The Essentials of Kripalu Yoga

  • By Nisha Baghadia
  • October 26, 2021
  • A brief introduction to what is Kripalu Yoga?

Kripalu yoga is a popular branch of Yoga that aims to attain the holistic growth of the mind, body, and spirit. While most yoga practices deal with meditation and a sequence of breathing exercises, this branch is slightly different. Great for beginners, Kripalu yoga easily adapts to the lifestyle of all — regardless of any physical parameter(s). 

The Kripalu tradition was founded by Swami Kripalu, who played a critical role in sharing the yogic practices among the westerners. It is based on the teachings of the Sanatana Dharma, referred to as "the eternal law" that governs the universe. The roots of this yogic tradition can thus be traced to ancient Sanskrit traditions. Amit Desai, a disciple of Swami Kripalu, brought the practice to the United States in the 1960s and established the first Kripalu Ashram in Pennsylvania.

What is Kripalu Yoga?

Many believe that Kripalu yoga extends beyond physical exercise — it's an integral part of their lives, a source of both bodily and spiritual transformation. As you dive deep into yogic practices, Kripalu yoga is something you should consider incorporating in your day-to-day activities.

A compassionate and modern approach to the hatha yoga practice is emphasized in Kripalu. Hatha yoga translates to a doorway to our inner self, consisting of eight limbs of Yoga as described by Patanjali. It stresses upon meditation, restraint (yamas), concentration (dharana), and overall mental and physical healing. Students of Kripalu yoga learn to watch their thoughts, keep out judgments as they practice self-love and unconditional acceptance to achieve a state of ecstasy.

In Kripalu yoga, one moves at their own pace, loving and accepting everyone while adapting to the changes around them. It equips one to face adversities head-on by looking inwards. Each Kripalu yoga class begins with breathing exercises (pranayama) and stretches. These are then followed by various yoga positions (asanas) and end with the state of relaxation (samadhi).

Kripalu yoga helps clean the mind and the body, relieving tension, and raising awareness to let go consciously. It guides the practitioner to focus on their life force energy or prana.

Kripalu uses four definitions to describe an individual's essential qualities while in a state of yoga. Each of these has been drawn from ancient yoga texts:

1. Yoga is a skill in action. It's a reference to a yogi's ability to adapt and act in a manner that produces positive results. (Bhagavad Gita)

2. Yoga is attaining balance. It's a reference to a yogi's ability to achieve equilibrium of the mind while facing the limitations of the soul and challenges of the external world. (Bhagavad Gita)

3. Yoga is to close off the distractions of the mind. It directs at the yogi's ability to confront life and reality as it is — without the facade of fears, imagination, or misrepresentations. (Yoga Sutra)

4. Yoga is liberty. It points at the blissful achievement of health and happiness when one delves into their natural rhythm of living. (Yoga Bhashya).

Yoga is much more than postures and breathing techniques.

While these disciplines are powerful in healing and harmonizing our being, Kripalu yoga is multidimensional. Here are the six main branches of yoga that it integrates into its practice.

      Karma Yoga: Based on the "yoga of action"

      Jnana Yoga: Based on the "path of knowledge"

      Bhakti Yoga: Based on the "yoga of devotion"

      Hatha Yoga: Based on the "yoga of force"

      Raja Yoga: Based on the "yoga of the mind"

      Tantra Yoga: Based on the "yoga of weaving and expansion".

As students create a balance within and begin feeling the sensations (prana) in their bodies, yoga poses are held for a shorter duration. This practice is gradually extended in the advanced stages where the yogi is guided by their intuitive knowledge and guided to dive into a deeper meditative state. Once the class wraps up, the Kripalu teachers say Jai Bhagwan instead of the usual namaste.

Since Kripalu attached great importance to adaptability and acceptance, those outside the norm agree that Kripalu is very welcoming. It's known to induce massive transformations in an individual's life, especially during their darkest hours or while battling an injury or other forms of physical and metaphysical limitations. 

Thus, Kripalu yoga can be understood as an effort to harmonize the body and the mind — a tool to clear obstacles that prevent us from achieving our true potential. As various ancient texts suggest, the fruit is already present inside the seed. So, Yoga is not an action to attain an imaginary goal or a wish. It simply brings us back to our natural state of oneness with divinity.

Kripalu yoga is based on the understanding that all the world's wisdom essentially flows from one universal truth. It firmly adheres to the idea that the knowledge of the truth is freely available to all individuals, regardless of their age, nationality, gender, race, or religion. Human beings can experience this through a wide array of techniques and practices. It's a celebration of our diversity — that all disciplines are equally valuable and worthy of respect. 


Author Nisha  has a great passion for writing and sharing. She has written many articles on yoga, fitness, wellness, remedies, and beauty. She keeps reading articles on different blogs that gives a kick to her passion and provide her with different ideas. She is growing day by day. 

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