If you would avoid swearing, don't enter the SRF Church.
Learn a lesson from the lobster: "Beware of that bait": it could be a herring in a lobster pot on the sea bed that makes the lobster crawl into the pot to get food. But can it get out again and survive for long afterwards in the free, where other dangers lurk? Maybe not.
Who is that dear lobster? And how well does the lobster pot tell of a half-enslaving sect? Is the dead, but shiny herring a cult bait? There are other forms of bait too. Who on earth or above could profit from catching lobsters (like you)?
It would be good to grasp the essentials before you get trapped or decrepit.
There are herrings and herrings
Hype, facts and the experiences. Goading, enticing words about kriya yoga may be glorious hype. One may suspect it. If they are word-bait, they may be like shiny, inflated herrings in a lobster trap (or cult).
There are other herrings in the sea too. A herring should not cause erring. A lobster or beginner had better take care not to be trapped because of enticing, ensnaring words or boasts. Yet, to discern well between what is factual and what is hype can be a hard task, for a person learns through experiences if he or she survives all of them, but surviving a lot of bad, ennervating experiences is not always a light thing to do.
A herring that lives. The live herring is dark on the upper side and bright on its belly side. Not so easy to detect unless you look well. It is different with shiny herrings that lie upside down in a lobster pot on the sea bed.
Different kriya yogas are developed on top of ujjaji. Some have features of hatha-yoga added to it, but that is not all. There are many sets of kriya yoga, and still the basic part of kriya yoga is a form of gentle breathing. Ujjayi may be performed separately or along with body postures. [WP, "Ujjayi"].
The core part of a wider kriya system is "breathing calmly and attentively in and out": pranayama. If carefully and skilfully done, such breathing induces meditation very well, and quickly. It depends on just how one does it, and how refined the ujjayi variant happens to be, among other things.
There can be good sides to kriya yoga, kriya research indicates, as far as it goes. But results tend to depend on which kriya, and how it is done.
What Kriya Yoga Is
Kriya yoga is a form of gentle breathing. That is, basic kriya yoga is the ujjayi pranayama, a well known and gentle breathing method described in books and Internet articles. It has variants, and there is nothing secret about it.
In some kriya yoga lines, more is added to the gentle way of breathing called ujjayi. Just what is added to the breathing, differs. There are elaborations of ujjayi and several features added to it. However, quite a lot comes down to the old, gentle breathing method. It is indispensable.
Some get interested in learning kriya yoga after reading the influential Autobiography of a Yogi, among other works on kriya yoga, gurus and kriya yogis.
There is kriya (ujjayi) with and without special body poses
There are several alterations in the kriya system that is taught by Yogananda's fellowship. There are also many other traditions for teaching kriya yoga. Many of them trace their origin to a mystical guru, Babaji. However, ujjayi - or "core kriya" taught in Satyananda Yoga, is one of the most commonly practiced breathing techniques, one of the favoured pranayamas in hatha yoga. One form of ujjayi pranayama has been publicly known in India since the 1400s, and is described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, chapter 2, verses 51-53. The ujjayi breath is typically done in association with asana practice, and is used in a variety of Taoist and Yoga practices, informs the Wikipedia (s.v. "Ujjayi breath"). There are many descriptions of ujjayi, both in books and on the Internet. For example, James Hewitt described it in a few yoga books [Tyy; Ybk].
"You say tomato, I say tomeito": You may call ujjayi coupled with tortuous body postures kriya yoga if you like. But straining the body and mind for doing difficult asanas along with the easy and well-known ujjay pranayama may hardly usher in a gentle ease with otherbring benefits.
When a teacher falls, she would do well to pick herself up again.
One kriya line is traced back to Babaji through Swami Sivananda and his line of disciples. Sivananda is the author of over 100 books on yoga, mediation and related matter. [Ets 89].
One of his disciples, Swami Satyananda Saraswati (1923-2009), founded the Bihar School of Yoga, and is known for Satyananda Yoga. He has written well-received books too, at least twelve books. Recently a scandal in Australia has risen around him but it should be pointed out: "Swami Satyananda Saraswati was never convicted during his life." [WP, "Satyananda Saraswati"]
Some of Satyananda's books are systematic manuals. In this line are Swami Janakananda Saraswati in Sweden; Swami Anandakapila Saraswati in Australia; and Swami Nischalananda Saraswati in Wales.
In other guru lines related to Babaji are Shibendu Lahiri in India and Swami Satyeswarananda Giri in the United States. I have commented on output by these two here and there.
In the West, kriya dissemination was formerly rather dominated by Self-Realization Fellowship, SRF, which was termed a sect by a former main SRF editor, Tara Mata.
Kriya yoga in Satyananda yoga may be learnt from one or more books. But ashram visits may not go well for everyone: In December 2014 investigations by a royal commision in Australia got testimonies of constant sexual abuse of children, beating, starving and neglecting them in an ashram belonging to Satyananda Yoga in New South Wales. Australian newspapers made people aware of further details. Now you have been warned. On the whole Satyananda books are fit. [WP, "Satyananda Yoga > Sources"]
I compare sides to Satyananda's kriya as it is presented in some of the books published by the Yoga Publications Trust, and Yogananda's kriya. Now, there are differences and nuances in how Yogananda's kriya is performed also, depending on what line of disciples is into it.
Some Background Information
My basic aim has been to get to facts in a field of much belief and sometimes murky practices, and present such facts so that those interested in learning kriya yoga, at least know they have a few choices. And for those who want to cry sillily or a lot, there is SRF. [Just look]
The differences between cultured TM (Transcendental Meditation) and various kriya transmissions are great, and the differences between different kriya traditions could amount to different life-styles and mind-sets. The SRF life-style is not free, and may be scaring too, once you know the details (below are some). For example, the much restricted sex life of a devoted Yogananda follower may suffer, and that of his or her mate too. There are examples of this.
❋ There are variants of kriya yoga, and different organisations to spread them. And there is the free method of ujjayi ("bold breath").
First, before we go into two kriya yoga branches and compare them a little, I think I should point out that Transcendental Meditation may be a better all-round choice. It is good. In addition, ujjayi as explained on the Gold Scales is a free pranayama method, and goes along with relaxed living.
Satyananda's kriya is more elaborate, "full of yoga postures" - that is: physically demanding.
Yogananda's kriya, or SRF's kriya, has both removed parts and added elements, and to learn it one must join a special church that works as a lobster pot: You may get in, but what about getting out again? One should guard oneself and team up with only good fellows, as far as is reasonable, and stay out of touch with fiendish ones. Little by little they may be known by their deeds.
In the following the kriya lines of Satyananda and Yogananda are compared.
1. Satyananda's kriya is taught in books whereas SRF's kriya is dominated by submission to authoritarianism
I will tell about SRF, that is, Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship first. It is dominated by and favouring blind submission to authority, and is structured to concentrate power in a leader or a leader group that consists of monks and/or nuns. They decide some sides to the organisation, but claim they obey their leader, Yogananda, are devoted and humble, and that sort of speech that serves monastics, but not free people.
However, they obey their long gone leader selectively and not gently enough for all monastics either. Around 2002 one third of the SRF monastics left the SRF premises, for example. Some of them have had severe adaptation problems afterward.
Monastic structures of SRF demands submissiveness by degrees. First, while you are a non-committed "student" and not initiated in kriya, there are few express do's and don'ts. Aftewards the reins are tightened, as you may see further down the page.
Satyananda's kriya as taught in his books focuses on practices, and integrates different yoga branches into a unified system, sahaja yoga. You get step-by-step guidelines, and may try for yourself if yoga can help you - kriya or other sides to yoga. The aim for book readers is hardly doctrines to believe and follow faithfully (ie, in curbed manners), as in Yogananda's church SRF.
You start from basic practices and may slowly gain more awareness, clarity. What is aimed at is yoga fitted into the daily routine, and that is your own business. "We do not presume to change your beliefs through any type of dogmatic preaching. We are only interested in helping you to gain maximum happiness and fulfilment in life." [Cy 3] It sounds nice -
❋ Select your own noble endeavours, succumbing neither to authoritarian nor murky deals.
2. SRF seeks to influence the sex life of lay members too, by don'ts and divine authority, whereas Satyananda's kriya as learnt in books does not interfere with having normal sex.
I once talked with a woman, the wife of an SRF member. "I hate Yogananda," she said. "He ruined my marriage." And how? Because SRF tells members to have sex sparingly, for example once a month. SRF imposes other restrictions on life too, and teaches in part antiquated and low propaganda about "conserving your fluids".
In A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya, Satyananda teaches the opposite to this. He explains that kriya yoga is part of tantra, and does not ideally teach you to curb this and that, but to gain awareness linked to the movement of the breath. "Kriya yoga does not ask you to abstain from your sexual life," writes Satyananda. "Sexual activity is a natural part of life . . . under correct circumstances tantra has encouraged the use of sex as a means to evolve spiritually." "Continue your sexual relations, but don't dwell continually on sexual thoughts." "The practice of kriya yoga definitely does not ask you to change your way of life." [Cy 12-13]
It sounds good. However, a former child resident Bhakti Manning at the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain in Australia told a royal commision in Australia about sexual abuse committed by the movement's influential founder, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, at the Munger ashram in India. The commission also heard she had a sexual relationship with Satyananda's successor, Swami Niranjan, according to the Sidney Morning Herald .
Well, well, is there more to say? There is more: In December 2014 the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia investigated the responses of the Satyananda Yoga Ashram at Mangrove Mountain, Australia as to complaints from the mid- to late-1980s. These complaints of sexual abuse had been made against Akhandananda Saraswati, at the time the spiritual leader of that Satyananda Yoga ashram.
The Commission heard evidence from former child residents that a Shishy, a female, former senior member of the ashram, allegedly subjected the children to fierce beatings and summoned teenage girls for sex with Akhandananda. Shishy herself told the Commission she was expected to have sex with Satyananda when he was visiting Australia, describing it as "on a continuum between bland and quite perverse".
Before these investigations the allegations had not been proven and Swami Satyananda Saraswati was never convicted during his life.
[WP, "Satyananda Saraswati" > 'Notes'.]
Steer well. In SRF they influence you to abstain from marring sex to get evolved, and be faithful (etc.), and not to get evolved along with having ample or normal sex, independently of it or actively using it for good.
One tradition negates sex, the other has a way of life where it can fit in as long as you are not underage and abused a lot.
❋ Favour yoga methods and yoga organisations that don't curb your sex life and other natural, all right drives.
3. Learning kriya in SRF means you become a member of a Church with its authoritarian facets whereas learning Satyananda's kriya may be done in freedom, by following courses or buying a book or three, or borrowing them.
In SRF and other churches, dogmatism rules. Much of the dogmatism in SRF seeks to bridge Krishna teachings and those of Jesus, claiming they are of one mind. However, many such SRF claims are neither true nor in accord with Christian teachings of the New Testament, and so on. SRF is a modern cult. Cult life is not ideal or fit for mature ones.
You can learn Satyananda's kriya from publicly available books, which may be quite daunting, frankly, in that you may find you need to be non-fat and supple to do all the exercises involved, including preparatory exercises [Cy; Kta]. However, all the preparatory gymnastic exercises are not really needed to do basic kriya: you just breathe for it. Yes, the basic kriya method is a special form of gentle breathing. You can learn it for free here; no strings attached: [Free kriya]
Some teach one thing to the public and do quite other things hidden from the public. In Satyananda's kriya it is further taught: "A full preparation [for kriya] is essential." A question is what "full preparation" entails. After all, what you do during the main kriya method, is to sit and breathe in quiet.
Now awareness of your brain and breath should help awareness. You can be aware of your breath and breathe gently, attentively, to combat common stress. You can do it while walking, talking, working on routine tasks, or while sitting comfortably. Breath awareness is recommended in Buddhism too. The aim of breath awareness is to be (better) aware of your consciousness as a spectator or witness. Breath awareness is an essential part of kriya yoga. [Cy 11-12]
In Satyananda's tradition you are told to do the practices, relax well, and gain tranquillity. "There are no restrictions or barriers" as to age, diet, religion or whatever. They do not say, "No preparatory exercises are absolutely needed for gentle kriya breathing either," but I think they should. The needed thing is interest enough to put forth effective effort to reap many aligned benefits. [Cy 13-14]
❋ To learn kriya from books may be a way out, and lots of preparatory exercises seem uncalled for, really. Just do it as carefully as you can.
4. SRF binds you by an oath, whereas Satyananda's tradition does not
The SRF's kriya pledge is shown and elaborated on on another page. The battering SRF oath serves to tie you to Yogananda for the rest of your lives (!). There are many and severe downsides to such an arrangement. [More]
Satyananda's tradition sells books. One of the free-standing kriya organisations in his tradition is Scandinavian Yoga and Meditation School. It is located in Sweden. Also, Satyananda's kriya is explained in detail in books, most notably these two: [Cy; Kta]. By studying them, you get a notion of the kriya lifestyle entailed. Your freedom, isn't it worth taking care of?
❋ Oath-binding takes away human freedom and is not necessary for good progress. There is a great risk of loss of human dignity for the oath-bound.
5. SRF's Yogananda teachings contain Superego dogmatism whereas Satyananda's school is not as marked that way
Yogananda's kriya instructions are secret, so I will not divulge as much as might be desirable with his course as the source, that is. But others have written about their frustrations in his cult, notably monastics that felt offended and left the SRF premises about six years ago. Some of them appeared frequently on the SRF Walrus, a discussion board meant for these Yogananda devotees, and many subjects were brought to light by former monastics.
Dissatisfaction with do's and don'ts (superego dangers), old, outdated Yogananda instructions on sex moderation, a dogmatic faith that is much at fault, guru worship, and much rigmarole calls for submission, maybe infantilisations too. It depends on how "devoted" and "faithful" you end up.
The books of Satyananda have another tenor in that they do not bind you as much, if at all, and do not seek revenues from your business by frequent calls for gifts and for inheriting you if you want to.
❋ Hate-repressing worship of bosses, superego-dominating dogmatism, and ceremonialist focus are not signs of elevated spirituality, and there are hardly any needs for such non-frivolous outlets of faking either.
How are SRF people?
Briefly stated, SRF people may be found to be as good and decent as other US citizens - as neighbours and proficient people otherwise. They can be friendly, patient and discreet. The actor Dennis Weaver (1924–2006), was an SRF member among others. Lay members may prefer not to make a show of how Yogananda-dictated and devotion-ridden they may be privately, and they have the right to privacy, by law. As for dignity, it seems to me that those who make a show of devotion, by public prayers and ceremonies and ritual, are far from Jesusist ground, and not quite arrived at "pray in private as gospel-advocated" so far (Matthew 6:5-6; 14:23; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16; 9:18; John 6:15, etc.). Food might be blessed in public, though (Mark 6:41 etc.) Public prayer is not uncommon in many other congregations either. Accordingly, some might benefit from "no show, better gain" idea advocated in Matthew 6:5-6. Even though the Bible describes prayer in public too, the guideline given goes for private prayer. Now, in church ceremonialism, refraining from praying in public is a much overlooked point.
Also, SRF members may be found to indulge themselves in sayings of Yogananda as to what to do and not to in certain circumstances. There are "a thousand" do's and don'ts from the mouth of Yogananda, including his no-no's against usual sex. It may sound too restrictive, but if those who enter SRF cannot afford having sex monthly (!) or at all, those Yogananda guidelines could suit them.
It has come to the fore recently that those who head the world-wide organisation indulge in secrecy. For example, the monks and nuns of the headquarters did not even know that their previous leader, Daya Mata (born Faye Wright), had kept away from the place for twenty years to live in a villa with a view somewhere else. When the news broke, it could have contributed to the mass exodus of monastics mentioned above - one third of the "inmates" left the SRF premises between 2000 and 2005, and some may have left Yogananda too. The scenario is not made lighter by added information, such as this: The renouncers would stay away from "the world" - degrading influences - by living in a sheltered environment (ashram) together. And then it was seen that their leader found their company too unsuitable too, for some reason, but not a villa where she lived with a carnal sister and a mountain view too.
In SRF they try to submit as a main stride - submit to Yogananda's dictates or guidelines, and lay members submit to the clergy, and younger among those who run the "enterprise", submit to older ones. There are such chains or sacrifices of obedience in congregations and cults otherwise too. In actual practice SRF makes much of the difference between monastics and lay members. Monastics head the organisation. Monastics are the "officers", and lay members are the "crew" that is asked to donate money to the cause, the great cause. The lay members, the fine neighbours that refrain from drugging themselves and from having sex as they might have preferred, are taking on the complementary roles of dutiful subjects who will get rescued, and superbly so. One of the means believed in, are restraints to avoid dissipations, also dissipations of attention. Yogananda talks against brutish and blantantly speculative television, to be sure.
To drive home such fine points, SRF has published literature. One of the books is called The Master Said [Tms; Say; Spa] (Later editions called: Sayings of Yogananda and Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda). One may glimpse from it that in SRF they are greatly Yogananda-focused. His edited sayings are given weight, and the guru is called Master, Yoganandaji or Paramahansaji, and this looks like part of SRF's "serious business" of promoting Yogananda and his statements too. One repeated message is loud and clear: he is a parental figure in the cult. From The Master Said I quote:
A television set was given to the Master. It was set up in a room where it could be used by all the disciples. They were going there so frequently that the Master said to them: "So long as you have not found God, it is best not to be interested in amusements." [Tms 101]
Every year, on the day before Christmas, the disciples would gather with the Master at the Mount Washington Center for meditation. The sacred session would usually last all day and into the evening hours. During the Christmas meditation in 1948 the Divine Mother* appeared to the Master, and . . . Suddenly he cried:
The Divine Mother construct of SRF contains this:
"The Lord in the form of the Cosmic Mother appears in living tangibility before true bhaktas (devotees of a Personal God).
Also, Yogananda decrees his followers to cry for her till she appears. The practice calls for frustrations and may be dangerous to mental health, since: "You cannot summon God by a little cry; it must be unceasing." [Ak 447] "To the naughty child who cries and cries for Her, She will come . . . first you must prove to Her that you want Her alone. You must cry urgently and unceasingly." [Ak 450]. [Folly-dangerous practice]
It is not wise to fall for dualistic concepts and their decoys, but it looks like "the way of the world" that "Nothing is so laughable that it does not find worshippers (German)."
Such "baby-cry-ballyho" works against the basics of sound and deep meditation, as Yogananda is into too in his way: "You won't find God anywhere unless you find Him within [Jse 292]." "Discover Him within yourself [Ak 171]."
Should one "seek God," then, as Yogananda often urges followers to? If you form concepts, however grand-looking, such thought-forms could limit your expanse of inner awareness. We are supposed to transcend (go beyond) lots of concepts. Ramakrishna was taught this too by the naked, wandering Totapuri, in a memorable scene. [Link] Compare [Link]
The art of meditation is to glide within and transcend in deep and proficient meditation. Emotionalist ballyhoo and rigmarole could well act against that better states open up to.
Here are a few Lahiri samples:
The fault is to desire; therefore, renouncing desire[,] be happy. [Gv 56].
He says that to desire to be happy is something to renounce and abandon - for the sake of being happy (through kriya yoga, the core of which is ujjayi).
Now, some devotional-emotional or crank Yogananda-added words surrounding kriya yoga meditation counteract that inward glide through deep meditation. It is best to realize that Yogananda often talks against himself, on many issues, and even on the art of meditating deeply and proficiently. It seems that a devotionalist structure of his mind got the better of him after spending years with Americans. Folly developed, suffice to say. And there is no need to glorify it and its rigmarole either.
It has been obserbed by Anandamoy of SRF: SRF conformity hardly suits those of independent attitudes. It should perhaps be added: There are sides to it that hardly suit anyone in his right mind, and other elements that are of too little value for a serious practitioner of meditation.
SRF people and others in the Lahiri tradition are told to get rid of their "ego" too. This side to the widespread kriya teaching is suspect. Mental derangement may be brought on. A person needs his or her ego (in the psychoanalytical sense) to fight and bear fruit. There is a great need to clarify just that.
Gurus in the SRF line dare to call themselves "I", yet having got rid of the ego. "I" is the ego, and also a part of the name of the Lord in the Bible. It boils down to that. What is more, the Lord's self-presentation, "I am what I am" in Exodus 3:14 is about the same as "I". "I am" and "I" are not so different, for unless you are, you are no I. Unless you are, you cannot be. The one requires the other, thus. In other words, to be requires someone to be: an I.
Now Ramana Maharsi has a say about the value of I in good enough yoga too: "Awareness is itself the "I". [Tb 24] Many essential meditation methods are designed to help awareness, in other words a deep and fulfilling sense of "I". It can become jubilant.
❋ An organisation led by monastics will usually go for prestige and resources from such as lay members, in the name of "spiritually fattening" or better, much better. At least better-sounding. We should not fall for glorious-gilded decoys.
Rescued and rescued
Some think they get rescued from bad things by entering Yogananda's cult. Also observe the organisation may be reluctant to admit to being a cult, even though it conforms to main criteria of cults. I do not say a cult may be all bad, only that it is authoritarian. Further, cult membership may suit those whose personalities are patterned similarly, perhaps. But you should know a cult when you see one.
Some come to see Yogananda teaches inconsistently and interprets religious teachings tendentiously and unfoundedly as suits himself. He makes much of his visions, telling Jesus is one of the six gurus, and explains the Holy Spirit as Aum, and so on. That is, he transforms Christian thought to fit ancient Hindu concepts without fair consideration, and SRF stubbornly upholds his wrong views. It is better to be aware of these things before you are stuck in the cult and feel too scared to leave SRF and also drop Yogananda, for example. This said, I have also got letters from SRF members who were content.
Yet, if you do not want to submit to elements that may bring on neuroses, try to sort out what kind of rescuing you can profit from. Do you want self-help? Yogananda's teachings are not ideal for it. Do you want submission and dependency and perhaps retrogression? Why not try to improve, rather than conform to unsound cultishness?
Satyananda's branch of kriya yoga allows for book-reader freedom. There are few or no dictates for doing kriya "faithfully" and so on. However, there are traditional rules and regulations for the yogi-fit life-style.
There is a difference between kriya and kriya in the SRF tradition too. Yogananda simplified parts, altered parts, and SRF does not teach exactly the same kriya now as it did back in 1933. Moreover, different disciples of Yogananda were allowed to teach kriya too, and some of their instructions differ.
It is also significant that whereas the guru's kriya system largely prepares for meditation, Transcendental Meditation (TM) is meditation. In some further, delicate states of dhyana (meditation) kriya breathing can come naturally and spontaneously, though. That sort of delicate, very gentle breathing is called ujjayi in yoga literature, and is the core of basic kriya too. And TM brings better results for meditators than other researched methods, says ▫David Orme-Johnson.
A nice combination of gentle breathing awareness altenating with TM (a form of mantra yoga) could be good. Among the essential factors are timely, correct, adapted practice with gentleness and as much ease as you manage to get, and not overdoing it.
Discerning between the essential and less helpful is great help.
Kriya yoga is a set of many techniques. Satyananda's tradition tells there are 76 kriyas, and teach 20 of them by stages. Satyananda describes them in the books A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya [Cy, passim] and Kundalini Tantra [Kta 284-315]. Thus, twenty kriyas are described in publicly available books. The Yogananda line operates with four kriyas, yet several subsets include a bundle of what the Satyananda tradition calls kriyas too, so the proportion is not 20 to 4. And the core technique of kriya yoga is given here.
Yogananda, the Hindu monk that made kriya yoga well known in the West, learnt kriya yoga in another line from Babaji, and he went on and simplified the kriya yoga he had learnt. First Lahiri Mahasaya (1828-95) simplified the kriya system, Yogananda tells, and later he himself removed some practices and changed the names of others. You may wonder if Yogananda's kriya is well simplified. Satyananda's tradition does not teach simplified kriya yoga, but rather kriya with additions by Satyananda, who culled the additions from scriptures.
The core part of Satyananda's kriya yoga is breathing in a particular way, a form of pranayama. It is a publicly known way of breathing called ujjayi ("victorious", also called "ocean breath"), This calming and vitalising breath may further"self-integration", and has common elements with the Tu-Na breathing in Taoist Qi Gong practice. One may build on the simple practice and turn it into meditation.
Judged from Yogananda's public writings, I have no reason to tell that Yogananda's kriya breathing differs a lot from one of the ujjayi variants. So maybe you should seek to learn ujjayi. Freedom is what Yogananda and SRF may take away from you against guru words like "Don't be bound by anything. That philosophy will save you." [Yogananda, Dr 26].
❋ Core kriya yoga is offered freely on this site. It is not secret at all. There are no strings attached.
The Rising Serpent Power
In Kundalini Tantra Satyananda tells that for hundreds of years people have been talking about an experience called nirvana, . . . self-realization, . . . without understanding it properly.  He puts it into perspective by what is called kundalini awakening.
Kriya is first of all for awakening the kundalini, a dormant, potential force that usually resides at the root of the spinal culumn. Consciousness is aligned with it too, and levels of consciousness. Kaivalya, liberation, nirvana and so on, result from making the dormant energy rise to the head and then on to the heart, so to speak. Mantra japa is one means to awaken the kundalini. There are other means too, and kriya breathing is just one of many. [Kta 13-15]
Along the pathway(s) or of the rising serpent power (kundalini) are six chakras or "wheels" that are "stringed" to the course. The chakras are mental centres, and not physical ones, yogis inform. From bottom [Kta 127] these are counted in:
The top of the head is the seat of the Sahasrara chakra, the "thousand-petalled lotus". Each chakra is a vortex of bioplasma, and talked of as a lotus, padma, with coloured petals and with their own mantras too. That is the teaching.
❋ Mantra yoga is a fine way. TM is mantra-yoga fit for many.
Descriptions and false beliefs blend in Yogananda's line
The Yogananda line draws in astrology signs in their teachings too, and teach that one round of kriya equals one year's evolution. Or do they all? Perhaps not, for as it turns out, Yogananda changed teachings he got from his own guru, Yukteswar, in ways that look suspect. It appears that their descriptions on how to "move the attention up and down the spine", is different too. I have come across three disctinctly different versions in the kriya tradition of Lahiri Mahasaya. He taught one thing, his disciple Yukteswar taught another, and Yogananda a third. It has to be told: Better foretold than stuck in the mud of sad doctrine later, even if it is called divine wisdom.
You do not have to include belief in astrology and all sorts of additions to do your gentle breathing. But Yogananda teaches:
The kriya yogi mentally directs his life energy to revolve, upward and downward, around the six spinal centres (medullary, cervical, dorsal, lumbar, sacral, and coccygeal plexuses) which correspond to the twelve astral signs of the zodiac, the symbolic cosmic man. One-half minute of revolution of energy around the sensitive spinal cord of man effects subtle progress in his evolution; that half-minute of kriya equals one year of natural spiritual unfoldment.
Do we have problems with that teaching? Maybe we should, for there is no good evidence of it, actually. And besides, the guru's teaching in the matter changed greatly from his first years in the US. After he had dispensed with parts of kriya that were held to be vital by his gurus, introduced extraneous elements and simplified the key kriya yoga practice too, he boldly declared that ordinary evolution could at best lead man to cosmic consciousness in a million years, whereas his guru Yukteswar has written twelve million years - longer than humans have surfaced the earth, according to latest studies of mankind's history. To ascertain Yukteswar's and Yogananda's homespun-looking claims and do it well, lies outside the scope of this article. Really.
And if such anomalities in the kriya teachings are not enough, the early Yogananda (before 1925) taught that one round of kriya equalled a month's diseasless evolution. After 1925 one kriya round equalled a year's evolution. He bolsters up his outré claims by "scriptural authorities", but never shows which seers and scriptures teach as he does. And his own guru and guru's guru do not. All of it made me, for my part, smell a rat. Such vital points are debated on some other pages here, and exact references are given there. However, a very brief summary of these facts was felt to be good at this point. [Link]
In higher yoga you are permitted to have sound, reasonable doubts and question the teacher. Deal with your doubts too. There are many good ways to do it toward proficiency."When in doubt, win the trick", Edmund Hoyle says. That is fit, and far better than succumbing to blind faith in false teachings. Buddha teaches how to doubt in a fit way instead of being credulous [Kalama Sutra].
So beware of what Yogananda teaches you, for he brings "warbled" teachings. You soon end up in confusion and frustration if you seek to make sense of them all. Better be forewarned. This does not mean that he does not teach neat and useful things in between the others, though.
What we ought to realise on top of Yogananda is that simple yet effective yoga methods - kriya is an example - gets variants and a body of teachings that may or may not contain truth, may or may not contain distortions or gross foolishness, and calls for belief. And entering the cult of Yogananda, SRF, equals super-serfdom, that is, outright dependency for life after life. Maybe you should let it go.
❋ Yogananda made a living of declaring astounding things without proof. Better be forewarned.
Biomagnetic charge - root cause of effects
Kriya yoga makes the life force, or prana, go up and down "in the spine" and thereby magnetise the organism, is a general teaching given. The Satyananda tradition teaches that kriya effects your biomagnetism or bioplasma by what is generated from careful, successful practice. If kriya is done well, the head very soon takes on an extra charge of positive biomagnetism - and it can be felt too - and the root of the spine gets more negative biomagnetic charge also. The organism is polarised. As a result brain waves get altered as well. The brain waves get more coherent, unified, and the wave patterns improve. And there is some research on kriya yoga(s) that speaks of up to remarkable effects. [Kriya research]
How to make prana, vitality, ascend somewhat "along the spine" - that is, in a subtle (fine) thread or channel called sushumna nadi, which may not be seen by current scientific apparatus? How to do it properly? There are many methods. Kriya is one of several methods of breathing, or pranayama, to such an end. To do a little kriya is really comfortable, and pleasant too. It is important to realize that ascent of the kundalini does not have to manifest as visions of chakras, but is to be accompanied by higher levels of mind.
You do the easy method, and let the results take care of themselves. That is all there is to it, basically. However, much is added or clustered around the basic method of breathing in and out in particular ways, in the different kriya yoga traditions.
Now, since Satyananda's kriya (he learnt it from Sivananda, who learnt it from Babaji according to a Satyananda book [Ets]) is made public, there is perhaps little or no harm in giving a bird's-eye's view of the basic doings, and what is most profitable. The aim is greater awareness, and to instruct ordinary people to to become masters of the spiritual realm, says Satyananda. As soon as consciousness transcends (goes beyond) sense experience, that is what may happen, one day at a time. Put in other words, higher awareness develops. [36, 50-51]
In tantra, sahasrara, the crown centre, is the highest, body-related point of awareness. 
❋ A fit aim, says Satyananda, is increasing awareness.
Kriya Practice in Perspective
To do kriya you need to know exactly what to do, and be purified too. 
Some divide kriya into preliminary and advanced techniques. There is nothing wrong with that.  They set forth sensible, averagely founded rules of when and where to do kriya, what to eat, how to sit. The delicate problem is you have no evidence as to what is really needed, as judged from facts, and what is the result of shared opinions in a group. I just draw attention to a delicate point, to your possible benefit.
See for example the traditional yogic attitude to onion. Some Indian yogis refuse to eat it out of prejudices masked as "teachings" of a tradition. They have been taught that onion grows in dirt, and therefore is dirty, and that it stimulates sexuality. There may not be good proof of any of it, and many other yogis eat onion as well. There are similar food prejudices in Norway too. Vaccinium uliginosum (Bog Bilberry or Northern Bilberry) is a very common, blue berry, for example. In Norway it was thought to be afrodisiacal, so people refused to eat it (!). In Denmark and Iceland it was different. The berry may replace blueberry in prepared products like jam, juice, and contains three more vitamin C too. Today people buy afrodisiacs rather wildly, but not this berry, because it has no such documented effects. [Vib 52-56]. It is the same with eating onion - it should not arouse much sexual energy apart from possible, shared placebo effects as to which foods cause what.
You are advised to sit straight, yet relaxed, and that is probably good. Maybe you wonder, "Can some get awakened without sitting straight?" In the tradition there are tales of such people. Among them is a woman who was milking her cow when it happened. You may wonder whether there are many such cases. Maybe there are, but the standard advice is still to sit straight and yet relaxed while breathing in and out. There should be no harm in that.
Ordinarily, kriya yoga - which is gentle breathing with some features added - is put into the eight-limbed yoga of Patanjali.
❋ Other yogis eat onions too . . .
The Eight Limbs of Traditional Yoga and the Place of Kriya in It
❋ The eight limbs of Patanjali work toward sanyama, where the practitioner seeks to use and direct higher states of mind to some end.
Aiming at Simple Measures
You should not think that you have to start from bottom and gradually work your way upwards through the system. If you want to meditate, meditate. If you want to prepare the body-mind too, that may work well.
In Transcendental Meditation this is a great service: It takes you directly to the main thing. In kriya yoga, also a simplified system of it, you may be taken to the threshold of meditation, and need not go deeply into 76 variants - They take time to learn, and may be dispensed with, almost all of them if what you want is to charge your body-mind for meditation and work by some deep breathing with a few elements added. That is how it is.
"It does not have to be so simple," you may rightly say. But check how much spare time you have and are willing to invest in good yoga and meditation. The simpler it is, the easier to carry through, and the less time it should consume. By giving attention and time to the main things, you could go deeper, get substantial progress faster and easier. But that is your business. If you feel a desire to contort your body in a hundred body postures, learn locks and other means to prepare for meditation, that is feasible too, at least for those of young and supple bodies. But I doubt if it is needed. A little yoga is good, it may help, it may prepare for kriya too, but see to that preparations do not consume most of the time available. And when you learn kriyas, see to that the 76 variants do not crowd out maximum time spent on the best things.
Satyananda's kriya tradition publishes a programme of 36 lessons [Cy], starting with simple ones to train in, and then go on to more difficult ones to master, by stages. Also, the time spent on various practices is increased in time. You are also taught to combine various elements from the simpler practices. Also, simpler techniques are replaced by more advanced ones. There is a whole lot to learn in the traditional yogi way. And this may be added: The books by Satyananda on kriya and yoga nidra are admirable as to structure, clarity and thoroughness of presentation. They cover a wide range of traditional methods, give precise instructions, and do not seek to indoctrinate you at every turn. All this means I like them.
The question is now: How to simplify kriya yoga or a similar breathing method to work along with Transcendental Meditation, TM, which seems to be the best meditation method of our time, according to much research? Can the simplified kriya or similar methods advance cosmic consciousness, or is that part of the Yogananda's teaching a big bait? One reason for getting suspicious in the matter is that he teaches with two mouths. On the one hand he teahes that the purpose of life is to evolve ego-consciousness, on the other hand he teaches "kill the ego". Can you have your cake and eat it too? Can you kill the ego (rational mind) and still evolve it into cosmic consciousness all the same? Do not get confused. [More]
❋ Consider whether it seems plausible to you to get Cosmic Consciousness (God) by some delicate breathing (kriya) and sitting still. I think there are many who do not get It soon. You are free to try as far as I am concerned.
Below are three nuggets.
1. In Satyananda yoga you are taught several of of the other parts of the kriya system, for example "the closing of the seven gates". Two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth are closed during the practice. . Such "plugging" is done along with the kriya, during retention of the breath after breathing in. There is to be no strain, no discomfort.
2. Also, you start with simple sides to yoga and kriya, and goes on to listen to subtle sounds of your prana system, according to general Tantra yoga teachings [254-57]. There are methods for it. You plug your ears in some described way, and start listening. After some time you may detect the Om sound, a medley.
3. Satyananda's line also teaches another of the techniques of kriya. A mantra is mentally intoned for each chakra while breathing. However, this kriya practice is not among the twenty kriyas Satyananda normally teaches. It is taught in the kriya system that came to Yogananda as navi kriya, but he dispensed with it. Various mantras to chant mentally at the chakras are mentioned. They are as Satyananda kriya-guru Sivananda taught them. What you do is to bring your attention to each chakra and mentally repeat a different mantra for each. In this way you learn several mantras - the practice is done to prepare for kriya . . . but may be done away with, then [272-74].
❋ You "plug your ears", but do you "get to God" by it? Anyway, there is a method - with variants - used for such an aim.
As you practice the preliminaries and perfect the practice, you move on to the next set of practices to perfect yourself in, and told that all the rules and regulations enumerated, apply to kriya yoga too. There are twenty practices that are called integral for breathing in and out in the kriya way - and they are described in detail in a book. It is claimed it is essential that you master them, and that you will get very little benefit from kriya unless you perfect the twenty other methods. [Cy] 
Among the sensible counsels is: "Do not strain physically or mentally under any circumstances." "Do not hold the breath for longer than is comfortable." "Check that you are doing all the steps and that they are being done correctly." [282-83]
❋ Specific details help only if their over-riding methods are helpful.
The Core of These Tidings
For meditation, kriya is preparatory, and may consume very much time. There is also a kriya-ic way of breathing that occurs spontaneously in deep meditation toward transcendence.
Among the many kriyas, some methods are core methods. One common feature of the core methods is special breathing, just as in the silent variant of the traditional breath technique that is called ujjayi.
Thus, learn yogic deep breathing and add the most delicate verson of ujjayi to it, and there you are. You have to find out just how much you can do of this "almost adult kriya". do not overdo it.
This is to put deep yogic breathing and ujjayi into perspective. It goes along with body postures, and also with kriya yoga as taught in the Satyananda line. The rather inaudible sound made during this breathing method come close to the sound of doing basic kriya as taught in SRF, but there are a few small differences too.
You may cut to the chase unless you want to be involved in advanced kriya or need to be bogged down by SRF teachings:
Combine the better part of simple, sensible deep breathing and unheard ujjayi to get benefits. You may find that just one very simple kriya method may do before meditating on a fit mantra, actually.
A simple kriya along with mantra meditation is indeed feasible for most people, and may give benefits many are after. 
Satyananda and Yogananda teaches variants of the same mantra method (ajapa jap). In one, the mantra hamsa - spelled "hong-saw" - is silently thought along with breathing in and out naturally. "Hong" or "hang" accompanies the inbreath, and "saw" the outbreath. It is all done in a non-directive manner. [Cy 583]
It may be good for many to realise that simple ways may work well. Transcendental Meditation, TM, is a good example. And combining it with a gentle breathing method is nothing new either. What may be new is the breathing technique's delicate details.
The bottom line is that what you may need, is meditation, and preparations may not take much time, at least the first few years. After you have experienced what meditation can do for you, you may add to your methods, refine some of them, and incorporate other sides of yoga that you feel for deep inside.
So take heart. Meditation and yoga do not have to be complicated and much time-consuming. The better the methods, the better results are had in a shorter time.
You decide how involved you want to get, and how much time you are willing to spend. Do not strain, and do not overdo it.
❋ Transcendence is feasible, although there could be some meditators who have not got It yet.
Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: SRF, 1982.
Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Theosophical, 1946.
Cy: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 1981.
Dr: Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Divine Romance. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1993.
Ets: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Early Teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. Paperback ed. Munger, Bihar: Bihar School of Yoga, 1988.
Gv: Satyeswarananda, swami, tr. Complete Works of Lahiri Mahasay Vol. I: The Gitas: The Vedic Bibles. Guru Gita. Omkar Gita. Abadhuta Gita. Kabir Gita. 2nd rev. ed. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1992.
Hw: Satyeswarananda, swami, tr. The Commentaries' Series Vol. III: Hidden Wisdom. With Lahiri Mahasay's Commentaries. 2nd rev. ed. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1986.
Iv: Satyeswarananda, swami, tr. Inner Victory: With Lahiri Mahasay's Commentaries. San Diego: The Sanskrit Classics, 1987.
Kta: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Kundalini Tantra. 8th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.
Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.
Spa: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Paramahansa Yogananda. 4th ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1980.
Tb: Osborne, Arthur ed: The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in His Own Words. New ed. Rider. London, 1971.
Tms: Self-Realization Fellowship. The Master Said: Sayings and Counsel to Disciples by Paramhansa Yogananda. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1957.
Tyy: Hewitt, James. Yoga. 4th ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1992.
Vib: Ulltveit, Gudrun. Ville bær (Wild Berries). 4. opplag. Oslo: Damm, 2001.
Ybk: Hewitt, James. The Complete Yoga Book: The Yoga of Breathing, Meditation and Posture. London: Rider, 1991.
Yn: Satyananda Saraswati, Swami. Yoga Nidra. 6th ed. Munger: Yoga Publications Trust, 2001.
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