My Long Love Affair with Kripalu Yoga

Looking back, it’s not surprising that my first encounter with Kripalu Yoga was so impactful. I was in the midst of a difficult divorce and grappling with anorexia. In other words, I was ripe for transformation. What does surprise me is that 30 years later, Kripalu Yoga is still as relevant to me as it was when my first yoga teacher taught me to take a deep, diaphragmatic breath and let go of whatever I was feeling on the exhale.

What is it that calls me to practice each day? As I’ve sat with that question, I’ve come to appreciate anew the subtle truth of Kripalu Yoga. Because it is grounded in prana, or life force, and the ever-changing flow of breath and energy, my practice of Kripalu Yoga never gets stale. I can do the exact same sequence of postures every day for weeks and my experience is always fresh, because the sensations I’m focusing on are different in each moment. The adjustments and micro-movements that emerge from my body are always new. The emotions running through me are never the same―joyous, warm, and love-filled one morning; resistant, fearful, or angry the next.

There is a deeper reason that I still do Kripalu Yoga. When I pay close attention to every nuance of my inner experience, my practice always brings me back to my true self—my unique, embodied, expressive self, the one who watches her hands dance in an unexpected flow of mudras on the way into Triangle, the one who loves to feel her way into postures one deep breath at a time, the woman who trusts the urges that not only individualize my practice but open me to insight and inner knowing. Beyond that, my practice connects me with something so much bigger than my small self. It invites me to enter what I call “time out of time,” that luscious inner space where words are unnecessary and self-talk falls away. The direct experience of presence or source, even for just a few moments, bestows myriad gifts.

There are, of course, days when my yoga practice is nothing more than exercise―that thing I do with my body before breakfast while my mind is busy compiling to-do lists. But even at my most distracted, I’ve found that if I slow down my movements and shift into Ocean-Sounding Breath, all of a sudden, I’m back in the present moment, with all its wonders and difficulties. That ability to be present spills over into my day, keeping me centered, enabling me to be a more empathic listener and make wiser choices.

When I began the practice of Kripalu Yoga, I just wanted to feel better in my body―more relaxed, less judgmental, and more open to life however it showed up. What I really treasure today is how yoga helps me know myself in a very different way, not as a scared and separate seeker, but as a whole person connected to the web of humanity and divinity.

This morning, as I bring myself back to my body, back to my breath, back to the barely perceptible sense of flowing energy, I find the thread that links me again to that very first class in 1983, when my teacher suggested in relaxation that I stop doing and “just be.” As I fold my yoga blanket, I realize with a smile that my long love affair with Kripalu Yoga has not yet run its course.

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Danna Faulds, author of seven poetry books and the memoir Into the Heart of Yoga: One Woman's Journey, is a long-term Kripalu Yoga practitioner.

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