Preparing for Deep Yoga Practices

Kripalu School of Yoga

In the Tantric traditions from which Kripalu Yoga evolved, the body was seen as a vast puzzle to be explored and solved. According to these traditions, we hold inside of us the lessons that teach us to resolve our conflicting desires and needs, and show us how to live happily in the world as spiritual beings.

Yoga teaches that all our strengths and weaknesses are present in the body. Some of our strengths empower us with confidence; others need to be downplayed in order for us to develop different strengths. Some weaknesses can be overcome; others must be accepted and integrated into the whole of our life. Strengths and weaknesses in the body are usually linked to similar imbalances in the mind and heart, which can hide their distortions more easily than the body can. The asanas have a way of finding them and holding them up for us to see so we can integrate them and move forward.

Swami Kripalu believed that asana practice is initiated spontaneously in the body during states of advanced meditation, and that each asana corresponds to a particular energy movement and opens a part of the body in a unique way. As yoga teachers, we incorporate a variety of asanas to add depth to our classes, and we continually seek creative ways to help our students stretch and strengthen the body.

There is no standard measure of how advanced an asana is. For example, Lotus pose can be practiced by small children, but many adults consider it challenging. Each asana is experienced differently by each practitioner. All postures have something to teach us about our body, mind, or heart. May we not forget the deeper lessons that can be revealed through our challenges, as well as our accomplishments.

Here are the three stages of preparation for deep yoga practice.

Cultivate a strong container.

Kripalu Yoga emphasizes the cultivation of a strong witness, calling forth the discriminative intellect before you come into the surrender practices to raise energy. Without a strong container, we can reinforce ego structures instead of piercing through them. A strong container also helps to integrate the experiences so that when you bring the experience into the world, you are finding greater vitality, clarity and contentment.

Cultivate sensitivity.

As you practice with a strong witness, you will find greater sensitivity and build awareness of 
the mental, emotional, and physical sensations that arise. This sensitivity will come about in
your practice and in your life. You will cultivate the capacity to be with a greater range of your emotions, feelings, and sensations. With greater sensitivity, you are able to observe patterns as they emerge so that you can then create new patterns from a seat of discrimination rather than a place of reaction.

Raise energy.

These deeper practices serve the intention of raising energy to dissolve habitual patterns so that you can dissolve into a higher state of energy. Each time you have the experience of dissolving ego structures and patterns though raising the energy, healing can occur. 

Find out about upcoming programs with Yoganand Michael Carroll at Kripalu.

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