What you seek is seeking you. – Rumi
A few months ago, Jen told me she wanted us to get away and spend a weekend at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. We’ve actually talked about it multiple times over the past few years, but the strong desire for respite came right after our largest wholesale client closed its doors. At the time, I agreed. We were stressed and burnt out. It was something to look forward to and something I knew we needed.
Back in November, we decided on a Yoga and Deep Relaxation Retreat: The Gift of Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra with Jennifer Reis. The promise to experience deeper levels of relaxation than ever imagined; permission to rest, balance, restore, and tap into new sources of energy; it was perfect. Exactly what we needed and desired.
But due to financial constraints, I hemmed and hawed, yes-ing Jen along the way. Why was I stressing out over something that was meant to bring us peace? Well, I’m a crazy Capricorn – what can I say. Things like this stress me. And when there’s only so much money in the kitty to work with, one must strategically choose how and where to invest it. Finally, my wife reminded me that we were investing in our health and sense of wellbeing. Oh, right, I completely forgot.
So there’s me, hemming and hawing the week leading up to the event – no reservation made. Several disappointing phone calls in – accommodations are full, only the most expensive rooms are left, etc. I was an emotional mess – stressed and crying, feeling terrible. I wanted to go and I was kicking myself in the ass for not reserving sooner. Again, why was I being stubborn about investing in our health and well-being?
The day before it started, Jen encouraged me to call one more time. And as luck and the universe would have it, we got in. Talk about a feeling of relief. I was ecstatic. We both were.
So off to find respite at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health…
Our day began with a visit to our chiropractic-kinesiologist, Lorraine Spinard (who we love and adore). We were due for a check-in after our liver-gallbladder flush (more on that soon). It’s always comforting to see Lorraine, she’s a spark of a woman with so much knowledge. We always leave feeling a bit better and ready to tackle whatever ails us at the moment. But this time, we weren’t driving home. We were headed to Stockbridge, Massachusetts to be submerged in peace and tranquility.
Along the way, we stopped at Lekker in Stone Ridge, NY – a charming cafe committed to sourcing local, organic, seasonal and sustainably grown ingredients. A delightful bowl of chicken-turmeric broth and an avocado salad later, we were back on the road filled with such a nutrient dense healthy lunch. A sense of ease enveloped us, as we knew we would soon arrive…
As we approached the Berkshire mountain setting, my eyes welled with tears.
A small sign greeted us – Breathe. You’ve Arrived. We were like kids arriving at Disney World for the first time, eager to explore and experience all that was offered.
Check-in was a breeze and we quickly found our room to settle in. To keep the expense down, we opted for a room with a shared hall bath. Not my preference, but we were happy to see how well it was maintained. Our first yoga class was at 4:15pm, so we had some time to roam around and get our bearings.
Exploring Kripalu & Yoga Nidra
The staff was courteous and happy to answer questions. Activities were displayed along the walls so folks would know what was happening and where.
On Friday, after our first yoga class, we attended dinner. What a treat. No thinking, no cooking – just good food, ready and waiting. We were really impressed by their commitment to local and organic food – and their ability to accommodate so many dietary needs. Whether you were vegetarian, vegan, gluten free or paleo, there was plenty to choose from. Other than needing maybe just a tad more salt, which is understandable when cooking for the masses, everything was delicious (plus, they had Himalayan sea salt in shakers on the table – we were thrilled). My personal favorite was the salad bar – nothing like hearty greens, accouterments, and delicious homemade dressing. I happily enjoyed one, twice a day, amongst the other delicious food.
After newbie orientation, we headed to the Main Hall for our program (along with almost 80 other folks – men and women both young and old). The stage was set. And while the reasons bringing us there may have differed, we were all seeking true deep relaxation. Jennifer (not my wife, but our guru) explained what to expect for the weekend leading us into some yoga and then, guided meditation known as yoga nidra (think savasana but longer, deeper and better). It was soothing and calming – a great way to end our first evening.
Saturday and Sunday started with yoga at 6:30am – each class we attended (other than our program) was instructed by a different teacher which was nice and kept it fresh. You could choose which class you wanted to attend based on your level (beginner, gentle, intermediate and vinyasa). Since it was so early, we opted for intermediate – saving vinyasa (the most active kind) for the afternoon.
Morning yoga was followed by a silent breakfast. All you heard was the clanking of forks and dishes. In the silence, everyone appeared to be a bit more tuned into their surroundings. It was interesting to watch. On several occasions, I found myself mouthing words to Jen and silently offering an apology for bumping into someone.
On Saturday, our program had two sessions. Both included yoga and divine sleep yoga nidra, guided meditation that relaxes you at every level (physical, energetic, mental, emotional and spiritual). Through breath awareness, body scanning, healing music and nature imagery, Jennifer guided us into profound peace. The basic idea is to turn off the ‘flight or fight’ response and turn on the ‘relaxation response’. She also explained how 30 minutes of yoga nidra is equivalent to 3 hours of sleep. The best part, nothing is required other than to lie down and listen. A pretty easy task, if you ask me. I only wish we had found our way to yoga nidra sooner – we could have really used those 3 extra hours when we were hustling 60-90 hour work weeks…
A break for lunch was most welcomed and while we didn’t participate, the Yoga Dance class that was happening had an electric vibe. In hindsight, we should have thrown it to the wind, but there’s always next time.
Our afternoon vinyasa class was packed. If you’re new to yoga, vinyasa style yoga is like basic yoga and a workout – sweaty, powerful and connected. Probably not the best place to start but once you’ve got your yoga flow, it’s a great experience. The room was literally full with not a mat space to spare. Led by Sarajean Rudman, this class was intense – but in the best way possible. The only word to describe Sarajean – fiery. By far, it was my favorite yoga class as it was fast and continuous – there was no time to think, you just needed to do.
Saturday night offered a concert with folk singer, Erica Wheeler; a nice way to unwind after a long yoga-filled day. She opened with “Let It Be” by the Beatles to honor the Women’s March, which was happening that same day – it was powerful. The overall energy was filled with sadness but yet hope seemed to be felt by all. Erica shared stories of Kripalu’s past, her new work with the National Park service and her connection to each song she sang. She closed with Come By Here, My Lord – once again honoring those who marched. Folks joined in and their sweet voices served as a reminder – even though we were not marching, we were tuned in and aware of all who were. Grateful for their strength and determination to stand and be heard.
Sunday was bittersweet – we didn’t want to leave. I told, Jen, we should go home, grab our bed and the kids and come back – I wanted to live there. After all our classes and our program was done, we had lunch (of course, more food, please) and just took our time before heading home. We spent a lot of time in the gift shop – there was so much to look at – and buy (once over the spending hump, I’m usually good). I found some great books on Ayurveda, which I now want to study. It was kind of like the icing on my cake. All sorts of connections were coming together from all the years in trying to understand food, eating, and overall well-being.
It was an amazing experience and an investment I’m happy we made. No regrets, not one. We look forward to our return and would visit on a monthly basis – if it was financially possible. There’s something truly magical about Kripalu and I feel most blessed to have experienced it.
Traveling home gave us the opportunity to reflect on all the positive in our life. It also opened a space for conversation on how to continue letting go and incorporating what we learned and experienced. Needless to say, we were quick to download Jennifer’s Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra mp3’s – which we’ve been using daily. Honestly, I feel much more rested these days and I totally attribute that to Jennifer, our yoga nidra goddess.
If I could leave you with one piece of advice, visit this magical place. It’s not an ashram or some weird hippie commune (no offense if you’re into either one of those). There’s plenty of programs to choose from. It’s a place to unwind and let go. A place to rest and restore. A place to find yourself. The biggest decisions you’ll need to make is what yoga class to take and what to put on your plate. If you suffer from stress, disease, heartache, loss – whatever – there is peace for you there. And should you not want to go alone, grab a friend or send for us – we’ll happily accompany you 🙂
Last, but not least, don’t get hung up on the money, as I did and stress yourself out. Your health, well-being, and soul deserve a break. See Kripalu as an investment in you. You’re worth it. We’re worth it. And, now I know that. No regrets. Viva la Vida!
Things to Know Before You Go
Bring your yoga mat and blanket. Kripalu provides mats, blankets, blocks and straps but… I’m partial to my own stuff. Using theirs is very convenient but I’m a heavy (and I mean profuse) sweater (part of my gallbladder/liver issue). Though I wiped my mat down, I would’ve felt less awkward with my own.
Bring flip flops or sandals – even in the winter. We wore sneakers all weekend but it would have been much easier to slip shoes on and off. They would have also been handy for middle of the night bathroom trips down the hall.
Layer your clothing. I mistakenly did not pack any t-shirts. I packed yoga pants and thermal shirts. Huge mistake. They keep the place really warm – which makes sense. Good thing Jen had a few extras with her – the clothing in the gift shop is pricey (as typical gift shop clothing tends to be). Really nice stuff, though, if your budget allows.
Consider an R&R Retreat if you’re trying to save some dough. I didn’t do this but would totally consider it next time. The main difference is that you’re not part of a program. Instead, they provide different workshops, outdoor activities, yoga, etc. It’s a more affordable way to experience Kripalu.
Don’t worry about sharing a bathroom. While it’s not the most ideal, it wasn’t the worst thing either. There were three private (fully enclosed) toilet areas and four private shower stalls in our shared bath. Oddly, it was never that busy and was very clean, all things considered.
Go silent. If you really want to be left to your own and don’t want to engage with others, you can ask for a pin to wear which indicates you’re on a silent retreat. Plus, there’s a silent dining room you can utilize for all meals should you desire.
Try new foods. The chefs and kitchen staff do such an awesome job whipping up 3 solid meals. Take advantage of their culinary talents by trying new things.
Enjoy tea all day, every day. You can grab a cup of tea at pretty much anytime – for me this is a treat and a perk. Chamomile with honey was my choice, twice a day.
Indulge in a healing arts service. Again, a luxury (which we didn’t experience this go around). They offer everything from massage to ayurvedic body treatments. Next time, I hope to treat myself to Shirodhara – a deeply relaxing treatment using warm oil poured in a gentle stream over the forehead to calm the mind, body, and spirit. Sounds like heaven, right?
Take a hike. We were so busy with yoga and such, we never made our way outside for a hike. Plus,the weather was being funny all weekend. So, pack what you need according to the forecast – there are lots of trails to explore.
So, take the plunge as we did, and make your way to Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. A trip that will bring deep relaxation and a true sense of restful peace.