The Kriyas

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

First of all, I will tell you what hatha yoga is. It is a science in which balance and harmony is brought about between the two systems in the brain. They call it ida and pingala, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, the mental force and the vital force. These forces should be equal. They should be regularized and harmonized. That is the purpose of hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is composed of two syllables: Ha which means the vital energy, Tha which means the mental energy.

In the body, we have two shaktis, the vital energy or prana shakti by which we live and move and by which everything is happening, and manas shakti, by which we think. If one of these shaktis is out of proportion, then something wrong can always happen. If prana shakti is out of proportion, you will beat or murder somebody, burgle somebody’s house, because your mental shakti is not able to control the prana shakti. If you have less of prana shakti, less vitality, and more mental shakti, you are going to think and think and accomplish nothing. Automatically there will be frustration. So there must be a balance between prana or vitality, and manas, the mind.

That is known as ida and pingala. Ida is one nervous system; pingala is another nervous system. Ida is the nervous system which controls all the mental functions in the body and if there is something wrong in the ida nervous system, then your mind is collapsing. Pingla is the nervous system which controls all the vital flows – prana, apana, samana, udana and vyana – everything, digestion, excretion. The third one is called sushumna.

For this purpose, the yogis like Gorakhnath, Swatmarama, many other swamis, and the tantra shastras also have suggested the six kriyas. Those six kriyas are traditionally known as: neti, dhauti, basti, trataka, nauli and kapalbhati. Out of them, neti, is very useful before you practise pranayama. Of course, it is also good for people suffering from migraine, sinusitis and adenoids, but I am talking from the spiritual point of view. When you practise pranayama, you must practise neti first. Apart from being necessary for the practice of pranayama, it is necessary for the people who are having fits, like epilepsy, hysteria.

Dhauti is cleaning the alimentary canal, stomach and the smaller and greater intestines. Different methods are used like drinking water and vomiting it out for hyperacidity; drinking water and expelling it out by shankhaprakshalana; and taking a piece of cloth and putting it in and taking it out. These practices are also necessary for those people who want to have good spiritual practice like concentration and sitting in an asana for two or three hours, because the body must be pure. If there are a lot of acids in the system, hyperacidity, and you sit for meditation, you are going to have only those experiences which are instigated by hyperacidity. Your experiences will not be spiritual experiences. They will be hyperacid experiences. Trataka, concentration on a bindu, on a light; basti, a type of yogic enema: these are also known as hatha yoga kriyas which purify.

You asked me a question about kriya yoga, so I want to make it clear that when we say ‘kriya’ we always mean the shatkriya of hatha yoga and ‘kriya’ of kriya yoga.

Kriya yoga is a system which has come out of the tantric texts. It is a combination of pranayama, mudra, bandha, kriya and concentration. Hatha yoga, mantra yoga and all other forms of yoga are preparations to the practice of kriya yoga. Through the practice of kriya yoga you can accelerate the process of your own spiritual evolution.

10 November 1976, Bombay