Amrit Desai

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Amrit Desai (born October 16, 1932) is a Yoga teacher who founded the Kripalu Center and currently oversees the Amrit Yoga Institute in Salt Springs, Florida, located in the Ocala National Forest.

Early Life and Career[edit]

Amrit Desai is recognized as one of the pioneers of the authentic teachings of yoga in the West[who?]. Desai was born in the state of Gujarat India. [1] At the age of 16 he began training with his guru, Swami Sri Kripalvanandji.[1] He spent the next several years with Swami Kripalu learning, studying and embodying these yogic teachings eventually bringing them to the United States.

In 1955, he married and took a job teaching art in at a local school in Ahmedabad, India. Just five years later, he came to the U.S. to study at the Philadelphia College of Art. In 1960, while pursuing an art and design career, he also began spreading the teachings of Swami Sri Kripalvandanda (Swami Kripalu) [2]

Desai is the last living guru still residing in the U.S. from the initial wave of yogis who arrived in the early 1960s[dubious ].

In 1965, Desai founded the Yoga Society of Pennsylvania, a nonprofit organization providing yoga classes and training for yoga teachers.[3] In 1966, Amrit Desai made his first return trip to India and received Swami Sri Kripalvandanda's empowerments to initiate him into advanced yoga techniques. He returned to the United States to further incorporate the process into the Kripalu Yoga methodology. By 1970, he solely trained 50 yoga teachers and had more than 2,500 participating students taking yoga classes each week. The name of the Society was later changed to Kripalu to honor Swami Sri Kripalvandanda. Desai developed the yogic system popularly referred to as Kripalu Yoga.

In 1971, the Kripalu Ashram Program Center was founded in Sumneytown, Pennsylvania and the staff grew to 65 residents. By 1976, another Kripalu center was established in Summit Station, PA which grew to 170 resident staff. Desai's yoga teachings were gaining in popularity and becoming widespread and well-known.

In 1979, Desai established that holistic health methods may be "an effective way to introduce yoga to people who needed it, but were not yet open to its more traditional forms," so he decided to build a spa-like facility known as the Kripalu Center for Holistic Health in Lenox, Massachusetts. Within a few short years, all the Kripalu Centers outgrew their facilities.

In 1983, a hilltop location overlooking Lake Mackeenac in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts became the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.[2] This organization continues to operate in Stockbridge, Massachusetts as a nonprofit entity. In 1999, under new management, it legally changed its status from a religious organization to a secular nonprofit with a stated mission to teach the art and science of yoga.

In 2002, Amrit Desai founded another ashram facility that provides in-depth yoga training programs. The Amrit Yoga Institute (AYI) in Salt Springs, Florida develops students in the Amrit Yoga Teacher Training and Yoga Nidra methodology. AYI is an experiential learning center dedicated to the ancient Yogic tradition of discovering the truths and mysteries of life through study, practice, service, and direct experience. Yoga Institute

Gurudev Amrit Desai has been recognized both in the U.S. and abroad as a Doctor of Yoga by H.H. Jagadaguru Shankracharya and most recently has been awarded the title of International Yoga Grand Master by H.H. Jagat Guru Amrta Suryananda Maha Raja. (2013)


Amrit Yoga

Hard work can silence the mind during vigorous practice, yet it has no power to alter emotional patterns held securely in the unconscious[original research?]. Amrit Yoga uses the body as an entry point to explore, experience and release psychosomatic blocks that prevent us from tapping into the infinite source of power from within


Through its specific approach to yoga postures and pranayams (breath work), it cultivates inward focus and meditative awareness, and then uses them as an anchor for engaging scattered attention. Withdrawing attention from mental and external disturbances, and instead focusing on physical sensations heals the body-mind split re-establishes harmony.

In Amrit Yoga, the skills you learn on the mat extend to challenges you encounter in life. Vigorous practice combined with internal focus deepen the experience many fold, allowing you to overcome the tendency for fight or flight. By learning how to be engaged totally in the experience, you learn how to harmonize and ultimately silence the conflicting forces and disturbances that arise from the body, emotions and mind.

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is one of the most effective and least explored techniques for unleashing the power of your deep unconscious[who?]. The literal translation of Nidra is sleep. However, Yoga Nidra is a dynamic state, not the unconscious sleep of nighttime. For while ordinary sleep can renew the body and refresh the mind, Yoga Nidra has the ability to alter your unconscious programming.

The Amrit Method of Yoga Nidra requires neither years of practice nor intellectual understanding to access its power

. All that is required is a focus of attention and an abiding trust in the process of revelation through direct experience. It is a unique combination of alert awareness and deep relaxation.

On the most basic level, Yoga Nidra relaxes, rejuvenates and renews the physical body. It also empowers you to eliminate unconscious obstructions and energetic blocks that prevent you from living your life to the fullest. Through regular practice, Yoga Nidra enables you to effortlessly realize your intentions and achieve an integrated state in which your body moves towards self-healing.

Yoga Nidra works by immersing your brain in the healing rhythms of the alpha state[citation needed]. Here, you simultaneously access the power of the logical left brain and the intuitive, insightful right brain, and align your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems to restore the body and mind to homeostasis. This is a state of oneness, where you tap into creative powers beyond the ego-mind and have access to healing on a physical, mental and emotional plane.

Yoga Therapy

Physical limitation or emotional holding appears at the edge in a pose. This approach to yoga therapy is designed around the principle of prana – your body’s life force. With the support of the facilitator, the floor and props allows for exclusive focus on particular areas of the body without strain or struggle. Yoga therapy is an ideal option for clients who want to open the body, but do not want to attend a standard yoga class.

Prana has much more potential than just keeping us alive. It’s nature is to return us to the source from which it came. That energy, when freed to its catalytic momentum, can carry out deep healing at the subtle levels just as it does at the gross. Prana carries out healing at three levels: 1) Accelerated healing of injury, dis-ease and excess tension. 2) Detoxification of physical and mental impurities which the body no longer needs. 3) Return to a being state, where the easy flow of energy in the body allows you to be in flow with life.

Scandal and Resignation[edit]

Having preached celibacy to unmarried couples for over a decade, Desai was caught in a scandal in the early 1990's. This arose from the discovery that he had secretly been demonstrating his “penetrating insight” to the receptive vessels of three of his female students[4](Washington Post, Carlson, 2002a). After the scandal was highly publicised he resigned as spiritual director of Kripalu in 1994. Or, more accurately, he was reportedly forced to leave by the residents of the ashram which he himself had founded.

After an absence from Kripalu for over 10 years he was again asked to teach at the center and all mention of the scandal is omitted from the Kripalu public records.


  1. ^ Katy Bishop, Learning to Relax: Yogi Amrit Desai visits Naples to teach people how to enter the “stress free zone”, Naples Daily News (Naples, Florida), September 21, 2009
  2. ^ a b Cohen, Andrew. Yoga, Ego, and Purification: An interview with Yogi Amrit Desai. What Is Enlightenment? magazine (now Enlightenment Next), Spring/Summer 2000. Retrieved on 2008-08-11.
  3. ^ Yogi Amrit Desai, Amrit Yoga Institute website
  4. ^ Stripping The Gurus

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