At Whole Sky Yoga it’s our intention to serve as a helpful resource for exploration of yoga at one’s own pace so that students can decide what elements of practice resonate with them. That is the creative essence and beauty of yoga practice. It can be all things to all people.

For those interested in exploring the philosophical study of yoga, I’d like to describe Kriya Yoga as one elegant system that outlines how yoga can transcend beyond the physical structure of postures toward a path of personal transformation.

Kriya Yoga is an abridged version of a yoga sutra, or verse. It is a philosophy derived from a section of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali — which is in short, an ancient yogic text compiled around 400 CE.  Kriya Yoga in the ‘Yoga as Medicine (YAM)’ approach as taught by Timothy McCall, MD is compiled of the following principles:

  1. TAPAS is defined as “heat”, tapas is a way to describe self-discipline, or the desire to practice. I also think of tapas as one’s driving motivation to continue or accomplish a particular task.
  2.  SVADYAYA or, “self-study” is the study of one’s “samskaras” (habits / patterns) with the aim to see oneself clearly. This can be accomplished by mindful observation of movement in a yoga class, or by noticing the way you sit in the car, or how you brush your teeth at night.
  3. ISHWARA PRANIDANA means devotion to the lord or “god”, or giving up the illusion that you are in total control of outcomes in your life. This can also be described as “surrender” or “letting go”.

Surrounding the application of these principles is “SANKALPA“, or intention. Side note: I would also add an element of self-compassion and patience (Santosa) to surround this process as well. In simple terms, this approach to yoga encourages us to notice, choose, and act. With enough desire we are invited to 1) NOTICE or identify habit patterns, or samskaras, both in mind and body and 2) CHOOSE which samskaras we wish to deepen, and which we wish to eradicate — as well as the route we we want to take top accomplish the choice, and finally to 3) ACT on what we notice and with enough discipline that we are able to form a new “samskara” overtime.

On a scientific level we now know about “neuroplasticity”, or the ability to form new neural pathways in our brains. In yoga practice we use Kriya Yoga as one way to deepen helpful pathways, and form new pathways. Also, when we notice a pathway that may be harmful we can choose to shift our focus away from that pathway. In time, we can change our own minds.

Postures, breath, mantra, chanting, and even mudras or hand gestures are some of the tools we use to practice Kriya Yoga. Kriya Yoga can be applied in all yogic disciplines such as vinyasa, yin yoga, restorative, or any other yoga style you may encounter. Using tools like posture and breath to practice Kriya Yoga we can also begin to bring this system into our daily lives.

Yoga As Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing, Dr. Timothy McCall
Inside the Yoga Sutras, Reverend Jagarnath Cartera