Although yoga is practiced in the U.S. by more people than ever before, there is still a great deal of misinformation in the West about the true nature and purpose of this sacred science. Most people associate yoga with the physical practice of postures, called “asanas.” But this is like saying that your hand is your thumb without any regard for the other four fingers. The physical practice of asanas is just one of eight limbs that constitute the entire practice of yoga…or, to be exact, Kriya Yoga.

So what is Kriya Yoga? It’s difficult to explain Kriya Yoga without first defining Yoga.

Yoga is a state of consciousness in which all fluctuations of the mind have ceased. In other words, your mind is free of thoughts and emotions. In this state, we perceive our true Self --the source of all creation--the knower of the known. This source of creation has different names depending upon the religious tradition. For example, among its names are: “God,” “Reality,” “Self,” “Brahman,” “the Hidden Essence,” and the “Buddha nature.”

So the ultimate goal of yoga is to attain a direct experience with the source of creation. Of course, there are interim goals as well, like more peace, balance, and contentment.

Kriya Yoga is the process--the action steps that you take to attain yoga. The Sanskrit word “Kriya” is derived from the root “kri” meaning “to do.” In Sanskrit grammar, verbs are called “kriyas.” So Kriya Yoga is fundamentally an action; it is not a religion. Rather, it is a set of techniques that have been transmitted orally from teacher to student for thousands of years. The Indian sage, Patanjali, was the first to document this oral tradition. He organized the techniques of yoga in four short books, known as the Yoga Sutras.

Patanjali offers the following definition of yoga: “Yoga is the cessation or inhibition of the fluctuations and variations of the mind.” The only type of yoga that is mentioned in the Sutras is Kriya Yoga. In Book II, Patanjali says: “Kriya Yoga is self-discipline, self-study and attunement to the indwelling Reality.”

He describes yoga as an eight-step process, known as the eight limbs. In Sanskrit, the eight limbs are called Ashtanga (ash=eight and anga=limbs). They involve disciplining the mind and body to break one’s identification with the false self (the egoic mind) so you can awaken to your true Self.

Though Kriya Yoga encompasses all eight limbs, its emphasis is on karma. Karma is defined as the law of causation. Everything you experience in your life is the result of something you have thought, said, or done. In order to attune to “the indwelling Reality” we must first bring ourselves into balance. To bring ourselves into balance, we practice the eight limbs of yoga and other kriyas (actions) to help us neutralize our karma and gain control over the creative forces of our mind. This is the practice of Kriya Yoga, which leads to Yoga.

The practice of Kriya Yoga is linked to an Indian philosophy of how the universe is wired, called “Shankya Yoga.” Thus, Kriya Yoga is the practice; Shankya Yoga is the theory. Though Kriya Yoga is linked to this philosophy, it is important to note that Kriya Yoga recognizes that there is Truth in each religious tradition and that each soul is where it needs to be to evolve. Kriya Yoga, however, does not require submission to a set of doctrines or to a particular individual or temple. Instead, it strives to develop independence in the individual, rather than dependence upon something that is external. The only dependence should be to the Truth, which is within each and every individual. It’s just eclipsed by our thoughts and emotions. We need to get our selves out of the way so we can see our true Self. And the method for doing so is Kriya Yoga!

Author's Bio: 

Laura Svolos is a Swami of Kriya Yoga, a spiritual life coach and teacher, and an energy practitioner of sound & color therapy. For those interested in her coaching, she offers free initial consultations. Contact her at: