consciousness. By recharging the blood and cells with life energy that has been distilled from breath and reinforced with the pure spiritualized life force in the spine and brain, the Kriya Yogi stops bodily decay, thereby quieting the breath and heart by rendering their purifying actions unnecessary. The yogi thus attains conscious life-force control.[13]

The Bihar School of Yoga, which teaches similar techniques of kriya yoga, claims that the descriptions of kriya yoga in the Yoga Sūtras and the Bhagavad Gīta are not related.[14]

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali[edit]

Patañjali statue (traditional form indicating Kundalini or incarnation of Shesha)

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.1 defines three types of kriya (action):

The yoga of action (kriyayoga) is: asceticism (tapas), recitation (svadhyaya), and devotion (pranidhana) to Ishvara (the lord).

The Yoga Sutras are generally viewed as a compendium of multiple traditions of yoga.[15][16][17] According to Feuerstein, the Yoga Sutras are a condensation of two different traditions, namely "eight limb yoga" (ashtanga yoga) and action yoga (Kriyā yoga),[15] the description of the eight limbs being an interpolation into the text on kriya.[18] According to George Feuerstein, kriya yoga is contained in chapter 1, chapter 2 verse 1-27, chapter 3 except verse 54, and chapter 4.[15] The "eight limb yoga" is described in chapter 2 verse 28–55, and chapter 3 verse 3 and 54.[15]

According to Miller, Kriya yoga is the "active performance of yoga".[19] It is composed of part of the niyamas, "observances", the second limb of Patanjali's eight limbs.[19] According to Miller, Kriya yoga is a threefold discipline, involving ascetic practice, the study and chanting of sacred hymns and syllables, and dedication to god.[19]

Miller also notes that some commentators regard the first five limbs together as kriya yoga, but that Patanjali himself states kriya yoga to be a subset of the second limb.[20]

Recent history[edit]

Mahavatar Babaji[edit]

The story of Lahiri Mahasaya receiving initiation into Kriya Yoga by the yogi Mahavatar Babaji in 1861 is recounted in Autobiography of a Yogi.[21] Yogananda wrote that at that meeting, Mahavatar Babaji told Lahiri Mahasaya, "The Kriya Yoga that I am giving to the world through you in this nineteenth century, is a revival of the same science that Krishna gave millenniums ago to Arjuna; and was later known to Patanjali, and Christ, and to St. John, St. Paul, and other disciples."[5] Yogananda also wrote that Babaji and Christ were in continual communion and together, "have planned the spiritual technique of salvation for this age."[2]

Through Lahiri Mahasaya, Kriya Yoga soon spread throughout India. Yogananda then brought Kriya Yoga to the United States and Europe during the 20th century.[5]

Lahiri Mahasaya's disciples included his two sons, Dukouri Lahiri and Tinkouri Lahiri, Sri Yukteswar Giri, Panchanan Bhattacharya, Swami Pranabananda, Swami Kebalananda, Keshavananda Brahmachari, Bhupendranath Sanyal (Sanyal Mahasaya), and many others .[22]

Haidakhan Babaji[edit]

Haidakhan Babaji made a couple of interesting comments about the "true meaning" of Kriya Yoga in the early 1980s. He stated: "(...) The union of morning and evening (that is, the work of your whole day) is the real Kriya Yoga. (...) Only that is Kriya, which brings peace and happiness and all kinds of benefits to people. To do good action is Kriya Yoga. (…) You must all do service to humanity, THAT is Kriya Yoga. (...)"[23]

Higher kriyas[edit]

There are many higher kriyas in the kriya yoga tradition. According to the Autobiography of a Yogi, Lahiri Mahasaya divided Kriya Yoga into four parts. Second, third and the fourth Kriya are known as higher Kriyas, Thokar Kriya being one of them ".[5] Autobiography of a Yogi. One of the research on higher Kriya yoga, namely, Nirmal Kriya along with 6-step Nirmal Dhyan, done by Premji Nirmal, has the potential to improve cortical function as well anxiety and depression symptoms and QoL in the general population.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Kriya Yoga 150th anniversary of the revival of Kriya Yoga". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d Miller, Timothy (1995). America's Alternative Religions. SUNY Press. p. 178/183. ISBN 0791423972.
  3. ^ "The Kriya Yoga Path of Meditation". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Patanjali, Translator, Chip Hartranft (2003). The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali: A New Translation with Commentary (Shambhala Classics). ISBN 1-59030-023-8.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Yogananda, Paramahansa (1997). Autobiography of a Yogi- Chapter 26 - The Science of Kriya Yoga. Self-Realization Fellowship. ISBN 0876120869.
  6. ^ a b Dasgupta, Sailendra Bejoy (2011). Kriya Yoga, its dissemination, and the Mahamuni Babaji Maharaj - Chapter 5 & 8. Yoga Niketan.
  7. ^ Yogananda, Paramahansa (1997). Autobiography of a Yogi- Chapter 34 - Materializing a Palace in the Himalayas. Self-Realization Fellowship. ISBN 0876120869.
  8. ^ Yogananda, Paramahansa (1946). Autobiography of a Yogi. New york: THE PHILOSOPHICAL LIBRARY, INC. p. 184. ISBN 9788189535513.
  9. ^ Satyananda, Swami (2006). A Collection of Biographies of 4 Kriya Yoga Gurus by Swami Satyananda Giri - Kriya Quotes from Swami Satyananda Giri (translated by Yogi Niketan). iUniverse. ISBN 978-0595386758.
  10. ^ Paramahansa Yogananda (1995). God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita (Chapter V), First Edition. Self-Realization Fellowship (Founded by Yogananda). ISBN 0-87612-030-3.
  11. ^ Bhagavad Gita IV:29
  12. ^ Yogananda 1997. sfn error: multiple targets (5×): CITEREFYogananda1997 (help)
  13. ^ Paramahansa Yogananda (1995). God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita First Edition. Self-Realization Fellowship ISBN 0-87612-030-3.
  14. ^ Swami Satyananda, Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha. page
  15. ^ a b c d Feuerstein 1978, p. 108.
  16. ^ Tola, Dragonetti & Prithipaul 1987, p. x.
  17. ^ Wuyastik 2011, p. 33.
  18. ^ Stiles 2011.
  19. ^ a b c Miller 2009, p. 44.
  20. ^ Miller 2009, p. 45.
  21. ^ Yogananda, Paramahansa (1997). Autobiography of a Yogi- Chapter 34 - Materializing a Palace in the Himalayas. Self-Realization Fellowship. ISBN 0876120869.
  22. ^ Yogananda, Paramahansa (1997). Autobiography of a Yogi- Chapters 3, 32, 33, 36. Self-Realization Fellowship. ISBN 0876120869.
  23. ^ The Teachings of Babaji, 10 Nov 1983
  24. ^,%20India,%20yoga,%20Discov,%2053%20adults,reduction%20of%20theta%20in%20Post%20cing%20gyrus.pdf


  • Feuerstein, Georg (1978), Handboek voor Yoga (Dutch translation; English title "Textbook of Yoga", Ankh-Hermes
  • Miller, Barbara (2009), Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: The Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali, Random House LLC
  • Stiles, Mukunda (2011), Tantra Yoga Secrets: Eighteen Transformational Lessons to Serenity, Radiance, and Bliss, Weiser Books
  • Tola, Fernando; Dragonetti, Carmen; Prithipaul, K. Dad (1987), The Yogasūtras of Patañjali on concentration of mind, Motilal Banarsidass
  • Wuyastik, Dominik (2011), The Path to Liberation through Yogic Mindfulness in Early Ayurveda. In: David Gordon White (ed.), "Yoga in practice", Princeton University Press
  • Yogananda, Paramahansa (1997), Autobiography of a Yogi, Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, ISBN 978-0-87612-086-6

External links[edit]