Kripalu Centre for Yoga and Health
Let me just start by saying that this is definitely near the top of the best experiences of my life, let alone 9 months travelling. As with the rest of my travels of my gap year, my trip to Kripalu was on my own, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I had a lot of alone time to sit and think in one of the most beautiful settings possible, at to be honest at times it was hard. I really and the time to sit and be with my thoughts and feelings which at times were pretty difficult to come to terms with; I not so long ago left Australia with the person I loved there and the place I yearned to be and had many questions as to how my future would pan out. But I couldn’t have been in a better place to be feeling such a way. I was surrounded by people all on their own individual journeys that were all there for their own reasons and due to the nature of the centres set up there would be new faces coming and going each day. Just a bus trip outside New York City, it was beyond easy to get to even with a minivan to pick you up to take to the centre.
As much as my time at Kripalu was a real exploration of yoga and learning about spirituality and authenticity, I really learnt so much more about myself. I don’t know what it was about being there specially, but I think for me it was so much of a turning point. I was soon to come back home to the UK, where as its plainly obvious I didn’t really want to be. I was about to start university, where I didn’t really want to go, feeling like for me it was taking a step back where mentally I was already past university and ready to get going in the real world. Kripalu and all the people there helped me to realise that I just need to be who I am, not what any other person is or what they're doing. Look, I was the only person there at least under the age of 30, if not 40, and I doubt many 19 year olds would really feel that comfortable with that. I was having breakfast, with the rest of the canteen in silence, and lunch on my own generally, then dinner I would sit with some of the ladies in my bunk room. I met some really great people that I know otherwise I wouldn’t have met, I would never even come across them I bet! Just being at Kripalu gave me the time to dedicate to myself, actually take time to listen to my thoughts and not just go through the motions of life which I had been my whole trip.
Its funny, writing now brings back all of those memories. Literally just sitting on my own I was often at the point of coming to tears, all just from sitting and thinking. We never give ourselves the time to just sit and think, which now I see to be so important. Taking the time to really acknowledge your desires and goals and taking the steps to set them in motion.
I was at Kripalu on the R+R retreat so I didn’t have a schedule per say, I could just dip in and out of what ever I wanted to do. Let me please also stress that you need no yoga experience at all to go, all are welcome and there are practises for every level. There are a bunch of notice boards in the main reception looking over the beautiful scenery in which the centre is located. The was a huge variety of activities on, from paddle boarding to Chi Gong to hikes for a few hours though the surrounding forest. And of course the opportunity to yoga at almost every hour of the day with specific poses workshops in between. It was so divine to be able to do a calming yoga class just before going to bed in the evening, early because without a doubt each evening I was always exhausted. I got myself in to a little routine of getting up for the morning yoga session starting at 6.45 for an hour and half then going to breakfast in a silenced canteen. The centre being focused on holistic yogic practices, encourages the adoption of Ayurvedic eating practices, being conscious and mindful of what you're putting in your body and how you feel. For this reason, as with Buddhist tradition, all of the food is vegetarian and majority vegan.
But really, the food though. Let me tell you, if you talk to anyone who has been to the centre, one of the first things they will praise is the food and these are all meat eaters. Its honestly INCREDIBLE. To be frank I would even make the trip back just to eat there again.
I really tried to push myself out of my comfort zone in some of the activities that I participated in. I mean I was going to discussion groups where we were sharing lots about ourselves whilst sitting on the floor in a circle. But amazingly, I sat there almost wanting to put my hand up and express myself to the group around me, people who I’d never met before, all older than me, which is very out of my character.
One of the best discussion sessions I went to was by the most beautiful woman call Maria Sirois about living with authenticity. This was just before I left on my last day and I can’t express enough how grateful I am that I went to it as I was very much not fussed whether to go either way. She was just incredible, so warm and funny, but every word that came out of her mouth seemed to resonate with my body and mind. She spoke about how to live authentically to yourself, you should try to steer you actions in the direction of your morals and beliefs. You may have the best intensions at heart, but unless you act in a way to live them you are not being authentic to yourself. Much food for thought. She has a YouTube channel with a similar video on to the talk I witnessed which I will link at the bottom.
I am so thankful to have even had the opportunity to visit Kripalu. After speaking to some of the other visitors whilst at dinner or on hikes they generally all had the common theme of ‘oh I’ve been meaning to come for years’ or that it was on their bucket list to come to Kripalu and here I was having just stumbled upon it in a google search. Now I’ve been once I just long to go back more than anything. Being at Kripalu was like being in another world, in a bubble. It seemed like other than what was happening right there at that time was all that really mattered. With the extremely limited internet access and phone signal, there was little opportunity to actually get in touch with the outside world anyway. Being at Kripalu made me discover a new sense of self, something that really sounds almost ridiculous to say but I really do believe that experience changed me in some way. Or maybe not changed me, but made me conscious of what was already there. After doing this one retreat I am now so keen to do more as I feel like they're a time when you can really devote time to your self and self reflection that people often neglect in their busy lives at home.