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What is Kripalu yoga?

Kripalu yoga is a unique style of yoga that is taught at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Wellness in Stockbridge, MA. The center was founded over 40 years ago and is considered the largest and most established retreat center for yoga, health, and holistic living in North America. The three core principles of Kripalu yoga are: 1. Self-care, 2. Self-responsibility and 3. Self-observation without judgement. These are guiding principles that Kripalu yogis aim to follow both on and off the mat.

How is Kripalu style different from other Hatha yoga styles? Kripalu classes are traditionally 90 minutes long, however most teachers offer 75-minute classes. Most Kripalu classes include an opening centering, pranayama (yogic breath work), warm-ups, asana (yoga postures) and a relaxation and/or meditation at the end. The benefits include increased strength, flexibility, stamina, vitality and a sense of calm and relaxation (to name a few).

Why do I practice and teach Kripalu yoga? There are lots of styles out there and while the more extreme ones like "Hot yoga" and "Power yoga" tend to dominate current trends, I find Kripalu style a refreshing and self-compassionate alternative. The use of props is encouraged to help make the yoga postures more accessible and there is an emphasis on comfort and honoring the wisdom of the body. At the start of every class, I say that "if anything I offer doesn't feel good in your body, please feel free to opt out or I can offer you a modification or alternative." Safety is of utmost importance and we want to avoid potential injury in trying something the body is not yet ready for.

When I practice Kripalu yoga, it is a moving meditation. My eyes are closed the whole time as I move through my practice, and I'm going within. As I do this, I'm not comparing myself to others in the class or trying to prove how adept I am by twisting my body into a pretzel and potentially injuring myself. Instead, I'm cultivating mindfulness and quieting my mind as I move with my breath. I guess I would summarize by saying that in Kripalu yoga, how we approach our practice informs us on how we approach anything in life. By practicing self-care, self-responsibility and self-observation without judgement on the mat, we can then carry these practices into our daily lives.

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