“Kripalu” means compassion and “yoga” means union. The sense of being connected and valued felt like a warm vest given to me as a welcome gift when I checked in.
Four of my best friends and I planned our R & R day at Kripalu back in November. We wanted an opportunity to spend time with each other, get some exercise, as well as some relaxation. With the rush of holidays, and the business of everyday life, the time for weekend get-together arrived quickly. I had barely given any thought to what I should expect when I arrived at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health this past Saturday morning at 7AM.
Kripalu, sits up on a hill and overlooks Stockbridge Bowl, in the Norman Rockwell-like town of Stockbridge Massachusetts, located in the Berkshires or western Massachusetts. James Taylor, is a local hero and resident of Lenox, the town next door, who wrote and sings of the beauty of the Berkshires in his song Sweet Baby James, “ Now the first of December was covered with snow. And so was the turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston Though the Berkshires seemed dream-like on account of that frosting. With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go.” Stockbridge did seem dreamlike, as a fresh coat of snow had recently fallen just a few days before we arrived.
Through participating in workshops, yoga classes, a guided snow shoe hike, eating nutritious food and attending the evening musical concert, I began to realize that my day at Kripalu, was much more than a lovely day, it was an immersion into a lifestyle that combines postures, meditation, wholesome eating, study, learning and healing arts. Each of these activities is also facet of yoga. The benefits to the yoga lifestyle were easy to recognize in those who taught the workshops and classes. These teachers all possessed common qualities, innate skillfulness, equanimity, clarity and joy.
Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health is a large, sprawling building. A former Jesuit seminary, it has many dorm-like rooms you can stay in for overnight visits. The building also has a cafeteria that is big enough to seat hundreds (I ate 3 meals of the most beautiful, colorful and delicious tasting food), meeting rooms, exercise rooms, sauna along with lots of outside space with winding hiking trails to explore.
As a nonprofit educational organization Kripalu’s mission is to empower people and communities through the wisdom that is the transformative result of the regular practice of yoga. As I took a quick break from the scheduled activities, I picked up the Kripalu 2016-2017 Magazine where I read several articles about a relatively new program (just 3 years old) called the Kripalu Approach to Extraordinary Living. Through this program, Kripalu is creating world change that begins on the mat with individuals, who then bring their wisdom and newfound skills to their families and organizations. Five days of experiential learning is taught through a curriculum of yoga-based tools that are user-friendly and practical. One example of the kinds of practical programs offered is called “Riding the Wave of Parenting” and Staying Calm When Your Child Cannot” offered to teen mothers and families from financially disadvantaged neighborhoods. Using the concepts and language taught in the program parents are making positive changes in the way they communicate with their children. Mindfulness, conscious breathing and self-awareness practices are creating authentic and lasting change in the lives of people who would not otherwise be exposed to these practices.
Here are some of the other populations who are benefiting from the Kripalu Approach curriculum:
Kripalu’s research team has been collecting data on the success of their Approach program. In 2016 preliminary results in the areas of perceived stress, resilience, mindfulness and psychological empowerment were presented during poster sessions at the International Congress of Integrative Medicine and Health in Las Vegas, Nevada and at the Symposium on Yoga research, held at Kripalu.
“Our research shows that participants are acquiring yoga skills appropriately, that they are continuing to actively apply them on a regular basis, and that application has made changes in their day to day lives over the long term.” Sat Bir S. Khalsa, PhD, Kripalu’s Research Director and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Did you know that NLM offers many resources where you can learn more about Integrative and Complementary Medicine? The following are some of those links.
Yoga for Health (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)