Sometimes, one day is all we need to relax, rejuvenate, and get back in touch with ourselves. In a stressed-out, fast-paced world taking one day out of your schedule to rest in a beautiful, secluded area is the most healing thing you can do for yourself. Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health is a world-class facility offering everything from yoga classes to meditation to Ayurveda programs. Join me for a transformative day off at Kripalu!
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Entering Kripalu is like stepping into a quiet, meditative land. A beautiful land with tall trees, hidden pathways, and one of the most majestic views in the Boston area. Tucked away in the beautiful Berkshires in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Kripalu is as peaceful as it is breathtaking. The spectacular, sweeping view alone is worth a visit, but there is so much to explore at Kripalu beyond just the natural beauty of it.
Last November, I decided to try out a Kripalu R&R Day Pass to see what the Center was like. I had heard great things about Kripalu as I had several yoga teachers who trained there and said it was a life changing experience. I wanted to see for myself.
Most of the Kripalu programs are overnight and guests have a choice of staying in dormitories or hotel-style accommodations. However, Kripalu also offers a day pass for $100 per person (prices may have changed, always check the Kripalu site for details). The day pass goes from 6 am through the evening and includes three meals, yoga classes, R&R workshops, and access to all the amenities (walking trails, fitness facilities, etc). I figured this would be a great way to experience what Kripalu has to offer at a much lower price and time commitment than their other programs.
Join me as I walk you through my restorative day at Kripalu from start to finish! I’ll tell you honestly what I liked, what I didn’t like, and my overall experience. Enjoy!
As I mentioned before, Kripalu is located in an absolutely gorgeous and pristine area of the Berkshires. If you’ve been to the Berkshires before, you know that it’s absolutely magical, especially in the fall, when the leaves have changed color.
As far as natural beauty is concerned, a picture is worth at least a thousand words (or more). Take a deep breath and take in the view below.
The grounds are as beautiful as the view. They’re immaculately kept, while still maintaining the slightly wild look of nature.
Kripalu has hiking trails through an enchanting and quiet forest (the photo with the bridge looks like a scene out of The Secret Garden , doesn’t it?)
They also have a tranquil meditation garden complete with a labyrinth and a large bell (I had fun with that one).
The overall grounds are beautiful and definitely worth skipping a yoga class or two to explore. In my experience, one of the most healing and restorative activities is simply spending time with nature. Relax and enjoy!
The facilities are Kripalu are nice, but simple. I’ve heard that some visitors get a little turned off by the innocuous-looking brown brick buildings. I’ll admit that the plain brown buildings that house Kripalu’s facilities aren’t the prettiest pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen, but I wouldn’t call them unattractive either. There was something calming in the simplicity of the buildings. Plus, I wasn’t really there to stare at the architecture. I was more interested in what was inside.
Inside the plain brick buildings is a colorful world of retreat and relaxation. Beautiful artwork and photos covered the walls, while vibrant rugs covered the floors. The overall atmosphere was soothing and inviting. There were rocking chairs facing windows, so you could look out at the view. There were tables and chairs for reading and eating snacks. And, of course, copious rooms for yoga, meditation, and workshops. I felt comfortable and happy right away. I had never been to Kripalu before, but within 10 minutes, it felt like home.
The staff is friendly and helpful. There’s a front desk where you can ask questions along with a giant map of the facilities and the schedule for the day posted on the wall. You can’t get lost when you’re at Kripalu (unless you’re getting lost in yourself, that is!)
I didn’t get a chance to workout, but I did peek into one of the fitness rooms. It was modern and clean with a good array of equipment.
Overall, the facilities were simple, but clean and appealing. Perfect for a retreat!
Each day at Kripalu is exciting and unique, no matter how many times you visit, with a varying, daily schedule filled with activities. The hardest part is choosing what to participate in!
The snapshot of the schedule below gives you an idea of what a typical R&R day is like at Kripalu. Not being much of a morning person (especially on vacation), I skipped the morning yoga classes. I arrived at Kripalu around 9:30 am, spent some time exploring the grounds, and then went to The Yoga of Dylan. After that, I went to Kripalu YogaDance followed by lunch and then Life in Balance: The Three Pillars of Health. I ended my day with a gentle yoga class and dinner. For descriptions of the classes and food, keep reading!
The Yoga of Dylan with Lara Tupper
This was my first class of the day and quite an interesting experience. How Yoga relates to the music of Bob Dylan is not something most people think about everyday, so I found the topic itself intriguing. I have to admit, I don’t know much about Bob Dylan, but luckily I didn’t need to in order to enjoy the class.
The instructor, Lara, informed us that Kripalu means “compassion” and encouraged us to keep this in mind throughout the class. We listened to a few Bob Dylan songs, wrote our impressions down in a journal, and shared with the class. We also completed a writing exercise where we wrote down sensory details from our day. Overall, this was mostly a journaling workshop centered around Bob Dylan and compassion. Lara was extremely friendly and knowledgeable, but the class itself did feel a little disjointed. Overall, it wasn’t my favorite class of the day, but it was a fun experience.
This class was pure relaxation and fun. A totally unique experience, Kripalu’s exclusive YogaDance class is all about letting your inhibitions go and moving your body in whatever way feels good to you. We danced with scarves, with music, and with each other. The experience was freeing, therapeutic, and all together difficult to describe. The best way I can put it is that the YogaDance class had me dancing and moving in a way that I would normally be way too embarrassed to try in public. Yet, there I was, dancing like a crazy person and totally, utterly happy. It really is a fascinating experience and I feel that everyone who comes to Kripalu should try it! (The photo below is a picture of the room where YogaDance took place!)
Life in Balance: The Three Pillars of Health with Cat Pacini
Since I’m a health blogger, I was obviously really excited about this workshop, which centered around the Ayurvedic Pillars of Health. I knew very little about Ayurveda, so I was eager to learn more. Ayurveda is a 3,000-year-old medical system originating in India. It combines herbs, diet, lifestyle changes, and mind-body connection principles to prevent and treat illness. (Source: What is Ayurveda? from The Chopra Center).
Cat was a wonderful and enthusiastic speaker who possessed an obvious passion for Ayurveda. She taught us that food, sleep, and energy management are the three foundations of health in Ayurvedic medicine. She explained the principle of food vs. medicine which says that with the right food, there is no need for medicine (and conversely, without the right food, medicine is of no use). Then, she talked about the importance of sleeping well, including why we should be asleep between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am (the most restorative part of our sleep), how blue light impairs our sleep, and tips for getting a better night’s sleep. Lastly, she talked about energy management and the importance of replenishing our energy throughout the day with yoga, meditation, and “quick sense” breaks (a pause in the day where your senses can rest completely).
I found this workshop to be both fascinating and informative. Although, I didn’t agree with every detail of the Ayurvedic Pillars of Health, the general principles of good diet, sleep, and energy management are indisputable. Cat also gave us some great practical tips, such as a spiced milk recipe to make before bed and recommendations for relaxing essential oils. In just 90 minutes, I walked away with a knowledge of Ayurveda and a desire to learn more. This was definitely one of my favorite parts of the day.
Gentle Yoga Afternoon Class
This was the one traditional yoga class I took at Kripalu. It was basically a Hatha yoga class with some gentle stretching and a guided body scan at the end. The yoga teacher was good (I didn’t catch her name). She was friendly and had a soothing way about her, but I wish that she spent a bit more time demonstrating the poses. I’m a group fitness instructor who has taken a ton of yoga classes and I found her a bit difficult to follow. I enjoyed the class, but it my least favorite experience of the day (which is a bit ironic considering that Kripalu is mainly a yoga center). The class was okay, but I’ve honestly taken better gentle yoga classes before.
The Kripalu Kitchen is well-known for providing high-quality, nutritious, and delicious food. I’d read rave reviews about the food at Kripalu, so I was super excited to check it out.
Kripalu has three food bars for diners to experience: the main food bar, the Buddha bar, and the Sandwich bar. The main food bar is where most of the action is. It’s a rotating menu with a variety of hot food and salad bar options. You can check the Kripalu website ahead of time to see what’s being served. The Buddha bar is filled with vegetarian and gluten-free staples, such as lentils, beans, rice, and millet. The sandwich bar has a variety of breads, spreads, and other fillings in a build-your-own style. The dining hall is self-serve and you can eat as much as you’d like. They also label the allergens for each of the dishes, which is always a huge plus for those with dietary restrictions like me.
Unfortunately, I skipped breakfast (I’m not an early bird on vacation), so I can’t really comment on that. The first meal that I had was lunch. The main food bar had a lot of soy and vegetarian options (i.e. tofu with brown sauce, miso soup). I didn’t see any meat and I wasn’t eating soy at the time, so there actually weren’t that many options for me. I mostly ate salad and a few dishes from the Buddha bar, such as pinto beans and brown rice. The Buddhar bar food was healthy and filling, but it was really bland. It definitely could have used more salt and flavor. I’m not sure if the lack of salt was intentional for health reasons or not. I don’t usually salt my food, but it was just a little too tasteless. Overall, lunch was pretty good and definitely healthy, but I could have used a few more options that weren’t soy-based.
Dinner was a better experience for me. They had cooked up a delicious, Thanksgiving inspired feast with freshly carved turkey, gluten-free gravy, and mashed parsnips and potatoes. The food was both delicious and healthy, but, again, there could have been a bit more variety. The salad and Buddha Bar options were exactly the same as lunch and there was only one kind of meat available.
I enjoyed eating at Kripalu for one day, but I may have struggled with the options if I had been there for longer. Another drawback is that meals are served during pretty limited hours that conflict with many of the classes and workshops. I had to leave one of the classes a few minutes early in order to get to the Dining Hall before it closed. The Dining Hall closes right when they say it will and they start putting the food away quickly, so don’t delay or you’ll miss a meal!
The Healing Arts
In the afternoon, I decided to check out Kripalu’s Healing Arts. Kripalu offers a variety of bodywork, energy healing, facials, and lifestyle consultations that guests can book for an additional charge. They offer everything from Ayurvedic facials to life coaching to aromatherapy massage. Make sure you call ahead to make an appointment, if you’re interested!
I made an appointment to try Reiki (this was my second experience with Reiki—read about my first experience here). My session was 50 minutes long. The treatment room was quiet and clean. My practitioner was friendly (I forgot her name, unfortunately). At the beginning of the session, she asked for a quick overview of my experience with Reiki and any health or emotional issues I was looking to work through.
The session was relaxing and went by quickly. At the end, the practitioner told me that my hip seemed slightly off and offered to do an adjustment for me free of charge (she was trained to do this, obviously). I obliged and I have to admit, my hip did feel a bit better afterwards.
Similar to my first experience with Reiki, I enjoyed the session, but didn’t experience any significant healing effects afterwards.
What’s the main reason to come to a relaxing oasis like Kripalu? The shopping, of course! No, just kidding. But, honestly, the Kripalu shop is nice and large enough to spend at least an hour browsing (which I obviously did).
The Kripalu shop is a yoga and meditation aficionado’s dream with everything from glowing orbs to aromatherapy oils to yoga clothes. They also had a great selection of meditation, yoga, and Ayurveda books and CDs. I purchased an awesome CD of Energy Awareness Meditations based on teachings at Kripalu. This is easily one of my favorite guided meditation CDs with clear instruction and soothing music. You can purchase the same CD on Amazon here to experience a little bit of Kripalu at home.
Top 5 Favorite Parts of My Experience
My favorite parts of the day in no particular order:
- The gorgeous and relaxing grounds and scenery. The natural beauty at Kripalu alone is worth a visit. It’s so quiet and serene that even without attending a single class or workshop, you’ll leave feeling rejuvenated.
- My two favorite programs of the day were Kripalu YogaDance and Life in Balance: The Three Pillars of Health. The YogaDance class was an exciting and unique experience you can’t get anywhere else, while Life in Balance was informative and offered practical tips for healthy living.
- Taking a quiet, reflective walk in the meditation garden.
- Browsing the Kripalu shop. I know this probably isn’t very enlightened of me, but who doesn’t love shopping? The selection is fantastic and I found tons of interesting products.
- The overall atmosphere. The people are friendly and open. The decor is colorful and inviting. The general tone is both welcoming and serene. There’s just something about Kripalu that makes you feel like you’re home, even while being miles away from it.
Main (Minor) Critiques
- The buildings were a bit rundown and not the prettiest from the outside
- The Yoga of Dylan workshop could have been more cohesive and organized
- The Gentle Yoga Afternoon Class was a bit difficult to follow and could have benefited from more demonstrative instruction
- The food was good, but there wasn’t enough variety, particularly at lunch
- Meals are served at very limited hours that conflict with classes and workshops
To learn more about Kripalu and all it has to offer, check out their website at https://kripalu.org. The website will give you the most up-to-date information to plan your visit.
For a taste of the health and serenity Kripalu has to offer without leaving your home, check out Kripalu Yoga: A Guide to Practice On and Off the Mat, The Kripalu Cookbook: Gourmet Vegetarian Recipes, and Kripalu Yoga Gentle DVD (the Kripalu Yoga Gentle DVD is taught by Sudha Carolyn Lundeen– I met her briefly at the UltraWellness Center and she is fabulous!)
Overall, I loved my day at Kripalu. It was relaxing, restorative, and transformative. I came back home with a renewed sense of energy and purpose. Despite a few minor criticisms, my day there was more or less perfect. Everyone deserves an occasional time-out from the busyness and stress of modern life—Kripalu is the place to do it. I would definitely return and maybe even try out a longer, overnight program in the future!