Kundalini Yoga has thousands of kriyas. A kriya consists of asana (posture), pranayama (breath), mantra (chanting), bandhas (locks) and mudra (hand position). The kriya uses these elements in rhythm to create a change in the body and the mind. Yogi Bhajan taught kriyas that worked on everything from Maintaining a Flexible Spine to the Kriya for Releasing Fear or the Kriya for Refining Your Sexuality and Spirituality. No matter what you’re looking for, there is probably a kriya for it!
But how does a kriya work? Is there a certain way you’re supposed to feel? Does it make a difference if the person next to you in class can easily get into full wheel pose and you can barely get your hips off the ground? Do you wonder if you’re “doing it correctly”?
Kundalini Yoga is an experience, and everybody experiences a kriya in their own individual way. The goal of the kriya is not to reach some abstract physical perfection (we’re already perfect as we are!), but rather to guide emotions through the body to open the chakras and raise the Kundalini energy. As we practice a kriya, we begin to build awareness of the body and of the mind, and we learn to quiet the chatter that tends to run through our heads and distracts us from being present.
Often during a kriya we begin to feel intense negative emotions. This is normal! Instead of fighting these negative emotions, sit with them and visualize loving kindness. A consistent practice of Kundalini Yoga can release many deep-seated unconscious and subconscious emotions and memories, and with practice, we can stay neutral with these feelings and just let them go. We don’t have to protect ourselves against them! Relax and give yourself the experience.
There are some excellent books that explain how Kundalini kriyas work. For a scientific and academic explanation, I turn to “The Art, Science and Application of Kundalini Yoga”. “Sadhana Guidelines” is another important book filled with great information about the effects of Kundalini yoga kriyas.
To get a better sense of how a kriya works, try this: Choose a kriya–maybe something relatively simple yet powerful, such as the So Darshan Chakra Kriya. When you have finished practicing the kriya, sit in stillness and try to visualize the kriya’s effect in your body. Take a snapshot of how it feels: is there tightness? Tension? Color? Notice where in the body you sense this, and take some breath to those areas. Notice if any thoughts arise around these feelings, and if so, just let them go. Don’t try to analyze what’s going on; just see if you can hold onto the picture.
Later on, after you have relaxed, come back to the picture you have taken of the energy and notice it again. The body often gives us clues to what’s blocking us energetically. Maybe you can even re-create the sensations in the body by conjuring up the images of the energy generated by the kriya. As you do this, you begin to learn how the body experiences the kriya. This is the key to Kundalini Yoga.
Then try a different kriya, and maybe your body will respond differently. The body’s energy moves in different ways during different kriyas, and everybody’s body creates a unique experience. Some kriyas will be more powerful and some less so. Some may make you happy and some may upset you. The experience is all part of the Kundalini journey.