The Three Stages of Kripalu Yoga
Kripalu Yoga is comprised of three stages of practice:
1-Body and Breath Awareness: Students learn how to practice the classic postures of hatha yoga with relaxation, deep breathing and proper alignment. Focusing the mind on the flow of breath and the details of alignment develops concentration and prepares the practitioner for deeper practice.
During this stage, postures are held for only a short time which stretches and strengthens the body, releases muscle tension, and encourages relaxation.
The goal is to allow a strong flow of prana throughout the body and to develop mental concentration.
2-Holding the Posture: This guides you to focus your attention on inner sensations, thoughts and emotions as you learn to hold postures for longer periods of time while cultivating an ability to witness all that arises.
Kripalu Yoga teaches that there is an intelligent life force called prana that guides the functioning of both the body and mind.
The purpose of Stage Two practice is to become attuned to the presence and flow of this life force. An ability to closely observe the interplay of body and mind, called witness consciousness, is acquired.
The inner experience is deepened through meditation and by holding the postures for longer periods. This prolonged holding helps to strengthen the muscles and develop concentration and an ability to recognize and release deep-seated emotional and mental tensions.
Over time, unconscious material comes to the surface where it can be felt, seen, and released to restore emotional balance and mental clarity. The heart opens, creating an increased capacity for learning and growth.
3-Meditation-in-Motion: This is a unique and personal aspect of Kripalu Yoga.
As practice deepens, prana awakens more deeply, energy flows freely, the body moves spontaneously, and the ability of the mind to witness its activity increases.
We offer our body to the Spirit and take prana to be the guide. The essential truth is realized. Kripalu's approach recognizes that the essence of meditation is a state of inner absorption that can occur in either the flow of movement or moments of physical stillness. Both meditation-in-motion and sitting meditations are seen as valid and complementary practices.
Beginning Kripalu Yoga classes focus on stage one while more advanced classes may include all three stages. Classes are often defined as gentle, moderate or vigorous, referring to the intensity of practice. However, because our needs can vary, students in Kripalu Yoga classes are encouraged to tune in to their bodies and practice at an intensity that feels right in that present moment.