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Amrit Desai – From Yoga Master to Yoga Scandal!

Amrit Desai

Yogi Amrit Desai is both the father and founder of kripalu yoga in western culture. Over 40 countries teach Kripalu Yoga, making him one of the most influential pioneers of modern yoga to have lived. Kripalu yoga is a form of Asana that focuses on Pranayama and meditation rather than the physical movements. Amrit Desai designed kripalu yoga with the intent to heal the spirit and trigger a spiritual awakening. Disciples of The Kripula Centre For Yoga And Health yearn for spiritual and sexual growth; rather than physical changes to their body. However, Amrit Desai sparked much scandal in his ashram due to certain unrestrained sexual practices with several female disciples. Follow this article to find out more…


The Spiritual Origins Of Amrit Desai
Yogi Amrit Deesai was born in Gujarat, India, on 16th October 1932. Even from an early age, his parents witnessed the growth of his spiritual existence from religion. Despite Desai’s parents being devout Hindus, his interests lay with the rituals of the great holy guru, Swami Kripalvananda. Desai was attracted to fact that Kripalvanandsa was a living master of religion, as opposed to the ancient traditions of the Vaishnavism Temple to which his parents belonged.


At age 16, Amrit Desai was considered one of the youngest yoga masters alive in India. This was largely thanks to his early enlightened views, spiritual foresight and heightened instincts. Desai was initially a self-taught hatha yogi. Once the asana were mastered, he began teaching followers at the home of his master, Swami Kripalvananda. The Swami once practiced asana with Desai. During this time he entered a deep, psychedelic state that he had never achieved before; crediting Desai for this experience.


The Discovery Of Kripalu Yoga
Amrit Desai arrived at Lenox, Massachusetts in the mid-1960’s where he made his discovery of Kripalu Yoga whilst practising Hatha Yoga. Desai began experiencing spontaneous movements whilst in a deeper meditative state. He explains how his path of ecstasy and amazement led to him enacting asana and mudras that were not recited in any yoga book at the time. As such, Kripula yoga can be considered the awakening of kundalini, in which prana (evolved energy) stimulates automatic poses and movements. From this experience Desai was able to elaborate and develop his new yoga art-form. Kripalu yoga, was named out of Desai’s respect for his former master Swami Kripalvananda.


The Kripalu Centre For Yoga And Health
Along his path across North America, Desai married and had three children. He began his first Ashram in the mid 1970s. After creating a second ashram in Pennsylvania in the mid-1970’s, Desai created The Kripalu Centre for Yoga and Health in the early 1980’s in Massachusetts. To his followers he introduced concepts of openness, growth, eliminating neediness and ultimately their devotion to the gods and gurus.


Much of Amrit Desai’s practices in the ashram focused on the principles of awakening sexual libido and sexual love – but without compromising Sadhana (spiritual practice). This made his ashram an ideal setting for couples who wished to explore the full sexual potential within their relationship. However, if you were an unmarried disciple, strict celibacy rules were enforced to restrain your sexual urges.


Unfortunately, other loyal ashram gurus were reluctant at Desai’s proposed methods. They began by questioning whether the intentions of desai might override his honourable spiritual intentions. Most importantly, they felt that the selfish attitudes to free love would hinder the ashrams need for sadhana.


The Rise and Fall of Amrit Desai
Despite setting stringent terms to his ashram disciples, Desai was later found practising “sexual insights” with three of his female students. As such, residents of the ashram later forced his resignation as spiritual director of Kripalu in 1994.


Following desai’s departure, several of his formal disciples who take residence at the centre currently manage the ashram. The art of kripalu yoga still currently continues to expand rapidly with over 12000 guests attend the ashram each year. After some much needed respite, Amrit Desai currently resides at Salt Springs, Florida; as the leading spiritual teacher of a new-age ashram run by Deepak Chopra.


Despite being part of such an unsavoury past blemish, Desai’s biography fails to take this into account. Nevertheless We owe our thanks to Yogi Amrit Desai for his influence on modern yoga as we know it. Without him, western culture would have very limited knowledge about the liberation of spiritual awakening. As such, we should continue to credit Desai for his work within the yoga community.
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