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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 48  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 18-22

Psychophysiological analysis of Kriya Yoga as per Patanjala Yoga Sutra

Synapses Child Development Centre, Uthalsar, Thane West, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication19-Jan-2017

Correspondence Address:
Sarita Vivek Bapat
Synapses Child Development Centre, Off L.B.S. Road, Uthalsar, Thane West - 400 601, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0044-0507.198701

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Background: Kriya Yoga that includes Tapas,vadhyaya, and Ishwara pranidhana as given by Patanjala Yoga Sutra finds its mention twice in the text as Kriya Yoga and as Niyama. The double occurrence has significance.
Aim: The aim of this work is to carry out an analysis of what Kriya Yoga is, what is the purpose of repeating three components of Kriya Yoga, i.e., Tapas,vadhyaya, and Ishwara pranidhana in Sadhana pada.
Method: The three steps of Tapas,Svadhyaya, and Ishwara pranidhana were analyzed in detail. The important difference of this analysis from other commentators is to analyze the first two steps of Kriya Yoga from the psychophysiological point of view.
Analysis: The Kriya Yoga brings psychophysiological changes leading to the total control of the body, i.e., internal functions of the body. It also leads to surrender to the internal supreme existence of one's own being. The process of Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishwara pranidhana, as per Kriya Yoga, converts a common person into a yogi.
Conclusion: The process of Kriya Yoga facilitates the removal of resistance within i.e. preparing condition of chitta which is necessary for entering into Samadhi is fulfilled.

Keywords: Awareness, Kriya Yoga, kleshas, sensitivity

How to cite this article:
Bapat SV. Psychophysiological analysis of Kriya Yoga as per Patanjala Yoga Sutra. Yoga Mimamsa 2016;48:18-22

How to cite this URL:
Bapat SV. Psychophysiological analysis of Kriya Yoga as per Patanjala Yoga Sutra. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Jun 5];48:18-22. Available from:

  Introduction Top

When the word yoga is uttered, the most common image that arises in the minds of the people is either that of someone sitting in an impossible posture or someone sitting in a cross-legged position deep inside a dense forest. Even most commentaries on Patanjala Yoga Sutras describe the path of Ashtanga Yoga that either if a layperson was to practise, he/she could only practice for 1 or 2 h a day, or if he/she was serious about the idea of self-realization, he/she better takes up sannyasa so that he/she could spend a better part of his/her day practising yoga. However, a serious analysis of Patanjala Yoga Sutras proves that by remaining in the world itself and by performing one's daily activities in a certain manner, one may achieve and constantly remain in the same state that any kind of passive meditation produces. This essentially means that every action, when performed in a particular manner, can lead to meditation. It may also be perceived that every action one performs can be converted into an opportunity to delve deeper into one's self. The yoga of Patanjali is not the practice of 1 or 2 h and then let go. The yoga of Patanjali is something that one has to carry with himself/herself no matter what path you travel on and what action you do. Patanjali calls this entire process as Kriya Yoga.

  Method Top

There have been many philosophical works on Patanjala Yoga Sutras. It is important to note that Patanjala Yoga Sutras are an experiential science. The scientific yogic processes, as mentioned by Patanjali, start from the second chapter of yoga known as Sadhana pada.

Curbing of Citta vrttis is not so easy. Even the starting step ( first anga of Ashtanga Yoga) for curbing Citta vrttis is difficult to practise. Being cognizant of this, Patanjali mentions the practice with the description of the practical path of Sadhana of Kriya Yoga (Karambelkar, 1971). The very first Sutra of Sadhana pada is on Kriya Yoga. Thus, he is hinting that all the practices and stages leading one to Kaivalya have been codified by Patanjali within the process of Kriya Yoga.

Tapasvādhyāyeśvarapraidhānāni kriyāyogaḥ\\1\Austerity or Penance (tapas), Study of scriptures and Chanting of mantras-(svādhyāya) (and) Devotion/surrender -- (praidhānāni) to the (Supreme) Lord (īśvara) (are) Kriyā Yoga (kriyāyoga

)\\1\Actions, which indirectly lead to yoga, are termed as Kriya Yoga. Such actions are, principally, of three kinds, namely, Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishwara pranidhana. Tapas, such as practice of silence, breath control, and surrender of fruits of actions to God, attempts to restrain afflictive actions. Svadhyaya is verbal and Ishwara pranidhana is predominantly mental Kriya Yoga (Hariharananda, 2000).

According to the other commentators, for example, Babaji's Pranit Kriya Yoga, first, all the nadis are purified and then new energy is generated within the body. This new energy then pierces the seven chakras of the body and facilitates the further process of Kriya Yoga. In addition, by the practice of the process of constant breath awareness, a state of sahaj kumbhaka is achieved (Kunte, 2007).

Swami Satyananda Saraswati has mentioned 76 kriyas for achieving Kriya Yoga, of which 26 are most important, which has been classified into the categories of Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana (Satyananda, 2004).

The three components of Kriya Yoga are Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishwara pranidhana. These three components are again included in Niyama.

Śaucasantoatapasvādhyāyeśvarapraidhānāni niyamāḥ\\32\Cleanliness (śauca), Contentment (santoa), Austerity or Penance (tapas), Study and Recitation of Sacred Scriptures (svādhyāya), and Devotion -- praidhāna -- (praidhānāni) to the (Supreme) Lord (īśvara) (are the five) Niyamas or Observances (niyamāḥ)\\32\
  Results and Discussion Top

It is important to note that Patanjala Yoga Sutra has used minimal words to explain the yoga sutras. No repetition of the words, whatsoever, occurs without a purpose. Therefore, the Sage Patanjali mentioning such an apparently needless repetition should have a definite purpose.

  • What is the purpose of this repetition?
  • How this Sadhana of Kriya Yoga is helpful at every step in day-to-day life while doing karma or Sadhana, resulting in karma as Sadhana (Karma Yoga)?


As per the commentary by Swami Satyananda Saraswati on Patanjala Yoga Sutra,“Tapas is the process which completely eliminates imperfections and dross of the inner personality” (Satyananda, 1976).

According to Iyengar's interpretation,“Tapas in its essence means blazing desire to burn away the impurities of body, senses, and mind” (Iyengar, 2010). Tapas has been classified as Kayika Tapas, Vangmaya Tapas, and Manasik Tapas (Kolhatkar, 2008).

According to the current analysis, Tapas has psychological and physiological nature. In the yogic lore, fire stands for alertness, awareness, wakefulness, sensitivity, and consciousness. As per yoga, 80% of our diseases are psychosomatic in nature. These psychosomatic diseases are caused because of the lack of awareness and sensitivity. For example, disorders such as diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure are caused due to psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression. It has been observed that the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety create tremors in the body, shortness of breath, and an increase in heart rate. When one maintains an awareness of the body, both internally and externally, the body has a tendency of becoming steady and relaxing. When one maintains breath awareness, the breath has a tendency of lengthening and deepening. As well, when the awareness of the heartbeat and the gap between two heartbeats is experienced, the heartbeat becomes normal and sometimes even catches a slow pace of beating. This kind of constant awareness of body, breath, and heart beats not only alleviates the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety but also helps in alleviating stress and anxiety to a great extent (Satyapriya, Nagendra, Nagarathna, & Padmalatha, 2009; Gouin et al., 2015). In Patanjali's Yoga, one may thus equate the practices of asana and pranayama with Tapas. The asanas of Patanjali are not just a few postures that one has to assume, but rather a state of awareness that one must maintain regardless of the posture. A constant awareness of relaxation and steadiness of one's anatomical and physiological phenomenon can be experienced throughout the day. In the Buddhist meditation of Vipassana, this constant awareness of anatomical and physiological structure goes by the name of Kayanupassana. Breath awareness becomes deep by means of the practice of pranayama. Even if a person does not know pranayama technique, he/she may keep a constant awareness of breath throughout the day. The breath has four movements, i.e., inhalation (incoming breath), exhalation (outgoing breath), gap between the inhalation and exhalation, and gap between the exhalation and inhalation. In fact, it is the conscious lengthening of these four aspects of breath that Patanjali calls as pranayama. Even maintaining an awareness of the four movements of the breath throughout the day leads to the deepening of the breath. This deepening of the breath leads to muscle relaxation. This, in turn, gives smoothness to all the physiological functions of the body, especially the nervous system. Awareness of the breath leads to an increased and improved flow of prana in the body. This, in turn, increases the receptivity of nerves and their ability to carry strong physiological signals and provide clear responses. In fact, throughout the day, almost any activity can turn into Tapas. When one gets established in Tapas, the perfections of body and sensory organs and their perception increase, as given in the following Sutra.

Kāyendriyasiddhiraśuddhikayāttapasaḥ\\43\Perfection (siddhiḥ) of body (kāya) and Indriya-s -- 5 Jñānendriya-s or powers of perception, and 5 Karmendriya-s or powers of action -- (indriya) (is acquired) through Tapas or Austerity (tapasaḥ), which brings about destruction (kayāt) of impurities (aśuddhi)\\43\For example, when food is eaten with complete awareness, right from the moment, one puts it in the mouth, to the process of chewing and swallowing; then, as soon as the stomach is full, it sends the signal to the brain wherein the satiety center in the hypothalamus is activated and one feels satisfied quickly. This would prevent overeating and actually keep physiological system smooth, clean, and sensitive. This particular method also prevents consumption of substances that are harmful to the body. It is noteworthy to mention the use of awareness by Osho. For example, whenever a cigarette smoker came to him to get rid of his addiction, then instead of taking away his cigarette, Osho advised him to smoke with complete awareness, meditate on the process of smoking. By following this method, the smoker gave up smoking in a few months. It is not that they gave it up forcefully. It is just that they never felt the urge to smoke thereafter as they realized the futility of their habit. All addictions are formed in unawareness, once a certain level of awareness sets in, brain receives signals and realizes the futility of the addiction and by its own response drops the addiction forever. Thus, Tapas is the constant awareness of all physical and psychophysiological processes. After a point, it also transcends the psychophysiological processes. While going through this process, our acceptance power increases tremendously (Rushi, 2006). Thus, practice of Tapas works on physical, as well as mental levels. Tapas only purifies the whole body by increasing stock of prana by practising pranayama. The process starts with activating and regulating the function of endocrine glands, which then balances all the hormones. These whole processes alter the psychophysiological state along with one's response to the worldly life. This takes him to the higher level of Sadhana. As the process of Tapas goes on deepening, the process of Tapas transmutes itself into Svadhyaya.


“Trying to perceive your own self in different perspectives” (Satyananda, 1976, p. 139). The word Svadhyaya can be dissected into sva, i.e., self, and adhyayan, i.e., to learn. Therefore, Svadhyaya can be loosely termed as study of the self through direct experience. It starts with repetition of sacred mantras and the study of the spiritual sacred texts to comprehend one's self (Iyengar, 2010).

As the process of Tapas goes on deepening, one starts to transcend and go deeper into one's physical aspect of the self and other dimensions of existence become accessible. To put it in yogic language, as one transcends annamaya kosha, the dimensions of pranamaya kosha and manomaya kosha become accessible. The experience of the self goes on deepening. A person becomes happy only when his/her senses make contact with the object of his/her desire. However, even though the cause of happiness, i.e., the object, is outside, the very experience of happiness happens within oneself. Why can't one access this happiness in spite of the presence or absence of the object? When the cause of happiness is external, it is called as pleasure, and when happiness is objectless, it is called as joy. Pleasure is temporary but joy is permanent as it has no cause and one can access it at will. All our emotions whether anger or joy, fear, or happiness is a result of our hormonal secretions. One can experience emotions only when the body releases hormones. As one's awareness deepens, one can access these emotions without the support of any external stimulants. Therefore, as per yoga, the happiness that one craves through external stimulants, through Svadhyaya, one can access it at his/her own will. This essentially means that it is possible to control body's hormonal secretions and thus one can achieve the hormonal balance. This can only be possible when the awareness goes at deeper levels, sensitivity increases and Svadhyaya (self-study) becomes intense. Ishwara pranidhana, i.e., surrendering to the supreme, happens on its own.

Svādhyāyādiṣṭadevatāsamprayogaḥ\\44\Union or communion (samprayogaḥ), with the desired or chosen (iṣṭa) deity (devatā) is obtained from Svādhyāya or Self Study and Recitation of Sacred Scriptures (svādhyāyāt)\\44\This Ishtadevta is Devata within and that is nothing but inner awareness.

Ishwara pranidhana

“Placing completely in innermost awareness” (Satyananda, 1976). With a deepening of Svadhyaya, one understands the infinite intelligence within oneself. The essence of Tapas and Svadhyaya is attention. Awareness and sensitivity are the different terminologies that we use for attention. Attention within oneself means allowing the life process within oneself to happen without any resistance. Wanting to own an external object is not the cause of our pains and sorrow. It is but naturally a practical part of life. Not being able to get the object that one wants is also not the cause of one's sorrow, however, the nonacceptance and resistance that one creates within oneself when one's desire goes unfulfilled, creates conflict within oneself. This very conflict is known as dvandva. The nature of the life intelligence is joy. However, with the conflict, one creates within oneself, the flow of life intelligence is blocked, or to be more precise, one becomes so enmeshed in dvandva that one becomes insensitive to the presence of life intelligence. With the deepening of Svadhyaya, the attention is deepened. Now, here the word attention is synonymous to surrender. With the deepening of Svadhyaya, one may continue a vigorous pursuit of one's external goals with the inner state being free of any kind of resistance or conflict. When the processes within the body happen in a relaxed manner, one's sense of relaxation and joy goes on deepening independent of the external object. Acceptance and surrender are always internal. As attention goes on deepening, so does the sensitivity and attitude to surrender. With surrender, we refer surrender to the intelligence within. That is similar to what many commentators say,“Surrender to God.” We might not be able to accept what is going in externally, however, can always accept what is going on internally. As this internal surrender, to what is going on within, goes on deepening the pervasiveness of the intelligence inherent within is realized. This process of deepening of surrender transforms Svadhyaya into Ishwara pranidhana. Ishwara pranidhana leads to Samadhi.

Samādhisiddhirīśvarapraidhānāt\\45\Perfection or complete attainment (siddhiḥ) of Samādhi or Perfect Concentration (samādhi) (is achieved) through devotion (praidhānāt) to the Lord (īśvara)\\45\After explaining the overall design of the Sadhana in the Samadhi pada, Sage Patanjali suggests in the second chapter of Yoga Sutra, i.e., Sadhana pada, the use of Kriya Yoga for the eradications of afflictions arising in the fluctuating mind. According to the present analysis, it is evident from the psychophysiological analysis given above that every action (karma) results in the fruits of action, i.e., pleasure and pain. These pleasure and pain satisfy the ever-increasing desire of mind for these feelings and at the same time increases the craving for them. The unfulfillment of such desire gives rise to lust and hate. Tapas which includes asana and pranayama not only cleans the body from undesired impurities but also changes the mental state by increasing the mental stability, achieving hormonal balance and augmenting the proper functioning of prana, the vital energy. This results in decrease in the indulgence of thoughts of the external/physical world and forces the seer to look inside oneself. The seer's attitude becomes positive and accepts the world around him/her as it is. Finally, this internal journey culminates in the self-study (Svadhyaya). The self-study reveals their own drawback to one and results in the decrease in the ego and increase in the self-awareness.

The use of the Kriya Yoga is more important in the life of an ordinary person. As he/she practices the Kriya Yoga, through the practice of Tapas, Svadhyaya, Ishwara pranidhana, his/her sensitivity to the understanding of the external world, without indulgence or without getting affected the outcome of the action, increases. This increase in the sensitivity and decrease in the ego helps him/her take proper decisions and respond to situations without reaction. Not only his/her quality of life in the materialistic world improves, but he/she is also led on the path of spirituality.

It is important to note that the occurrence of the Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishwara pranidhana, in Niyama, Patanjali has emphasized it separately in the Kriya Yoga too. The entire purpose of this double occurrence is to make clear the different aspects of these three components when they are practiced as Kriya Yoga and as Niyama. This is done to explain the way to carry out practice of yoga to a common person. The spiritual upliftment is possible even for a person living in this empirical world. Therefore, including the Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishwara pranidhana under the Kriya Yoga, Patanjali has explained a method to get rid of the karma (action and fruits of action) for a common person.

  Conclusion Top

According to the existing commentaries on Kriya Yoga, an action leads to Samadhi. Traditionally, it is viewed as burning impurities (Tapas), self-study (Svadhyaya), and surrender to the supreme (Ishwara pranidhana). In the present analysis of the Kriya Yoga, the Sage Patanjali has emphasized it at two places and has a slight different perspective. Kriya Yoga is the psychophysiological changes, leading to the total control of the body, i.e., internal functions of the body, as well, that leads to surrender to the internal supreme existence of one's own being. The process of Tapas, Svadhyaya, and Ishwara pranidhana as per Kriya Yoga converts a common person into a yogi. The process of Kriya Yoga facilitates the removal of resistance within.

The entire Sadhana, described in Patanjala Yoga Sutra, is for mumukshu sadhaka, who desires moksha or Kaivalya. Patanjali's Kriya Yoga, as explained earlier, leads common man to higher level (Samadhi) by attenuating the kleshas.

Ultimate aim of yoga is Citta vrtti nirodha. This stage can only be attained by extinction of kleshas. Even after viveka khyati, there are many interruptions, arising out of these kleshas and Citta, reverting to the ordinary awareness, as the impressions of old samskaras are still there. This means that it is not possible to get established permanently in the state of Samadhi, as long as kleshas that arise out of impurities at physical as well as mental level are present. These impurities are removed by the practice of Tapas. Tapas leads to expansion of awareness and Svadhyaya and Ishwara pranidhana happen automatically, which in turn enhance the process of Tapas. As a result, no more impurities are formed. Thus, practice of Kriya Yoga attenuates the kleshas, born of latent samskaras. The purpose of Kriya Yoga, i.e., preparing condition of Citta, which is necessary for entering into Samadhi, is fulfilled. Slowly as one makes a progress in Sadhana, kleshas become like a parched seed that does not sprout again and sadhaka reaches to Dharmamegha Samadhi and then attains Kaivalya.


I thank Shri. Niranjan Gogia, Santacruz Yoga Institute, for a fruitful discussion during initial stages of my work. I thank Dr. Hemant Sodaye and Mr. Rohit Pillai for discussions and guidance in manuscript preparation.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.[10]

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