Kripalu Yoga Essentials

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Kripalu yoga is a form of hatha yoga that places equal importance on the mind, body, and spirit. It is associated with the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Massachusetts where teacher training takes place. This style of yoga is ideal for beginners and is accepting and adaptable to everyone, no matter your age, ability, size, or other circumstance.

For many, Kripalu yoga extends into their daily lives and it can be the source of great spiritual and mental transformation as well as physical health.

What Is Kripalu Yoga?

Kripalu is a gentle hatha yoga practice with a compassionate approach. It places an emphasis on meditation, physical healing, and spiritual transformation that overflows from the yoga mat into daily life. Over time, students are taught to observe their thoughts without judging and to accept and love themselves as they are.

Kripalu is gentle yoga that emphasizes moving at your own pace, self-acceptance, and adaptability. It is ideal for people facing life challenges.

Because of Kripalu's emphasis on adaptability and acceptance, it is a style that is welcoming to people who feel like they are outside the norm. It's also popular for those who are looking for transformation during difficult times of life or who have injuries or other physical limitations.  

The History of Kripalu Yoga

The name Kripalu is associated both with a style of hatha yoga and a yoga and wellness center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Both were founded by yoga guru Amrit Desai, who came to the United States from India in 1960. Kripalu was named for Desai's teacher, Sri Kripalvananda, a Kundalini yoga master.

After outgrowing two facilities in Pennsylvania, the Kripalu Center began operating out of its current home in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts in 1983. The programs at the center continued to expand until 1994. That is when it was revealed that founder Amrit Desai had engaged in inappropriate sexual relations with students. He left the center and the leadership was transferred to a group of senior members who began to rebuild.

The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health

Under a new management group, the Kripalu Center began to expand its class offerings to include a wide array of yoga styles and wellness topics. It also began to establish itself as a multi-dimensional retreat destination.

These days, the center offers an extremely diverse course schedule. It often hosts yoga's best-known teachers, who lead weekend and week-long workshops. It offers yoga and Ayurvedic teacher training and also has a school for integrative yoga therapy and a school for mindful outdoor leadership training.

It has become one of the most popular retreat centers in the United States. Guests can visit for a day or for longer overnight stays. Students can enjoy yoga classes as well as dance, movement, Ayurveda, meditation, and more. Various healing arts services are also available such as bodywork, energy work, and facial treatments.

How to Practice Kripalu Yoga

In a Kripalu class, each student learns to find their own level of practice on a given day by looking inward. The classes usually begin with pranayama exercises and gentle stretches followed by asana practice and ending with final relaxation.

In classes for beginners, poses are held for a short time as students begin to feel the effects of prana in the body. More advanced classes include longer hold times and, eventually, flow.

At the end of class, Kripalu teachers say Jai Bhagwan instead of namaste. The two terms essentially have the same meaning, but the former is in Hindi and the latter in Sanskrit.

The best way to experience a Kripalu class is to visit the Kripalu Center or sign up for a program online. The center provides a schedule for their upcoming programs, workshops, and teacher trainings online.

For instance, you can subscribe to an on-demand yoga program for $59 that allows you to to drop in to weekday classes for one month. Classes are a mix of all levels, and provide gentle movement as well as pranayama and meditation.

Kripalu Yoga Benefits

Kripalu appeals to people who want to work both physically and spiritually to improve their health and sense of well-being. The gentle and individualized approach makes it a good choice for students who can benefit from an adaptive practice. This includes people with arthritis, older adults, and anyone who may be overweight. Kripalu is also a wonderful introductory practice for almost anyone who has never done yoga before. 

A few clinical studies have suggested some specific benefits of yoga and other yoga-related practices as provided at Kripalu.

May Provide PTSD Therapy Alternative

A small study conducted in 2017 and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology explored the way that Kripalu yoga may help military veterans and active duty personnel with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While 51 participants signed up for the study, only a small number finished it. So while study authors did find that yoga participation may have potential as a PTSD therapy in a veteran or military population, they acknowledged that high drop-out rate and suggested that more, larger-scale studies need to be conducted.

May Reduce Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

A case report published in the International Journal of Yoga examined how yoga may help people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This common psychiatric condition is associated with symptoms such as worry, anxiety, and experiential avoidance.

The report details the experience of three participants who received eight twice-weekly Kripalu yoga sessions. Each participant showed improvement in a variety of symptoms, leading study authors to suggest that yoga has the potential to improve the processes linked to GAD.

Other Potential Benefits

Other small studies have been conducted at Kripalu that link the practice of yoga and yoga-specific breathing techniques to other benefits such as reduced workplace stress, reduced symptoms of bulimia nervosa, and improved quality of life in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between Kripalu yoga and hatha yoga?

    Kripalu yoga is hatha yoga that is performed at the Kripalu Center or online by a Kripalu faculty member. Kripalu yoga places an emphasis on meditation, physical healing, and spiritual transformation on the yoga mat and in daily life.

  • What is Kripalu yoga dance?

    Kripalu offers dance training as a part of some of their teacher training programs. The classes combine mindful movement and yoga postures with music and dance. It is a fusion of gentle yoga, user-friendly dance, breath, and meditation in motion, with music from around the world that helps to expand the yoga teacher's toolkit so that they can offer more to their students.

  • What is Kripalu Yoga Women’s Week?

    Women's Week at Kripalu was an event held in 2019 that offered a line-up of pioneering yoga teachers, best-selling authors, prominent civil rights activists, and celebrated artists and speakers. The Kripalu Center offers a range of events that may last days or up to a full week and focus on different topics or areas of interest.

5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Morgan JR, Sullivan M, Masuda A, Tully E, Cohen LL, Anderson PL. A case series on the effects of Kripalu yoga for generalized anxiety disorderInt J Yoga Ther. 2016;26(1):9-19. doi:10.17761/1531-2054-26.1.9

  3. Dyer NL, Borden S, Dusek JA, Khalsa SBS. Long-term improvements in psychological health following a yoga-based program for professionalsJ Altern Complement Med. 2020;26(2):154-157. doi:10.1089/acm.2019.0340

  4. Brennan MA, Whelton WJ, Sharpe D. Benefits of yoga in the treatment of eating disorders: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Eating Disord. 2020;28(4):438-457. doi:10.1080/10640266.2020.1731921

  5. Kaminsky DA, Hanania NA, Guntupalli KK, et al. Effect of yoga breathing (pranayama) on exercise tolerance and dynamic hyperinflation in patients with COPD. In: D39. COPD: Non-Pharmacologic Therapies. American Thoracic Society International Conference Abstracts. American Thoracic Society; 2016:A7911-A7911.

By Ann Pizer
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.