The Three Stages of Kripalu Yoga
Kripalu yoga is non-competitive and very individualized.
“What defines Kripalu Yoga is its emphasis: following the flow of prana (the breath or life-force energy), practicing compassionate self-acceptance, developing the witness consciousness (observing the activity of the mind without judgment), and taking what is learned on the mat during yoga practice “off the mat” and into daily life thus developing an ongoing peaceful connection to the inner self.
“A Kripalu yoga class is designed to adapt to all body types, ages, fitness levels, and interests. The Kripalu style takes into account people’s individuality and personal expression” and different physiques. It is not a one-size-fits-all practice.
“Kripalu offers a framework of three stages of practice.” However it is important to note that these stages are not necessarily linear. Once one is somewhat familiar with yoga, or even as a beginner, one can float between the stages.
Stage One – Will
This is the learning stage of yoga usually experienced as a beginner. The eyes are open; the student is watching the teacher to learn the specifics of each pose – where the body parts go; how to breathe. The rational mind is engaged. “This stage emphasizes postural alignment, and co-ordination of breath and movement”, bringing the mind fully present to the body and its sensations. Poses are held for a shorter time. We learn how to stretch, strengthen, release stress, breathe properly and relax deeply.
Stage Two – Will/Surrender
Stage Two is a balance of will and surrender. The practitioner is beginning to go inwards and listen as much to the inner wisdom of his/her own body, as to the teacher’s guidance. The eyes may close to facilitate this process. This inner experience is purposefully deepened by holding poses a little longer to develop concentration, mindfulness, meditation and to release more deeply held tensions from the tissues. This helps “restore emotional balance and mental clarity”. The rational mind takes a back seat to something deeper, that we might call spirit.
Stage Three – Surrender (called “Meditation in Motion” or “Posture Flow”)
“In stage three, both the body and the mind are deeply relaxed, and the body is invited to move spontaneously from one posture to another in direct response to the inner urges and prompting of prana.” This stage can look very elegant and graceful from the outside, almost like a dance. From the inside, the mind may watch in amazement as the body spontaneously goes further or deeper into a pose. The body may experience moves that it has never been formally taught nor experienced before. There is no “right and left” nor “right and wrong”. Spirit leads one into a kind of fluid moving yoga. Mind observes. See two minutes of an 8-minute unchoreographed presentation of Stage Three Kripalu Posture Flow presented by Julie at Oakdene Centre, Bear River in 2010.
* Notes and quotes for this page taken from an article entitled “The Kripalu Approach: Yoga for Everybody” by Lori J. Batcheller and Grace Welker, first published in Yoga Therapy Ireland magazine.