Marking 40 Years of Kripalu Yoga in the West: Kripalu Community Members Recall Milestone Moments
In 1972, a small residential yoga retreat called Kripalu Center was founded in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania, by Amrit Desai and several of his students from the Philadelphia area. Desai had emigrated to the United States from India, where he was a close disciple of the yoga master Swami Kripalu. Over the next 40 years, Desai’s students integrated Swami Kripalu’s core teachings with psychology, science, and Western approaches to healing and self-development, creating groundbreaking programs and approaches to well-being. Today, Kripalu’s curriculum, professional training, and yoga research continue to be informed by the lineage of Kripalu Yoga. To commemorate the 40-year milestone, we asked several teachers and community members to reflect on what Kripalu Yoga means to them.
As a Kripalu Yoga teacher trainer, there is nothing quite so moving to me as getting to witness yoga-teachers-to-be at the end of their training practicing meditation in motion. At the end of an intensive, life-changing month, I get to witness a room full of souls allowing their sacred yoga prayers to unfold. Each one unique, each one a beautiful gift. In these moments, I have to pinch myself and say, “Really? I get to do this?”
—Jurian Hughes, Kripalu School of Yoga teacher trainer
Over time, my sense of the practice of Kripalu Yoga has gotten simpler and, at the same time, more profound. My practice has connected me more with nature, which wasn’t something I expected to happen. It provides inspiration, grounding, and context for the practice. Kripalu is also a unique gathering place, a platform where people can connect and feel a sense of belonging.
—Randal Williams, senior faculty member
The Kripalu Sanctuary is hushed, with only an occasional soft snore in the air. A repetitive chant plays softly on the sound system, holding us gently in its arms. The Inner Quest Intensive guests are in deep relaxation, stretched out across the floor, tucked under their blankets. After two days of introspection, of living yoga, they are deeply relaxing, resting, drawing on passive grace. I watch and breathe. Several staff members sit in meditation, sentinels of peace, scattered throughout the room. Peace, possibility, community, and hope abound in the room, tangible in our resting, collective breath. Thirty-four individuals bonded as one. One breath, one unit, one community of healing and heart.
—Aruni Nan Futuronsky, life coach and 35-year teacher
At the end of my monthlong Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training program in 1987, our group was led into a posture flow experience. Moving with exquisite sensitivity, as if I had all the time in the universe to reach forward or bend down, I disappeared into a slow-motion world I’d never visited before. Breath and movement were so closely linked that I couldn’t separate them. The sweep of one arm upward brought breath in; the slow float of the hand down to my side triggered the exhalation. I was aware of music, of the hot breeze blowing through the open door, of our teacher urging us to let go of anything that stood between us and the freedom to be fully human and fully divine. As a Kripalu Yoga practitioner and spiritual seeker, I had come of age.
—Danna Faulds, author of the poetry collections Go In and In; One Soul; Prayers to the Infinite; and From Root to Bloom
When I took my first Kripalu Yoga class, it was like walking into a warm embrace. I was astounded that yoga could be so opening, loving, and compassionate. Kripalu gave me the freedom to explore my practice in a way I had never experienced before. For the first time, I felt safe enough to soften and relax all the judgment and tension I’d been unwittingly holding in my mind and body. It’s now eight years later, and my heart continually opens to this beloved practice.
—Janna Delgado, senior faculty member
The first time I came to Kripalu was for a monthlong yoga teacher training. Everywhere I went, I had such a familiar feeling, deep down. Even the smell of the place reminded me of something, something I had longed for without even knowing it. Now I know it was the yoga bringing me home. The simple focus of breath, the permission to be as I was, the idea of practice as inquiry rather than self-improvement opened doors that I hadn’t even known existed. Kripalu Yoga invited me to align with my true nature and continues to do so 11 years later.
—Cristie Newhart, teacher for R&R retreats and guest yoga
When I first came to Kripalu in 2004, all I knew about yoga was heat, fast pace, and 80 postures in 90 minutes. When I went to my first Kripalu Yoga class, I was shocked. Slow pace, no heat, and only 15 postures in 90 minutes. My body and nervous system felt soothed yet worked and, for the first time, I learned that yoga also involved my breath, mind, intuition, and heart. I was awakened to the inquiry of this beautiful tradition on and off the mat.
—Danny Arguetty, Kripalu Yoga teacher
Before I ever stepped foot on the Kripalu grounds, my brother, who had just spent a week there, called me and said, “Al, if you go to Kripalu, you won’t come back.” About six months later, I packed my bags and headed to the Berkshires to take the leap from yoga practitioner to yoga teacher, and to put my brother’s hypothesis to the test. I had no idea just how right it would prove to be. I was about to meet my longtime teacher, whose teachings would rock my practice, alter my life views, and completely unravel my understanding of myself. I was about to meet my future husband, who would join me on this ecstatic and terrifying journey of life. I was about to embark on a whole new career, weaving together several life passions. Eight years later, Kripalu is still at the hub of my life. When I park my car and walk across the breathtaking grounds, I sometimes find myself saying a silent thank you to this crucible that has helped me create a life that I love, one that I never could have imagined when I first heard my brother’s words.
—Allison Gemmel LaFramboise, Kripalu Yoga teacher and faculty member