What is Kripalu Yoga?


The word ‘Yoga’ is Sanscrit for yoke or union. The purpose of Yoga is to eventually dissolve separation and unify body, mind and spirit. A wisdom tradition of some 5000 years from India, Yoga is the art and science of ever more subtle self awareness and the resulting practice of mindfulness in our actions.

hatha yoga

Hatha Yoga is the practice of the physical postures which are called Asanas. The asanas were designed to bring health and balance to all the body’s systems. Asana is the third step of the Eight Limbs of Yoga as written by the sage, Patanjali about 3000 years ago.

patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga

The eight limbs from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (short verses) are like a map for the journey of Yoga. The first two steps, the Yamas and Niyamas, are practices of moral discipline and right living. Then comes Asana, the physical postures. The fourth step is Pranayama, breathing techniques. The next three are stages of drawing the consciousness inward to more and more subtle layers, and deep meditation. The eighth is Samadhi, which could be described as the experience of Oneness, or universal consciousness.

kripalu yoga

Kripalu is one of many different styles of Yoga being taught in the west today based on Patanjali’s Sutras and the Eight Limbs of Yoga. I believe the different styles are all slightly different routes toward the same goal of unifying and balancing body, mind and spirit for a holistic and healthy life. Yoga is in part a physical practice because we are physical beings. It is also a spiritual practice because we are spiritual beings.

Kripalu Yoga was developed as a contemporary approach for the western world to the spiritual practice inspired by the life and teachings of Swami Kripalu (1913 - 1981).

In a Kripalu Yoga class, we learn to practice Asana, Pranayama and Meditation simultaneously, - awakening Prana, or life force.

Awakened Prana transforms, heals and enlivens the body, the self and experience of life.

Kripalu, meaning compassion, acknowledges and honors each person’s uniqueness. Learning to tune into our inner wisdom, we can better know our own bodies. Kripalu teaches self-acceptance by being present in the moment and accepting ‘what is’. Really being where we are in a yoga posture, rather than straining towards some imagined ideal is the gentleness of the Kripalu approach. All the postures can be modified or adjusted to support this wisdom. Students are thus empowered to follow their own path. It’s not so much about standing on your head as standing on your own two feet!

The repeated practice of self-observation without judgment on the yoga mat begins to move beyond the mat, transforming our daily routines and interactions with others.

“The goal of traditional yoga is to bring a practitioner to the highest spiritual state called self-realization. The goal of Kripalu yoga is to develop a healthy and strong body, an open and caring heart, and a peaceful and clear mind. All along the way, Kripalu Yoga recognizes that we are born divine and are inherently capable of accessing our spiritual nature.” *

benefits of yoga

The physical benefits of practicing Yoga are so numerous, it’s impossible to name them all here. But Yoga has been clinically shown to lower blood pressure, increase circulation, build muscle tissue, increase flexibility, relieve stress and stress related symptoms, increase stamina and strengthen the respiratory system.

The hatha yoga practices are very beneficial for the body on their own. But it is the mindful way that they are performed, combined with breath awareness and an attitute of curiosity and compassion, witnessing mind and emotions - that connects us with spirit and really affects change in our lives.

In Kripalu yoga, the journey is as important as the goal...the joy is in the journey.

For more on Kripalu Center, please see www.kripalu.org.

* From the Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training Manual.

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