Synthesized from the traditional Hatha Yoga, Kripalu is a system of yoga that utilizes asana, pranayama and meditation in order to foster inner focus, physical healing and spiritual transformation. In comparison to other styles of yoga, this discipline offers a very gentle, practical and adaptable approach to traditional postures. It is designed to be apt for individuals of all ages, body types and fitness levels, and consequently does not adhere to any particular sequence of poses. Rather, Kripalu Yoga teachers are taught to individualize their classes based on the multidimensional nature of human beings.
Classes foster inquiry-based learning; teachers encourage their students to pay attention to their thoughts, emotions and physical sensations as they arise. It is a continuously evolving system of yoga that is distinguished by its contemporary, practical approach. In lieu of a uniform yoga sequence, Kripalu Yoga is comprised of three stages:
- Willful Practice (Body and Breath Awareness)—The first stage focuses on anatomical alignment and breath-movement coordination. The duration of poses is short; and the goal is to create a strong flow of prana, the lifeforce of creation.
- Holding the Posture (Inner Focus and Concentration)—The second stage involves prolonged poses and meditation. The goal is to restore mental balance and clarity by allowing subconscious material to surface, so it may be experienced and then released.
- Meditation in Motion (Absorption)—The final stage encourages deep relaxation of the mind and body; practitioners are encouraged to transition into poses based on their personal impulses and responses to prana.
The methodology of Kripalu Yoga evolved from the teachings of Swami Kripalvananda, or Swami Kripalu, the celebrated master of Kundalini Yoga. Inspired by his master’s lessons, Amrit Desai, a disciple of Kripalu, founded the discipline and named it after his Indian guru.
Desai brought Kripalu Yoga to the United States in the 1960s, when he came to attend the Philadelphia College of Art. He taught numerous yoga classes to practitioners and enthusiasts in the area, establishing the Yoga Society of Pennsylvania just six years after his arrival. Then, in 1972, Desai established the Kripalu Center in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania. The center has since moved to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, where it continues to provide a hub of resources to yoga instructors, students and enthusiasts.
Kripalu Yoga is particularly beneficial for individuals who cannot practice other forms of exercise due to their health conditions, fitness levels or age. In practicing an accessible and adaptable style of yoga, then, such individuals are able to modify their movements in order to receive the same health benefits as others without increasing their risk of injury. Moreover, Kripalu Yoga increases muscular elasticity, postural alignment and coordination, providing a valuable means of physical therapy.
Practicing Kripalu Yoga improves the body’s oxygen absorption, circulation and detoxification. It also poses many psychological benefits. For example, the first stage of Kripalu Yoga is helpful because it focuses on coordination of breath and movement; as such, it provides a useful remedy to stress. The second stage further moderates stress by encouraging practitioners to accept their subconscious thoughts and then release them.
The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health offers three teaching training programs:
- 200-Hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher Certification—This introductory program consists of 100 hours of instruction in the yoga asana, pranayama and meditation, 30 hours of teaching methodology, 20 hours of anatomy and physiology, 40 hours of philosophy, ethics and lifestyle and 15 hours of practicum.
- Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. www.kripalu.org. Accessed Oct. 1, 2013.