Kripalu Institute: Researching Yoga, Teaching Ayurveda by Honora Finkelstein (This article was originally published in the “Network of Light News” column in the September 2010 edition of Pathways Magazine, published in Washington, D.C.) According to Stephen Cope, Director of Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living (IEL), the institute operates on the principle that, “Yoga has the potential to change the world—both through the alleviation of suffering and the creation of vast opportunities for self-fulfillment.” Cope asks what our society might be like if we were to teach yoga to children in schools, to our military personnel, to those with mental and physical illness, and to the elderly. Kripalu IEL is attempting to answer that question by scientifically evaluating the transformational effects of yoga. Cope says that IEL currently sponsors the largest and most influential team of yoga researchers in the West, consisting of Harvard Medical School faculty and research assistants who are studying the effects of yoga on everything from mental and physical health to the development of extraordinary states of consciousness. Some current IEL studies involve researching how providing yoga in a school curriculum can affect the mental health and performance of adolescents in a secondary school setting; how yoga can affect both active duty military personnel and veterans who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder; the long-term effects of yoga practice on the structure and function of the brain; the effects of regular yoga practice on weight-loss, as well as on physical and psychological well-being; and the development of a standardized yoga curriculum that will give researchers a replicable and reliable intervention to help facilitate comparisons between and across populations. Another arm of Kripalu’s work is its school of Ayurveda. Considered to be the sister science of yoga, Ayurveda is more than 5,000 years old, making it the oldest holistic and preventive healthcare system in the world. The Sanskrit word “ayurveda” means “the science of life.” Hence, Ayurvedic medicine is based on the principles of nature, harmony, and rhythm, helping people come into alignment with the natural order that exists within and around them. Kripalu School of Ayurveda offers a one-year program with professional certification as an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Consultant or Ayurvedic Yoga Specialist. All trainings begin with “Foundations of Ayurveda,” offered in two 12-day sessions. These immersion sessions take place at Kripalu Center and are complemented by at-home study. For more information on Kripalu Institute of Extraordinary Living or the programs of Kripalu School of Ayurveda, please visit