My “anti-yoga” Retreat at Kripalu
In an ideal world, our everyday lives would be balanced and complete as they are. In reality, many of us could use a “therapeutic” weekend getaway now and then to recharge and keep on going. One of my favorite weekend recharge destinations is Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, Massachusetts (the Berkshires).
Kripalu means different things for different people. As the largest yoga retreat center in North America, it offers extensive yoga programming – in all traditions and for all levels, but there are also a variety of wellness, personal growth and nutrition seminars (see upcoming schedule of programs here). Personally, I am not committed to any particular wellness or yoga practice, but I always welcome new techniques to teach me some calm and to add balance to my life. For someone like me, a flexible daily R&R program at Kripalu works best: the day is composed of short lectures and experiential seminars on a variety of subjects (follow this link for current schedule), and this program is available with a day pass! (You can always come back to learn more on your favorite subject and even try to commit to a more permanent transformational goal “after Kripalu”. For me – a day of bliss is all I am looking for now!)
Here is how it worked for me on my most recent R&R day visit:
6:30 am Morning Yoga I wish this was the case, but am not an early riser by no means, which, sadly, means that I am missing morning yoga classes at Kripalu. (I did try to push myself once, only to fall asleep in the middle of the morning lecture). But yoga lovers should not despair. There are going to be many more opportunities to practice yoga during your Kripalu stay: morning, midday and afternoon yoga classes come with a “building” and are complimentary additions to all programs.
8:30 am. Breakfast. Kripalu food (offered buffet style) is local and delicious and breakfast is my favorite meal – with a main egg dish and a variety of vegetables and healthy proteins (there is always a sandwich station for those with more “traditional” tastes). And as of recently, coffee is available with breakfast! There is a “silent breakfast” sign in some seating rooms, and if it is not your style, just move to another room. My favorite is a small lake view dining room- this is where I choose my activities for the day as I enjoy breakfast by the window.
9 am. Creative Collaging. At 9 there are typically 2-3 classes to choose from. Today, there is a choice between Yoga Foundations (breathing techniques, alignments), Guided Hike and Creative Collage with Jess Frey. I go for the Collage – a lecture type class works best for me in the morning. I am skeptical at first, as we are invited to envision our future by cutting out pictures and words from the magazines on the floor. About an hour into the 1.5 hour class, my Kripalu moment happens. I am totally in the moment – as far from my daily life and as close to myself as possible. “Do you specifically look for images that reflect your life goals or you just grab what jumps at you from the pages?” someone asks (might have been me, I get pretty talkative as I start “recharging”).
11 am. Human Rhythms, Earth Rhythms. Time for a second morning class. This one is shorter, just a glimpse into the Native American medicine tool and how it is connected to nature’s seasonal transformations. Our own life’s unfoldings are never too far either.
Noon Lunch Yoga Dance. Even if you are a little hungry by now, do NOT miss a yoga dance at Kripalu. Imagine a group of women and men (more women, to be honest), following a teacher’s voice somewhere in the room, but mostly following their own internal dancer (and the music) as they get completely lost in the movements (live drums on Saturdays). It is dance, it is therapy, it is communication with others in the room. It is an hour long session, and I last for about 45 minutes of it (a friend who stayed until the end once told me that the most intense healing happens during the last 15 minutes of class). Happy and hungry I head straight to lunch.
My next class is not until 2pm, so I figure, I have time to indulge in the many freshly prepared courses. I am actually wrong, because my …
2pm is a Slow Flow and Restore…- a movement based class! I follow others to the yoga mats, committed, but with a heavy…stomach. Class description promises “melting into relaxation” at the end. As tempting as it sounds, after about 10 minutes I realize that slow flow is still too fast after lunch and I leave the room for …
2:15pm Sun Room. Yes, a little nap in the sun room on 1st floor.
3pm The day is now ripe for some sauna and hot tubbing (gender-separate and cloth optional).
5:30pm I have a 30-minutes massage appointment in Kripalu’s Healing Arts spa. Have you ever had a “meditative massage” or an “an integrated energy therapy”? If not, Kripalu should be your place to try them- as you will likely have the best therapist of your life. They also offer facials and body treatments, as well as personal nutrition consultations (see full list of services here).
6pm Dinner is early and if you don’t plan your day right, you might miss it (5:30-7)
7:30pm Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra is one of my favorite classes at Kripalu. It is actually a guided meditation to promote the deepest levels of relaxation – on physical, emotional and spiritual levels. Laying down in a darkened warm room, there is nothing to do but follow instructor’s voice while falling in and out of conscious hearing. This was a perfect ending to my Kripalu “anti-yoga” recharge.
Note on Lodging: unless you happen to live within an hour drive, I recommend spending the night in the area even if you come for a day visit. Kripalu offers several types of accommodations (from hotel rooms to dorm rooms). You are not required to stay at Kripalu during your program, but it is so very relaxing and convenient to get up and get to classes (or breakfast) in a minute.
Here is my queen room with a bathroom. It is small and simple, but has all you need for your Kripalu R&R.
The Walks and the Beach Kripalu’s grounds are beautiful year-round- with guided walks and boating activities incorporated into the programming. You can see the lake from many rooms and they even have their own private lake beach!
Helpful Tips for planning your first Kripalu visit:
–R&R day passes (start at $100) include three buffet style meals a day, unlimited yoga classes and sauna access- in addition to a programming of wellness classes that varies daily (see upcoming monthly schedule here)
–Who to Take with You: Over the years, I have gone with my Mom, a girlfriend, and with a group of girlfriends. I would love to take my husband one day. I could see how a solo trip would be right for many people, where you could just tune in… on yourself.
—As you plan your day, pay attention to meal times and if your day includes yoga and other experiential activities, be sure to allow 1.5-2 hours after meals (or make a sandwich at the sandwich station in the cafeteria – to eat after class)
—It can get crowded on weekends, consider arriving Sunday night or mid-week
—For same reason as above, if you are set on a weekend date, call ahead, as weekends often sell out
—In the summer, I like to combine my day retreats at Kripalu with other Berkshires’ cultural offerings (be sure to check my itineraries here). Tanglewood music center is just across the street and you can easily fit an 8 pm concert on the day before your retreat.
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I thank Kripalu for kindly offering me one night’s accommodation and a day pass for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Kripalu.