Vipareeta karani mudra is the first of the kriyas in the sequence of kriya yoga for various reasons. One of the most obvious reasons is that it physically induces balance of the ida and pingala breath flows in the nostrils. This balance is vital in spiritual life and should occur on all levels from the physical to the more subtle levels of the mind. In Lesson 23 we described physical methods of inducing balance of the ida and pingala breath flows3. In technique 1, called padadhirasana we explained that pressure under the armpits quickly and effectively induces the required idapingala balance. Vipareeta karani mudra brings about the same result in the final pose, since the arms are compressed in order to support the weight of the inverted body. This balance of the breath flow through the two nostrils is essential in meditative practices for it helps one to tread the narrow razor’s edge between excessive introversion and absorption in the psychic world (ida) and the opposite extreme, distraction in the outside world (pingala). If you practise vipareeta karani mudra you will find out for yourself that the
breath flows are indeed rapidly balanced. When this balance is achieved, then the subsequent kriyas become much more powerful.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika continues: “Regular practice of vipareeta karani mudra increases the digestive fire; therefore, the sadhaka (practitioner) must have extra food available. If the diet is insufficient then the increased digestive fire will reduce the body.” (v. 80, 81) This is a warning that applies to all kriya yoga practices. One must be careful with diet4. In the above quotation, a warning is given that the metabolic rate may increase; therefore, it may be necessary to increase your food quantity to prevent loss of weight. The reader should use his discrimination and regulate his food input according to prevailing needs.
“In the beginning, the body should be inverted for only a short duration. The duration can be slowly increased day by day. After six months of daily practice wrinkles and white hair will disappear.” (v. 82) This advice is more relevant for long periods of practice such as half an hour, one hour, etc. In kriya yoga there is a fixed time, which should not be exceeded.
The vipareeta karani mudra in the scriptures is not specifically intended to be a part of kriya yoga. It is given only as a technique.
Another reason for practising vipareeta karani mudra first is that it increases wakefulness. That is, the inversion of the body directs an extra blood supply to the brain and increases alertness. One is then able to do the following kriyas more correctly, with greater awareness and without falling asleep. Vipareeta karani mudra acts on the brain in a similar manner to sirshasana, though the effect is less extreme.