In 1966, a man by the name of Amrit Desai founded Kripalu Yoga as well as the Yoga Society of Pennsylvania. The Society later became the Kripalu Yoga Fellowship. Kripalu Yoga is named after the man who taught Yogi Desai all things yoga, Swami Kripalvananda, in his native land of India. Kripalu is the Indian word for compassion. Swami Kripalvananda was a master of Kundalini Yoga and talented in many other areas such as music, writing, and public speaking. His beliefs are a part of the Kripalu Yoga practice.
1972 was the year in which the original Kripalu Yoga Ashram (yoga center) began in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania and was operated by the inhabitants of the center. The residents of the Kripalu Yoga Ashram ranged in age and ethnicity and catered to the center and the yogi involved in it. Three years into the success of the center, the Kripalu Yoga practice extended to a town near Sumneytown called Summit Station. At this center, there was a wide range of yogic curriculum for students to learn. Soon the Summit Station yoga center became the first well known learning center to teach holistic health.
Kripalu Yoga is different than other forms of yoga and incorporates a three stage process into the practice so practitioners can receive greater benefit from the technical and functional aspects of yoga: pranayama, alignment, and spiritualism. During the first stage in the practice of Kripalu Yoga, students practice the various asanas while remaining attentive to the body’s limits. The second stage in Kripalu Yoga teaches yoga students to remain in the postures for an allotted amount of time while breathing properly to become more in-tuned with their inner consciousness. The third stage in Kripalu Yoga focuses on deep meditation while performing the asanas so they become second nature, much like the actions of breathing or blinking. The movements from one asana to the next are not conscious or specific.
Because Kripalu Yoga consists of three different stages, it is usually taught in three different courses, the first for beginners, the second for those with some familiarity if Kripalu, and the third for those comfortable with it. This way, people can feel more comfortable in their yoga class and practice with yogi who are at the same level. A better journey is created for the Kripalu Yoga student when they can ease from one point to the next in their practice.