Kriyas and Mudras

Part I

Since early 1991, I've been living with Kundalini manifestations twenty-four hours a day. The most constant of these varied symptoms are the kriyas. Kriya is a Sanskrit word that means "action." In the context of the risen Kundalini, kriyas refers to involuntary movements which result from increased life force --pranic energy -- in the body. Those who meditate or do yoga regularly may also experience kriyas during their practice.

For me, the kriyas began with a slight palsy-like shaking motion of my head. At the time, I didn't realize I was having a Kundalini awakening and this uncontrollable movement worried me. I thought it might indicate a serious neurological problem, although the many medical tests I'd had in the previous weeks revealed no abnormalities. A short while later, I began to experience little muscle twitches all over my body. These were painless but also worrisome to me. They occurred sporadically throughout the day and night. Soon after this development, the twitches became outright muscle contractions. These were deep and achy. For awhile, they occurred randomly, mostly in my arms and legs. Then they took over my entire body. This time they were agonizing. From the soles of my feet to the top of my scalp, muscles I didn't know I had were convulsing and wrenching as if trying to rip loose from my skeleton. This was accompanied by a horrible burning sensation that felt as if my very cells were broiling in acid. Fortunately, this excruciating condition only lasted a few days. It was a week after this that I became aware that my mysterious affliction was the result of a spontaneous Kundalini awakening.

Then came the most wild of the kriyas. They continued day and night, but were most vigorous when I was lying down at rest. I hardly slept at all during this period. My body would jerk around in radical, spasmodic movements. These often involved very specific muscle groups, such as those in my feet, hands, stomach, back and so forth. The kriyas would involve only one of these bodily areas at a time. I would feel the soles of my feet tighten and my feet clench and relax over and over. Then the energy would move into my ankles, flexing my feet up and down for long periods of time. Later it would reach into my calves, rigorously kneading and contracting the muscles there. I felt as if I were being intensely rolfed by an invisible force.

After some days of this, the "calisthenics" began. The joints of my body were more pinpointed in this phase. My limbs would begin to twist and turn in wrenching, repetitive movements that at times were so violent it felt as if the joints were being dislocated. As these kriyas continued, my body seemed to be slowly loosening up and each phase was less painful than the preceding one. I entered a period of "piano exercises" in which my fingers would one at a time bend and straighten, very rapidly and rhythmically. Sometimes each finger would flex a set number of times -- one-two-three-four -- before the next would begin to move. These movements were far faster than anything I could have done myself.

Then my arms would fly up and down in a similar kind of rapid and rhythmic motion. My legs would kick up and down in the same way. These movements were hard and martial, as if I were practicing military marching while lying in bed. With my body going through these gymnastics, I felt like a marionette whose strings were being controlled by a hyperactive child. By this time, the only discomfort I was feeling from these kriyas was the moderate electric shock sensation that preceded each physical movement. Also, the longs bouts of kicking and arm flailing (which would sometimes continue unabated for hours) were tiring to my body and made my muscles ache.

When the muscles of my back became involved, I would be abruptly arched forward and back, so that I bounced on the bed. If I was standing or sitting, these movements were like greatly exaggerated hiccups. No part of my anatomy was spared in these strange exercises. My head would go through its own workout, twisting sharply left and right, or vigorously nodding forward and back. These movements were so swift they made me dizzy, and so powerful that I feared my neck would snap. My facial muscles moved also. My jaw would "lock" or slide back and forth; my nose would wriggle like a rabbit's; my face would contort into weird expressions. My tongue would take on a life of its own, causing me difficultly eating and making me bite my tongue when I was speaking. My scalp muscles moved too. My forehead would crease up, then stretch so tight I thought the skin would rip. The most frightening of all these movements were in my eyes. They would roll around furiously, feeling as if they would burst out of their sockets. Sometimes the movements were rapidly back and forth. Or my eyes would rotate cross-eyed, or up into my head so I couldn't see. These severe movements were painful. I could feel and hear tissue popping and tearing around my eyeballs when these sessions occurred. I had read that such violent eye kriyas sometimes caused temporary blindness; this did nothing to diminish my fears. Luckily, I suffered no visual damage during this period. After about two months of this, the mudras began. Mudras are sacred hand movements described in some yogic texts. They can be seen in classic statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities. They are also the basis for hand movements in certain ancient dances, such as temple dancing, belly dancing and the hula. For me, they began with significant finger movements. My thumb would be drawn flat across the palm of my hand, or extended outward at a right angle from my palm. Each finger would be pressed and held down at certain points on the palm. I would often feel corresponding sensations in my body when these points were pressed. Whenever the thumb pushed at the base of the ring finger, I would feel a sudden, ecstatic little ripple in my chest. I called these sensations "heart orgasms" and was sure this mudra had a positive effect on the heart chakra. The most frequent mudra I experienced was my thumb and index finger of the same hand being drawn together as if by a powerful magnet. I would actually feel a streaming electrical current flowing through this mysterious circuit. It seemed to be regulating and balancing the energy in my body. This specific mudra often would be held for a long time, once over sixteen hours straight. I learned quickly to be very protective of these joined together thumb/finger mudras. If I accidently jarred them apart -- usually when turning in my sleep or trying to use my hands to do something -- I would immediately go into a seizure and shriek with a sensation of being electrocuted. Conversely, I learned not to play around with the finger mudras myself. When I experimented with this, I found that when I tried to imitate the mudras, there were none of the sensations I felt when they came automatically. Worse, sometimes I would get stabbing little electric shocks when I tried to put my fingers in these positions myself. Out of curiosity, when my husband tried placing his own fingers in the mudra positions, he felt no reaction whatsoever. Then came the most astonishing spontaneous movements yet. One afternoon, the kriyas began to come on hard and strong. I had by this time learned it was better to relax into these movements and let them take me over. Otherwise, if I stiffened or resisted, I felt pain in my body. I had also become accustomed to the rhythmic jerking of my arms, which sometimes caused them to swing to and fro like pendulums or flap like bird's wings. But now something different was happening. The arm movements were becoming more sinuous and complex. As these arm motions became more fast and furious, I went to a full length mirror to witness what was happening. All at once I had the most eerie feeling, as if my body was "remembering" something. My hips, knees and legs began to sway and undulate as the intricate arm motions continued. These arm movements were dynamic, but unmistakably graceful and choreographed. I stared at the mirror in awe. My body was performing some kind of exotic dance. Then my arms came forward and my hands met, palms pressed together in a prayer-like pose, and drew up to the center of my chest. A force pulled me over into a bow and held me there an instant. Then my knees buckled, and I found myself kneeling prostrate on the floor. The thought hit me: "I'm worshipping something." But worshipping what? Then I knew: I had just performed a sacred temple dance. This was the first time that I seriously questioned my sanity. I wondered, with alarm, if I had become schizophrenic. This suspicion was short-lived. My rational mind laughed: schizophrenics don't suddenly break out into beautiful, exotic dances and then realize they're schizophrenic! The temple dancing continued to occur for the rest of that day, and by evening there were also episodes of what seemed to be some sort of tribal dancing as well. This went on for hours, even though I was in a state of physical exhaustion. Although the temple dancing recurred daily for several weeks after this, it never again pushed me to my physical and mental limits.

It was during this time that I also began being thrust into spontaneous asanas (yoga positions). These would happen at night, sometimes in my sleep, or when I meditated. I would awaken to find my body contorted in unusual postures. When sitting in meditation, my body would suddenly be thrown forward into a cobra pose, or other unexpected positions. Eventually, whenever I arose in the morning, my body would be pushed into a series of exercises which would go on for about an hour. These were everything from toe touches to hatha yoga postures to Tai Chi movements. I realized that I was becoming more flexible than I had been in over fifteen years.

[A continued account of my personal experiences with kriyas and mudras will appear in the next issue of Shared Transformation: KRIYAS AND MUDRAS Part II.]