Yoga Journal’s new online Master Class program brings the wisdom of world-renowned teachers to your fingertips, offering access to exclusive workshops with a different master teacher every six weeks. In April, Alan Finger will share ISHTA meditation practices. If you’re ready to get a fresh perspective and maybe even meet a lifelong yoga mentor, sign up now for YJ’s year-long membership.
Kriya yoga is all about purifying your consciousness, says Alan Finger, and from there, meditation becomes easy. “You’re able to sit and do nothing, which is remarkable,” he says. “Because when you’re doing nothing, you’re actually tuning in to unbound, universal intelligence. That’s when inspiration, intuition, and insight come to us.”
The Kriya Yoga practice Finger shares here serves as a great introduction to his upcoming Master Class on ISHTA meditation. In it, he combines asana with breath and sound to help you prepare for meditation by bringing consciousness to the brahma nadi (divine channel), the line of energy that travels from the top of your head to the middle of your pelvic floor, governing intelligence. As you move through the poses below, keep your fingers closed, as this develops more of an inner focus. On an inhalation, bring awareness down the brahma nadi, from the top of your head to your pelvic floor. On your exhalation, sense a distribution of energy from just in front of your sacrum, at the bottom of your spine, into each cell of the body. On the inhalation, think sa, which is the sound of inspiration. On the exhalation, think hum which is the sound of transformation.
Bitilasana (Cow Pose)
Come onto your hands and knees with your wrists lined up underneath your shoulders, knees underneath your hips. Keep your fingers closed. On an inhalation, draw your thoracic spine in toward your chest, feeling length from the top of your head to the base of your spine. Trace your awareness down that line, and silently think the sound sa.
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Marjaryasana (Cat Pose)
From Cow Pose, exhale and draw your belly in toward your spine, feeling your lumbar spine lift up toward the ceiling. Feel the distribution of energy along your spine. Feel your
joints become spacious as you silently think the sound hum. Repeat Cow and Cat 3–4 times with the breath, integrating the sa-hum kriya.
Balasana (Child’s Pose)
From Cow Pose, exhale and keep the line of energy intact as you sit back onto your heels with your arms extended out in front of you. Rest your belly onto your thighs with your head on the floor.
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Bali (Pillar of Strength Pose)
From Child’s Pose, inhale to come up to a kneeling position. Lift your arms overhead with your fingers together, extended toward the ceiling with palms facing forward. Keep your abdomen engaged. Feel sa moving down as you breathe in. On the exhalation, sit back on your heels into Child’s Pose, feeling hum distribute.
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
From Child’s Pose, inhale and come through all fours. Then, lower your pelvis to the floor, extending your legs behind you. Draw your shoulder blades in toward one another, softening them down the back. Feel sa from the top of your head to the middle of your pelvic floor. On the exhalation, sit back onto your heels into Child’s Pose, and feel hum distributing. Repeat poses Balasana, Bali, and Bhujangasana 3–4 times, moving on the inhalations and exhalations and integrating sa-hum.
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From Child’s Pose, come to all fours, and lower your elbows to the mat beneath your shoulders. Interlace your fingers, press your forearms into the floor, curl your toes under, and lift your hips toward the ceiling. Continue pressing your forearms down as you lift your hips and thighs. If your hamstrings or shoulders are tight, bend your knees to maintain the energetic line from the top of your head to the base of your spine. Stay here for a few breaths, feeling sa-hum. Then sit back on your heels slowly, trying to linger in the moment between being upside down and right-side up.
From Vajrasana (Thunderbolt Pose)—in which you kneel and sit on your heels—shift your sitting bones to the left side of your feet, and hook your left foot over your right ankle. Place your right fingertips on the floor, and reach your left arm up and overhead, feeling length from the tops of your fingertips to your left sitting bone. Stay here for 4 breaths, feeling sa-hum. Repeat on the other side.
Dandasana (Staff Pose)
Sit on the floor, or on a blanket, with your legs extended out in front of you, your thigh bones parallel to one another. Reach your arms behind you and press your fingertips into the floor. Peel your toes back, and press out through the balls of your feet, spreading your toes and making space in your ankle joints. Keep your quadriceps engaged, and align your shoulders directly over your pelvis. Feel the energetic line from the top of your head to the base of your spine, and use the silent vibrations of sa-hum as you breathe in and out.