Kripalu Yoga integrates various Yogic practices and heals the body, mind, and emotions through intense meditative practices. Kripalu means compassion and acknowledges each and every human being as a unique individual. The practice teaches us how to look inwards and get used to the inner wisdom in order to understand your own bodies well. Navodita unveils the deeper meanings of Kripalu Yoga, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
A branch of a potent and effective form of Yoga is Kripalu Yoga started by its proponent Amrit Desai, born in the village of Halol, in India. Desai was inspired by his guru, Swami Kripalvananda, who was born in Dabhoi, Gujarat. He started a Kripalu centre in the United States of America, which is still flourishing as Kripalu Yoga.
It is an approach to Hatha Yoga, which is rooted in the ancient Vedic scriptures, teachings of Patanjali Yoga including its concept on Ashtanga Yoga. Kripalu Yoga integrates various Yogic practices and heals the body, mind, and emotions through intense meditative practices. Kripalu means compassion and acknowledges each and every human being as a unique individual. The practice teaches us how to look inwards and get used to the inner wisdom in order to understand your own bodies well. It teaches self-acceptance by being present in the moment.
Kripalu Yoga says, “The goal of traditional yoga is to bring a practitioner to the highest spiritual state called self-realisation. The goal of Kripalu Yoga is to develop a healthy and strong body, an open and caring heart, and a peaceful and clear mind. Kripalu Yoga recognizes that we are born divine and are inherently capable of accessing our spiritual nature.”
Kripalu offers more than 750 educational programmes and spiritual retreats attended by thousands of individuals. Kripalu also provides professional teacher training through three schools: Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training, Kripalu School of Massage and Kripalu School of Ayurveda. Kripalu also includes several institutes: Institute for Integrated Leadership for college students, Institute for Extraordinary Living, which has projects in sports, music performance and works attention and Institute for Integrated Healing, which is a research unit for medical purposes.
Kripalu Yoga puts a great emphasis on breath and proper alignment. Students, it is said in Kripalu Yoga, should honour the wisdom of the body and work according to the limits of their flexibility and strength. It is a tool for self-empowerment and personal growth, as taught in all other forms of Yoga, too. The practice teaches you to tap into your inner knowledge rather than being dependent upon external authorities for guidance and support. You learn to be open to what others have to offer without giving away your powers to reason and to discriminate and make your own decisions. At the same time, you are also establishing and nurturing your relationship with your body.
Kripalu Yoga is a challenging practice to follow in the sense that there has to be the right coordination between breath work, meditation and spiritual attunement. This form of Yoga uses classical asanas, pranayama but with a contemporary rigour and development of a quiet mind and relaxation. It adapts itself to all body types, ages, fitness levels and interests. While practicing this, the whole emotional and mental tension is released, mind calms its restless nature and inner, ever-present spirit is experienced more fully. After this practice one becomes spiritually awake and mentally present in the body.
This Yoga consists of three stages of practice:
Body and Breath Awareness: Focusing the mind on the flow of breath and the details of alignment develops concentration and prepares the practitioner for deeper practice. Postures are held for only a short time which encourages relaxation in every pose. The goal is to allow a strong prana throughout the body and to develop mental concentration.
Holding the Posture: This stage guides you to look inward as you learn to hold the postures for longer periods of time while witnessing all that arises. The purpose of this stage is to become attuned to the presence of the life force Prana through the entire body. The prolonged holding of poses and postures helps to strengthen the muscles and develop concentration and ability to recognize and release deep-seated emotional and mental tensions. Gradually the heart opens creating an increased capacity for learning and growth.
Meditation-in-Motion: This is a unique and personal aspect of Kripalu Yoga. As practice deepens, prana awakens more and energy flows freely where the body moves spontaneously and the ability of the mind to witness its activity increases. The truth is realized in the process. The essence of meditation is a state of inner absorption that can occur in moments of stillness and flow. Hence meditation in motion and sitting meditations are seen as valid and complementary practices.
These yoga classes are thus more gentle, moderate or vigorous depending on the intensity of the practice. This follows some tenets of classical yoga and modifies it to suit contemporary fast times. This is yet another form of yoga that keeps the classical old form and focuses on the relevant practices of relaxation and meditation, sitting or in motion. This is something unique about Kripalu Yoga. We will delve deeply on the subject of meditation soon.
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