Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why Practice Kripalu Yoga?
  2. What if I am new to yoga?
  3. Why do we say Jai Bhagwan rather than Namaste?
  4. Why do we chant Om?
  5. What is pranayama or yogic breathing technique?
  6. How do I engage core lift?
  7. How do I go about buying my own yoga mat?
  8. Is Yoga a religion?

Why practice Kripalu Yoga?

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What if I am new to yoga?

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Why do we say Jai Bhagwan rather than Namaste?

Jai Bhagwan and Namaste are similar greetings used in different parts of India. Swami Kripalu, for whom Kripalu Yoga was named, was born and raised in the Gujarat province of India. Gujarat is located north of the city of Bombay. Jai Bhagwan is used more commonly in Gujarat than it is in other parts of India. Some people argue that Jai Bhagwan has more religious connotations than Namaste but I use them interchangeably. Namaste and Jai Bhagwan have many translations but the one I like best is "The light in me honors the light in you."

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Why do we chant Om?


The word OM (pronounced "aum") is a mantra, a sound formula that has a specific effect on the mind when it is repeated or heard. OM is the oldest and most basic sound in classical Yoga. It has been said that if you could hear the subtle humming sound of the collective atomic structure of your own body and mind, that sound would most resemble OM.

You may have noticed that the Judeo/Christina tradition captures the essence of OM through prayer in the word "Amen", which you may have chanted before. The Sufis say "Amin". It is a vibration that starts in the belly. It's not a presentation or performance like a song but rather a letting go, a chant, a prayer. Allowing the body to make a sound creates physical and psychological release.

Classical Yoga uses the sound OM to center and focus the mind. Try to empty your mind except for the sound itself, which will eventually lead to complete silence. When you meditate, try repeating the sound mentally a few times after you complete your relaxation. You may find that this helps you to become quiet.

OM comes from three different sounds: Sound of contentment relaxing the belly: "Ahhh", vocalizing opening of throat "Ooo", relaxing of the chest: "Mmmm". Putting these three sounds together creates the sound of "Ahhhooommm".

Benefits of Chanting OM

The following is different explanation of OM taken from Richard Rosen's Intro to Yoga: Philosophy in the Yoga Journal in 2003:

Mantras are sacred chants. Single syllable mantras are called "bija" or "seed" mantras. The oldest and most widely known of the seed mantras is "OM".

According to ancient text, OM is the "primordial seed" of the universe; the audible expression of our world. It is also considered to be the root mantra from which all other mantras emerge.

Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra and is considered the father of classical yoga, taught that when we chant this sacred syllable and simultaneously contemplate the meaning of it, our consciousness becomes "one-pointed" and prepared for meditation. Ancient sages and scholars have written that Om expresses and leads to the "experience of the infinite within us". Thus, chanting OM may be the easiest way to touch the Divine within your very self.

By chanting OM before your practice, the reverberations calm you and create a sacred space in which to explore your body and mind. By chanting OM after your practice, the reverberation will wash over your body as you absorb the benefits of your practice.

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What is pranayama or yogic breathing technique?

Prana means life force and ayama means control or master. Pranayama, therefore, means mastering the life force. One of the major ways that we receive prana is through the air and thus through breathing. Pranayama is the yogic system of breathing that trains the practitioner to control the flow of prana in the body through the practice of breathing techniques. All pranayama is best done on an empty stomach first thing in the morning or one to two hours after a meal.

Types of Yogic Breathing

All yogic breathing is done through the nostrils, both inhalation and exhalation.

Dirgha (Three part Breath)

  1. Inhale and exhale through the
  2. Inhale deeply allowing the belly to expand, continue inhaling into the mid-ribcage and continue inhaling up towards the collarbone
  3. Pull in you belly button in towards your spine while exhaling

Kapalabhati (Skull Polishing Breath)

  1. Inhale deeply
  2. Rapidly contract abdomen, exhaling strongly (inhalation is passive)
  3. Repeat at steady pace. (Start with 30 exhalations and increase as you feel comfortable.)
  4. To finish, exhale and hold out as long as comfortable
  5. Inhale to two-thirds of your capacity and hold as long as is comfortable
  6. Release and feel the effects

Alternate Nostril Kapalabhati (Skull Polishing Breath through Alternate Nostrils)

  1. Sit erect and relax your abdomen.
  2. Inhale deeply through both nostrils.
  3. Bring one hand up to your nose, block your right nostril and strongly contract your abdomen, exhaling sharply through the left nostril. (You may wish to use Vishnu Mudra, the traditional hand position - the index and second fingers are pressed into the palm. The thumb and ring fingers are used to alternately close the nostrils.)
  4. Release your right nostril. Allow your abdomen to relax from the contraction so that a passive inhalation happens through both nostrils.
  5. After the inhalation, block your left nostril and strongly contract your abdomen exhaling through the right nostril.
  6. Repeat, alternating the exhalation between your nostrils. Start with 30 exhalations and increase as you feel comfortable.
  7. To finish, exhale and hold out as long as comfortable.
  8. Inhale to two-thirds of your capacity and hold as long as is comfortable.
  9. Release and feel the effects.

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril breathing)

  1. Right hand in Vishnu Mudra. The index and second fingers are pressed into the palm. The thumb and ring fingers are used to alternately close the nostrils.
  2. Close the right nostril with the right thumb, exhale left, inhale left, close left nostril with right ring finger, exhale right, inhale right, repeat.
  3. Let breath be as relaxed and easy as possible.
  4. Support the arm if necessary to allow total relaxation.
  5. Let go of all timing and counting concerns.

Breathing While Doing the Postures

  1. We are working towards slow deep breathing which is coordinated with movements.
  2. Anytime the body is folding and becoming more compact, the movement is done on exhalation.
  3. Anytime there is an unfolding or straightening of the body or an opening of the chest, movement is done on the inhalation.

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How do I engage core lift?

The ultimate purpose of core lift is to stabilize the sacrum and base of the spine, and engage the deeper internal muscles of the torso. Core lift is actually a gentle but lifting of the pelvic diaphragm located at the base of the trunk. Its engagement supports and activates the internal muscle structure of the torso and aids in stabilizing the spine, aligning posture, and providing a deep focal point of energetic flow. Its focal point is located directly between the anus and the genitals, about one to two inches inside the body in the area identified with the perineum. The perineum is not one muscle but a group of muscles and fibrous tissue. When the muscles of the pelvic diaphragm are engaged, the perineal body (a pea-sized cartilaginous mass) lifts slightly, and the surrounding muscles gently tug on the lower abdominal wall.

When core lift is engaged, the practitioner can actually feel a gentle pull inward just above the pubic bone. As you experiment with contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor, you will notice that the deeper, lower muscles of the abdomen will also contract as a result. In the beginning, you may experience some frustration in applying core lift since the muscles involved are usually involuntary, but with continued practice the muscles will become more responsive to conscious control.

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How do I go about buying my own yoga mat?

Every serious yoga student needs his or her own yoga mat. Here are some of the things you should consider when buying a yoga mat.

Why do I need a yoga mat?

Yoga mats decrease injuries caused by slippery surfaces. Even a carpet can potentially become slippery and cause an injury, especially in a more complicated pose. Yoga mats offer cushioning that is dense yet light-weight. The "sticky" texture  of a sticky yoga mat does a fantastic job of keeping hands and feet firmly in position. Yoga mats also provide ideal support and cushioning between you and that cold hard floor. Support is provided for contact points like knees, elbows and hips, any place where you do not have padding. 

What kind of yoga mats do most people buy?

Most people buy the traditional sticky mat which is 1/8" thick and either 24" x 68" or 24" x 72". The 1/8" thickness does not offer much padding so some people prefer the newer, thicker versions (3/16" and 1/4").  Some people use two sticky mats or an Indian cotton rug in combination with a sticky mat. The sticky mat under the Indian cotton rug provides additional padding and prevents the rug from slipping on the floor.

Where can I buy a yoga mat?

You can buy a yoga mat almost anywhere locally including places like Academy, Walmart, Target, Marshalls, T J Maxx, Oshmans, or Whole Foods.  Also, you can buy them over the Internet where you can find a greater variety of sizes, thicknesses and colors.  

What sizes do yoga sticky mats come in?

The standard mat is 24” x 68”. Some really large mats are 26" x 100". You can order a mat of any length over the Internet. Your mat should be long enough for you to comfortably lay on it.

What thicknesses do yoga sticky mats come in?

Yoga mats come in 1/16, 1/8, 3/16, 1/4 and 5/16 inches. Often the mats are sized in millimeters (mm). The metric equivalents are 1.6, 3.2, 4.8, 6.4 and 8.0 mm. The 1/16 inch mat is a travel mat designed to be stuffed in your suitcase and is not suitable for everyday use. The 1/8 inch mat is the standard mat used by most people. More and more people are moving to the thicker 3/16 and 1/4 inch mats. These thicker mats are hard to find locally and are generally only available over the Internet or from local area yoga teachers who sell yoga supplies.

What types of materials are yoga sticky mats made of?

Typically yoga mats are made of closed cell foam which is impervious to water and has a fairly smooth surface. Some mats come with a waffle-like surface and are typically 3/16" thick. They go by names like Premium Weave or Airex.  Latex free mats are readily available on the Internet.

How sticky should a sticky mat be?

What types of mats should I avoid?

Avoid mats that are narrower than 24" or shorter than 68". The standard mat is 24" x 68". Some inexpensive mats come folded up in boxes. I would avoid these mats as it is often difficult to get the creases out or to get them to lay flat. I would avoid buying any mat that smells funny. You are going to spend a lot of time with your face pressed into that mat.

What are some other considerations when buying a yoga mat?

What type of student would use an Indian cotton rug?

An Indian cotton rug is most often used by students of vigorous styles of yoga such as Ashtanga or Bikram where they sweat a lot. The rug absorbs moisture and perspiration and the moisturized cotton surface provides traction and stability. If you use a rug and don’t sweat, the rug is a bit slippery and it is difficult to hold poses such as downward facing dog. For best results, students lightly sprinkle water over the entire rug surface, or lightly mist the rug evenly with a small spray bottle before class (especially at the hands and feet positions).

What should I expect to pay for a yoga mat?

The standard sticky mat can usually be purchased in the $15 to $25 range. Mats thicker than 1/8" or longer than 68" cost more. I saw a nice 24" x 68", 1/8" thick mat for $15 and a 24" x 74", 1/4" thick mat for $20 at Academy.

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Is yoga a religion?

Because yoga has its roots in the Hindu culture of India, there is a popular misconception that yoga is a religion. Just as the practice of the Japanese martial arts of Karate and Aikido do not require becoming a Buddhist, the practice of yoga does not require that you adopt Hinduism. Rather, yoga is nonsectarian, promoting health and harmonious living.