India: Kriya Yoga

Immersing in the Kriya course was a challenging endeavor for me. I often teach Kriyas in class as a moving meditation or physical exercise repeated over and over so that it becomes something you must persevere, creating tapas (heat) for purification. While that's not far off from what was taught in Indu's afternoon classes. Her repetitive asanas tended to be simple with no anatomy or alignment emphasis. Mataji's Kriya class instead focused on the 20 main Kriya yoga practices for pratyahara, dharana, and dhyana (control of the senses, concentration and meditation). We essentially went through a series of pranayama (kapalbhati and bhastrika), some walking mediation, and Kriyas that all focused on the chakras (the 7 energy centers of the body). The course description on the website said the student must be able to "sit for 2 hours meditation and have a desire to live a yogic lifestyle". I suppose that weeds out the folks who are adverse to sitting still and meditating. Not having a consistent meditation practice, it certainly made me pause. 

Mala Beads
Chakras in this manner were all new for me. I felt my brain mixing them up, confusing the order or accidentally repeating the wrong chakra. Feeling ten paces behind everyone else, we used our mala beads to count the repetitions of breath with the chakras. By the third day, there was less explanation and the pace was so quick, I dissolved to tears. The fourth day she asked me to stop taking notes, saying with time and practice, it would come. Frustrated and angry with myself for feeling like note taking was the only way I could learn, I tried hard to focus on her instruction but always seemed to forget an essential ingredient like a mudra or where to focus my gaze. She did warn us that there would be a purification of sorts by the 3rd or 4th day. One afternoon after a particularly frustrating morning of learning one Kriya that was supposed to bring about "bliss", I went to her room to ask her some questions and ended up in tears yet again (I could blame this on hormones or being in a foreign country or any number of things but really, I think it was just me, expecting myself to be immediately perfect in something I've never done. My dominant pitta nature pouring out.) She turned to her computer (even Sadhvis, renunciates, have some worldly influence after all) and printed out the instructions up to the day of what we had completed thus far. Relieved, things seemed to improve significantly after that. I had something to re-read and often asked Indu follow up clarifications.

I began to look forward to our 6am class with a sense of quiet anticipation, eager to learn the next Kriya, just when the course came to a close. Opening myself up to new ways of learning, the fire that pranayama brought and the process of intense concentration allowed me to drop everything else and be entirely available to experience something new. Purification indeed.


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