Adventures at a Yoga Retreat, Part I

25 Jun

Kripalu yoga journal

Kripalu from the back

Some weeks ago, in part owing to the stress of my recent breakup, my health had been…not good. I was still seeing my acupuncturist, Dr. Li, taking my pills and doing yoga, but the stress just overrode all that, and I was feeling terribly (to be fair, the stress happened more before and during the breakup, and I started to feel much better after the breakup, along with some awesome drugs). I happened to mention this to my yoga teacher, Debbie, who used to suffer from IBS (different from my IBD, but still aggravated by stress), and she said she had read that Kripalu (http://www.kripalu.org), the Yoga Center our studio was affiliated with up in Massachusetts (in fact, it’s the only studio in North Carolina that’s Kripalu-affiliated) was having a digestive health retreat. A few things came to mind: one, I had made plans to go to the American Library Association Conference in DC with Lisa that weekend; two, I bet it would be freaking expensive (because so many yoga people are hippies, and yoga people who can afford to go to a yoga retreat are RICH hippies); and three, well, that’s just a crazy idea. And so I dismissed it.

But then I didn’t. As to issue #1: I thought a yoga retreat might be a more healing and restful place to be than at ALA, considering I’d probably see Jason there (since we have mutual friends), and I really didn’t want to do that. I’m sorry to miss the conference (especially because I’d gotten CPCC to pay for it!) and I’m REALLY sorry to not go with Lisa, since she’s an awesome travel companion. But I thought Kripalu might be a better place for me. Two: I had been saving some money, unplanned, from working the election, my tax return, and a few other places, and I had almost the exact amount money I needed for room/board/program fees. Isn’t THAT random? And three: I’ve been practicing yoga for over 12 years, since college. I’ve never been to retreat, never been to a yoga center, and this Center just HAPPENS to have a retreat on digestive health over just the right weekend. I think that’s the universe telling me to go. Go, Erin, go! (That’s the universe whispering, just so you know).

And so, here I am.

I flew into Albany, the closest airport to Stockbridge, MA and waited for the shuttle that was going to take me to Kripalu. I had about 3 hours to fill, so I grabbed some lunch, deciding to go with that old standby, McDonald’s. The irony was not lost on me that at a retreat for digestive health, as I’m reading my schedule for the weekend (with sessions entitled “Nutrition Health: Food and Digestive Healing” and “Yoga for Digestive Wellness”) I’m eating a burger and fries–maybe McDonald’s was not my smartest move. But again, my reasoning was three-fold–it was one of the few dining options (the Albany airport is fairly small), my health has been much improved so I figured I could handle it, and McDonald’s will ALWAYS make me think of ALA in Chicago last year when Lisa and I, trekking through the Chicago convention center (which is GIGANTIC) finally, just before it randomly closed at 3pm, stumbled upon a McDonald’s in the bowels of the very last wing of the convention center. We were SO hungry after Lisa’s poster session, and we were the only ones there (because no one else could find it!), that it seemed like the best burger and fries (and Coke!) EVER. And frankly, this one Thursday tasted pretty damn good. So in honor of Lisa’s and my various trips to ALA–I owed myself a burger. Kripalu will be feeding me well the rest of the weekend…so sue me.

The shuttle finally picked me up at 5pm with one other Kripalu guest in tow. It turns out there was a very large yoga teacher training conference, KYTA, this weekend which would be why the majority of Kripalu participants were there. She had been to Kripalu a dozen times over the years, and had already taken the 200-hour teacher training. She predicted there might be a few hundred people there (!!!), which was way larger than I was expecting! The drive took about an hour (after some wild driving from our aging chauffeur) through some beautiful country, and at last we arrived.

Kripalu is huge! 4 stories, with two large wings and an Annex, it looks like an old school. Kripalu wasAn aerial shotbought some years ago from when it was a monastery, and sits in the Berkshire mountains with a gorgeous view of the lake. We checked in, amidst the hustle of many yogis who looked like they knew their way around, and I was given a schedule, my room key, and an invitation to dinner, served buffet style upstairs. Due to cost, I opted for the dorm, which consisted of 4 bunk beds, 8 women. Of course I was there too late to get a bottom bunk, and had to settle for the top bunk. I put down my stuff, and headed to dinner.

The food! You have to keep an open mind about food prepared the way Kripalu chefs make it–they do have meat, but majority is fruits, veggies, salads, soups, and one entree with only a slight possibility of meat (which is how we should be eating anyway). Almost everything is organic, or local, or both. And the spices and preparation often have an Indian flair, but everything tasted marvelous (although if you have a simple palate, they have a Basics Bar, but Kripalu food is NOT for you). Their homemade loaves of bread were TO DIE FOR. You can eat anywhere–outside on the vast lawn looking at the mountains, or in the spacious dining hall, or in one of the comfy chairs dotting the lobby. I chose the Hall and struck up a conversation with a nice middle aged woman who was there for the conference.

While eating, I discovered people watching is a highlight. People who attend a Yoga Center/Retreat/Conference are a special breed (me included!), and when you’re here, appearance just takes a backseat. Male yogis, while few in number, have that rangy, lean look you might see on the West Coast in San Fran or Lake Tahoe–men who stay fit with good food and daily yoga. The women are around 40, in a variety of yoga gear (you wear it all day, regardless of activity) and sensible sandals, often without hair product or makeup. Perfume (I learned from the orientation) and scented lotions are shunned. As is air conditioning. You don’t need it at night, but our room was quite balmy when i would walk in.

After dinner and the orientation (where I learned important lessons like breakfast was silent, rooms should be quiet at 10pm, and there’s a delightful shop that thankfully I had already browsed and bookmarked items I was going to buy) my digestive health program had their first session. There were about 20 participants, a nice small group, and the program was led by two nutritionists, a yoga teacher, and an MD. Thursday night was basically an orientation of the origins of digestive health and how things have changed from the caveman to now, and how we’re not keeping up with those changes or listening to our bodies, giving it what it needs. We went around and introduced ourselves, saying where we were from and our various ailments–sexy talk for a Thursday! But gastro problems can be isolating, due to their very nature, so it’s comforting to meet other people my age with my condition (or something similar).

The leading dietician encouraged us to try a gluten free/dairy free diet while we were here, to see if we felt better at the end of the trip than at the beginning, because so many problems are caused by gluten or dairy. But since I’ve been feeling better, and I tried a piece of that delicious bread at dinner, I’m rejecting that at least until I get home. I’m a yoga retreat failure already!

Ready to turn in, I got ready for bed, and climbed up at 10:30 with my book. Each bed has their own light, so I turned it on and got to reading. A voice below me said, in a crabby whine, “Will you PLEASE turn off your light??” Apparently, that was one lesson I missed at orientation–all lights out at 9:30. Whoops! Of course my intention was not to wake her up, but if I had–there was no reason for her to be a snot. She’s trying to ruin my zen! So of course I (and another girl across the way) turned my light off, but I was so nervous about disrupting her, it made me jumpy and hard to sleep. That and the fact that our room was about 90 DEGREES and the fan was blowing in her direction (to be fair, I can’t figure out how to point it in my direction, but still) led to a stuffy, sticky night (oh, and note to self–do NOT drink tea before bed. Getting out of a bunk at 2am–even sober–is treacherous stuff) with barely 6 hours of restless sleep. So the ending to my day was not as auspicious as the rest of it, but all in all, a promising day. I’m so glad I’m here in this beautiful place!

They told us to set our intentions for our trip, so here goes:

My Intentions:
– To find balance
– To feel gratitude
– To BREATHE
– To not let my bunk mate continue to piss me off
– To show compassion (which means I should erase that last one, but I’m not going to. I guess that means I need more yoga-ing!)

NEXT: Adventures at a Yoga Retreat, Part II: My first full day at Kripalu (in which there was a man in a full-length aqua yoga body suit, wake-up at 5:45am, silent breakfast, a trip to the lake, and bed time at 9:45 because damn, I’m tired. Stay tuned!)

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One Response to “Adventures at a Yoga Retreat, Part I”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Promise of Radiant Health « Breath by Breath - July 19, 2012

    […]  I’ve had to research, and run trial and error experiments (n=1) by incorporating yoga retreats, acupuncture, probiotics, paleo diets, prayer…what else have you got?  I’ve tried it […]

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