A Kripalu Getaway
In our never ending search to find balance in our lives and an effort to get back on track after a long year, Laura and I took a short mid-December break at Kripalu in Stockbridge, MA. Long known as the essential yogi getaway, I’ve always wanted to go but haven’t made it for one reason or another. If you’ve perused their website or catalog, you know there are plenty of programs to choose from, guided by well-known yoga teachers and other professionals in areas like mindfulness meditation, diet, stress reduction, creative writing and more. We chose the Rest & Relaxation retreat, which means you can do whatever you want, without a set schedule: take advantage of three or four yoga classes offered per day, plus various workshops and healing treatments.
What I love about an all-inclusive escape is that there are NO decisions to make besides am I in the mood for gentle yoga or Vinyasa today? Three meals a day are served buffet-style, with every food preference or intolerance taken into account, whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or paleo. Long gone are the days of macrobiotic buffets and no coffee. Now Kripalu serves chicken or fish at most meals, plus locally roasted and robust coffee. Desserts are even offered a few nights per week, and if that’s not enough for your sweet tooth, head to the cafe which is positively brimming with organic chocolate and freshly baked cookies (and plenty of gluten-free options, too).
We stayed in the Annex, which boasts simple rooms with queen-sized beds, many with lovely views of the Berkshire hills. I’m a bit too set in my ways for the shared bath option and was very happy with my ample bathroom fitted out with a deep tub and organic bath products. Far cheaper are the rooms in the older building with shared baths. Ours ran about $400 per night including all the food, yoga, and workshops you could squeeze in. Definitely a steal if you’re accustomed to the likes of Canyon Ranch.
Our days started with 6:30 am Intermediate Yoga (gentle and Vinyasa are offered, too), the perfect combination of an all levels class in the Kripalu style. And if we were lucky enough to time it right, coffee is available in the dining room by around 6:15; if you’re earlier you’ll have to settle for tea.
Then breakfast. Laura was a pro at “bowls”, mixing up scrambled eggs with vegetables and sprouts and seeds plus a healthy dose of hot sauce. Steel cut oats, granola and tons of fruit are always available, plus a hot breakfast like frittatas or pancakes. I was happy to stick to a big bowl of coconut yogurt piled with fruit, knowing that a robust lunch was not far off.
Generally, we spent the next chunk of time in a workshop, all of which we found helpful. The Mindful Meditation workshop led by Steven Leonard was the one I keep coming back to. I’ve always had trouble batting away intrusive thoughts and this instructor gave us the okay to let our minds wander, and then return “home”, for me best achieved with a mantra. The science these days says as little as 5 or 10 minutes on the cushion sets you up for a better day, and I believe it.
I’m the girl who always believed gratitude journals are hokey, but my mind was changed in our Happiness Workshop, and I’ve implemented this small effort into my day. Choosing three things to be grateful for first thing in the morning, and writing them down (the important part according to our instructor), really helps get my day going on the right foot.
Mid-day we took advantage of Yoga Dance with live drumming. You don’t have to be a dancer for this hilariously fun class, just a willingness to get out there and shake your booty! It’s hugely popular and a total endorphin boost. Otherwise, we stuck to our most difficult class at noon: a powerful, sweaty hour of Vinyasa. Afternoons we napped or strolled the gorgeous grounds, taking a trip around the labyrinth and heading down to the lake. It’s also a great time to have any body work done (we had fantastic massages) or take a dip in the hot tub or sauna. We reserved our 4 pm yoga for a gentle class, the perfect way to wind down the day.
We both loved the retreat, a good mix of yoga, some learning, and much-needed R&R (don’t miss wiling away a few hours with a good book in the sunroom, gazing out at the mountains). Our assumption that the place would be full of serious yogis was dispelled in our very first class. In fact, it seemed like there were more beginners in the house than anything else.
Here are 15 Tips for Kripalu:
Bath: After a long day of yoga practice and workshopping, having a soak in a private bath can be extremely helpful for tired muscles. No need to bring your own supply: the room is stocked with organic EO bath products, plus bath salts, essential oils and Solavedi Rose Spray are all for sale in the shop downstairs.
WIFI: If Wifi is essential to your well-being, it’s available in the guestrooms in the Annex only. If you’re in need of a media cleanse, might be wise to choose a room in the main building.
Hydration: Bring a large water bottle as there are water stations everywhere. It’s essential to stay hydrated throughout your stay.
Coffee & Tea: Rich, bold Esselon coffee is available in the Dining Hall during breakfast hours. If you need a kick before your early morning yoga class, you’ll have to settle for a cup of tea.There’s a steaming batch of scrumptious, hot and soothing Chai on Saturday mornings in the Dining Hall. You can have a mug at breakfast or take a cup to go.
Silence: Breakfast is always silent in the Dining Hall. And certain weeks, known as Contemplative Weeks, are reserved for silence as well. If you are a jabberjaw, check the schedule or plan to spend a fair amount of time in the Cafe where chatting is permitted.
Evening Treats: Kombucha is available in the cafe for purchase. It’s a great treat for bedside reading in the evening. Also, chocolate. Lots of chocolate available, too.
Yoga Pace: We found the Intermediate Yoga early in the a.m. to be best suited for our pace. Lots of instruction and props but quiet with a gentle flow. Relaxing to see the light appear in the back yard among the pines. Gentle Yoga in the evening and then off for a warm dinner.
Outdoors: A simple stroll down to the lake or a walk around the Labyrinth can be just the right amount of fresh air in the frigid (18 degrees!) winter months. But beware of bears!
Bowls: I suggest making a bowl packed with warm veggies or salad greens with loads of seeds. If you’re a carnivore, don’t fret, you can top your dishes with a little turkey, chicken or tuna from the Sandwich Bar. There is no shortage of protein in the dining hall. And don’t miss the House Salad Dressing. Hot Sauce, Coconut Aminos and Himalayan Salts on every table.
Yoga Dance: A serious dance party happens every day at noon during the R&R Retreats. Drop your inhibitions at the door and just give it a try – especially if there’s live drumming. You’ll feel as though you’ve dropped a few pounds and shed some aggression by the end of the hour.
Pillows! If this sort of thing matters to you, bring your own pillow. While the bed was comfy, the pillows were not.
Yogis of all levels are welcome: We had beginners to advanced students in all of our classes and everybody modifies the positions as necessary. If you’re just starting down the path, this is a good place to work on proper positioning.
What to Wear: You really don’t need any clothes but activewear, cozy sweats and tops, and outdoor gear. Laundry is available.
Yogi Essentials: There are plenty of mats and props, but I’m sweaty in the palm so I brought my own.
Shopping! You’ll be hard pressed to leave the shop empty handed, with an inviting book section, some lovely jewelry, plenty of yoga duds, and a huge selection of natural and ayurvedic skin care and supplements.