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Go on a yoga retreat to recharge your spiritual batteries

Tracy E. Hopkins is an accomplished writer, blogger and editor living in New York City. She has expertise covering travel, fashion, health and entertainment.

Spiritual serenity with yoga

Big-city life has its benefits, but over time, the daily grind of commuter chaos can wear down even the most resilient urbanite. To recharge your spiritual batteries, instead of the typical tropical getaway, try a yoga retreat. SheKnows visited the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health to experience a yoga retreat firsthand. Here is what we found.

Spiritual serenity with yoga

Kripalu: an idyllic choice for a first-time retreat

Nestled in the lush Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts and overlooking Lake George, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health is a perfect choice for retreat newbies. No prior yoga experience is necessary, and in addition to several yoga and fitness classes each day, Kripalu offers a calendar of workshops and programs featuring guest speakers like Deepak Chopra and Byron Katie. Kripalu's core Retreat and Renewal Program, however, is the most popular way to destress.

What to Expect

Housed in a former Jesuit seminary, the nonprofit Kripalu attracts more than 25,000 visitors a year. The sparse, no-frills rooms range from a single room with a small bed, hanging drawers, sink and safe for your valuables (the doors remain closed but unlocked) to a dormitory room with multiple guests and a shared hall bathroom. You may want to Tivo your favorite TV programs, because no TVs are on the premises, and cell phones are permitted only outside and in telephone booths in the hallways.

Depending on the accommodations, rates range from $155 to $389 for weeknights and $167 to $437 for weekends. Rates are all inclusive, per person, per night, two-night minimum.
Spiritual serenity with yoga

Relax, Relate, Release

Do as much or as little as you like. Though a yoga class starts at 6:00 a.m., you can opt to sleep in and take an afternoon yoga class instead. The rest of the day is just as flexible with seemingly limitless physical activity options. You can go on a guided hike after breakfast, take a vigorous Kripalu YogaDance class (formerly Danskinetics), practice Tai Chi on the lawn, book a relaxing body treatment at the Healing Arts Center, meditate and write in your journal, take a dip in the lake, work out in the fitness room, and soak in the soothing whirlpool.

Strike a Pose

Kripalu's yoga classes are tailored to all skill levels from beginner to intermediate. According to the center's website, Kripalu Yoga (like most yoga styles and traditions) uses classic asanas (though not a particular set or routine) and pranayama (breathwork) while encouraging the development of a quiet mind and the practice of relaxation. What sets Kripalu Yoga apart is its emphasis on following the flow of prana (life-force energy), practicing compassionate self-acceptance, developing witness consciousness (observing the activity of the mind without judgment), and taking what is learned "off the mat" and into daily life.

Silent Meals Promote Mindful Eating

Breakfast at Kripalu is a silent meal, and silent dinner is optional. That's right, no talking allowed. For the naturally chatty, this may take some getting used to. But as Kripalu nutritionist Deb Phillips explains, it promotes mindful eating.

"When you're talking," Phillips says, "you're not paying attention to what you're eating and how it tastes. [Eating silently] promotes being present with your food."

Honestly, the buffet-style meals are so good, you will be too busy chewing to talk. Although the menus aren't restricted to vegan or vegetarian fare (dairy and meat are included as well as tofu and meat substitutes), Phillips says the meals provided are organic and local whenever possible.

Spiritual serenity with yoga"[The ideal diet] is all organic, all whole grain, low in gluten and unrefined sugar, and [absent of] high fructose syrup, trans fat and personal toxins and allergens," Phillips says. "But we're all somewhere in the middle [with our dietary choices]. At Kripalu, people can take whatever [step] they're ready for."

Instead of fad diets, Phillips says changing your food habits will result in weight loss. "Eat within one hour of waking and every three to four hours thereafter," she says.

She recommends consuming 50 grams of fiber per day, achieved by eating a daily two to three servings of fruit and three to eleven servings of vegetables. During your Kripalu retreat, Phillips is available for a personal nutritional counseling session. You can take what you learn home with you and eat more healthfully and mindfully on your own.

For a start, make this homemade granola recipe and eat it silently and mindfully while truly tasting its wholesome goodness. Eating with your senses can heighten every meal you eat as well as connect your mind and body.

Kripalu homemade granola

1. Toss oats, nuts and seeds in oil with honey.
2. Bake on a baking sheet at 250 degrees F for 30 minutes until crispy, stirring often.

Stay for a Day

In lieu of a weekend stay, you can purchase a "day pass" ($100; preregistration is required, and blackout periods include most weekends during the summer). This includes breakfast, lunch, dinner and all Retreat and Renewal activities from 7:30 a.m. through the evening. For more information, call registration at 866-200-5203.

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