Attending to the Self: The Magic of Babaji's Kriya Hatha Yoga

by M. Govindan Satchidananda


This mantra has the power to connect ones own heart to the heartbeat of the Universe. One cannot speak of Babaji's Kriya Yoga without mention of this mantra. It creates a direct line of communication with the "Divine Grace" of the legendary Himalayan Siddha, Kriya Babaji Nagaraj. Just as God cannot be seen with the physical eyes, but reveals himself to His Devotees, so it is with Sathguru Kriya Babaji. Babaji shows his physical form to so very few, but reveals Himself to all His Devotees.

In the Fall of 1994, I attended an Introductory lecture and meditation of Babaji's Kriya Yoga with Marshall Govindan. I had been practicing yoga intensely for a decade, was staunch in my discipline and was a collector/practitioner of techniques, but, when Mr. Govindan intimately inquired to all of us assembled why we had come, I didn't have an answer. What I did know was that I still suffered periodically from melancholia stemming from an "emptiness," a knowing that something was missing. During the evening we were introduced to the mantra, Om Kriya Babaji Nama Aum. We chanted it in a call and response fashion. Tears rolled down my face as we sang and a shock of light appeared at my brow. As I was registering to attend the weekend seminar I told Govindan that the mantra was the reason I had come that evening. He said, "Humm, then why did you wait so long?" I said, "I'll ask Babaji, I guess all comes in good time, right?" The practice of Yoga has generally become synonymous with Hatha Yoga in the West, where it is practiced primarily as a physical form of exercise. Many Yoga practitioners eventually come to feel that there is something missing in their practice. We may have begun to practice Hatha .Yoga to become strong physically, to control the effects of stress or to overcome a health problem. But the magic of Yoga is that as we fulfill one need, another unfulfilled need arises, and always there remains "something missing." With our practice of Yoga we gradually grow aware and conscious of what we are missing. There are so many schools of yoga in the west, but few traditions, and even fewer which bring about an integral development of the whole person, fulfilling our needs at all levels, as does Babaji's Kriya Yoga. It is a comprehensive practical discipline, an open-hearted approach, to practice yoga and to living life. It flows directly from the southern Indian Siva Yoga Siddhantam tradition developed by the 18 Tamil Yoga Siddhas primarily during the period of 200 to 1200 A.D. Kriya Babaji Nagaraj developed his "Kriya Yoga" from the techniques and teachings of this 18 Siddha Tradition, in particular from those taught by his guru Boganathar. (1) This is the same Babaji who was described by Paramhamsa Yogananda in his "Autobiography of a Yogi."(2) His Kriya Yoga was written about by M. Govindan in "Babaji and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition, and in a series of books written by V.T. Neelakantan and S.A.A. Ramiah.(3)

"The Five-fold Path of Babaji's Kriya Yoga"

Babaji's Kriya Yoga is a five-fold path which includes Kriya Hatha Yoga for the physical body, Kriya Kundalini Pranayama for the vital body, the seat of the emotions, Kriya Dhyana Yoga (meditation) for the mental body, the rational mind, and the seat of the senses, Kriya Mantra Yoga for the higher mind of the intellectual body, and Kriya Bhakti Yoga for the spiritual body, the body of bliss. These purify the individual consciousness at all five levels of existence, building an integrated foundation for enduring peace, love and equanimity. Each of these five types of Yoga profoundly affect more than one body, and in practice, they are often combined together. So, for example, in Babaji's Kriya Yoga, we may chant, meditate or visualize and direct the life force while practicing the various postures.

"Babaji's Kriya Hatha Yoga"

Babaji's Kriya Yoga teaches a foundation of 18 asana with variations. "The Siddhas, masters of Yoga, recorded their teachings on palm leaves. The Siddhas viewed ones life and body as their experimental field. A human body they said, was to be transformed into a divine body and used as an aid to self-realization. The Siddhas spoke of some 8.4-million hatha yoga asanas. Babaji distilled the practice of his Hatha Yoga down to the standard 17 and the sun salutation series, with variations to be used to condition the subtle body and to prepare it for deep states of meditation. This series of asana when practiced daily with the "kriyas" (repetitive micro-movements), deeply and thoroughly massage and cleanse energy pathways and strengthen organs and systems throughout the physical body, in addition to stimulating the awakening of the kundalini shakti, by generating an internal heat. The intensity of a daily practice greatly benefits us both physically and spiritually. For indeed, it is the daily repetition, practicing patiently with ever increasing perseverance, which generates this internal heat. The physical movements of the asana alone strengthen the body and the developing awareness can bring success in day-to-day activities. But in addition, the daily practice of Kriya (action with awareness) Hatha Yoga, which combines awareness with physical control, activates the process of realizing who one truly is. Who we are is pure consciousness residing in a body. Our life is interspersed with movements from all our planes of existence, our thoughts, emotions, tensions, sense perceptions and our memories. We are caught in a complex web. The postures within the 18 series were chosen to purify us on all five levels of existence. To purify and calm the mind is to purify a certain function of consciousness, but it has to be supported by work on the physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels. These postures as a science can teach us to have awareness of the physical body as a whole without separating it into mind, body, and sensations. We have to change the whole of life simultaneously, not just in bits, piece by piece. We must learn to be attentive to the physical body and its inner sensations, for the body itself is a guide to our health. We can support the body by strengthening its nervous system. We build strong nerves by directing the movements of energy within the body in the stillness of a static pose. In stillness with attention on slowing the breath, our thoughts slow and come to rest leading us to discover the source of our thoughts. From this place, we can begin self-examination of our habitual doubts and fears and impulses, as well as perceive and nourish our spiritual aspirations. It is only with a calm mind that the higher spiritual faculties of insight and intuition can work on us. This is a Yoga of transformation.

"Patanjali and Asana"

Patanjali in his classic Yoga Sutras, prescribes how to advance in yoga asana. He tells us the asana should be sthira (steady, stable) and sukha (ease, comfortable). Sukha means "ease," but it also means "joy" or "bliss." Patanjali defines asana as a state. He says these qualities of our body of steadiness and ease should apply to our mind as well. The mind should be free of tension and turbulence. He says to use pranayama to calm and balance the body and mind, by integrating the prana with individualized consciousness. Advancing into asanas involves a relaxing of effort and attuning the mind in the expansive qualities of pure sensation, pure vibration. He adds to the formula and tells us in the later stages of the practice of asana to train the mind to be concentrated by being continuously aware of an infinite object. He says to stay longer in this state of sukha in asana, warding off all distractions and dualities so that eventually you become "invulnerable to the dualities" where "nothing can disturb you anymore." The heart of Kriya Hatha Yoga is to allow the postures to emerge out of effort into effortless holding where the state of mind is continuously aware of an infinite subject or object. In order to do this, we were taught to learn to balance tension and relaxation. Balancing tension and relaxation we are able to maintain a posture quite easily. But moreover, this system emphasizes balancing the tension in a pose with a period of relaxation once we come out of the pose. This is not a relaxation into inertia but relaxation into our spiritual body. This relaxation enables our spiritual body to lighten, heal and transform the not so subtle bodies.

"Directing the Flow of Pranic Energy"

When we release contractions of the body and mind and are free of restlessness and disturbance, we find our self opening to the movements of spiritual consciousness. When we balance tension and relaxation while in the posture we create space and conditions in the body, in which the prana, the animator of life the energy of Consciousness, can enter and permeate. As I placed my body in each fixed position of the poses, I deliberately channeled the movement of this energy, by directing the breath, with the intention of cleansing and strengthening the pathways within the subtle body that distribute the life force. I was intent on encouraging blocked areas, which were restricting the circulation of energy and reducing the nourishment to the cells, to open and be nourished. As cells became penetrated with prana both physical and mental discomfort disappeared and I felt joy. Yogic asana was nourishing me at a deep level.

"How do we consciously move prana in the postures?"

Presence and effort are required. By observing the breath, by concentrating on each inhalation and exhalation we can slow each in-breath and each out-breath, equalizing them and making the breath rhythmic. This way we acquire the first condition necessary to control prana, awareness and quietude. In this state the prana can be directed to wherever we place our attention. When our attention is on the breath, we can "let go" into any sensation present. In addition, the "kriya" phase (small repetitive micro-movements) gently massages internal organs and increases the flow of circulation. Once the prana is flowing into a blocked area one of two things will happen. Muscle fibers will either release progressively with each exhalation and the contracted area will "let go" and open to the energy of the prana, or the area won't "let go" and instead an emotion will come up accompanied by a specific sensation, which we can follow. Either way as we move through this posture series consciously, with sensitivity and reflection we can gently feel the "healing" power of the prana penetrate the deep recesses of the body and the deeply held tensions of the body and mind. As I repeatedly touched my chronically tight areas, I become aware of the persistent yearnings and cravings of my mind which must have created those tensions. My fears arose along with my doubts and feelings of not being worthy of spiritual experiences. I discovered deeply held beliefs, which were holding me back in my body, my practice and in my life. The magic of this practice was that as these negative beliefs and concepts of myself arose I found myself "letting them go" and subsequently "lightening up." Each time I came out of a posture series I felt myself relieved, free, and sometimes even amused at my self. Conscious deep breathing induced my mind to relax but moreover, as I entered into the quiet, relaxation developed into a steady and stable calm. The postures were gradually being held by prana rather than through effort.

"A Path to Self-realization"

Babaji's Kriya Hatha Yoga practice invites us to explore our physical body in our search for the Self. From the moment we begin, our attention is directed to our inner Self, to our higher Self. In Kriya Asana Vanekom, the Salutation pose, the first pose, we honor the Self, the God, the Seer which dwells within us, as us. We are not aware of our own Divinity, as the Self because of the impurities of the mind and distractions of the senses. These include the fundamental ignorance created by egoism, the habit of identifying with our thoughts. Our thoughts of being " less than," form a barrier that prevents us from knowing what is beyond the mind. In addition, what I found through the continual watching of my inhalations and exhalations, was a realization of the mystic sound Aum playing through the breath. Kriya Yoga teaches us about the power of the divine formula of "Soham," the mantric sound of the breath. "So," That, the universal Self and "aham," I, the individual ego. I am That. Through our normal breath we are all constantly being urged to realize the Truth of our Self, to assert our Divinity with each in-breath, and deny our existence with each out-breath.

"Self-study and Asana Practice"

Patanjali defines his Kriya Yoga as constant practice, devotion to the Lord, and self-study in his Yoga-Sutras (II.1).(4) In Babaji's Kriya Yoga we use the asana practice as a means of self study. As I began to observe my mind, its automatic responses and movements. I discovered the games it was playing and how these were obstructing my growth. I recorded my personal desires, those controlled and uncontrolled and my goals, what I was reaching for, and what my mind feared it might miss out on or what it might lose. Kriya Yoga has helped me develop a true understanding of the need for self-study. I learned the value of the yogic qualities of "detachment" and "constant practice." Detachment released my mind from confusion and anxiety. Detachment and constant practice helped me to simplify and to cheerfully make the right choices for my life. With these tools I uncovered deep attachments, tendencies and desires, which had kept me bound to rounds of suffering. It was detachment and constant practice which helped me to identify my needs from my desires and to discover what is truly worth having, enduring happiness.

"Purification through Kriya Hatha Yoga"

As my hatha practice became more committed and more meditative and worshipful, I began to tune into the energies and the grace of the practice. Negative emotions began to drop away as I would do asana, sit in asana, or turn inward and tune into the Self. I knew Babaji's Kriya Yoga was aiding me in my practice of yoga when I began to refuse to express negative emotions. I observed that outwardly expressing an emotion such as anger left me feeling exhausted but, conversely, not expressing a negative emotion did not leave me tired or feeling "upset," if I just allowed the emotion freedom to travel through me. The inner sensing I was learning through my daily posture practice helped me to observe emotions as "pure sensation" in the body throughout my day. Kriya Yoga also teaches one to have a sense of reverence towards the body and towards others. It teaches the deepest meaning of ahimsa, non-harming. Awareness of this helps me to reject negativity by releasing it, as it arises.

"Spiritual Effects of my practice of Kriya Hatha Yoga"

It is said that by meditating on the Infinite, asana is mastered. Patanjali tells us that by mastering asana, we can learn to be undisturbed by the pairs of opposites, and progressively learn discernment between the permanent and impermanent. Staying for longer periods of time, floating on the prana, I truly began to use this Kriya Hatha yoga practice to experience the Self. The Sages tell us that the human nervous system is designed to express the totality of Consciousness. Is it possible for us to abide in the Infinite while living in this finite body? When effort ceased and body/mind/asana lost their respective identities I found I could dissolve into the Infinite. Although I cannot fathom the Infinite, I have felt an up-rush of deep happiness or peace, even bliss, as I felt an expansion of my heart. I felt silence and stillness pervade my body, in a sense of a uniform diffusion of Consciousness. \ The Siddhas tell us that the human body is the mystic center, the sacred passage to the ultimate reality and liberation is available only within it. (5) If Divinity exists in each of us, then it is for each of us, to test that for ourselves. I know I found what I was "missing."


  1. The Yoga of the Tamil Siddha Boganathar, T.N. Ganapathy
  2. Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahamsa Yogananda
  3. Babaji and the 18 Siddha Kriya Yoga Tradition, M. Govindan
  4. Kriya Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
  5. Philosophy of the Tamil Yoga Siddhas, T.N. Ganapathy
  6. Babaji`s Kriya Hatha Yoga: Self-realization through action with awareness, videocassette by Durga Ahlund and M. Govindan.

Copyright December 2000 by Jan Ahlund. All rights reserved.


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