Return to Kripalu

A return to Kripalu is always a full sensory immersion. Even while parking the car in the upper parking lot, I opened my door and the pungent scent of the forest immersed me in positivity. I walked down the hill, enjoying the view of the lake below and relishing each step, bringing me closer to the place that I have raved about to so many people—the place that changed my way of looking at life. Life with a capital “L”.

I found myself smiling continuously, the corners of my mouth curved softly upward, as I made my way around to the entry where the boot scraper and snow shovel reminded me that this is indeed a year ’round facility, ready to share its love and knowledge with us at any time that we’re able to arrive.

“Love and Knowledge”. I don’t say that lightly. Kripalu Center for Yoga & Wellness—as I’ve said in the past—is not some woo-woo kind of place. Maria Sirois, my first teacher here, reminded me of that. Kripalu is real.

When I visited last fall, I was introduced to Ayurveda and went home to seek an Ayurvedic counselor of my own. Lucky me. We have one on our island—and a very fine one indeed. I met with Melanie Farmer after filling out pages and pages of pre-appointment information. She read my health history, my health desires, and scrutinized my skin. She asked me about my life, my current situation, my daily patterns, my diet, my desires, my goals. After our lengthy consultation, I did the unspeakable! I eliminated processed sugar from my diet. Amazingly, it was easy. After the first ten days, I felt so fine that I couldn’t imagine returning to my previous relationship with M&M Peanuts. Lost twenty pounds. Regained my energy and self-confidence. Began to eat in alignment with the seasons.

Would I have done this without Kripalu?

Not a chance.

So here I was again. This time, I knew what I was in for.

Gentle yoga delivered with the softest of voices, coaxing us from one posture to the next. Bending, flexing, rolling, breathing. Ah, savasana!

Then a silent breakfast of fine whole foods, organic and Ayurvedic choices. Mmmm.

Followed by Introduction to Ayurveda: Life in Balance, with Cat Pacini.

“Simple, everyday approaches for increasing your health and vitality through Ayurveda, the ancient approach to health care that originated in India. Ayurvedic wisdom teaches us to connect with our deepest selvers, the source of all healing.”

After that, I couldn’t get to YogaDance fast enough. Still managed to consume my lunch “mindfully” before heading to the studio.

“Mindfully” is how you try to do everything at Kripalu. A little sign on the refrigerator door in the cafe reminds you to “be mindful of shutting the door”. A sign in the basement on your way to the sauna reminds the staff to be “mindful” of closing the office doors quietly. As you exit the property, a street sign advises to “Drive Mindfully”. Mindful works. It’s not a New Age joke. Do what you do “mindfully” and it will have so much more meaning. Everything.

I didn’t have time to tell Dan Leven how his YogaDance—last fall— had changed me from a non-dancer to a fully-evolved, celebratory dance-all-the-time individual.

I’m fortunate to live on a small island in Puget Sound where experience is not defined by age, where we celebrate our joy in any number of venues. My favorite is “One Night in Bangkok”, a first Friday dance event when the local Thai restaurant reopens after hours from 11 PM to 2 AM for a lively celebration of contemporary music amid scribble lasers. Sure, I’m 65 years old, but that’s what 9 PM caffeine is for. Or dark-chocolate-covered coffee beans.

The noon time YogaDance fulfilled my expectations again. New moves. New flows. Individuals becoming small groups, feeding off each others’ moves. Joy.

I do regret that I had to leave YogaDance fifteen minutes early to get to Aruni Nan Futuronsky and Izzy Lenihan’s Sharing Circle. They are wellness coaches of the nth degree. I didn’t want to miss a minute of what they had to share.

I was doing a self-imposed R&R Retreat, a day long visit with lots of options for classes, meals, hikes, kayaking. You choose.

Next I moved on to Kripalu’s Food Philosophy, with Annie B. Kay, the lead nutritionist at Kripalu. In a perfect world I would have learned more about Buddha bowls. But that’s OK. I learned how Kripalu designs food for health and more.

“Transform your health by deepening your awareness and understanding of food and nourishment. Explore a whole-being approach to nourishment drawn from the wisdom of yoga, and discuss how to cultivate compassionate self-observation.”

In my small class, there were fifteen pre-med students on retreat from the University of Connecticut. How wonderful that our American medical schools are acknowledging the power of non-mainstream, non-U.S. medicine and nutrition!

This was followed by another soothing yoga class. Happiness on the mat. And dinner. Another delightful mindful menu.

I happened to observe more of the participants this time. There were the usual young women, the largest segment. But Lots more men this time. All ages. Not just guys with man buns. Although I kind of like man buns.

Men and women older than I, too. 70s, 80s. Yoga and Ayurvedic are for all. It’s never too late.

As I spread a slice of flaxseed bread with organic apricot jam (for dessert), I enjoyed a cup of chamomile tea, and anticipated my path to the basement. As usual, I took the stairs. Why take the elevator when you can take advantage of a cardiovascular opportunity—and enjoy the inspiring posters in the stairwell?

I should add that in between these classes and meals, I had plenty of break time to visit the cafe, to record my thoughts, and to enjoy a snack of dark chocolate. Yes, I love the 35 cent teeny-tiny bite that gives me a boost without the guilt!

In the basement sauna, I ended my day as I had so many times before during my previous visit. Horizontal, naked on a warm wooden bench, eyes closed in reflection on such a fine day.

I thought of a brief encounter that I had at the main desk earlier that day.

I was crossing the carpet when a man—a bit younger than I—but not much—leaned forward, lifting his left leg behind him casually in a move that just happened to karate-chop me across the shins. I fell forward, convinced that I was going to be flattened—maybe injured—in that brief second.

But no. I caught myself by grasping the edge of the wooden counter as I was catapulted forward. The sweet man was horrified.

The desk staff looked on, eyes wide. He apologized over and over. I said it was “OK”. Over and over.

We were stuck in an endless circle of apologies and forgiveness. The two minutes felt like forever.

Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. I crossed the carpet and raised my open arms, inviting him to join me in a hug. He smiled in surprise, and we hugged warmly as the staff laughed in relief.

The moment was diffused. Mindfully.

This is what the Kripalu experience is all about.


  1. Dear Linda,

    Thank you for your detailed and witty recounting of your stay with us at Kripalu. All of us on the staff strive to care for each of our guests in a compassionate and considerate fashion. We are glad to know that our teachers and other staff helped open the space for you to make those changes in your life and routine you were seeking. As you have experienced, yoga is most powerful when it is taken off the mat and out of the studio and offers us new ways to engage with our own lives and the lives of those around us.

    Thank you for being willing to share your experience with others. We look forward to your next visit with us!

    Sean Carollo
    Guest Services Associate
    Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
    PO Box 309
    Stockbridge, MA 01262
    413.448.3400 ext.3165

    1. Thanks for your comments, Sean! Everyone at Kripalu is such a joy to know.
      Kripalu will always be a special place for me. Looking forward to my next visit!

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