I would not call myself a religious person; however, I have over the years considered the fact that I am quite spiritual. One may be related to the other, but in my case, I see them as separate. For the last couple of years, I have been a regular yogi at a local fitness club and initiated the practice to complement the other physical activities (weights, running, tennis, golf, elliptical, stairmaster, cycling) I do to stay fit. So when my girlfriend suggested we go up to the Kripalu Yoga Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, for a 2 day Retreat and Renewal program, I thought it was time to engage completely and do some power yoga activities, whatever that entailed. I was up for it. Now that I am an empty nester, I have time on the weekend to experience “new” things.
As you would suspect, the facility sat on a serene mountain top, covered with trees waiting to paint themselves red, yellow and orange to celebrate fall. It was quiet, peaceful, clean and minimalist in its décor. We could have stayed dorm style with 4 other people sleeping in bunk beds, sharing a bathroom down the hall but we opted for the higher end Annex with our cozy beds and private bathroom. There are only so many creature comforts I am willing to let go of. This was sort of like camp for grownups looking for health, wellness, fitness, inspiration and spa services, only here, they are called ”healing arts” services.
Our first agenda item was dinner. I had decided I would be a weekend vegetarian. The food was exceptional, moistly grains and greens, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, even though there was no lovely Sauvignon Blanc within a 20 mile radius. All of the meals were delicious, inclusive of the BBQ tofu! Our bedtime workshop was focused on “OM”, you know the chant that begins and ends a yoga practice. Creating the most basic sound for all and repeating the sound over and over was quite melodic and energizing. We then hit the sack for what would be a long and eventful day to follow.
Saturday morning begins early at 6:30 with a moderate yoga class taught by fabulous teachers who make you feel welcomed and at ease. The room is huge, filled with every type of person you can imagine. Young, old, short, tall, slim, obese, newbie’s and trained teachers, coming back for inspiration. It’s a great way to start the day. A long hike through the woods, practicing our breath (there is a lot of “breath” breathing…find your breath, follow your breath, leverage your breath) and a workshop on yoga sutra. Translated, yoga sutra means “philosophy rules”. The physical part of yoga is but one expression, the only physical expression of yoga. The other seven are centered on your internal and expressive well being. I learned a lot, way more than I have space here or you have interest! There was one session on “yoga dance with drumming” that pretty much had students dance and let go their inner inhibitions and twirled in circles to live drumming. I participated but with some reservation. This was a bit to kumbaya for me but others had a ball.
The real surprise was the Ayurvedic sinus treatment. In planning the trip, I left it up to my girlfriend to surprise me with a “healing arts” service. Well, she did. Ayurvedic practice is of course an ancient Indian practice of removing toxins form your body (in this case from my sinuses). The room was set up as you might expect. Steaming apparatus, lots of towels (you just know it’s going to get freakin hot here), and a massage bed, God willing for some deep tissue massage by some Amazonian hands. It starts with sesame oil being squirted up your nostrils, at a point where you taste it throughout your entire sinus cavity. The only thing missing here were Chinese dumplings. The second sets of nasal squirts are what feel like pure ginger juice, shoved as high into your head as possible and I swear you see stars. I did see my friends face through the burning stars and wondered how long it would take me to find her and thank her for the choice she made! As awful as that was, and it was pretty bad, the remainder of the treatment, and massage (thank God) was fabulous. I felt awake, refreshed and clear headed. I would do it again, even knowing that for a few minutes, you want to kill someone.
The last workshop, equally as inspiring as the others, was about finding and expressing your authentic self. I know, we’ve all heard Oprah and Dr Phil talk about your “authentic self”, but this workshop centered on being present in the moment without self judgment. We are all too hard on ourselves and we need to be gentler, kinder and more accepting of whom we are. Not who we think we are or want to be. For me, it’s about living a life without regret and being positive. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect, it simply means you accept being you and you don’t let others stop you from being you.
A friend asked me this morning “what did you take home as a result of your experience”. Simple things really. I now drink warm water with lemon when I wake up to help cleanse my body. I use my Netti pot whenever I can which really does make a difference, I am more mindful when I do yoga now, aware of more than just the physical part of the practice and aware of how much I don’t know and need to learn about yoga and myself. Looks like it will take time but I look forward to it!