Amrit Desai is an Indian yoga teacher who came to the USa in the early 1960s. He teaches his own brand of yoga, called Kripalu Yoga. Training programs have been established in more than 40 countries.
Desai started teaching Yoga in the early 1960s in the Philadelphia area. In the late 60’s he formed The Yoga Society of Pennsylvania. In 1970 Desai had a Kundalini awakening experience, which convinced him that Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is a manual for the practice of Ashtanga Yoga rather than a philosophy of Yoga.
Out of this experience Desai created Kripalu yoga, which combines Hatha and Ashtanga Yoga. He called his approach Meditation in Motion. His yoga students at first called him Amrit. Later, he was called Amritji. Shortly thereafter he was being called, Gurudev. He reassured his students, now many were disciples, that he was a "real guru". In 1970 he opened a yoga centre in Sumneytown, PA (1972), followed by Summit Station, PA (1976), and the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, MA (1983). By 1994 Kripalu Yoga teachers were teaching in 50 states and 45 countries. After being forced to leave the Kripalu Center for sexual misconduct, he relocated to Sumneytown, PA, then he moved to Florida. The current practice is now known as the Integrative Amrit Method, or the I AM techniques. He founded the Amrit Yoga Institute in Salt Springs, Florida (2001), and co-founding the International University of Yoga and Ayurveda (2014).
The Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health was an Ashram. One of the spiritual practices that the single residents were expected to practice was celibacy (Brahmacharya). After his third child was born Desai declared that he would now practice celibacy too. So important was this practice of celibacy that meetings were held and residents were asked to divulge anyone they thought might have violated that sacred practice. In 1994 it was revealed and admitted that Desai had committed adultery over many years with several female residents/ disciples. One woman had caught him breaking his vows of celibacy. She reported this back to the residential community. He denied it. "Oh she's crazy, no such thing happened." She was forced to leave the community. Her young son stayed there, with his father. Another resident/ disciple was counseled by Desai to have relations with him to "purify her sexual karma." "As a real guru, this would be for your benefit." In 1994, Desai left in disgrace. Questionable business practices also came to light. Desai resumed teaching in 1996 at the original Kripalu Ashram in Sumneytown, PA.
After a couple of years, mostly in PA, the Desai family relocated to Florida. Desai created Amrit Yoga, naming it for himself. Despite the sexual scandal, he continues to refer to himself as a Guru.
- Homegrown Gurus, State University of New York, 2013
- Falk 2009.
- Yug Prabha, Halol, India (2007)
- Falk, Geoffrey D. (2009), Stripping the Gurus
- Sukanya Warren, Peter Mellen, and Francis Mellen (1982). Gurudev: The Life of Yogi Amrit Desai. Kripalu Publications. 117 pages. ISBN 0-940258-07-2, ISBN 978-0-940258-07-5