Anatomy of a Kripalu Yoga Class

If you've ever wondered what goes into planning a yoga class, it will vary greatly by the instructor and style of practice.  Based on hundreds of yoga poses and variations and breath work, the class design possibilities are infinite. 

In a Kripalu yoga class, there's a specific structure that includes centering, warm ups, asana sequences, meditation and relaxation.  Designed to awaken a non-judgmental self-awareness, the Kripalu approach offers a safe, disciplined practice that combines Western science with Eastern philosophy to promote vitality. 

Overall, Kripalu yoga is known to be very gentle, so when Master Teacher Coby Kozlowski designed a Kripalu vinyasa structure, it needed to honor the integrity of the Kripalu philosophy, yet provide greater challenge for those who desire an active practice.  Kripalu Vinyasa was born out of a skillful approach that offers a meditation in motion through an evolving sequence that grows deeper within a selected theme.  Think slow burn.  Despite the slow flow, a Kripalu vinyasa class will certainly feel like a workout.

The word vinyasa is Sanskrit for "to place in a special way."  Traditional vinyasa style classes often move so quickly that the placement of body parts on the mat - whether hands, feet, seat - can distract from the experience of connecting mind and body.  Faster movement increases chance of injury...but we all want our cardio, right?  Let's face it - we all want to check "workout" off our daily task list...and perhaps practice meditation for enhanced self-care.  Kripalu vinyasa provides a generous detox through a good sweat and plenty of cardio challenge - and yet, it becomes a "work-in" through a melody of movements that evoke a feeling of turning inward.  A Kripalu vinyasa class actually allows you to check two tasks off your to do list:  workout and self care.

Beyond the Kripalu structure, the specific anatomy of a Kripalu Vinyasa includes practices from the four paths of yoga:  jnana - the path of wisdom and knowledge; hatha - path of physical connection; bhakti - path of love and devotion; and karma - the path of self-full service.  While these practices may be subconscious to most practitioners, what you will feel is the full body stretch from exercising multiple fascial lines through side bends, forward folds, backbends and twists in every class.  As with all yoga, the combination of breath with movement leads to self-transformation and self-discovery...empowering you to realize your full potential.

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health offers trainings, programs and R&R activities for 60,000 visitors a year.  This summer, I completed two 75 hour training modules working toward a 500 hour yoga teacher training certification.  In the most recent vinyasa module, Coby surveyed the 30 yoga teachers in the room on injuries - and nearly everyone had sustained an injury at one time.  In fact, I had been nursing my own shoulder strain likely from too many chatarunga push-ups.  As my personal practice and training progressed this summer, my shoulder healed - and I am convinced of the safety of the Kripalu Vinyasa practice.  Instead of whipping through chatarungas to break a sweat, I am embracing the infinite possibilities to enjoy meditation in motion through creative sequencing without including the typical plank/chatarunga/up dog/down dog.  

As both a practitioner and instructor, I will always continue to explore the many styles of yoga...but my focus is sharing this unique class offering with the Northern Life Yoga community.  Planning a Kripalu vinyasa class exercises both my left and right sides of the brain with both structure and creativity - but most importantly, what I love is the way a Kripalu vinyasa class feels.  I invite you to experience the true meaning of vinyasa - to place in a special way - and then observe the effects on both your body and mind as you explore self-transformation and self-discovery.

Home on the Yoga Mat

When I was in my 20's and 30's, I welcomed business travel as a way to explore various restaurants along with occasional sightseeing as time allowed outside of meetings.  In fact, I would often plan my meals based on the Zagat's guide for each city, balanced by workouts in the hotel gym or pool.  Now I search for the nearest yoga studios and carefully plan my free time based on class offerings.  In fact, I happily give up dining out in favor of taking a yoga class and grabbing healthy take-out afterwards.  No matter where I travel, the familiarity of the practice is always grounding.  In urban areas, I particularly enjoy how complete strangers can fill a room and immediately become connected through the practice of yoga...we share the same breath and guided instruction along with an appreciation for the practice.  On my last trip, the nearest yoga studio also had a juice and smoothie bar - bonus!  Not only did I sample several yoga classes, but I managed to work my way through a very unique and cleansing raw food bar menu. Apparently my interest in menu sampling has not faded after all.

Embracing the Elements

Every year, a group of travel writers visits the Eastern Upper Peninsula to experience what we have to offer from sites to recreation.  This year, their schedule included kayaking with Bird's Eye Adventures and a Sunset SUP yoga class with me. Since their itinerary was planned in advance and full of activity each day, there was very little room for a Plan B should the weather or wind not cooperate. So when the travel writers arrived at Sherman Park at 6PM on a Friday and the forecast was calling for a 90% chance of precipitation (and 9MPH SE wind!) in our remaining hour of daylight, what else was there to do? After assessing their experience with yoga and paddle boarding, we decided on an abbreviated session. We paddled as our warm-up to acclimate to the boards and water - and stay warm - then clipped our SUPs to sand bags to stay stationary and started the yoga practice.  The light sprinkle turned to a steady rain, but I wanted the experience to be even our savasana was in a light rain.  Thankfully everyone was a great sport about weathering the elements and enduring a less traditional SUP yoga practice with the sun behind the clouds.  At the end of every SUP yoga session, I ask the question, "what's the one word to describe how this experience made you feel?"  The responses ranged from "hot" (I believe in the trendy sense) and "freezing," to "fun and "adventurous." 

There's a great expression that says "life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain..."  and in our case, we made the best of paddle boarding in the rain.  Now we'll see what the travel writers will report about this experience!