Sometimes the yoga we need comes to us outside the yoga studio. My daughter and I learned this very lesson on our trip to Kripalu Yoga Center, experiencing each day, each new tree, each flavorful morsel, each fresh new experience with joy.
Yoga Activities for Kids – Outside the Studio
Three years ago my family and I decided to visit Kripalu Yoga Center in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. We went so my husband could complete an in-depth study of Yoga nidra (the form of deep meditation that’s sometimes referred to as “yogic sleep”). I went to refresh my soul and bond with my daughter in any way the yoga center offered. My husband was tired of long days at work, I was happy to be moving on from my position in the school system where I’d been for two years, and my daughter was ready to spend quality time with both of us. Once packed we hit the road already exhausted.
We took the trip slowly and stopped in Chautauqua, New York, for a day to enjoy the lakefront breezes, crisp air, and beautiful sunset. We were honestly so out of tune with the natural beauty all around us that we took a few hours to transition from “grumpy” to “calm”. However, once we were at ease it was smooth sailing. An ultimately non-gluten free meal (we are generally a gluten free family) of fresh baked pizza and ice cream, eaten lakeside, made for the very best end to our first day of travel. (For what it’s worth, I suspect Coppola’s in Bemus Point uses really high-quality ingredients, because no digestive or sleep issues were reported after our meal!)
I know, I know. Pizza & Ice cream may not strike you as very mindful, but bear with me. They are an infrequent indulgence, shall we say, but as a way for us to relax -and that’s including relaxing the “rules” and dietary guidelines we generally follow, at least for the evening – it hit the spot something terrific.
An early start the next day began with a quick trek to the Bemus Point playground. Our daughter was delighted to have the chance to move a bit before the six-hour drive to Stockbridge, MA, and the Kripalu Center. Little did we know that the tranquil lake would turn into a veritable sea of fast food, family-unfriendly food options as we crossed New York state via I-90. Several rest stops (and ice cream cones – milk is healthy, right?) later, we entered Massachusetts, ready to be done driving and to settle into our accommodations.
We’d rented a cabin in Stockbridge through an online service. As we entered the scenic Berkshires, our eyes were filled with panoramas of green mountains and the pristine lawns of neighbors enjoying old time summer homes along the Stockbridge Bowl lake shores. Luckily for us, our cabin did us just right! Cute and cozy and filled with years of love from a history of summer family fun, the cabin set the stage wonderfully for a week of relaxing, bonding and rejuvenating.
Soon after we arrived, my husband got an early start to his conference at Kripalu and spent the next 4 days from 7 am to 9 pm learning about the practice of Yoga nidra. Although Yoga nidra feels like deep sleep, he was tired by the end of each day and ready to cozy up in the cabin by 10 PM. My daughter and I had the days to spend exploring, something we both enjoy.
The first day we spent visiting the outdoor beauty of Kripalu. Huge willows provided a wonderful area for games of hide-and-seek and huge trunks for tree hugs. The flower garden provided a path to meet and greet many wildflowers and interesting trees. New seedlings provided conversation as we walked back to the center’s dining hall to enjoy our organic lunch! By the end of our first morning, I was refilled with inner warmth and my muscles began to relax and let my mind ease.
We took the afternoon to visit the quaint town of Lenox, just 1/2 mile down the road. We happened upon a bakery for a sweet treat enjoyed on the porch as French music played through the speakers above. My daughter played a game of “I’m going to eat it” as she ran back and forth between her pastry and the end of the deck. I took the time to enjoy my Birthday blueberry tart complete with pink box and white bow wrapping. We ended our visit to Lenox with a walk and the purchase of warm and cozy sweatshirts.
The next day was just as dear to us as we found the Kripalu lake for the first time, and met some of my husband’s fellow conference-goers, lovely women from Hungary and Iceland; wonderful souls, open to sharing their insights on deepening their practice of yoga and glimpses of their lives in far off lands. Equally as amazing was the crystal-clear lake water. I could walk out to my waist and still see my feet. It was the clearest water I had seen since visiting the Caribbean. It seemed to speak refreshment with each step I took….pure bliss.
Getting into the rhythm of the week, it became a regular occurrence for my daughter and me to eat with my husband in the center’s dining hall. With the gluten-free pancakes the best I have ever had, eating together as a family was a chance to touch base and stay connected, as well as to satisfy our taste buds. We enjoyed rice milk, homemade teas, brown rice wraps, gluten free breads and a variety of culinary explorations – just a few of the menu items that helped my stomach smile from deep within. This was the experience of Yoga Eating for sure! The center has a silent dining room available, to allow mindful and ‘aware’ eating, a practice I’ve been considering for my own home.
I think that of all the trips I’ve taken, the retreat at Kripalu ranks up there as one where I had the least amount of concern about the quality of the nutrition that my family and I were ingesting – and their dedicated staff really made sure that the nourishing foods were prepared with taste, texture, and quality in the forefront.
After dinner the kiddo and I would either read books and snuggle in the cabin or play in the Kripalu playroom. The playroom itself was plain but exquisite in its simplicity…a highly ‘Yogic’ playroom, you might say. We played “mama” to little horses who needed mommies, we tickled the keys on the toy piano, and rode in circles in the big red Radio Flyer wagon. As evening drew near, we were sure to snuggle up with a book, whether at the cabin or in the playroom. Sometimes we read about baby whales, sometimes about wolves, and if we were really up for a fine time, we read our book on manners (one of my daughter’s favorites).
The following days drifted together in a relaxed haze with rain drops sprinkling our heads as we roamed between our wonderful cabin, the graces of Kripalu and the town of Lenox. We even happened upon the Berkshires Co-Op Market to get their very special offering of Vermont brewed Kombucha Tea. It was so potent I think I experienced a full detox from just one bottle, yet with comfort and ease. The market itself was oh so special with every organic item my mind could imagine!
As the conference wound down, I noted that husband began to look a bit sad, and in asking him he reported that his bonding with so many wonderful people had been so rewarding; it was leaving them that was to be difficult. I encouraged him to get his good friends’ contacts and even proposed a trip to Iceland to catch up with friends in the year to come. Hubs was thankful for the suggestions and encouragement, and was glad to hear I understood his feelings. He offered to look after the kiddo at mid-day, so that I could take a break and have some time for myself in the bookstore and whirlpool room and to take advantage of the Yoga Dance classes at noon on our remaining days. Who could turn that down? I looked forward to some wonderful R&R experiences.
Yoga Dance was the first luxury I enjoyed with other mamas. It was a heart-centered class, in which we were encouraged to move our body and limbs as part of the outer world that radiated from pure expression at our heart center. Being moved by the rhythm and the spirit deep within I let loose and took up my space on the dance floor. It was as though I was a winged bird set free for the first time. Following up with another amazing lunch, time at the bookstore and a trip to Lenox, I was in my element. The day ended with 30 minutes in the whirlpool and hot showers. My whole body had been restored.
We left the next day, after another Yoga Dance and whirlpool adventure, as well as one last yummy Kripalu lunch. My daughter hugged each tree and my husband made peace with his desire to stay in touch with his new friends. We traveled back to Chautauqua for one more overnight, with a sunset on the lake thrown in for good measure, before getting back to Pittsburgh late Sunday night. After unpacking only the essentials we all snuggled in for a long summer night’s sleep.
Kripalu is a unique place. I enjoyed writing this as a ‘travelogue’, so to speak, but I also needed to emphasize that opportunities for mindful, meaningful experience for a kid and her parents can be found in many places outside the studio proper where we perform asanas; whether on retreat, on vacation, in the people you meet, and in the moments both memorable and mundane.