Do you recommend Kriya Yoga for people with Bipolar?
I recommend Kriya to certain people with Bipolar Disorder, with a strong caution. Kriya should only be practiced under the guidance of a very experienced teacher or Guru, and you should have a guide or therapist who fully understands the risks. Kriya Yoga can generate a tremendous amount of energy and this energy surge can trigger mania for those with a history of bipolar disorder.
Mania can be triggered by an intense experience - whether positive or negative - emotional or mental activity or certain physical triggers, such as lack of sleep. In Kriya Yoga, energy (Prana) is generated in the spinal channel. This energy must be awakened gradually and in a balanced way in the central channel. Mania, by nature, is a state in which this same energy overwhelmes the nervous system, often producing not only states of bliss and ecstacy and hightened intuitive or psychic awareness, but also disturbing, intense emotions, racing thoughts, delusions, grandiosity, etc.
If Kriya is done with too much intensity, progresses too quickly, or is done without guidance, there is a risk of inducing such a state of mania, as the nervous system must be gradually strengthened and conditioned to handle that kind of voltage.
In my particular Kriya practice (as taught by Yogiraj Siddhanath), we start with 36 Kriya breaths per day, then progressing to 72, and then 108, and so on, over a period of months. For someone with Bipolar Disorder, I would advise that you start with only 12 per day, and that you carefully monitor your mood and energy level. Any increases should be done very gradually and with a lot of mindfulness and care.
I would also advise eating warm, grounding foods (not a raw or vegan diet). And there are other good balancing practices that compliment the Kriya, such as Surya Yoga in my tradition.
Feel free to contact me directly if you have more questions about any of this.
Ben Schwarcz, MFT
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