What is Kripalu Yoga?
Like most yoga styles and traditions, Kripalu Yoga weaves together classic asanas (though not a particular set or routine), pranayama (breathwork), development of a quiet mind, and the practice of relaxation. What defines Kripalu Yoga is its emphasis on:
a) Following the flow of prana (life-force energy)
b) Practicing compassionate self-acceptance
c) Developing witness consciousness (observing the mind without judgment)
d) Taking what is learned about yourself “off the mat” and into daily life
One reason Kripalu Yoga has been embraced by so many people is that it is designed to adapt to all ages, stages of life, body types, and fitness levels.
The Three Stages of Kripalu Yoga
Stage One: Focus on postural alignment and coordination of breath and movement, bringing the mind fully present to the body and to sensations through classical hatha yoga asanas. Postures are held for a short time, which lengthens and strengthens the body, releases chronic tension, and encourages relaxation.
Stage Two: The inner experience is cultivated by meditation while holding postures for longer periods. In addition to strengthening muscles, this longer holding time develops concentration and an ability to recognize and release deep-seated emotional and mental tensions. Over time, unconscious material comes to the surface, where it can be felt, seen, and let go of to restore emotional balance and mental clarity. The heart opens, creating an increased capacity for learning and growth.
Stage Three: Known as “meditation in motion,” both the body and the mind are deeply relaxed. With no thinking involved, the body is invited to move spontaneously, dancing from one posture to another in direct response to the inner urges and the body’s energy (prana).
A Typical Kripalu Yoga Class
Beginning Kripalu Yoga classes focus on stage one, while more advanced classes may include all three stages. Classes are often defined as gentle, moderate, or vigorous, referring to the intensity of practice. But because our needs vary from day to day and over time, students in Kripalu Yoga classes are encouraged to tune in to their bodies wisdom and needs and practice at an intensity that feels right in the present moment. Each class includes centering, pranayama, pratapana (warmups), postures, and a period of deep relaxation to revitalize the major systems of the body, as well as meditation.