Shobhan Richard Faulds has been practicing yoga for over 20 years. Kripalu is not just a style of yoga but also the name of one of the most popular retreat centers in the country. Faulds was formerly the president of The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, MA, and currently chairs the Board of Trustees. The center was founded based on the teachings of Swami Kripalu, a famous yoga master from India. Faulds has written Kripalu Yoga: A Guide to Practice On and Off the Mat for non-practitioners who may be interested in trying yoga but not sure where to being or how to approach it.
When Swami Kripalu’s teachings were brought to the West in the 1960s by one of his followers, Yogi Amrit Desai, “Kripalu Yoga” was founded, and the center opened in 1974. Yoga is yoga; the poses are the same. What makes each type of yoga different is the philosophy, spirituality, and life practice that comes with it: “Kripalu Yoga is an approach in which you learn about yourself by being present to the sensations, emotions, and thoughts that are constantly flowing through you.”
With the different styles of yoga invading the West - and the similarities between them - Kripalu Yoga stands out by addressing our limitations and embracing them. While other styles may encourage perfecting a pose, sweating and building muscle, Kripalu’s priority is bringing balance between the mind and body. Faulds discusses how without a connection between the body and mind, it would be impossible to cater to your basic needs - meaning neglecting our physical or emotional health until we wear it to the ground. The balance between the mental and emotional brings joy and meaning to one’s life.
There are three stages to approach Kripalu Yoga. First stage is being present, or awareness. It is what we are doing at the present moment and where our mind is when holding a yoga pose, or trying deep relaxation. A breathing technique – Ujjayi breathing, or “ocean” breath - is used to help a yogi getting into poses. The breathing can help point out any tension your body is feeling or unpleasant thoughts lurking in your mind - which leads to the second stage, focusing inward. We sometimes neglect where our minds go when physically, mentally, and emotionally engaged in something else. To help stay in tune with our breath and movements is where the yoga practice comes in, ending with stage three, meditation in motion.
The book is beginner-friendly, using clear, everyday language and limited Sanskrit in naming poses. There are pictures breaking down various poses as well as sequences given so you may practice at home. There are also chapters included on diet, nurturing the roots of health, and working with trouble areas (i.e. tight shoulders or hamstrings) and how to work with these limitations without making it worse. Faulds include accounts from other students and teachers of Kripalu who share their views and enthusiasm for the practice and how they benefit from it. It is a nice touch that makes you want to see what it is they are in on and experience what they have.
Faulds encourages that yoga is for everyone despite build and flexibility. You work with what you are given; whether it is tight hamstrings or tricky knees, you can still become a great yogi despite limitations: “Deepening your Kripalu Yoga practice does not require you to perform ever-more-difficult postures…Practice deepens as you closely attune to the inner flow of energy and awareness.”