March 10, 2012

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

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.

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