Are you looking to get into yoga and have you just learned about the style of Kripalu yoga? And now you desire to know more about it?
Or maybe you’re seeking to try out another interesting style of yoga and you’re thinking about Kripalu yoga as a possible option?
Well, despite your reason to want to know more about the yoga style, we promise you are going to get an in-depth beginner’s guide to Kripalu yoga.
We will walk you through what the style’s all about, where it came from, how it works, its benefits, how to practice it, and the frequently asked questions about it.
What is Kripalu Yoga?
Kripalu yoga is a style of yoga that is gentle and transformative which is based on Hatha yoga.
Its main aim is to increase the awareness of the practitioner towards their inner experiences and focus on the life force, also known as prana, or vital life or force or vital energy.
Its main emphasis is on physical healing, compassion, self-acceptance, spiritual transformation, and meditation.
With the practice, you learn to become aware of your thoughts without forming opinions, conclusions, and judgments, and instead become more accepting and loving of them. And you also learn to practice yoga beyond your classes and apply the lessons to your daily life.
It is a good practice to use when you want to transform your life after a difficult period in your life that has caused you pain and stress.
Here, you get to be involved in a series of physical poses that have no specific order as you relax and breathe deeply.
The practice can be done by people with varying fitness levels and age brackets without any problems to help improve their health and overall well-being.
History of Kripalu Yoga
The word “Kripalu” is perceived to have two meanings. The first refers to a style of yoga while the other one refers to a center in Massachusetts for yoga and wellness.
Kripalu can be traced back to a yoga expert called Amrit Desai who had learned from a Kundalini yoga expert called Sri Kripalvananda. So, Amrit decided to name the practice of Kripalu yoga after his yoga teacher.
The word “Kripalu” also happens to mean “Compassion” which is one of the foundational concepts of Kripalu yoga, making it the perfect word for the practice.
After traveling from India to the USA back in the 1960s and establishing the center, and teaching the practice well enough, Kripalu yoga became popular and thousands of people began doing the practice.
Around 1994, Amrit Desai was accused of sexual misconduct toward the students leading him to abandon the center and hand over the leadership to several senior members at the center to bring back its former glory and keep growing its popularity and mission to improve people’s lives.
How Kripalu Yoga Works
Kripalu yoga is about looking inwards, understanding your inner experiences, and determining how you’re going to do the practice in a given class.
Your aim is to have a good understanding of how your body manages the various poses used in the yoga style of Kripalu and find the proper way in which you can do the poses which also align with your body.
Each class is bound to be uniquely different from the other classes before as well as the upcoming classes.
However, the classes usually start with gentle stretches and controlled breathing exercises. From there, the practitioner gets into the poses and concludes the class with a period of relaxation.
The 3 main stages of the practice include:
Stage 1. Focusing on the right body alignment
Stage 2. Increasing your awareness of your body sensation
Stage 3. Guidance from your intuitive knowledge and movements that are based on the flow of the vital life force in your body while in a meditative state.
In the first stage, you may begin by holding the poses for a limited period but as you get to the second stage of the practice, you increase the duration of holding the poses.
Other than the physical aspect of the practice, Kripalu yoga also aims to improve our emotional and mental aspects by helping us unblock the blocked energy centers, known as chakras, in our bodies so that energy can move freely.
You can learn more about chakras and where they are located in this beginner’s guide to chakra meditation.
Removing energy blockages helps to do away with different conditions we may be struggling with as when energy is blocked in any area of our bodies, there is an imbalance and quite often, health issues arise.
Something unique about Kripalu yoga is that it encourages the use of the word “Jai Bhagwan” instead of “Namaste” at the end of each class although both words have the same meaning. The reason for that is that one word comes from the Indian language while the other is from Sanskrit.
Benefits of Kripalu Yoga
The main benefits of practicing Kripalu yoga are:
1. Increases feelings of overall wellness – A study that aimed to determine how yoga influences the lives of a diverse and under-served population provided Kripalu yoga classes to 220 participants of different sexual orientations, age groups, and walks of life. At the end of the experiment, about 89% of the participants reported positive feelings of overall wellness and about 83% said the practice was quite helpful (1).
2. Promotes weight loss – Another study that aimed to understand how Kripalu yoga affects weight loss found that it can help improve nutrition behaviors, weight, and psychological well-being (2).
3. May make a good alternative PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) therapy – About 51 military personnel and military veterans who struggled with PTSD were involved in a study where some received 10 weeks of Kripalu yoga while others acted as the control group. Some participants didn’t go through to the end of the study. The results of those who finished the experiment showed that the practice of Kripalu yoga can make a good therapy for PTSD for military men and women (3).
4. May deal with generalized anxiety disorder symptoms – A study that sought to determine the effectiveness of Kripalu yoga on bringing down worry in people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder found that there were improvements in generalized anxiety disorder symptoms as well as heart rate variability for the participants who did Kripalu yoga (4).
5. Handles work-related stress – Research has found that Kripalu yoga can help improve resilience, empowerment, affect, self-compassion and mindfulness in people who work under stressful conditions for up to 8 weeks after doing the practice (5).
6. Improves quality of life in people with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) – Studies show that Kripalu-based yoga practices can help patients who are dealing with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease improve exercise tolerance and overall life quality (6).
7. Improves symptoms of binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa – A controlled clinical trial concluded that a 2 month Kripalu yoga program for women who suffer from binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa can help with challenges in emotional regulation, reduce the frequency of binge eating, increase self-compassion and mindfulness throughout practice (7).
8. Improves self-awareness – Kripalu yoga focuses on our inner experiences and how we can best make use of our natural states and abilities to improve our lives and make them better. By focusing on the experiences, we get to be more aware of ourselves.
How to Practice Kripalu Yoga
Before you take the plunge, it is important to check with your doctor so that they can advise you if you are fit enough to do the practice.
To get effective results and get to benefit from the practice of Kripalu yoga, it is strongly recommended that you learn how to do the practice through a well-trained, qualified, and experienced Kripalu yoga instructor.
You can visit the Kripalu Center for physical classes, or you can look for a reliable instructor within your locality to get classes from.
Also, you can decide to sign up for online classes offered by the Kripalu Center or an individual Kripalu instructor.
If you choose to go the “individual instructor” route, that is, you look for a local instructor in your neighborhood or online classes from an individual instructor, please ensure that you do your due diligence and you only settle for the best.
When you finally get a good instructor, let them know what your goals and desires for the practice are, and also share with them any health conditions you may be dealing with. This will help them create a good approach for you that will help you make the most of the practice.
During your classes, remember to carry your yoga mat and a bottle of water, and wear fairly comfortable clothes that you will have an easy time stretching in.
Avoid learning Kripalu yoga from free videos and online material that is not credible as that may make you have the wrong understanding and approach to the practice and end up hurting yourself and incurring injuries.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Kripalu Yoga
Question: What is Kripalu yoga dance?
Answer: If you are thinking about training as a Kripalu yoga instructor or have heard of Kripalu yoga, there’s also a chance you have also heard the Kripalu yoga dance mentioned. This is a form of training offered to potential Kripalu yoga instructors that combine dance, music, mindfulness, and yoga poses. Here, the instructor learns how they can teach the practitioner to focus on their breathing, remain in a meditative state, and do gentle yoga poses to enhance the unity of the mind, body, and spirit, and make their classes more fun and interesting.
Question: Is Hatha yoga the same as Kripalu or are there significant differences?
Answer: Kripalu yoga is a type of Hatha yoga that is focused on self-compassion, spiritual transformation, physical healing, and meditation. Another key feature of Kripalu yoga is that it aims to take the principles of yoga beyond the mat and into other aspects of your life.
Question: Which are the most common poses in Kripalu yoga?
Answer: The most popular poses in Kripalu yoga include the frog pose, the chair pose, the seated angle forward bend pose, the hero pose, and the camel pose among many others.
Question: Who can do Kripalu yoga?
Answer: Due to the gentle nature of the practice, Kripalu yoga can be practiced by everyone provided they have been given a green light by their doctor.