Flo and Lil at the Kripalu Yoga retreat
“Hey, Lil. What time is chanting this evening?” I asked my cousin and life-long friend, Lilly. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than I was having flashbacks of me and Lil as teenagers, huddled under a bridge, smoking cigarettes and drinking beer, our conversation peppered with four letter words. Surely teenaged Flo and Lil would have scoffed at such things as yoga, meditation and chanting. But there we were, middle-aged Flo and Lil, at the Kripalu Yoga Retreat, nestled in the serene Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts. How the heck did that happen?
When Lil first invited me to go to Kripalu with her, I was admittedly a little skeptical. My idea of a vacation, like many of you, involved letting the healthy living habits go to the wayside, eating forbidden foods, drinking copious amounts of wine and frantically rushing from one tourist attraction to the next. (Truth be told, I return from most of my vacations feeling like I NEED a vacation!) But this was different. Four days of yoga, meditation, hiking, kayaking, massage, healthy eating, and pure R and R. Yeah, I could handle that.
The first thing I noticed about Kripalu was the feel of the place. Whether I was inside the buildings or on the expansive grounds, it always felt as if I was walking on sacred ground. Everyone spoke in hushed tones, and nowhere did you see people tethered to their cell phones or other devices. In fact, cell phone use was frowned upon in much the same way that smoking is viewed in our society. (Although, Kripalu does have a “smoking tree” where guests can go to have a puff. Upon hearing that, Lil and I went in search of a wine tree, but alas there was no alcohol anywhere on the premises.)
In my room, feeling all “zenned out”!
The second thing that caught my attention was the guests. I was kind of expecting to see a whole lot of clones of myself and Lil: middle-aged, in-good-shaped women. But there were both men and women of all shapes, sizes and ages, ranging from one year olds to a ninety-one year old. I quickly discovered that with yoga, you really cannot judge a book by its cover, as I witnessed seniors and some who were more than just a few pounds over-weight, twist themselves into pretzel like contortions. Meanwhile I, while looking like the picture of physical fitness, struggled with my down-dog! While there was great physical diversity among the guests, one thing that they all seemed to share in common was that look of glowing health. Lil and I especially took notice to a number of women whom we guessed to be in their seventies, whose skin and hair just radiated a healthy glow. They stood tall and regal-like, with willowy limbs, and moved with such distinct gracefulness that was hard not to gawk at them. (In fact, truth be told, I think we developed a sort of old-lady crush on a couple of them.)
The food at Kripalu was the healthiest fare I have ever seen. Meals were served buffet-style in a large dining hall. There were basically three levels of food, which I called healthy, healthier, and healthiest. On the healthy menu you could find some organic chicken or fish, but mostly an array of vegetable and grain dishes which would make your mouth water. The healthier version was the vegetarian equivalent of the meal, while the healthiest version, referred to as the “Buddah bar”, consisted of an assortment of gluten free, vegan dishes. There was plenty to choose from and all meals were DELICIOUS!
Lil striking a pose.
The main thing I have taken away from my Kripalu experience is the importance of treating my body with loving kindness. This body of mine has been through a lot in its 47 years on the planet, as is evidenced by the many battle scars it bears. It brought three children into the world, the youngest via C-section. It engaged in a fierce battle with cancer, emerging victorious, yet scarred, burned and tired from the fight. This body deserves to be nourished with healthy and delicious foods, exercised in fun ways, hydrated with plenty of clean water, and loved for all that it has carried me through. Thanks to my days at Kripalu, I have a renewed commitment to give my body just what it deserves.
It is my prayer that in thirty years old-lady Flo and Lil will return to Kripalu, with the glowing hair and skin, willowy limbs, and graceful movements that can only come from a lifetime of clean, healthy living. (Hey, who knows? Maybe some middle aged women will even develop old-lady crushes on us!)