If you are interested in yoga as a meditative or spiritual experience, a term you may have come across is kriya.
Yoga kriyas are techniques for cleansing and purifying the body.
The idea of kriyas in yoga is to remove impurities and achieve a state of tranquility and purification. By doing so, the body is fully prepared for a flow of energy.
Practicing yoga kriyas also helps to improve breath (pranayama) and achieve mental clarity.
Kriyas are often done before yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises.
That’s the simple answer. But for more information on kriyas, including the benefits of kriya yoga and the six yoga kriyas (the shat kriya), be sure to keep reading.
What Is Kriya Yoga?
Yogic kriyas—techniques for achieving a cleansed and heightened physical and mental state—are practiced in kriya yoga.
Kriya yoga is an ancient yoga system that dates back to the 19th century.
It’s also considered a modern school of yoga, or modern yoga practice, that’s becoming more popular among yogis who use yoga for meditation.
It’s no secret that yoga is rooted in spiritual beliefs that date back thousands of years. And it’s for this reason that kriya yoga is a practice linked to energy, life force, and the seven chakras.
This energy that flows through the body can be balanced, imbalanced, free-flowing, or blocked.
Kriya yoga is a means to open up the body and allow this energy to flow without restriction.
What Are Kriyas In Yoga?
Kriyas are exercises or techniques to cleanse and purify the body in preparation for yoga or meditation.
Similarly, kriyas are also used to increase awareness and achieve a state of clarity and tranquility.
Like chakras, kriyas are linked to various symbolic zones of the body and the flow and balance of energy in these areas.
As a result, practicing kriyas is a means to open up these pathways and allow energy to flow through unhindered.
This includes the flow of breath and oxygen around the body (pranayama).
Kriyas therefore offer physical and mental benefits. They are also used to promote healing and prevent diseases and sicknesses.
The 6 Yoga Kriyas
There are six yoga kriyas—the shat kriya, in Sanskrit—which are used to cleanse and open up the body for an unrestrained flow of energy, or life force.
Each kriya is associated with a certain part of the body and its ability.
These include the eyes (eyesight), lower abdomen/large intestine (digestion), internal organs (digestion), nasal passages (breathing), the mouth (eating), and the brain (thought).
Yogi kriyas are ancient practices and, as a result, considered advanced exercises that should be done with guidance from an experienced kriya teacher.
Basti Kriya (Lower Abdomen)
The basti kriya is linked to the large intestine, or lower abdomen, and therefore digestion, stomach cramps, and other stomach-related problems.
As a technique, basti involves sucking in air or water in a bent-over position on the hands and knees, to be drawn into the abdomen. This also strengthens the abdominal muscles.
The air or water is held while standing for as long as desired, then released. The process can be repeated for further cleansing.
Basti is considered the most common of the kriyas used in yoga, despite its difficulty to master.
Dhouti Kriya (Mouth)
The dhouti kriya is the kriya of the mouth and food pipe.
This kriya flushes out the food pipe using water, which is swallowed and held in the stomach, then, if desired, expelled to complete the cleansing.
The water can be held in the stomach for several minutes as desired or considered necessary.
There are different variations of the dhouti kriya, some of which do not involve swallowing water but washing it around the mouth or using different temperatures of water.
Kapalabhati Kriya (Brain)
The kapalabhati kriya is associated with the brain – specifically, the front part of the brain.
Kapalbhati translates as “skull shining”, referring to mental clarity, mental energy, and a heightened sense of awareness and concentration.
Kapalabhati kriya is done by rapidly pulling in air while contracting the abdominal muscles, with a focus on active exhales.
It is typically performed in a seated yoga position, such as cobbler’s pose.
Through this rapid form of breathwork, kapalabhati improves awareness and focus, promotes mindfulness and alertness, and increases the circulation of oxygen around the body.
Nauli Kriya (Internal Organs)
Similar to the basti kriya, the nauli kriya is used to promote digestion through cleansing of the abdominal muscles and internal organs. This includes the bladder, liver, spleen, and gallbladder.
Nauli kriya is practiced standing, involving various movements of the abdominal muscles to stimulate the digestive system and also improve appetite.
Overall, it is largely a breathing exercise, much like the basti kriya, performed by drawing in air to move the internal organs up and down and from side to side.
Like the dhouti kriya, there are various variations of the nauli kriya.
Neti Kriya (Nasal Passages)
The neti kriya is linked to the nasal passages, respiration, and all sinus problems. If you have heard of or used a neti pot in the past, the neti kriya is very much related to this practice!
As a result, the keti kriya involves clearing and cleansing the nasal passages using water.
This is easily done with a neti pot, providing relief from sinus-related problems and any undesired impurities.
Trataka Kriya (Eyes)
The trataka kriya is the kriya of the eyes, connected to eyesight and, for some spiritual yogis, the third eye.
It is widely considered as the easiest of all kriyas to do, simply involving keeping a steady gaze on an external object.
This object can be a light, flame, or any unmoving object that can be focused on for a long time without distraction.
By practicing the trataka kriya, concentration can increase along with a heightened sense of awareness and alertness.
Kriyas in yoga are ancient exercises or techniques used to cleanse the body, as well as achieve an improved flow of mental and physical energy.
The six kriyas (shat kriya) are practiced by spiritual yogis to benefit different areas of the body. These include the brain, eyes, nasal passages, mouth, intestines, and internal organs.