A Kripalu Yogi’s Hope for Anusara. ~ Brian Leaf

Via elephant journal
on Mar 10, 2012
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For the past decade or so, I have been on a personal yoga retreat.

I practice Kripalu yoga everyday, often twice a day, but only alone in my office at my altar—no classes, no tapes, no DVDs.

This has left me slightly out of the loop. I never heard of Lululemon. I thought Prana had to do with the breath, and, to me, John Friend was a young, innocent upstart, freshly split off from B.K.S. Iyengar.

But now I have emerged to re-assimilate into the yogasphere. I watched Shit Yogis Say, I friended fifty-three yoga centers, and I became a fan of elephant journal and YogaDork. And, of course, I reinitiated my subscription to Yoga Journal.

Yesterday, my first issue arrived, and with ten minutes to go until my next client, I paged through the magazine.

Initially, I was surprised by the variety of yoga clothing.

Then I hit the Toesox ad and was shocked by the lack of yoga clothing.

Then I flipped through the “Man Factor” article with sketches of muscled men in steady postures and wanted to trade my body in. This one seemed a bit old and soft.

And all along my shoulders were rising, my muscles were tensing, and I was holding my breath.

Until I hit the Kripalu ad, with the simple words,

“and breathe…” above a placid-looking, regular-sized woman in a beautiful pigeon posture surrounded by lots of white space.

My shoulder dropped.

My muscles relaxed.

I breathed.

And I felt grateful for the many blessings of my Kripalu yoga, which is more relevant today than ever—because I was not always so grateful. Eighteen years ago, our guru and founder, Yogi Amrit Desai, was asked to step down after accusations of misconduct. The news was heartbreaking, and I gave up yoga.

If Amrit had mastered the postures and practices, but still committed these transgressions, what could yoga offer me?

I left yoga for only three days. I could not give it up; it was part of me. So I decided to shop around for a new style. I tried Iyengar, Ashtanga, Sivananda, Integral, Svaroopa, Bikram—all excellent, but not mine.

I shopped around until, eventually, I attended a Kripalu class—and melted. Whatever Amrit’s transgressions had been, this was my style of yoga. It made my body relax and my heart open. I was home.

And so, it is my wish today that Anusara teachers and practitioners may also again feel at home in their yoga. Anusara, like Kripalu, is larger now than the one person who started it. It is my wish that these teachers and practitioners may find a thorough and heartfelt healing, and that if they wish, they, too, may reclaim in Anusara yoga the many blessings that have always been there for them.


Prepared by Soumyajeet Chattaraj/Edited by Tanya L. Markul

Brian Leaf is the author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi, coming to bookstores in September, 2012. You can follow him on Facebook.

Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook.


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15 Responses to “A Kripalu Yogi’s Hope for Anusara. ~ Brian Leaf”

  1. tahuk says:

    🙂 I love your description of being out of the 'yogasphere' for a decade. I was the same for about 17 years (home practice mostly and the occassional 2-day course) until last November — and I did much of the same things, including starting to read Elephant Journal and 'friend' everything yoga on Facebook. I never heard of Lululemon or Anusara and had years ago let my Yoga Journal subscription go (i'm in Europe anyway, so didn't seem relevant to me here). The whole yogasphere is so alien in so many ways…. but I like very much the advice to the Anusara yoga disaffected. If this is their yoga — which makes their bodies relax, their hearts open, makes them feel at home — then, yes, they need to claim it and I hope they succeed.

  2. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
    Follow on Twitter

  3. Brian Leaf says:


  4. meaganmccrary says:

    Thank you Brian! I'm working on a book at the moment on different styles of yoga, and the way you describe your experience of shopping around and the feeling that overcame you once back in a Kripalu class, knowing that Kripalu is the style for you … well, it's exactly why I am writing the book. I feel so blessed to have found Anusara, and like you say there's value to all styles, Anusara just happens to be the one that makes me melt. We all have different desires, needs, temperaments, likes, dislikes, you name it––I don't care what style of yoga a person choses but I want for them how Anusara makes me, and you Kripalu, feel.

  5. meaganmccrary says:

    Oh! And I just checked out your book, looks great. I just signed with New World Library for the aforementioned book, which is titled "Pick Your Practice: A Closer Look at Modern Yoga Styles." Anyway, I'd love to connect! Good luck to you!

  6. Brian Leaf says:

    Thanks for sharing, Tahuk!!

  7. Brian Leaf says:

    Hi Meagan, Congrats! Yes, let's connect!
    Thanks, Brian

  8. Brian Leaf says:

    Agreed!! Thanks, Meagan!

  9. Vision_Quest2 says:

    It can fully depend on HOW the practice comes to you.

    Yesterday, there had been an Internet happening of sorts–for instance, an online source of yoga instruction had streamed an attractive and charismatic Kundalini couple, who were a breath of fresh air (to continue with your trope) … devoid of the funny names or the turbans and the woman devoid of the white short-shorts that showcased her gams …

    I just watched while I did household chores … no time to blow my nose …

    But in that moment something touched me, and I could see that if someone out of the commercial (and expensive and competitive) yogasphere just happened to be "tuning in" at that site, at just the right moment …

  10. darcy says:

    Thank you so much- this makes me cry. I have been standing strong with Anusara- it is my home. But definately an intense asana right now. I love the way you ariticulated your invitation.

  11. benjywertheimer says:

    A beautiful, refreshing and very welcome perspective, Brian … thank you!!

  12. Bianca says:

    Thank you so much!

  13. Maryl says:

    Thank you. your compassion is healing.

  14. Islena says:

    Sincere yet light-hearted; thank you. Someone I'd appreciate to have as a funny uncle and role model for my kids 🙂

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