What is Kripalu Yoga?
Kripalu Yoga is a form of Hatha and Raja Yoga. Hatha yoga is a yoga that primarily focuses on the physical benefits of yoga, while Raja yoga introduces a meditational aspect of yoga. Kripalu yoga is about compassion--having compassion for your entire being and bringing awareness and gentleness into your mind, body, and spirit so that you can begin to experience life in a more peaceful way. It is the practice of being present or living in the moment. While there are not many "goals" to achieve in yoga, one important aspect to strive toward is creating a deep, inner stillness. Once that arrives, the mind is at peace, the stresses of the world subside, and the craziness of life surrenders. The focus of Kripalu yoga is to begin to let the physical tensions release so that we can focus more on the emotional, mental, and physical energies. We begin to connect with the many aspects of ourselves in order to become whole again.
Kripalu Yoga consists of three stages. Briefly, Stage 1 introduces you to yoga. You become aware of your body as it is sitting, standing, stretching, moving into yoga postures and relaxing. It is the initial awareness that something is happening--something is different. In this stage you become comfortable with what your body can do--how flexible is your body? How flexible is your mind?
Your mind is amazing. When your ego is involved and recognizes how flexible you want your body to be, you may become competitive. While a little bit of competitive spirit is okay, there is no competition involved in yoga. There is the desire to open up and receive energy and peace and find a challenge; but, there is also that part of you that strives too deeply and may cause injury. When practicing yoga you want to find a comfortable stretch that feels good and challenging, but not painful and completely uncomfortable. In Stage 1, you get to know your body again and decide what feels comfortable and what does not.
In Stage 2 of Kripalu Yoga, you begin to hold the postures and stretches longer. You now recognize what feels good and are able to attune yourself to holding and creating a delicious and splendid stretch. By holding postures, you begin to discover inner strength, commitment, limitations, and your ego. At this stage, you begin to take "yoga off the mat." Bringing the characteristics of feelings, sensations, awareness, holding, etc., into your being you begin to notice balance, struggle, peace, contentment, reluctance, and wholeness.
In Stage 3, you sink into meditation and allow your body-mind, spirit, and emotions to guide you through yoga. The mind takes a back seat and you allow yourself full expression of what needs to be done with your body physically--releasing, letting go, and experiencing yoga and life at a deeper level. It is often said that this stage of yoga is like prayer. It is a beautiful opening and awakening to another level. It is your inner spirit moving and speaking.
Kripalu Yoga can be practiced and enjoyed by anyone, no matter how young or old or what physical or mental condition is present. There are many different modifications to help create a comfortable practice of yoga.
Hatha Yoga is typically known as the yoga that primarily focuses on the physical aspects of yoga. With the breath, the practice of hatha yoga can rejuvenate and rebalance the bodily systems; the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, endocrine, immune, muscular, digesting, and skeletal. The yoga postures encourage opening, breathing, and bringing awareness within.
Raja Yoga is known as the "yoga of meditation" and includes the teachings of hatha yoga. It is a journey toward self-realization; coming to know the deep inner substance of the mind, body, and spirit.