what is kriya yoga?

much more than physical fitness!

Yoga increases in popularity year on year, as people all over the world discover its mental, physical and spiritual benefits in their daily lives. Studios around the globe offer Hatha, Bikram, Ashtanga, Yin, Restorative, Anusara and so many other flavors of yoga practices, and it can be hard to know how they all differ, and which is the right school for you.

One path of yoga, called Kriya Yoga offers a way to integrate several ancient yogic forms into a complete whole. So then, what exactly is Kriya Yoga? This article will help you learn more about this ancient wisdom, get a taste of its core principles, and discover why many are engaging in the practice.

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Kriya Yoga is about more than poses and mindful breathing

The first thing to know is that Kriya Yoga is much more than physical fitness! While keeping your body fit and healthy is obviously important, Kriya Yoga points to the mental and spiritual context of your practice. It is this holistic approach that sets Kriya Yoga apart – it takes the emotional, mental and spiritual facets into account as much as (or even more than) the physical.

While everyone has a different reason for practicing yoga and chooses their own path, Kriya Yoga follows a time-tested philosophy that harnesses the wisdom of ancient teachings while fitting perfectly into the busy schedules of our modern lives.

Active, Conscious Union of Mind and Body

Most people experience some sense of calm, relaxation and fulfillment when they practice yoga. This is often attributed to endorphins being released during their exercise routine. While that is certainly a factor on a physical level, the meditative and contemplative practices of yoga can give rise to far deeper experiences of insight and contentment that enhance all areas of life.

We all know we can build muscle and tone our bodies with exercise, but in a similar vein, you can give your capacity for higher consciousness a ‘work out’ through meditation and cultivating mindfulness. Kriya Yoga does not see body and mind as two different systems, rather as two sides of the same coin. Our minds and bodies are connected, and Kriya Yoga offers methods to integrate them and help you fulfill your potential.

In fact, the two words translate to:

Kriya = action

Yoga = conscious union of body, mind, and soul

The History of Kriya Yoga

Kriya Yoga was first introduced to the West in the 1920 book, Autobiography of a Yogi, by venerated teacher Paramahansa Yogananda, who extols the virtues of what is believed to be one of the oldest lineages of yoga, most similar to that described in the ancient Bhagavad Gita religious text.

Though Yogananda may have been the first teacher to bring Kriya Yoga to the West, several teachers have sought to make it more accessible to the modern mind. One of these modern teachers is Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian. She focuses predominantly on teaching her students the four dimensions of Kriya Yoga.

The Four Dimensions of Kriya Yoga

· Raja – this refers to the 8 limbs of practice that contribute to a fulfilling life

· Bhakti – the state of fully surrendering oneself to the teachings of Kriya      Yoga

· Jnana – focused self-inquiry and constant attention to awareness

· Karma – selfless service to one’s community

Yogacharya O’Brian stresses that we should not view these dimensions as separate and discrete. Instead, they should be blended and integrated in order to create a holistic embodiment. With this practice, you are challenged to see the patterns of your behavior in a greater cosmological context, consciously make decisions about your life from this higher perspective, and benefit others in the process.

The Modern Teachings of Kriya Yoga

Yogacharya Ellen O’Brien, as one of the West’s leading Kriya yoginis, teaches that we can free ourselves from ways of seeing and behaving that cause unhappiness and realize our true life purpose by cultivating mindfulness. She calls for us to “Live our Higher Purpose”, explaining “the call to awaken can come in different ways, as a radiant joy, as sweetness, as sorrow, or loss. Then we say, “I’m going to live a different way. Pay more attention to what is really important, to what I know is true, worthy of me.”

Wise and salient words in our hectic, busy world where it can sometimes feel like life is living us, rather than the other way around. It is no wonder that so many people around the world are turning to this ancient wisdom made relevant for today’s modern world.

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