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A detailed guide to the breath-focused meditation practice of Kriya yoga for spiritual growth, inner stillness, and self-realization

• Explains the basic techniques of the practice, detailing proper posture, breathwork exercises (pranayama), bandhas, third-eye gazing, and the use of mantra

• Presents advanced, yet simple, techniques that accelerate a contemplative practice by micro-modulations related to posture, respiration, visualization, and sound

• Includes wisdom from the author’s teacher Ganesh Baba on the importance of the spine in Kriya yoga and the Cycle of Synthesis, a model of the human experience

Kriya yoga is an ancient meditation technique that focuses on breathing and the spine to unlock deep states of awareness, self-realization, and spiritual growth. Kriya can provide a fast path to awakening, yet its practice has been shrouded in secrecy, passed only from master to initiate for millennia.

Introduced into Kriya 40 years ago, Keith Lowenstein, M.D., offers an accessible yet detailed guide to Kriya yoga. He explains the basic techniques of the practice step by step, detailing proper posture, breathwork exercises (pranayama), visualization practices, and mantra. He reveals how Kriya is a scientific art--if practiced consistently, it will allow you to quickly enter deep states of meditation and ultimately experience inner stillness. He also explores how the practice of Kriya leads to healing and the development of compassion and the freeing joy of the union of Nature and Spirit.

Sharing the wisdom of his Kriya yoga teacher Ganesh Baba, the author adds a detailed understanding of anatomy, especially the importance of the spine in Kriya yoga and energy flow. The author explores Ganesh Baba’s teachings on spirit-infused science and the integration of Vedic philosophy, quantum mechanics, prana, and spiritualization illustrated in the Cycle of Synthesis. He also discusses the relationship between the exercises of Kriya yoga and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as well as teachings from his other teachers, including Paramahansa Hariharananda.

With this guide, you will gain an understanding not only of the practice of Kriya yoga but also of the spiritual wealth it brings, including the ultimate self-realization of non-dual reality.

From Chapter 5. The Spine Bolt Upright: Posture as a Fast-Track to the Infinite

In Kriya training, it is the foundation of a strong and straight spine that guarantees a practitioner will experience moments of great joy and compassion and deep insights. With deep commitment higher states of consciousness are achieved, as one comes more into alignment with themselves. If one spends hours sitting with hunched posture and does not move through the world with a fully erect spine, then one cannot engage the full capacity of breath. . . . It is by integrating the four areas of posture, breath, mind, and spirit (V1-V4) that we can experience resonance, altruistic love, and universal unity. This may in fact be just the beginning.

Spinal Awareness

Verticalization (V1), or posture, is the first and most important step. Sound physical structure is where this practice begins. The spine must be stable, supportive, supple, and erect to provide for clear reception. The vertebrae are a carefully crafted column of individual building blocks. When they are balanced one on top of the other, they hold our weight in an effortless fashion. In addition, a proper aligned posture allows for the muscles and bones of respiration to do their job without stress or stain. This is the secret of stilling the mind.

In the center of the spinal cord, which is contained within the bony structure of the spine, is a small canal the size of a pin called the central canal. Some of our cerebral spinal fluid flows through this canal. It is easy to see that any significant distortion of the spinal column could impede the flow of this most precious bodily fluid. This center piece of the spine cord is also thought to have great significance in the practice of yogic meditation. It is considered the center of one’s antennae, the sushumna, the area where the spiritual energy known as kundalini appears to travel in the spine and beyond. Currently there is no Western scientific measurement of this energy, although it has proven to be reproducible over thousands of years by the practitioners of the contemplative arts.

To sit up straight means more than forcing the spine to be in a vertical line. Training the body to accept alignment requires attention to minor movements and small adaptations over time. One may choose to sit in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. In the beginning this task can cause fatigue. It is better to take a rest by lying flat on one’s back rather than sit in a slouched manner. The body will conform to the most consistent patterns it is offered. Sitting in a proper posture as much as possible as you move through each day will surely result in rapid improvement. If injury or pain prevent you from sitting this way, lying down can be appropriate in the beginning stages. The body will build resilience as you become stronger and sitting straight will then be optimal.

Steps to Proper Posture

1. Sit straight and relaxed with a bolt upright spine to explore and feel the position with the most energy alignment. The muscles of the spine and particularly the low back or lumbar spine should be engaged. The core abdominal muscles will also engage to assist the body in this position. Adjust the pelvis enough to feel the sits bones or ischial tuberosity equally balanced on the mat, pillow, floor, or chair.

2. Roll the shoulders slightly back enough to feel a gentle squeeze between the shoulder blades and drop the tops of the shoulders gently down away from the head to create space in the neck.

3. Allow the sternum to rise with a deep inhalation and allow it to remain lifted. At the same time tip the chin down to reduce the curvature of the cervical spine and produce slight pressure over the thyroid area. Imagine the vertex of the skull lifted to the sky and aligned with the antennae of the spine. This is not a rigid pose; rather it is active, engaged, and dynamic. The body may move to seek balance, as the mind becomes still.

4. It is important to check in with the shoulder blades continuing to gently squeeze them together pressing the shoulders away from the ears and feeling the tip of the spine, the coccyx, close to the ground and well supported by the pelvis. Engage the belly slightly and fill the entire thorax or chest cavity, which holds the lungs, with breath. Your abdomen will also expand slightly as the breath will begin to fill from the pelvic bowl upward, but it is not the focus here.

5. Allow your face to relax, not holding any expression, and then slightly raised the eyebrows and relax the face in an expression of openness and curiosity. Relax the mouth with a relaxed smile and the tongue resting on the palate up behind the top front teeth. Relax the jaw and any other unnecessarily tense muscles in the body. In this way the structure of the body is used as a resource to contain the energy one is cultivating, refining, and redirecting.

When tuning into the body, you are practicing a one-pointed focus, becoming more aware of yourself and sending attention to a specific area for a particular reason. The greatest gift we can offer ourselves or another person is our undivided attention.

Keith G. Lowenstein, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry and integrative medicine. He began his study of the mind-body interface in 1971 with training in transcendental meditation and in 1980 began his training in Kriya yoga with Ganesh Baba. He maintains an integrative mental health private practice in Portland, Oregon.

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (June 29, 2021)
  • Length: 288 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781644112182

“Ganesh Baba’s uniquely conceptualized system of Kriya and human development is effortlessly explained in this enjoyable and fascinating book. This meditation style is revealed in a complete and practical way. A must-read for beginners and seasoned meditators alike!”

– Mark Hyman, M.D., integrative physician and New York Times bestselling author

“This book is deliciously detailed, deep, and elegantly expressed. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone interested in learning Kriya yoga as a moreneeded-than-ever method for systematically expanding consciousness.”

– Eve Baumohl Neuhuas, author of The Crazy Wisdom of Ganesh Baba

“Valuable step-by-step instructions for posture, breath, inner gaze, and awareness of subtle perception. Throughout this book, the author’s tone rings with encouragement: be curious, trust yourself, all will be revealed.”

– Yogacharya Ellen Grace O’Brian, author of The Jewel of Abundance

“In this remarkable book, Dr. Lowenstein shares with great clarity both the profoundly practical knowledge of Kriya yoga and insights he brings to this ancient wisdom through the lens of cutting-edge health science. This book is a real treasure--enjoy!”

– Jim Carson, Ph.D., and Kimberly Carson, MPH, C-IAYT, coauthors of Relax into Yoga for Chronic Pain

“Dr. Lowenstein’s Kriya yoga is a gift. It represents the passage of an ancient lineage through his personal apprenticeship with Ganesh Baba into a modern science-based exegesis. In this book, he offers practitioners, from novice to advanced, unique access to an invaluable body of wisdom and practical skills.”

– Chris Stauffer, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at the Oregon Health and Science University

“With topics ranging from a neuroscience-based discussion of Dr. Stephen Porges’s Polyvagal Theory to an exploration of the impact of Kriya yoga on spiritual development, this book is a must-read for anyone in improving their physical, mental, or spiritual health.”

– Donna Kirchoff, M.D., FAAP, integrative pediatrician

“This book is a beacon for those of us who have goals of solace, gratitude, and peace. Its reading is a smooth, fluid presentation of the discipline of Kriya yoga, and its lessons are stunningly beneficial to the reader.”

– Donald E. Girard, M.D., professor of medicine emeritus at the Oregon Health and Science University S

“George Harrison described the sixties and seventies as a ‘mini-Renaissance,’ and along with its famous geniuses were a number of inspired visionaries working in relative obscurity to combine the best of Eastern wisdom with the perspective of Western science to further the evolution of the human species. And they are ready to share their stories to those seeking more meaningful lives. Keith Lowenstein is one of them.”

– Scott Teitsworth, author of Krishna in the Sky with Diamonds

“At the same time an introduction to the beautiful science of Kriya yoga for an uninitiated public and a comprehensive manual for experienced practitioners, this book comes at a perfect time in our era when spiritualization is becoming a vital necessity.”

– Christian Pilastre, Kriyacharya (master teacher) at Tripoura Yoga Centre

“A disciplined practice, involving breathing exercises, meditation, and posture. In chapters on Kriya yoga’s lineage, practice, and scientific and spiritual effects, the authors masterfully explain it, presupposing no previous knowledge of yoga or philosophy.”

– J. M. Fritzman, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Philosophy at Lewis & Clark College

“Dr. Lowenstein’s book has many hints and instructions that can be followed with benefit. He has been a practitioner for forty years and shares his journey in a way that may help us further open ours. It is at once practical and touches deep psychospiritual wells. Something to practice and grow with.”

– Michael Eigen, Ph.D., psychologist and author of The Challenge of Being Human

“This illustrated work offers a grounded and comprehensive view of Kriya yoga’s history, theory, and practice, giving new expression to an ancient truth: the power of human breath and posture to affect body, mind, spirit, and heart. A very helpful and easily readable book.”

– Robin Bagai, Psy.D., licensed psychologist

“Presents easy-to-understand steps to develop a Kriya practice. Although one needs patience in the gradual development of the practice, Dr. Lowenstein mentions how some results can be immediate, and I agree. This is a must-have book for every human. And remember, ‘breath control is mind control.’”

– Mary K. McCarthy, M.D., past president of the Oregon Psychiatric Association