Which Kriya Pranayama is better?
Some aspirants prefer to practice Kriya Pranayama as taught in Kriya Yoga Exposed (which we’ll merely refer to as “Kriya Pranayama” in this article), while others prefer to practice the Kriya spinal breathing variation (which we’ll call “Classic Kriya Pranayama”). These two variations are prevalent in today’s Kriya Yoga.
Which one is better?
First of all, we need to remember that regardless of which Kriya Pranayama we practice, the most crucial part of any Kriya routine is its after-effect, as Lahiri Mahasaya so often mentioned.
Kriya means action, effort, and Kriya Yoga is an action, an effort whose real purpose is to lead one to the non-action and effortless state of enlightenment, the natural state or “Static Prana” as Kriya Yogis usually call it. Yet we are taught by organizations to give lots of emphasis to the techniques themselves, as if our sadhana were a mechanical job. In the beginning, techniques are definitely essential, but as we go deeper and deeper into our own consciousness, it is necessary to allow space for intuition and for the spontaneity of just being.
The so-called “After Kriya State,” or Parvastha, is a “Just Being” state. Attaining that state is the goal of Kriya Yoga, for it is that state that dissolves all of our “karma,” “vasanas,” “samskaras,” and basically all latent tendencies and subtle desires. Through abidance in Parvastha, we recognize that all happiness and peace come from our own Self (God), and not from outside (things, people, etc.). This is a big realization for our mind to grasp, yet when it does, the mind shifts its external-oriented view into a Self-oriented view.
With this in mind, can we really say that one pranayama is better than the other? Is Mac better than PC? It is highly dependent on the individual. Some do better with Kriya Pranayama, while others with Classic Kriya Pranayama.
Although only the second one has you consciously pulling prana up and down Sushumna in the beginning, the first one will also naturally and effortlessly do it after enough practice (you will start feeling spinal energetic currents).
Classic Kriya is more effortful, more complicated and it requires more visualizations. Kriya Pranayama is more akin to a sweet meditation, and the one-pointed attention skill can be developed faster. With that being said, it might be easier to have the mind’s attention going up and down through the spinal cord while feeling hot and cold currents and visualizing the movement of the life-force. The slow and conscious movement of life-force in the spine can increase your ability to focus on and enter into deep states. Or, alternatively, you may find that this Kriya is too confusing and feel that it has too many things going on at the same time, leading you nowhere at all. Perhaps exclusively focusing on the third-eye while mentally chanting OM, as in the other Kriya Pranayama, is easier.
Do you see what’s happening here? There are arguments for both sides, and we’re not even diving into the “one is the original kriya, the other isn’t!” argument. Let’s put that and similar egoic behaviors aside and merely focus on the one that fits our body-mind system the best!
(Kriya Supreme Fire works marvelously with either Pranayama.)
Kriya Pranayama as explained in Kriya Yoga Exposed
In this animation, the inhalation and exhalation take around 11 seconds each. That should be doable for everyone. According to Lahiri Mahasaya though, you should improve your pranayama until you can achieve 22 seconds inhalation and 22 seconds exhalation. The OMs don’t need to match any chakra location. They should be chanted on the Third-eye, and that’s it.
“Classic” Kriya Pranayama
In this animation, the inhalation and exhalation take around 10 seconds each. That should be doable for everyone. The same principle regarding the “22 seconds inhalation and 22 seconds exhalation” as aforementioned applies. The OMs need to match the chakra’s location. They should be chanted on each Chakra.
Supreme Kriya Pranayama as explained in The Secret Power of Kriya Yoga
The same as in “Kriya Pranayama as explained in Kriya Yoga Exposed” applies. The OMs don’t need to match any chakra location. They should be chanted on the Crown Chakra, and that’s it. This Pranayama is the natural conclusion of both of the previous two pranayamas. It is advanced and should only be done after you’ve done either of them for quite some time (at least one year). As you can see, the transition from Kriya Pranayama to this one is straightforward. If you practice Classic Kriya Pranayama, then you need to adapt to this one afterward (which isn’t that difficult), or you can alternatively merely change the endpoint from the Ajna Chakra to the Crown Chakra, maintaining spinal breathing. Keep in mind that this alternate variation is weaker than Supreme Kriya Pranayama, because it has only 2 OMs in the Crown per round, while Supreme Kriya Pranayama has 12.
I find the combination of Kriya Supreme Fire + Kriya Pranayama to be the strongest for most practitioners—it also requires the least amount of strenuous effort and time needed. If you have never practiced Kriya Yoga before, this Kriya Pranayama is the one you should do.
Classic Kriya Pranayama + Kriya Supreme Fire (or vice versa) also works great (it requires more effort and more time).
In the end, both are equally good, and you should do what works best for your body-mind system. If you are considering changing your spiritual practice, make sure you read this article as well.