An Introduction to Kripalu Yoga

Kripalu Yoga Center in the Berkshires. Courtesy of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

The name Kripalu is associated both with a style of hatha yoga and a yoga and wellness center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Both were founded by yoga guru Amrit Desai, who came to the United States from India in 1960. Kripalu was named for Desai's teacher, Sri Kripalvananda, a Kundalini yoga master.

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

After outgrowing two facilities in Pennsylvania, the Kripalu Center began operating out of its current home in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts in 1983.

The programs at the center continued to expand until 1994 when it was revealed that founder Amrit Desai had engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with students. He left the center, and the leadership was transferred to a group of senior members who began to rebuild.

Under this new management group, the Kripalu Center began to expand its class offerings to include a wide array of yoga styles and wellness topics and to establish itself as a multi-dimensional retreat destination. These days, the center offers an extremely diverse course schedule. It often hosts yoga's best-known teachers leading weekend and week-long workshops as well as yoga, massage, and ayurvedic teacher training. It has become one of the most popular retreat centers in the United States

Kripalu Yoga

Kripalu is a gentle hatha yoga practice with a compassionate approach and emphasis on meditation, physical healing and spiritual transformation that overflows from the yoga mat into daily life.

Over time, students are taught to observe their thoughts without judging and to accept and love themselves as they are.

In a Kripalu class, each student learns to find their own level of practice on a given day by looking inward. The classes usually begin with pranayama exercises and gentle stretches followed by asana practice and ending with final relaxation.

In classes for beginners, poses are held for a short time as students begin to feel the effects of prana in the body. More advanced classes include longer hold times and, eventually, flow. At the end of class, Kripalu teachers say Jai Bhagwan instead of namaste. The two terms have essentially the same meaning, but the former is in Hindi and the latter in Sanskrit.

Because of Kripalu's emphasis on adaptability and acceptance, it is a style that is welcoming to people who feel like they are outside the norm, people who are looking for transformation during difficult times of life, and people who have injuries or other physical limitations.  

Is Kripalu Yoga for You?

Kripalu appeals to people who want to work on themselves, both physically and spiritually, to improve their health and sense of well-being. The gentle and individualized approach makes it a good choice for students who can benefit from an adaptive practice, such as people with arthritis, seniors, and overweight people. Kripalu is also a wondering introductory practice for almost anyone who have never done yoga before. 

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