Recently I have been furthering my spiritual and yogic studies with the study of Kriya. Actually it was mentioned in one of my yoga classes, and as someone who is quite well versed in the yoga philosophy it was much to my surprise that I had never heard of this concept before. After rushing home to research more about this, I have now incorporated several of the more accessible Kriya into my routine. I will be discussing the Kriya in this article, but before I begin it is important that I do mention that someone of these Kriya are not accessible or possibly even dangerous to novices. If in doubt, consult a yoga practitioner.
The kriya are techniques that are used for the purpose of removing toxins from the body. This can mean literal toxins, like poisons or other harmful substances but they can also refer to spiritual toxins, such as anxiety, jealousy, rage and other mental blockages. The idea of the Kriya is to cleanse yourself of these, ultimately leading to a freer and healthier state of wellbeing.
1) Kapalbhati – Kapalbhati is a technique that focuses on pranayama (the breath.) This is a simple one that can be done by persons of all experience levels.
How it works – Normally when we breath, we contract our muscles when we inhale, and passively exhale by releasing that tension. Kapalbhati is when we reverse that process, meaning that the inhalation is the passive part, and the exhalation is active. You begin by sitting in a comfortable, upright position, such as Sukhasana. Begin by breathing normally to get your breathing to a normal level, filling up your lungs with oxygen. When you are ready, contract the muscles in your lower abdomen and breath out forcefully, like you might when you are coughing or sneezing. Hold this forceful breath out, and let your stomach naturally return to its loose state (no longer tensed.) Repeat this process as many times as you feel like, the sensation should create a “pumping” movement through your belly.
2) Jal Neti- This a process wherein using an instrument we can clear the nasal pathways and protect us from illness. Safe for all levels except in cases of nose problems, recent nose surgeries ect.
How it works- For this one we need a use either a traditional Neti pot (difficult to access) a catheter you can purchase from most chemists, or a teapot, as long as the spout is not too wide or not too sharp. You will also need to prepare a solution of clean water mixed with one teaspoon of salt per half litre. Assume a squatting position, and then tilt your head towards your chest. Place the Neti pot inside your nostril, but make sure to continue breathing normally as so not to inhale any water. Make sure to blow your nose firmly at the end of the process, to ensure you have expelled all the remaining water from your system.
3) Trataka – Trataka is a kriya that puts an emphasis on Dharna, or concentration. The literal translation of the word “trataka” means to gaze. The main goal of this exercise is to purify to the mind by gazing out of the eyes, with the soul. This one is also safe for all levels, provided you do not suffer from any eye disorders.
How it works- Prepare a candle with a flame, in a dark room. Place that candle at eye level about 50 to 60cm away from your face, or two ruler lengths. Ensure you do not have to strain or tilt your neck to look at it. Assume Sukhasana or any other cross-legged position of your choice. Then you will simply open your eyes and focus on the candle flame. It is really important to remember the following safety tips for beginners – as soon as we start to experience seeing black spots or feeling a sensation of heat on your eyeballs, close your eyes immediately. It is normal to only be able to do this exercise for around 30 seconds without closing your eyes, in the beginning. With practice we can increase this time.
4) Nauli – Nauli is a cleansing kriya that has been practiced for hundreds of years. Although this one can be difficult to get your head around, it is a safe one for most people to attempt, although in the beginning you may want to consult a yoga practitioner for guidance. However traditionally menstruating women do not practice Nauli kriya as it draws prana upwards, and on our periods we want to our prana to be flowing downwards.
How it works- For this one you need to begin by standing upright, and exhaling all the air out of your lungs. While continuing to exhale, bend your knees and place your hands on your thighs. Once again, continuing the exhale, FULLY release your belly. It is really important that it is fully released in order for this pose to work. Then making a swallowing motion, and close of the muscles of your throat by tightening these muscles so that no air is able to be drawn in. We then do what is called a “fake inhalation.” This means we try and take a big breath in, but because our throat muscles are tight no air is actually received into the lungs. This creates a suction feeling in the ribs, causing a hollow cave in the abdomen. This can be a hard exercise to get the hang of from simply reading an article, so once again it is advised you seek out a yoga practitioner or someone similar to help you get the hang of this one.
5) Dhauti – Dhauti kriya is about the purification of the intestine – it comes from the concept of the elephant, who puts his trunk down his throat to clear the contents of his stomach when he feels ill. When done safely, this can be an extremely transformative process and also help to ease a range of digestive issues. However, it is extremely important it is conducted in the correct manner.
How it works- For this one you combine two litres of warm water with 1 teaspoon of salt. You must stand upright and drink the water as quickly as possible. Bend forward slowly over a bucket, toilet or other object that is suitable for vomiting into, and press one hand into your lower abdomen, and insert another finger down your throat. Once you begin vomiting the entire contents should be released within a minute. It is really important that this is done on an empty stomach, perhaps in the morning, so that it is only the water solution that is coming back up. It can be repeated once to twice a week, but no more than this. People who have struggled with bulimia should not try this kriya.
6) Vasti kriya-This is a kriya I have never personally tried before and one that it is not commonly practiced in the modern world, however I am still including it for educational purposes. If you are going to give this one a go, this is one I would strongly recommend seeking the advice of a yoga practitioner from. It is a lower abdominal cleanser.
How it works- There’s no pleasant way to describe this one unfortunately – this is a butthole exercise. Without going into too much detail, there are a few variations to this kriya but the one most commonly practiced in the modern age is one in which you get into a comfortable lying position and contract certain muscles to draw air up in your bowels through. Well… your anus. After holding the position for 3-5 to minutes and then expel the air back outwards.
And there you have it! Those are the six kriya. Hopefully this has been an educational enlightening article to read and if you are feeling so inclined you may like to even try a few of the easier level kriya yourself at home!