Meditation and Depression
by 30 yr old female
Hi, I suffered from depression about 10 years ago but was fine ever since. About 6 months ago, I did a course where I was taught how to do this breathing technique called Kriya. Ever since, I'm struggling to get through my days, I feel constantly exhausted, have lots of anger inside of me and recurring suicidal thoughts. All of this hit me completely out of the blue. My medidation teachers tell me to continue with the techniques because they claim that the Kriya is the best therapy for depression. Seeing how I feel at this point (and how good I felt before), I don't know anymore what to believe.
Answer: I'm sorry to hear about these difficulties that have arisen. Who did you learn Kriya from? Which lineage? Do you have a living SatGuru who initiated you, or was it by a teacher?
While it is true that Kriya rapidly speeds you through any unresolved subconscious emotional baggage - the difficulties you describe are not a typical experience. The advantage of having a living Master is that he/she can safeguard you from much of this traumatic upheaval of your subconscious mind. There are all sorts of potential things that can arise when practicing Kriya.
Most importantly - I would want to investigate the possibility of Bipolar Disorder (which can appear as regular depression at first), as mood swings can be triggered by a number of things, including certain antidepressant medications, and certain yogic practices like Kundalini and Kriya Yoga. Sometimes the influx of energy that is openned up can overwhelm the nervous system. Again, with a SatGuru, this is often averted. But if you have a predisposition for Bipolar Disorder, this practice may be ill advised, even with a Guru.
I may be able to help you make more sense of this if you call me. For now, I would advise you to slow down your practice to a very low level of intensity, or possibly stop for a couple weeks, and see if things feel better. If your mind is racing, or if you feel your negative/suicidal thoughts are out of control and overwhelming to you, then you should not continue doing the Kriya at this point. There are gentler meditation practices that would be safer.
Thanks for posting on "Ask a Therapist."
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
After I responded to this question, this young woman fortunately decided to schedule to see a licensed psychotherapist and a psychiatrist for an evaluation. She had learned "Sudarshan Kriya" - a new, popular form of meditation and pranayama that has a huge international popularity in recent years -- from some teachers, and not directly from a Master. I don't have personal experience with Sudarhsan Kriya, (which is NOT the same as traditional Kriya Yoga), so can't really comment on this practice, but I know that many of the practices involve certain pranayamas - rapid breathing techniques that can be rather intense and evocative for some people.
[It is very important to know that Sudarshan Kriya is NOT the same as traditional Kriya Yoga as practiced by Paramahansa Yogananda, Shri Yukteshwar or Lahiri Mahasaya.
Since stopping the Sudarshan Kriya, her symptoms have improved to a large degree but she's still feeling some imbalance. She's also started a gentler meditation (Loving Kindness, "Metta" meditation), and found it to be better for her right now. She comments that most everyone else in her Kriya meditation group has had rapid and positive transformations, so she questioned why her own experience was so negative. This illustrates the importance of trusting your own feelings and intuition. It also reminds us that a "teacher" is not a "Master" of yoga, (her teachers told her to just keep doing the meditation and she would work through the crisis).
Yogic Meditation is a powerful practice, and should be done with care, mindfulness, and expert guidance. It can be of tremendous benefit to most people, but it is not for everyone.