I did, and here is how it went…
For my milestone birthday last year my sister took me to a yoga retreat. This is something I honestly thought I’d never do. Just wasn’t my thing. But she’s been into yoga for years and had been to a few. She thought I could get a lot out of it. I just recently have started the practice of yoga. I find it very helpful when I’m feeling stressed, but I have yet to make it a regular part of my life so I was a little nervous to spend a whole weekend away doing yoga and meditation.
My sister assured me there would be all levels there and I’d have nothing to worry about. We went to the Kripalu Center in western Massachusetts which was quite the hike for me coming from Northern Ohio. And it was February, so cold and snowy! But upon arrival I was delighted at the rolling hills and the quaint college campus feel. It wasn’t pompous or uppity like I envisioned. It was grounded and earthy. Maybe that’s what I should have expected!
We shared a dorm style room and ate together in a cafeteria filled with some of the best food I’ve ever had. Fresh, organic, healthy food with a ridiculous amount of variety. This is when I knew I would not be dropping a few pounds on this trip like a few friends said I might. Quite the opposite. Thank goodness for the 4 yoga classes we took. Each class was slightly different but I felt pretty comfortable in all of them. I was the most amateur in the group by far, but I’m used to that in the yoga world. I get more and more comfortable with each visit.
Anyways, yoga wasn’t the only mindfulness activity we participated in. There was a musical guest playing a chanting music concert, Krishna Da, and it was fascinating! It was very calming and we couldn’t help but be drawn in by the energy of the “groupies” leading the dancing. But it was long and we were tired so we did dip out early, hoping we didn’t offend anyone.
During the day we also attended an Ayurvedic medicine course and learned a great deal about how food affects our health. Ayurvedic medicine believes that overall well being depends on a balance in mind, body and spirit. The speaker had a lot of suggestions for diet, supplements and vitamins. It was a bit overwhelming and he talked a lot about our “seasons” for eating food which made an already complicated topic a bit over my head. But he was super interesting nonetheless.
Maybe my favorite part of the retreat was the silent breakfasts! At first I thought I would find this awkward and tedious but considering I’m not much of a morning person I found it relaxing and the perfect set up to practice a mindful eating ritual which is a real struggle for me and my ravenous appetite. I had no choice but to focus on my food and my surroundings. Everyone was. It took away clique-y-ness and we all just felt like one big group eating together despite there being dozens of separate tables. Very “kumbaya”.
My sister and I also managed to get in a walk in nature while we were there, which is my favorite mindfulness activity. We walked in the snowy cold down to a beautiful lake set among the Berkshire Mountains. It was brisk and refreshing and a great way to get some steps in!
Overall, it was a restorative weekend and I’m so glad I could experience it, especially with my sister who I don’t see often enough. As you may have guessed, this kind of retreat isn’t cheap (although it’s a good deal given the market value) so I’m not sure I can make this a yearly event. Maybe every 5-10 years. At any rate, for those who can afford it and are looking for a weekend filled with “forced’ mindfulness, this can be a perfect opportunity to get away and recharge in a calming and welcoming setting. And as far as gifts go, this is a great way to give the gift of mindfulness!
Thank you to my sister and Kripalu Retreat!