What is a Kriya Practice and What are the Benefits?
You may have heard me talk about using kriya (pronounced CREE-YAH) in yoga practice or when I talk about my upcoming 100-Hour Beyond the Asana Training, but what actually is kriya?
Kriya means evolutionary action.
In yoga it is a repetitive breath, mantra, and/or movement designed to create a specific energetic impact. There are kriyas for everything: Kriyas that help you align with compassion, find strength or get grounded. There are kriyas that help you let go, to open and so many more! Mantra kriya, for example, helps one to come into their voice.
AND Kirya is fun to practice! In my experience, kriya helps you feel truly empowered!
The Benefits of Kriya
There are many benefits to this practice, depending on what kriya you are doing, but overall these practices:
Calm the mind and shift limiting thought patterns
Impact the subtle body: releasing bio-memory in the cells and awakening dormant energy.
Reset the nervous system
Rewire the brain and increase activity in the pre-frontal cortex.
Shift the neuro-chemical environment of the brain with the potential to produce serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine
Live in flow state
Raise your consciousness
Awakens intuition and higher states of consciousness.
When you practice daily, you are creating a new pattern in your life; and when you do that, the habits that are not serving you will naturally drop.
Creating New Patterns in Your Life by Rewiring the Nervous System
Here’s an example for how Kriya can rewire the nervous system, so you can get a feel for how the practice works.
Say you grew up with a lot of stress, busyness, overwhelm and/or traumas in your household. This tends to lead to our sympathetic nervous system being turned on all the time. Over time, this can become your baseline, where you are on high alert and in that fight or flight pattern, and carry that pattern through your life.
When you practice kriya consistently, you are turning on and tapping into the parasympathetic nervous system and can begin to rewire your old tendency to hold the body in high alert.
The more consistently you practice Kriya, the more you work on cultivating your rest and restore response. Eventually rest and restore can become your baseline, so that when something stressful happens, you’re more likely to be able to consciously respond rather than react out of habit or from a pattern. And even if you do react, you will be able to start calming yourself down quicker.
Having the capacity to understand what’s happening in your nervous system is really powerful. Especially because it takes the blame out. Oftentimes people beat themselves up for reacting in a certain way, but if we could understand that there’s things happening physiologically then we can cultivate more compassion for ourselves.
The Brain + Kriya
In terms of the brain, we get into certain patterns in our life and this shows up on the level of our brain. When we practice consistently we start to grow the grey matter in the brain (neuroplasticity) and shift the patterning of our brain, which again, gives us greater capacity to shift our behavioral patterns because we’re working on the level of our brain. We also have the capacity to shift the neuro-chemical environment of our brain with the potential to create oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine - chemicals that help to decrease stress and increase joy,
In many kriyas, we focus on the third eye or prefrontal cortex of our brain. This is our higher functioning brain. When we are activating this part of our brain we have greater capacity for decision-making, creativity and intuition. So when a stressful situation comes up, we have a greater ability to tap into our prefrontal cortex and not react, rather than being in our reptilian brain, which is a fight or flight brain, or the midbrain, where the amygdala, our emotional brain, lives.
While I am not a research scientist, my knowing comes from my own experience with working with kriya and healing myself from my own trauma. It also comes from 30 years of working with clients (I am also a licensed psychologist) where trauma was one of my specialties. Talk therapy definitely helps, but I have found that giving people these tools is really powerful in terms of shifting what’s happening on the level of the brain, nervous system and people's capacity to change long-standing patterns and learn to be with themselves from a place of ease.
By the way, to expand on this topic, Padma Diamond, a somatic healer, trauma specialist and kundalini yoga teacher, will be joining a day of my 100-Hour Beyond the Asana training to talk about what’s happening in our nervous system and mind, especially as it relates to past trauma and relationship to self and other. If you'd like to learn more about kriya, how to practice, teach and prescribe them, click here to learn more about the Beyond the Asana 100-Hour Training. We begin april 30th
Showing Up Consistently
Sitting in silent meditation can be challenging for many people, including myself. So many people tell me their mind is “too active” and they can’t mediate. But I am here to tell you that you can! You just need to learn some tools that will guide you to a place of stillness.
I meditated for many years but wasn’t able to enjoy it until I was shown specific techniques that guided me into a level of peace on the level of my mind, body and energy. And I have found that Kriya is really useful to help people to drop the mind and tolerate being with themselves in silence and stillness.
If you like to learn more, or are interested in engaging with a personalized sadhana (daily morning practice), that includes kriya practices tailored to your needs and goals, please reach out! You can learn more ways to work with me here.
all my love,