One of the most fascinating things about Kriya Yoga is that with these techniques, we don’t try to meditate. We don’t sit and watch the mind nor use the mind to analyze the mind. We don’t spend time grappling with our thoughts, waiting patiently for mental activity to subside. The techniques of Kriya Yoga actually produce a state of meditation.
To understand how, let’s examine the core Kriya Yoga technique called the Shiva-Shakti pranayama. Pranayama is the practice of controlling and directing life-force energy (prana) via the breath. There are many different pranayamas across the yogic schools used to balance and purify the energetic system, but the Shiva-Shakti pranayama is very unique. For one, it utilizes a very slow and deep pattern of breathing that substantially increases oxygen intake. This type of breathing alone, when done for a prolonged period of time, is highly beneficial from a physiological standpoint. It has a calming effect on the nervous system and the extra oxygen allows for increased blood detoxification which reduces the workload on the heart and lungs. The extra oxygen also gives an uplifted feeling in the mind much like a “buzz” or high induced by other means. I can personally attest to this — just 20 minutes of Shiva-Shakti and I feel high.
Now let’s look at what’s happening on the energetic level. The breath’s purpose here is to re-direct the flow of life-force energy (prana) within the spine. Focusing your breath and awareness within like this causes the flow of prana to reverse itself inward which results in a state of deep internalization known as “pratyahara” in yogic terminology. Typically in the waking state, the electrical flow of energy in the body goes down from the brain and out to all the nerves in order to experience creation via the five senses. The Shiva-Shakti pranayama has the exact opposite effect. By means of concentrating and directing your prana along the spine, the senses are introverted and your awareness is brought to a place of inner stillness. Noises do not bother you, the mind is calmed and you are able to easily focus when deeply internalized. The yogi becomes like the tortoise withdrawing its limbs into the shell, as the ancient analogy goes.
This Shiva-Shakti technique is the only pranayama I’m aware of that specifically results in the next stage of Yoga known as Pratyahara, if you’re familiar with the Eightfold Path given in Patanjali’s classic Yoga Sutras. It is the stepping stone to the advanced stages of deep meditation. Increased practice brings about deeper results. That’s why Kriya Yoga is often called a science — it involves specific actions that have a direct effect. It works. It’s not a matter of simply watching the mind and trying to wrestle it into a state of calm, rather, it’s a scientific process of using the breath to produce a calm mind and direct awareness deep within.
Now on to the mental level. The special breathing and simple mantra involved in Shiva-Shakti have the effect of concentrating, soothing and dissolving the mind. Restless thoughts become worn out and perish against the persistent flow of breath. The Shiva-Shakti breath is like a constantly flowing river, with a deeply soothing sound, and by constant attention on it, the mind begins to take on those same qualities. Have you ever noticed the mind is like a sponge soaking up whatever you apply it to? In this case, we focus the mind on the river of breath until it becomes similarly flowing and calm as opposed to distracted and racing.
These are just some of the reasons why I’m still practicing Kriya today after 20 years. If I didn’t feel a profound effect and substantial benefit from every practice, I wouldn’t waste my time for all these years. I’ve practiced other techniques but in my experience, just 20 minutes of Kriya produces a much deeper state of tranquility than had I simply sat with passive awareness.
Try it out — life is short and the benefits here are many. Contact me to learn the system of Kriya Yoga as given in my Level 2 Workshop. If you’re far from the East San Francisco Bay Area, here’s a list of authorized teachers you can contact around the world.