Yogoda Practice, Theory, and Evidence

safety

Studies evaluating the safety of yogoda are currently not available in the scientific literature.
Yoga is generally considered to be safe in healthy individuals when practiced appropriately. Avoid some inverted poses with disc disease of the spine, fragile or atherosclerotic neck arteries, extremely high or low blood pressure, glaucoma, detachment of the retina, ear problems, severe osteoporosis, cervical spondylitis, or if at risk for blood clots. Certain yoga breathing techniques should be avoided in people with heart or lung disease. Use cautiously with a history of psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia. Yoga techniques are believed to be safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding when practiced under the guidance of expert instruction. However, poses that put pressure on the uterus, such as abdominal twists, should be avoided in pregnancy.
Meditation should be use cautiously with underlying mental illnesses. People with psychiatric disorders should consult with their primary mental healthcare professionals before starting meditation programs, and they should explore how meditation may or may not fit in with their current treatment plans. Avoid if at risk for seizures.

theory/evidence

Proponents of yogoda claim that it can help people achieve spiritual enlightenment, self-realization, and balance in their lives. Yogoda supporters believe that the technique helps people attain deeper levels of spiritual awareness and perception. However, there is a lack of scientific studies evaluating the effectiveness of yogoda to achieve these goals.
Preliminary evidence suggests that Kriya yoga, the most advanced form of yogoda, may help reduce symptoms of depression. Some researchers have found that this type of yoga may have antidepressant affect in humans. However, these studies were very small, and they were performed by many of the same authors. Therefore, additional well-designed studies are needed to determine if this is an effective treatment.

technique

General: A series of printed yogoda lessons have been created by Yogananda's followers. The lessons are based on the lectures and teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. These lessons, which are meant to be studied in solitude at home, include the technique of energization, the technique of concentration, and the technique of meditation. These three meditative techniques, which are practiced for about one and a half years, are studied in preparation for the most advanced form of yogoda, called Kriya yoga.
Technique of energization: The first lesson is called the technique of energization. People focus on consciously drawing energy from God into their bodies. The goal of this technique is to strengthen and purify the body as the person prepares to meditate. Advocates claim that this technique makes it easier to reach higher states of consciousness. In addition, proponents believe that using this technique regularly promotes physical and mental relaxation and also helps the person develop strong will power.
Technique of concentration: As the name states, the technique of concentration is practiced to help improve concentration. Individuals who practice this technique learn how to ignore external surroundings or distractions in order to focus on any goal, question, or problem that needs to be solved. According to yogoda supporters, when a person's thoughts are completely focused, it becomes easier to realize the "divine consciousness" within.
Technique of meditation: The technique of meditation involves both the technique of energization and the technique of concentration. People use their abilities to draw upon energy and focus intently in order to reach a point of self realization. The goal is to achieve awareness of mind, body, and spirit. As a result, supporters of yogoda claim that a person is able to discover and develop the divine qualities of one's own true self. However, there is not objective way to measure this.
Kriya yoga: Once the preliminary studies are completed (after about one and a half years), students decide if they want to practice an advanced form of yoga called Kriya yoga. This specific type of yoga is more than 10,000 years old and may be used with meditative techniques other than yogoda.
According to the Yogoda Satsanga Society of India, "Kriya is an advanced Raja yoga technique that reinforces and revitalizes subtle currents of life energy in the body, enabling the normal activities of the heart and lungs to slow down naturally. As a result, the consciousness is drawn to higher levels of perception, gradually bringing about an inner awakening more blissful and more deeply satisfying than any of the experiences that the mind or the senses or the ordinary human emotions can give."
This type of yoga involves many yogic techniques, such as advanced breathing exercises and deep meditation, which are believed to hasten an individual's spiritual development. People who practice Kriya yoga aim to reach higher states of consciousness or self awareness. The goal is to bring about a profound state of tranquility and closeness with God. People who practice Kriya yoga are considered gurus.
Individuals may go on to teach the basic techniques and principles of yogoda, whether or not they practice Kriya yoga.