Although relatively new (started as a movement in the 1960s), Amrit Yoga represents a return to the ancient yoga practice whose wisdom gets passed from the master yogi (guru) to their students.
By employing a holistic approach, this type of yoga tends to transcend the physical practice of asanas. It dives into the original purpose of yoga, which is to enhance and deepen one’s awareness and cultivate spiritual development.
It’s often said that Amrit Yoga integrates the body’s awakened prana with meditative awareness. The movement and sensations of the body are joined with the mind and the spirit.
Amrit Yoga has three stages:
- Willful practice. In this first stage, the student learns how to properly perform postures (asanas) without applying force. The movement should be slow and detail-oriented. Self-acceptance and knowing personal boundaries are very important parts of the willful practice.
- Will and surrender. The second stage is all about sustaining the posture longer. While performing the asanas, the focus is on resolving mental and emotional conflicts that may arise. As the creator of Amrit Yoga, Amrit Desai has described it, “One melts, merges, and disappears into the eternal energy of the experience.”
- Surrender. The third stage is different from the previous two as it involves spontaneous movement of the body. As we let go, the body guides our posture, with little to no thinking involved. Prana directs the movements of our body.
A Brief History of Amrit Yoga
Amrit Yoga, a transformative practice that combines elements of Hatha Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, and Kundalini surrender, originates from the pioneering work of Amrit Desai.
Amrit Desai was one of the few yoga gurus who had lived in the West and taught authentic yoga practices there during the 1960s.
Initially self-taught in asanas from a gym poster he found in a gym in Halol, India, his journey took a big turn when he met the master of Kundalini Yoga, Swami Kripalvananda. Inspired by the encounter, Desai began teaching yoga to his students in Kripalvananda’s yard.
Upon relocating to Philadelphia to study art, he continued to teach yoga to support himself. His teaching quickly gained popularity, which laid the foundation for the future institutionalization of Amrit Yoga.
After several years of teaching at the Kripalu Yoga Center that he founded with Kripalvananda and various controversies that have engulfed this Ashram, Desai became a yoga teacher at the Amrit Yoga Institute in Florida, named after him.
Today, there are multiple Amrit Yoga Institutes. The teaching focuses on self-inquiry, self-transformation, and integrating the Amrit Yoga philosophy into everyday life. It emphasizes cultivating mindfulness, awareness, and inner lives, and empowers practitioners to connect deeply with their authentic selves and communities.
Benefits of Amrit Yoga
One of the main benefits of Amrit Yoga is that it integrates the philosophy, medicine, and spiritual and physical practices of traditional Eastern yoga and offers this knowledge and experience to anyone, regardless of their culture.
Amrit Yoga is the best choice for those who want to practice yoga holistically and go beyond the first stage of practicing asanas (poses and movements).
Thanks to everything it offers, from physical discipline to gaining knowledge and deepening one’s spirituality, Amrit Yoga engages students in conscious liberation.
Along with the spiritual benefits, Amrit Yoga is also beneficial for the practitioners’ mental and physical health. The physical aspect of the practice helps improve flexibility and strength, while breathing techniques and meditation have significant positive effects on one’s overall mental health.
Many people who decide to join the Amrit Yoga community agree to provide different forms of selfless services, including teaching yoga for free, volunteering in homeless shelters or food banks, supporting populations with unique needs, etc. These selfless acts of kindness can be highly fulfilling and rewarding for the volunteers.
At the same time, having free access to the healthy and educational activities that Amrit Yoga practitioners provide is excellent for those who have an interest and passion for the practice but no resources to pay for expensive yoga classes. Amrit Desai himself received a Rotary Club reward for improving friendly relations among people worldwide. He also built a school for kids in Halol.
When Amrit Desai developed Amrit yoga, although he based it on ancient yoga teachings, he considered the cultural specifics of the Western world. That’s why Amrit yoga is well adapted to the Western culture and its needs, traditions, and daily routines.
Most Amrit yoga programs support a holistic attitude to life and focus on developing skills, the practical aspects of Eastern philosophy, and enhancing one’s awareness of the self and community.
Who Can Do Amrit Yoga?
Amrit yoga is accessible to anyone who wants to try it.
It’s desirable for students to have a bit of experience with yoga so they can be able to perform the asanas and progress towards higher stages of Amrit yoga faster. However, even those with no experience can start with Amrit yoga and go at their own pace. After all, the aim is for everyone to learn how to perform asanas and hold them for longer periods of time.
In Amrit yoga, it’s crucial to have an open mind and a desire to learn and connect with the community.
Amrit yoga is best suited for people interested in transformation through meditation, energy work, and Ayurvedic medicine.
How Is Amrit Yoga Different from a Traditional Yoga Class?
Although Amrit yoga includes the physical performance of the asanas with what you are probably already familiar with, the whole class is different mainly for its holistic approach to yoga and additional activities that accompany the physical practice.
A traditional yoga class mainly offers some of the aspects of Amrit yoga, like the performance of asanas and meditation. However, they rarely involve more drastic changes in lifestyle, extensive learning of the philosophy of yoga, or deepening the spiritual experience of the practitioner.
Amrit yoga is, at the same time, both new and traditional. It was started by Amrit Desai, one of the few people who brought traditional yoga teachings to the West. Besides performing the asanas, Amrit yoga is more holistic and involves spiritual practice, learning Hindu philosophy, using Ayurvedic medicine, and performing selfless acts of giving back to the community.