Amrit Desai is the original founder of Kripalu yoga, he came to the United states in 1960, he had a passion for yoga and came to Philadelphia for the college of art. Amrit Desai was inspired by his guru Swami Kripalu and he wanted to continue the teachings and practices that he had learned from him and share them with the rest of the world. While in Philadelphia, Desai taught many students around the area, he eventually left with a small group of them to go and establish a residential yoga retreat center in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania, which is also known as the first Kripalu Center (Kripalu 1). In 1974 they decided to change the name of the non profit organization, It was now called the Kripalu Yoga Fellowship, this was due to the fact that they wanted to put emphasis on propagating the teachings of Swami Kripalu through residential retreats, depth programs, and the training of Kripalu Yoga teachers (Kripalu 1). Swami Kripalu purchased another facility in Summit Station, PA, in 1975. This soon became the first full expression of the Kripalu vision for a residential yoga, health, and program center (Kripalu 1). The summit had a very inviting atmosphere containing students housing, prepared meals, group yoga instruction, and a holistic-health center that provided massages along with other services. The health center was known as the origin of healing arts, which to this day is a major part of the foundation of Kripalu yoga as a whole. Swami Kripalu didn’t arrive to the U.S. until 1977 and then past away after his time at summit station. In 1983 Kripalu found its permanent home in Massachusetts.
Kripalu yoga is a style of yoga that was branched from the influences of the teachings of Swami Kripalu. Swami Kripalu practiced guru-discipline yoga. His primary teachings included healthy lifestyle, self-observation, the power of Prana, service, compassion for self and others, and role of spiritual centers. Kripalu’s Science of Meditation teaches sit down and say a prayer, take ten deep breaths, let go of any attempt to control, meditate for at least one hour, and end with a prayer of gratitude. (Kripalu 1) The yoga style stopped being religious in 1999 and steered towards a direction of educational programs and spiritual retreats. Kripalu yoga is a style of hatha yoga. Hatha literally translates to forceful in Sanskrit. Hatha yoga is an old system that nearly every style of yoga falls under. Hatha yoga includes a combination of Asanas and Pranayamas and prepares the body for a meditative state. Kripalu has the distinction of being the first, and possibly the only, yoga center in North America to survive the transition from a traditional guru-disciple structure to a secular, all-inclusive center for yoga, health, wellness, and lifestyle change. (Kripalu 1) Nonetheless, Kripalu yoga branched from a traditional style of yoga influenced by the teachings of Swami Kripalu himself, but it has become modernized into an inclusive style of yoga that promotes healing, education, and empowerment.
In 1960 Desai taught yoga classes and formed a non profit organization with nine other people called the Yoga Society of Pennsylvania to advance the philosophy and science of yoga. After a few years, the Yoga society was offering 150 yoga classes a week with a good amount of trained teachers trained by him, and made books and other educational resources for students. In early 1983 Kripalu bought its current and permanent home in Stockbridge named Shadowbrook. This was because the Kripalu community was overflowing the Sumneytown and Summit Station facilities. Because of this facility the staff was now able to offer a innovative curriculum of programs on yoga, personal growth, health, spirituality, massage and bodywork. During the 1980s, Desai became an international figure in yoga, delivering talks, performing yoga demonstrations, and leading seminars worldwide.(Kripalu). During the 80s, Amrit Desai became an international figure for yoga, having public talks, leading seminars globally. The Kripalu community grew in size until it contained more that 350 residents. After a while in the late 1980s they put more effort to combine the teachings of yoga with science, psychology, and Western approaches for healing and self-development was . The teachings of this type of yoga was increasingly expressed by Western teachers in language that engaged with the living world. In 1990, Ashram’s (different type of yoga) network expanded to include a huge number of Kripalu teachers throughout the world. The year after The Kripalu Yoga Teachers Association was made to coordinate training and professional development by certified teachers of the yoga. The 2,200 members of KYTA and the thousands of students they touch each week remain a vital part of the Kripalu mission (Kripalu).
Since Desai had sexual relationships with a few female Ashram residents he resigned and now there is no official relationship with Kripalu and Desai now. Between 1996 and 2004 launched Kripalu as a globally identified yoga retreat and experiment program center. Kripalu Yoga reaches out to a wide mix of teachers from other training and traditions to expand its curriculum and grow the number of people interested in yoga, health, and personal growth. During these years Kripalu officially stopped being a religious order and got restructured. Now the non profit organization offers spiritual retreats and a wide curriculum of educational programs. Once the Board of Trustees hired a new CEO and president for Kripalu the program strengthened, relationships with top presenters were refined, attendance for the program increased by a lot, which let the organization thrive and expand. In 2009 they got a housing building called The Annex for Kripalu guests and students since they were growing so much. In 2012 they had two men help Kripula to imagine and build a better and deeper expression of the yoga for the modern age. Those two men were David Surrenda and Richard Faulds, who were already CEOs of their own company. Because of the direction they were taking it, Kripalu has strengthened Kripalu’s innovative programming offerings and curriculum development as well as the Schools of Yoga, Ayurveda, and Yoga Therapy, and the Institute of Extraordinary Living, positioning Kripalu to make an even greater impact in the world (Kripalu). As of now Kripalu is lead by Dr Barbara Vacarr and still evolving and growing. Kripalu works to make and support a compassionate, awakened and connected world. Dedicating themselves to empower people and communities to understand their full potential through the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga.
Yoga as a practice is often used for physical benefits related to reducing stress and blood pressure and increasing relaxation, flexibility, strength, endurance and energy levels. Kriplau is similar to many styles of yoga and it uses the body as a way of accessing your spiritual being, emotions, and mind. It is often called the yoga of consciousness because it places an equal balance and importance on the mind, body, and spirit. The practice of Kriplau teaches the you to find help from yourself rather than relying on guidance and help from external sources, like other people. You learn to be open to what others have to offer without giving away your powers to reason, discriminate and make your own decisions. At the same time, you are also establishing an intimate and nurturing relationship with your body, (Parnell 3). Kriplau is a challenging approach to asana yoga practice which emphasizes meditation, breath, and encourages inward focus on oneself. In Kripalu yoga, the person is encouraged to hold poses to release emotional burdens. This is similar to asana yoga where the person is also focusing on releasing energy while holding specific poses and positions. There are three different stages involved in Kripalu yoga. The first stage, willful practice, focuses on learning the postures and exploring what your body is capable of. The second stage, willful surrender, involves holding the postures for an extended period of time, while learning how to concentrate and release unwanted emotions. The final stage, meditation and motion, focuses on meditation while moving. This is where movement from one posture to another occurs unconsciously and spontaneously (Yoga Disciplines – Different Types of Yoga 3). The practice of Kripalu yoga as a whole can invoke physical healing, psychological growth, and spiritual awakening.
Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga include yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. These limbs are not limited to just the practice of yoga, but are tools to use in order to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Specifically, Kripalu yoga is a practice that reflects the third branch of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga, asana. Kripalu encourages a focus on breathing and meditation. These outward practices of focus and control translate into inward focus and being spiritually aware. A kripalu class typically begins with a pranayama exercise (which are different breathing exercises), and then flows into an asana practice. The practice mostly focuses on the satya portion of yamas. Satya teaches that the individual needs to be truthful in our feelings and thoughts, and translate that truthfulness not only within ourselves, but with those around us. This aspect of yama is important to kripalu because without truthfulness, one cannot grow psychologically and be spiritually aware. Niyama is an integral part of kripalu. It focuses on self discipline and meditation which are two pillars in the practice of kripalu. One of the most important aspects of niyama in relation to kripalu yoga is tapas, which is a sense of self- discipline in order to realize our true greatness.
Twisting Chair is a pose that builds heat in the legs while simultaneously pushing out the stagnation that can accumulate in the chest and lungs from excess kapha. Moving from side to side with the breath, as well as longer holds, can be beneficial. Also, headstands are when you reverse the blood flow in the body, accumulated fluid in the ankles and legs (which can be caused by too much kapha) gets the chance to move and drain. Headstand also shifts the tendency of kapha to get stuck in the same old routines, by offering a whole new perspective on the world. A distinguishing factor in the practice of kripalu yoga is that at the end of every class instead of saying namaste, the saying jai bhagwan, which essentially means the same thing (I bow to you, or thank you), but in Hindi instead of Sanskrit.