40 day Kriyas: the ups and ups
I’m on day 35 of my latest Kundalini Yoga Kriya, I’m going to do it for 40 days. I have gone through loving it, dreading it, physical pain, ecstasy and a general sense of calm and surrender that has often surprised me as I move through my everyday life.
I have been doing a daily practice now for over 17 years, it found me and claimed my early mornings born from a need to manage a depression that was passed down to me from my father’s line and exacerbated by unfortunate life events. I kicked, screamed and resisted as my practice helped change the energetic and physical map of my mind and body and let my true inner self start to influence my life.
It is often not a comfortable process starting a personal practice, especially if you are not well when you start. You need a strong teacher and support network to hold you in the space and guide you through the ups and downs. But when you find your rhythm and commit to your practice it starts to feel like you massage and clean your whole being every morning. It starts to be a compulsory part of your life, a joyous time to go inwards before you go outwards into your day.
But let me go back, what is Kundalini Yoga? What is a Kriya? And why would I do it for 40 days?
Kundalini Yoga is called the Yoga of Awareness, it is a dynamic yoga that helps you to experience your inner self. The technology of yoga helps to create health within the physical body, improving the immune, endocrine and nervous system, and calming and relaxing the mind. The health and personal power this creates allows us space to experience the unseen energy of our Selves. It is a moving yoga of meditation, attuned to create health and healing.
Each Kundalini Yoga class starts with a mantra to connect us to the universe and ourselves. Then a series of postures to warm up our body, followed by the Kriya, which is the bulk of the class and usually a meditation to end. The word Kriya means action. It is a unique combination of asanas (postures), pranayama (breath), mudras (hand positions), mantra (sound) eye focus, bandha (body locks) and meditation designed to create change within our mind, physical being and spirit simultaneously. It targets an aspect of our self to develop and to create health. And there are hundreds of different Kriyas to choose from! Kriyas to release anger, to create a flexible spine, to heal a broken heart, for abundance and more. A bag of tricks to help you to create the life you desire, a life that awakens and feeds your inner self.
Forty is a sacred number in many different traditions and it is said that it takes 40 days to break a habit. Twenty days to break the old one and 20 more to create the new one. So doing the same Kriya for 40 days allows the effect of the Kriya to start to become an integrated part of ourselves and dissolve the old pattern. There is an aspect of neuroplasticity within the yoga we do and as the neurons fire together, they wire together creating a strong bond within those 40 days.
There are also 90 day practices, 120 day and 1000 days! The Kundalini Yoga Organisation, 3HO says this:
40 Days: Practice every day for 40 days straight. This will break any negative habits that block you from the expansion possible through the Kriya or mantra.
90 Days: Practice every day for 90 days straight. This will establish a new habit in your conscious and subconscious minds based on the effect of the Kriya or mantra. It will change you in a very deep way.
120 Days: Practice every day for 120 days straight. This will confirm the new habit of consciousness created by the Kriya or mantra. The positive benefits of the Kriya get integrated permanently into your psyche.
1000 Days: Practice every day for 1000 days straight. This will allow you to master the new habit of consciousness that the Kriya or mantra has promised. No matter what the challenge, you can call on this new habit to serve you.
So next time you do a class, and the Kriya speaks to you, talk with your teacher about integrating it into your Sadhana (morning practice) so you can start your own 40 day Kriya! Or, if you want, 1000 days! And soon, with any luck, like me you will feel the inner change your commitment has gifted you.
Pip Atherstone-Reid is the co-founder and co-owner of Kundalini House and has been an Acupuncture and TCM practitioner for over 15 years. And is a Kundalini Yoga Teacher.