Can Meditation Make Mental Illness Worse?


Namaste, I’m a 50 years old male and living in US since 2000. I sincerely practiced Sahaj Marg meditation for about 8 years( 2003 — 2011) until I seriously fell ill and diagnosed with Bipolar disease. After that my circumstances didn’t allow me to continue my Spiritual practice but I’m inclined to spirituality in my heart. Recently I got a chance to read "Biography of a Yogi" by Paramahmsa Yogananda and felt a unique spiritual experience. Can I continue my spiritual practice with Kriya Yoga?

—Raja, USA


Dear Raja,

I am very sorry to hear of your illness, and that you had to cease your meditation practices. I believe your question is whether you can practice Kriya Yoga?

First let me say that there is a period of training during which certain techniques are practiced so as to prepare the brain, nervous system, mind, and heart to be sensitively attuned to the subtle energy currents in the astral body and to the subtle presence of the guru.

What we find in this system of preparation is that incidents of mental, emotional, or physical imbalance are minimized, if not eliminated, provided the student practices diligently and leads the balanced life indicated by “yama and niyama” (the basic tenets of moderation, truthfulness, simplicity, devotion, kindness, etc).

Nonetheless, certain illnesses such as bipolar disorder can require personal guidance and fine-tuning so that none of the yoga practices, including Kriya, disturb the delicate balance between extreme mental states.

Fortunately, the very nature of the Kriya practices is to bring us to our center and to help us live in harmony and attunement with our higher Self, while avoiding extremes. Still, even yoga practices can be taken to extremes by a small percentage of people, or, because of prior (including past life) extreme practices, the practices can possibly trigger mental imbalance. Thus the need for an experienced guide.

I am happy to say that of the many hundreds, indeed a few thousand, kriyabans of my acquaintance, the occurrences of mental imbalance triggered by Kriya practices are few and far between. In fact, I cannot think of any.

I would recommend that your condition be disclosed at the outset of your Kriya preparation training and that your healthcare professional or doctor be appraised of your intentions — and that you check in, medically, at key points throughout your training and thereafter, for at least a year after kriya initiation.

We do offer Kriya preparation training online. It is an excellent course, and I think you will find support for your situation to be both wise and compassionate.

May the Light of the Masters guide you home to Self-realization!

Nayaswami Hriman