I started a regular yoga practice about ten years ago. I found an instructor I liked, and I enjoyed my weekly classes. At the time, I was running a few times a week and going to Barre classes at Exhale. Yoga was an excellent addition to my fitness routine. I had practiced yoga a few times before I added it weekly, but I didn’t fully commit to the practice.
If you’ve never tried yoga, you might not think it is for you based on photos and posts you see of advanced yogis. It’s not all handstands and complicated poses. The practice is also about breathing patterns, stretching, and clearing your mind. There are many levels of yoga classes. I never mastered the more challenging poses, and I’m okay with that; I enjoyed the breathing patterns I learned and taking the time to focus on my inner and outer self in one class.
You have many options if you’d like to try a yoga class. To find a class, I suggest starting online; there are plenty of instructors on various platforms that offer classes. You can also find local yoga studios or gyms that offer yoga classes.
Once you start a regular practice, it’s fun to check out studios and classes when you travel. I love visiting a local yoga studio.
In Vero Beach, FL: https://www.levelyogastudio.com/
In Houston, TX: https://bigpoweryoga.com/
During the summer, many studios offer outdoor classes. I love an outdoor yoga class.
One of my favorite instructors, Larissa Forman leads yoga classes on the beach in Marblehead, MA. Sunday Morning Beach Yoga
The Yoga Retreat
Another favorite instructor from the Mirror convinced me to try a yoga retreat and I would recommend trying a yoga retreat if you already have a regular yoga practice or even if you are new to yoga.
Pilin Anice has led some of my favorite Barre and Yoga classes on the Mirror.
Pilin’s bio from her website:
Pilin Anice, E-RYT 500, is a skilled wellness guide who believes that the disciplines of Ayurveda, meditation and yoga, ritual, self-care, nutrition, dance & drum, allow us to reconnect to ourselves; to evolve, heal and live authentically.
She is also an experienced health coach, artist, and commercial model.
For well over a decade, she has guided students through her offerings to find their way back to the wisdom of their own bodies, and the joy that is the essence of their being.
Pilin is passionate about building community and looks to create and cultivate non-judgemental spaces where everyone can be seen & heard and where everyone can move freely & wholly.
A graduate of Howard University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she is on faculty at Kripalu, Ailey Extension and is a MIRROR Trainer and ambassador for lululemon and Bayan Botanicals. Her forthcoming cookbook ‘Mmm…Good’, coming Spring ‘22, focuses on using real, whole food as both fuel and medicine.
Her studies in West African dance, Dunham Technique, and the African Diasporic dances of Haiti, Cuba, and Brazil span nearly twenty years.
She has featured on GMA, The Today Show, The NY Times, Dance Spirit, FORBES, ESSENCE, MindBodyGreen and SELF as well as appearing in campaigns for Fortune 500 companies such as Disney, Visa, and Google. She holds partnerships at THE WELL, Omega Institute, 1440 Multiversity, Dubai Yoga Fest, and SoulFEST.
As a professional performer, Pilin has performed Off-Broadway, on National Tours, and in regional productions as well as working extensively as a vocalist performing in concerts and cabarets throughout New York City. She lives in the NYC area with her husband and two children.
I follow Pilin on Instagram, and this post from January, intrigued me, and I signed up for Kripalu’s signature retreat that took place February 25th – 27th.
There are many options for yoga retreats; I had read about Kripalu and had friends who went there for a retreat. However, knowing one of the instructors (through the Mirror) made me feel better about trying it out.
Pilin is leading more retreats at Kripalu on July 8th – 9th, July 22nd – 24th, August 26–28, 2022, September 23–25, 2022, and October 7–10, 2022: https://kripalu.org/presenters-programs/essential-kripalu-retreat
Where is Kripalu?
Located 2.5 hours north of New York City and west of Boston, in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, Kripalu is the largest retreat center in North America. Our campus sits on more than 100 acres on the traditional, unceded Mohican territory of the Stockbridge-Munsee band of Mohicans.
What is Kripalu?
For five decades, the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health has been a leader in yoga- and mindfulness-based education. More than just poses on a mat, we believe yoga is an accessible practice that inspires connection, compassion, and joy.
Like yoga itself, Kripalu is something much more than its physical manifestation. It is a way of life—a powerful source of transformative wisdom and practice for communities.
As an educational nonprofit, Kripalu teaches skills for optimal living through experiential education for the whole person; body, mind, and spirit.
Kripalu means compassion. The practices and teachings offered at Kripalu are rooted in the wisdom tradition of yoga as taught by Swami Kripalu, the namesake of our retreat center. Compassion is where our approach begins.
In early 1983, Kripalu purchased its current 125-acre property in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which was known as Shadowbrook. The land was once lived on by the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohicans, and the main building (called Shadowbrook) is a former Jesuit monastery built on what was the site of a Gilded Age cottage owned by Andrew Carnegie. The doors of Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health were opened in December 1983. In the new location, the residential staff—which numbered more than 350 by the mid-1980s—offered immersion experiences to guests and students who chose from a selection of leading-edge programs and trainings in yoga, health, massage and bodywork, personal growth, and spirituality.
The Kripalu Retreat – the program that I attended
Come join the Kripalu community in our signature program. Explore what is essential in life by immersing yourself in a caring environment that supports your personal transformation. In a supportive community and beautiful space, you’ll join others as you explore
- Kripalu Yoga, both on and off the mat
- Meditation and mindfulness practices
- Nature connection
- Simple, everyday self-care routines.
I stayed in a classic room with a private bathroom.
I arrived at the Kripalu campus on Friday afternoon, and check-in began at 2 PM. I stayed in Lenox, MA, the night before because of the snowstorm that brought 10 inches of snow to the area. Lenox is a cute town with great dining and shopping if you want to add to your Kripalu visit.
I checked in, received my room key and name tag, and unpacked and walked around the building. After exploring, I took an afternoon yoga class.
After my class, I ventured to the dining hall for dinner. From Kripalu, “The Kripalu Kitchen serves whole grains, fresh vegetables, and legumes as the backbone of the menus, with fresh poultry, fish, and dairy products as optional protein sources. Fresh salad fixings and a selection of delicious salad dressings are always available, as are our famous freshly baked breads. Additionally, the Ayurveda-influenced Basics Bar offers simple preparations of legumes, grains, vegetables, and an assortment of balancing condiments.“
Everything I ate all weekend was delicious. There was always a nice variety of foods to accommodate different dietary needs. *Note: breakfast is a silent meal. “Breakfast provides a time for silent dining (other spaces are available for conversation). At other meals, there is a room available for silent dining.”
Unplugged at Kripalu:
To preserve Kripalu as a place of refuge and reflection, we encourage guests to be mindful of their use of electronics. Our digital device-free campus lets you participate at Kripalu free of distraction and encourages digital wellness. Most of our guests have reported feeling more relaxed and present after unplugging during their stay.
I didn’t mind this policy; it was nice to leave my phone in my room while I attended classes and ate my meals.
Friday evening – Introduction to the program
This is where we met our instructors and other attendees and learned about the schedule for the weekend. I was excited to meet Pilin in person; she was lovely and welcoming to everyone. Once the introduction was over, I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend with helpful yoga and meditation sessions.
The second instructor was Michelle Dalbec. She led a lot of our meditations. Both instructors provided a safe space for us to participate and provided modifications for us if necessary.
Saturday – two sessions and free time
There were two scheduled sessions on Saturday. The AM session included a yoga practice, and the PM session had an outdoor walk. We finished at 4 PM; I used my time to read and shop and hang out in the cafe. You can also sign up for healing arts treatments and yoga classes during your free time.
The outside walk was one of my favorite parts of the weekend. We hiked through the fresh snow into the woods. Michelle guided us in an outdoor meditation. Observing the beauty on the trail without taking pictures was weird, but I think that enhanced my experience.
In our Saturday session, we learned about Ayurveda and Abhyanga and practiced an oil massage.
We had one more session. After that, I had lunch on campus and walked around outside. Check-out was at 10 AM, but there is room to store your luggage if needed.
Notes on my experience:
I used my notebook all weekend; I took notes about my experience and set goals during our last session. One of my biggest takeaways was to reduce my screen time and be present when interacting with other people or nature. I realized I used my phone too much, even when watching television. I’ve been working on keeping my focus on one thing at a time.
I would go again during a different season when I could easily walk around the grounds in warmer weather. The Kripalu Campus feels like a school campus, it isn’t fancy, but it has many modern conveniences and areas to relax on your own time. The staff is friendly and helpful. I enjoyed the program, the food, and the shopping.
Packing list from Kripalu:
- Comfortable clothing for yoga and movement
- Yoga blanket **very helpful
- Notebook and pen
- Slip-on shoes for indoors and shared bathrooms
- Walking/hiking shoes for outdoors and hiking trails
- Water bottle, sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen
- Winter: snowshoes or cross-country ski equipment
- Summer: bathing suit, water shoes, and large towel or sheet for lakefront beach.
Provided Bedding, towels, and an alarm clock are provided in each room.
Things I would add to your packing list:
- a lanyard for your ID/key
- a travel coffee mug
- Barre/Yoga socks
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