It’s springtime in the Berkshires, lilacs are blooming, and everything is lush and fresh. Kripalu couldn’t be more alive with spring energy.

Inside, Gary talked about the yogic approach to breaking the chronic illness symptom cycle. “The doorway,” he said, “is the breath.” He identified two keys in this approach: pranayama and mantra japa. Pranayama addresses a client’s objective symptoms such as pain and fatigue. Mantra japa addresses a client’s subjective relationship to his or her symptoms, such as negative emotions or anxiety. Breath-centric asana and pranayama are good for energy management and restoring parasympathetic/sympathetic balance; they build prana shakti and can help improve immune function. Sound, chanting, and mantra have both physiological and psycho-emotional benefit.

Gary taught that pitch and volume alone can affect parasympathetic/sympathetic balance, and that the added component of a mantra’s meaning and the feeling it elicits can have a positive impact on a client’s thoughts and mood. The potency lies in the confluence of repetition (japa), meaning (artha) and feeling (bhava), the use of the breath, and the vibratory quality of the sounds.

Gary brought all these ideas alive in an artfully constructed, succinct, integrated practice that combined breath centric asana, chanting, pranayama, visualization, and ritual and that led the group into meditation. The intention of the practice was to increase energy for participants who had been sitting inside on a rainy, misty day and to enhance illumination of the mind to absorb and metabolize the contents of his teachings. The breath work was progressively energizing, and the chant and visualization components invoked the energy of the sun:  Om jyotir aham.