Kripalu Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga created by the Indian Yoga Guru Amrit Desai (born 1932). Desai moved to the United States in 1960 to study at the Philadelphia College of Art and started to teach Yoga in Philadelphia since then. He’s considered a Yoga pioneer, bringing spiritual Indian teachings to the West — mainly from his lineage of Shaivite Kundalini Yoga taught by his guru, Swami Kripalu (Kripalvananda).
Through the years, Desai has founded five Yoga and health centers in the US, additionally being the co-founder of a University of Ayurvedic sciences. But focusing in Kripalu Yoga (named so as homage to his Guru), the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health was created as an educational nonprofit organization and promotes Swami Kripalu’s teachings, holds retreats, and offers a wide variety of programs and trainings in Yoga, health, massage and bodywork, personal growth, and spirituality.
Kripalu Yoga integrates tools and techniques from the classical schools of Yoga (Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, and also Hatha Yoga and Tantra Yoga). The practice combines asanas, Pranayama, and meditation, and teaches tools and skills for living fully, taking in consideration all our aspects: body, mind and spirit – developing them in harmony with each other.
The Yoga postures (Asanas) are gentle and similar to Hatha Yoga sequences, but the practice focuses also in learning what is the best way to do certain Asana for your own body, not just copying what is prescribed by the books and teachers.
In beginner classes the poses are usually held for a shorter time, as students start to be aware of the flow of Prana (Life Force Energy) through the body; for advanced classes the poses are held longer, as your body is more prepared and adapted.
Kripalu Yoga encourages students to discover themselves at their own pace, observe their thoughts without judgment, practice self-acceptance, adaptability and compassion; it also aims to improve physical, mental and spiritual well-being and help students to be who they really are and love themselves.
During the late 1980s, Kripalu Yoga Western teachers started to integrate the traditional teachings of Yoga with psychology, science and other approaches to healing and self-development, mixing tradition with modernity and offering the teaching in a more contemporary language for the Western students’ better understanding.
Kripalu Yoga is also self-described as non-dogmatic and non-sectarian; Swami Kripalu believed that Yoga and all other philosophies or religions come from the same universal truth, which can be reached through different disciplines, techniques and practices.
The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is run by a board of trustees since 1994, when it became public that Amrit Desai had been having sexual contact with a few disciples — when he was preaching celibacy himself — and so he was forced to resign his position as Spiritual Director of the center.