I completed my yoga teacher training (YTT) at Kripalu in 2006, but I returned in the summer of 2008 for a weekend “Let Your Yoga Dance” program led by Megha Nancy Buttenheim.

 

Striving to shine like the Megha-watt!

It was my first time returning to Kripalu since my monthlong training, and I was filled with nervous excitement about going back to the place where so much transformation occurred. My former coworker Carrol tagged along with me, making the 4.5-hour drive to and from an estrogen-filled, nonstop fun car ride. 🙂

 

"Old lady friend" Carrol

Below are some random thoughts and observations from my journal.

• So, it’s weird, but when Carrol and I finally found Kripalu (after aimlessly driving around West Stockbridge and Lenox, cursing at the GPS lady), I was scared. I saw the contemplative guests walking, the shiny happy hippies smiling, the YTTers’ yoga mats lined up all perfectly through the open doors of the Shadowbrook room and got kind of panicked.

Maybe I shouldn’t have returned. What am I trying to return to?

I felt a lump in my throat for about an hour after arriving, but eventually it dissipated, and I was totally at home again.

When I was in the YTT program, I always hated the “weekend” people who crowded the halls Friday through Sunday and marred the sacred serenity of the place. Now I was one of those people. I listened into some of the YTTers deep, intense conversations and felt like I was eavesdropping on aliens. Man, did we really sound so spacey? Oh, yeah, we did.

• How often do I have afternoons when my biggest decision is whether to sit in the second floor lounge and stare at the gray clouds and approaching thunderstorm or escape into the Main Hall a few steps away from me and dance to the strains of piano music that someone is playing?

• A recap of my Saturday, June 14:
6-7:15 am, Gentle Yoga
9:30-11:30 am, YogaDance program
12 to 1 pm, Yoga Dance class with live drumming
2:30 to 5:30 pm, YogaDance program
7:30 to 9 pm, KDZ drum concert, during which I danced the entire time.
That was one really sweaty day.

 

Glowing.

• Our group from the Let Your Yoga Dance program heads out to the Labyrinth to plant sunflower seeds and do a walking meditation around the grassy circle. As soon as the last of us reaches the entrance/exit, a clap of thunder breaks the silence.

To the labyrinth!


•  Silent breakfast observations: Blue, yellow, and salmon-colored bowls greet guests, with matching plates as well. Cling-clang of silverware. “Moonlight Sonata” in the morning as the sun struggles to break through the misty veil that shrouds our monastery. The crackle of ice falling into plastic mugs, dirty plates stacked in the dish return queue, leftover food sliding into the compost bins.

• Carrol and I walk around the Labyrinth, and then as she sits under a tree to read as I dance and cartwheel on the front lawn. I twirl and twirl and twirl, and no one passing by me gives me a second glance. If only wild-woman dancing could be so normal everywhere.

Open space is my playground!

• A noontime YogaDance class led by Jurian sets off every circuit in my body, and then reduces me to (good) tears by the end. I watch a lumpy, amorphous, goofy-looking man turn into a big ball of smiles and enthusiasm. An employee, her face was filled with so much gratitude, and she held her hands to her heart, and I could see the love brimming from her eyes.

• As a gentle yoga class takes place inside the Main Hall, I sit in the lounge, eyes fixed on the ominous gray/black clouds rolling this way. Thunder sounds, a flash of lightning, and then … HAIL! Hail the size of mothballs, setting off car alarms, collecting on top of the picnic table canopies, collecting in the pools in the valleys on the front lawn. Crazy folk run outside to do handstands on the ice and make “hail angels.” The echoes of thunder sound like a giant celestial, threatening hand breaking planets, crushing entire forests of redwoods in one fell swoop, drawing out the destruction bone by bone, trunk by trunk. Bits of planet falling to Earth. Lightning that sounds like a shotgun, the brightness!, wondering just how safe my little comfy second-floor lounge seat really is. I sit and watch a thunderstorm for nearly an hour: 60 minutes of nothing but staring out a window.

Hail to the headstand!

• On my final day at Kripalu, I rise in time to get to 6:30 moderate yoga, led by Danny. We’re in the Forest Room, and I pick a spot in the front, where the sunlight creeps onto my mat and greets my face as I rise up into belly-down navasana. My last breakfast is nutty flax cereal with almonds, raisins, bananas, and rice milk. Poached egg and herbs too, because it’s there and it’s gooood. I feel bad having to turn around and politely tell the couple behind me that this is a silent breakfast and they aren’t supposed to be carrying on a conversation.

I sit outside the main entrance, eyes scanning the flourishing green mountains, amazed that just slightly more than 12 hours ago, hail was bombarding this very spot and it felt like the world was ending. And now, birds chirp, sun shines, nervous YTTers pace the grounds, eyes on their notes, lips muttering their carefully chosen words, rehearsing the motions of their second practice teach. I wish them well silently through metta, understanding their stomach knots and shaking hands.

My final moments are spent all over the grounds, walking the same route near the Ganesh statue that we took during our silent nature walk during YTT. I find Bapuji’s meditation garden, ring the bell, stand on rocks and balance on one foot, doing variations of Warrior III and Garudasana as a kind of moving meditation. After holding the postures and stepping off the rocks, the sun breaks through the clouds and cuts through a small opening in the treetops, a single spotlight. I stand in the center like I’m an alien being called up to the mother ship, arms raised. I am weird, wonderful, overwhelmed, grateful, mournful, and happy.

Embrace your inner crustacean.

Carrol and I load up my car out back, the pulsing sounds of Toni’s noontime JourneyDance providing an exuberant end to this journey. She has the headset on, and her voice comes out of those Main Hall windows so loud, it’s as if she’s standing right next to my car. I break out into one final, uninhibited dance to the music, I smile, and then we’re off, back on the road.

***

QUESTION: Have you ever been to Kripalu? If so, what’s one of your favorite memories?

I’ll never forget the “Eau de Kripalu,” the smell of cumin and other natural seasonings that greets everyone’s nostrils the second they exit the stairwell and enter the second floor. 🙂

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