Definition of kriya: spontaneous body movements thought to be related to a release of kundalini energy. The movements could be small muscle twitches, violent jerks, shaking, muscle cramps, or spontaneous vocalizations.
Many spiritual movements consider kriyas to be indicative of spiritual progress, but the Transcendental Meditation movement never directly addressed kriyas despite the dramatic kriyas that occurred when TM meditators started practicing the TM-Sidhis. TM teachers also had kriyas during and after some of the first TM teacher training courses that had unlimited rounding.
Boy, did I have kriyas! When I meditated prior to learning the TM-Sidhis, sometimes my head would shake, sometimes my head would snap back and remain locked way back, and sometimes my whole back would arch and remain locked in an arched position. I also occasionally had tight clenching of my eyes during meditation which made me worry about hurting my eyes.
After I learned the TM-Sidhi on levitation, I had even more types of kriyas. Sometimes my hands and arms would move like slow Tai Chi movements, and sometimes I had vocalizations of nonsense syllables.
The standard explanation for kriyas is that the kundalini energy at the base of the spine is awakened, and this causes physical movements as the kundalini energy moves through the body. Kundalini energy was supposed to prepare the body for enlightenment, and that same kundalini energy was supposed to be part and parcel of enlightenment.
Even Christian Charismatics have kriyas. There is a hilarious YouTube video put to a Jerry Lee Lewis tune that shows the gyrations/kriyas of Charismatic Christians. The video is entitled “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On! Holy Roller Style!” and is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWVHpm49tOU.
So that I am not seen to only be making fun of Charismatic Christians, I will link to another YouTube videos showing kriyas from the shaktipat of a guru at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-pCix0vb5E&t=2s . Here’s another video showing and explaining kriyas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SHZjgVrhBU .
In my opinion, even the hopping during the TM-Sidhi on levitation is scratching an “itch” (which seems to be a pretty big “itch”). I don’t think hopping has anything to do with a preliminary stage of floating or levitation. I think hopping is a kriya. A 28-second video of “yogic flying”. A 44-second video with TM organization’s narrative.
In My Enlightenment Delusion, I state that I think that kriyas and hypnic jerks are basically the same thing. A hypnic jerk is an involuntary twitch which occurs just as a person is beginning to fall asleep. Hypnic jerks resemble the jump experienced by a person when startled. Over 50% of people experience hypnic jerks.
Myoclonus is the medical term for a brief involuntary muscle twitch. Hypnic jerks and hiccups are both myoclonic jerks. I suspect that kriyas could also be categorized as myoclonic jerks.
Modern science has not solved or understood tics, hypnic jerks, and hiccups. It doesn’t seem likely that science will bother researching kriyas.
Tics also seem to be similar to the jerky type of kriyas.
The following internet excerpt comes from https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/chiropractic-research-on-tourette-syndrome-the-trouble-with-case-reports/ . What I find interesting in the following paragraph is that tics exist in the “grey area between voluntary and involuntary”.
“The Tourette syndrome tic
The most recognizable feature of TS is the tic. These are sudden, short-lived and seemingly random movements or vocalizations which exist in the grey area between voluntary and involuntary. By that I mean that although they are generally considered involuntary, and they certainly can take patients by surprise, tics can typically be suppressed voluntarily and patients can learn to use purposeful and less socially awkward movements to dissipate the premonitory urge universally described by patients with the condition. Think of it as a sort of internal itch, maddening at times, that only certain movements or vocalizations can scratch. It is a near constant source of frustration and annoyance in many patients with TS.
Tics can be simple movements, such as eye blinking, grimacing, or jerking of the head and neck, or surprisingly complex behaviors, even ritualistic. They can be violent or subtle, easy to conceal or extremely disruptive. Vocalizations follow a similar pattern of simple and more complex noises. Grunting, throat clearing, and sniffing are extremely common but the most widely known form, thanks to a number of misleading characterizations of TS in movies and on television for comic effect, is that of coprolalia. This symptom of TS, which occurs in ten to forty percent of cases, involves the involuntary utterance of obscene words. Of note copropraxia, when complex motor tics take the form of obscene gestures, is also not uncommon.”
That “gray area between voluntary and involuntary” also seems in play for some kriyas and some hypnic jerks. With kriyas and hypnic jerks, one can feel the buildup of some kind of energy or urge. Purposeful movement seems to dissipate, delay, or avoid kriyas and hypnic jerks.
The “gray area between voluntary and involuntary” was apparent when I was instructed in the TM-Sidhi on levitation. In the first few days of “hopping”, many TM teachers had spontaneous vocalizations of screams, barks, and nonsense syllables. Later on in the course, the loud vocalizations lessened after course leaders repeatedly instructed that it wasn’t necessary to make noise.
Perhaps my “Tai Chi-type” kriyas during meditation felt good and natural because they were dissipating some physiological “itch”. Perhaps the dancing of Christian Charismatics and others in religious services is a way to dissipate a physiological “itch”.
I don’t expect kundalini proponents to say that tics, Tourette’s, and hypnic jerks are due to an activation of kundalini so I wonder if kundalini proponents are embarrassed or concerned that many kriyas seem so similar. I also wonder if they will be willing to consider possible causes for kriyas other than kundalini.
On another day, I will write about the similarities between a kundalini crisis and psychotic mania. It seems that kundalini proponents have “some ‘splaining to do”.