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What is Kriya Yoga? Philosophy and Practice

Kriya Yoga is an integral body-mind-soul methodology for spiritual awakening. Self-discipline, self-study, and self-surrender remove impediments to direct knowledge of our essential spiritual nature, and the natural experience Self-realization ensues.

Fall in Love with Your Life and Live the Life You Love

Life can be a perpetual search for happiness in its myriad forms—pleasure, security, success, contentment, joy. Ever notice that we look for it and find it, only to lose it again? Or want more from wherever it seemed to come from?

At some point, we begin to ask: What is this deep desire for happiness? Is there a way to satisfy it once and for all? What do I really want? Can I find freedom from sorrow? Is that even possible? When these questions arise, the journey of spiritual awakening begins.

Kriya Yoga, a universal, time-tested philosophy and practice for spiritually awakened living, lights the way.

What is Kriya Yoga?

Kriya Yoga is a path for spiritual awakening—a way to discover our essential nature and live a more conscious and fulfilling life.

The Kriya path is a way of life. It is a way to sanctify one’s life through four essential disciplines—contemplation, meditation, cultivation of the virtues, and surrender of the sense of separate existence.

“Kriya” means “action” and “yoga” means conscious union of body, mind, soul, and Spirit. Yoga, in the highest sense, is realizing we are one with the Infinite—integrally connected with all that is.

“Kriya Yoga” simply indicates those actions we take that contribute to the realization of this innate wholeness.

Deeya lamp

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

YS 2.1 Self-discipline, self-study, and surrender of the illusional sense of separate self constitute Kriya Yoga.

YS 2.2 Kriya Yoga facilitates superconscious union with Absolute Reality and reduces and removes the causes of suffering.

The principal path of yoga delineated in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is Kriya Yoga. Patanjali (beyond the name, nothing is known of this sage) compiled the Yoga Sutra from the Vedic body of yogic wisdom around 200 C.E. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali consists of 195 concise aphorisms called “sutras” which connect to vast reservoirs of ancient teachings as well as inner knowledge.

The four sections of the Yoga Sutra are: the cultivation of pure awareness, the path or way including the eight limbs of practice, soul powers, and spiritual liberation.

The Eight Limbs of Yoga Practice

In the second chapter of the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali introduces the eight limbs or means for accomplishing the cessation of thought activity and experiencing pure awareness. The eight limbs (or components of practice) are:


  1. The Restraints (Yamas): Harmlessness, Truthfulness, Nonstealing, Right Use of Vital Force, and Nonattachment
  2. The Observances (Niyamas): Cleanliness, Contentment, Self-Discipline, Study of Nature of Consciousness, and Surrender of the Sense of Separateness
  3. Posture (Asana)
  4. Control of Vital Force (Pranayama)
  5. Interiorization (Pratyahara)
  6. Concentration (Dharana)
  7. Meditation (Dhyana)
  8. Oneness (Samadhi)

The limbs provide a structure for combining the practice of meditation and cultivation of virtues. This systematic approach to Self – and God-realization brings forth the inner experience that fuels the devotee’s ability to make real change. This experience of knowing the truth of who we are provides the sustaining motivation for changing our life. The combination of meditation and cultivation of the virtues brings stability as we awaken and our lives transform.

How To Practice Kriya Yoga

"God can be realized through Kriya even while leading a worldly life." –Lahiri Mahasaya

Yogacharya O'Brian's spiritual teacher, Roy Eugene Davis, often remarked that many reached out to him for initiation and instruction in the practice of Kriya pranayama after reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s autobiography, thinking that pranayama comprised the entirety of the practice. He would clarify: Kriya Yoga is a complete practice that includes a disciplined, healthy lifestyle, study of the nature of Reality, adherence to ethical precepts, regular practice of superconscious meditation, dedicated discipleship, living with higher purpose while contributing to the well-being of all, and surrender of the illusional sense of separate existence.

Kriya is a dynamic form of pranayama. Still, the comprehensive enlightenment path of Kriya Yoga is so much more than a technique. The Sanskrit word kriya means action or practice. It can refer to those actions we take to purify the body and mind, as well as the spontaneous purificatory actions (kriyas) initiated by awakened kundalini (primordial cosmic energy). The word kriya combined with the word yoga (Kriya Yoga) refers to the comprehensive philosophy and practices for spiritual realization and actualization.



Kriya Yoga brings together the most effective elements of all systems of yoga including:

  • Step-by-step meditation methodology of Raja Yoga with its eight limbs of practice;
  • Surrendered devotion of Bhakti Yoga;
  • Focused self-inquiry of Jnana Yoga; and
  • Importance of selfless service that is Karma Yoga.
Kriya Yoga meditator

Complete Practice of Kriya Yoga

The emphasis in this tradition is placed on healthy, purposeful, conscious living, supported by superconscious meditation practice. It is an intentional, universal approach to Self-realization and spiritual enlightenment. Enlightenment is not only the goal for every person; it is considered the certain destiny. Since we are already spiritual beings, enlightenment is the revelation of that, waking up to it. Knowing it. Living it. Everyday.



The Components of the Kriya Yoga Practice

Here are the steps and actions we take that contribute to spiritual analyzing the realization of Oneness.

  • We meditate and experience our essence of being.
  • We contemplate and inquire into the nature of Reality.
  • We reflect on how to live with wisdom and compassion.
  • We explore, engage in spiritual practices, and discover what works for us.


Kriya Yoga offers a timely and time-tested perspective that enlightenment is a natural revelation of what is true. It occurs when the mental obstacles to it are removed. When the mind becomes calm and quiet, it is illumined by the radiance of the Self. Then the truth of what we are is naturally revealed. It is experienced directly. This experience transforms us because it changes our point of view. We are no longer a person identified with the body and mind who thinks they might have a soul. We now know we are the soul—we are That. We are the divine Self, expressing through the body and the mind.

There is no spiritual condition to create and no enlightenment to attain. Only the realization of what is so.

Kriya Yoga Lineage

This system of Kriya Yoga reflects the teaching emphasis and specific procedures of the Kriya Yoga tradition brought from India to the West by Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda came to America in 1920 with the blessings of his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, to spread the liberating teachings of Kriya Yoga in the West. He initiated thousands into the spiritual practices of Kriya Yoga and inspired seekers worldwide to discover the liberating truth of their spiritual nature and their relationship with the Infinite. His seminal book, Autobiography of a Yogi, remains a bestseller today and continues to attract seekers to the path.

    • Mahavatar-Babaji

      Mahavatar Babaji

      (no historical records )
    • Lahiri-Mahasaya

      Lahiri Mahasaya

      (1828 - 1895)
    • Swami-Sri-Yukteswar

      Swami Sri Yukteswar

      (1855 - 1936)
    • Paramahansa-Yogananda

      Paramahansa Yogananda

      (1893 - 1952)
    • Roy-Eugene-Davis

      Roy Eugene Davis

      (1931 - 2019)


Yogacharya O’Brian with her teacher, Roy Eugene Davis

Yogacharya O’Brian with her teacher, Roy Eugene Davis

Among those Paramahansa Yogananda trained, and ordained to teach and initiate others into Kriya Yoga, was his American disciple Roy Eugene Davis. Yoga teachings in this tradition have been passed on through the centuries from guru to disciple in this way—through instruction, initiation, and transmission. Yogacharya O’Brian met her guru, Roy Eugene Davis, in 1979 and was initiated by him into Kriya Yoga the following year. After initial training, Mr. Davis ordained her to teach in this tradition in 1982. She has been teaching Kriya Yoga meditation methods and lifestyle wisdom now for over three decades. Paramahansa Yogananda, Sri Yukteswar, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Mahavatar Babaji, the Kriya Yoga masters who came before, illumined the path and made it possible for sincere seekers to find it today.

Kriya Yoga is a spiritual path, not a religion. It is a way of life, open to all who seek to live a spiritually balanced, wholesome life. Practitioners of Kriya Yoga from different faiths, ethnicities, cultures, economic status, or vocations—are joined by the common goal in the heart of every seeker of truth—the goal to awaken.

Yogacharya O’Brian with her teacher, Roy Eugene Davis

Yogacharya O’Brian with her teacher, Roy Eugene Davis

A Path for Spiritual Awakening

The transformation of lives—hearts blossoming with compassion and minds illumined by inner wisdom; watching people discovering lasting happiness and inner peace that cannot be taken away by circumstances—offers great hope for our world. A sustainable way to live in harmony with nature and with one another can only arise from an awakened heart and mind that recognizes our oneness, our common humanity, and shared divinity with all of life. An awakened world is possible—one awakened person at a time.

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Kriya Yoga Practice: Self-Inquiry

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Kriya Yoga Practice: Self-Surrender

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