Kriya yoga has found a place in some people who are looking for a deeper, more spiritual relationship with their lives. It is a kundalini oriented yoga and meditation technique, that also teaches certain spiritual and esoteric principles. Unfortunately, like many similar "spiritual" power structures, it teaches you that essentially your power lies outside of yourself - that is, that you need a 'guru', or 'master' to access your own innate spirituality.
Kriya yoga has some aims which sound both appealing and promising. They aim to eliminate "obstructions" and "obstacles" from the mind and body. Point of view is a very interesting thing here, however. Because what is an obstacle or obstruction to one person, may not be to another. This assumes a very interesting light in reference to power structures and belief systems, and highlights why it is important to maintain your own self sovereignty in mind and action.
Kriya yoga was brought to the West by Yogananda in the 1920's. He established the Self-Realization Fellowship as a 'total yoga' system that tried to address spiritual as well as physical aspects of self.
Kriya yoga is derived mainly from three other yoga techniques - karma yoga, bhakti yoga, and Jnana yoga. Karma yoga focuses on the movement of the soul both inside and outside of the mind. Jnana yoga focuses on wisdom, allowing the mind freedom. Bhakti yoga focuses on love, as it allows you to come to terms with everything around you. The aim in combining them was to "purify" the mind and soul, and proponents of kriya yoga believe they can achieve self realization more quickly this way than following the other disciplines.
The first step in Kriya is to 'prepare' your body, and that is done in one of a couple of ways. For many, Hatha yoga is the perfect preparation exercise. For others, though, who may not be as flexible, alternatives are provided.
Next in Kriya, the mind is prepared. General conduct is studied as part of the mental process in this discipline, so ensuring your mind is correctly focused is essential. Additionally, the Kriya yoga technique pushes you to study overall wellness, cleanliness, purity, and even metaphysical principles. Together, though, they help to 'prepare' the mind for later techniques, which use the body's life force currents ostensibly to "refine" the brain and nervous system.
Mantras are taught in kriya yoga techniques. They are believed to deepen the meditative experience. This sound technology undoubtably tunes the body, like a tuning fork, as will any sound that is repeated and focused on. The question is, of course, to what frequency is the body being tuned?
If self realization is a journey, whose journey are we undertaking? Ours, or someone else's? Kriya yoga undoubtably resonates with some people. For myself, I prefer more transparency.