Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kripalu Volunteer Program

The Gist:

I am currently living in Western Massachusetts at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. I am part of a 4-month live-in volunteer program in yoga and self-inquiry. I work 35 hours/week in exchange for room, food, yoga, workshops, and a few other perks.

I love it and am so happy right now.

A Little More:

*Kripalu Center:

Kripalu used to be an ashram and is now a non-profit education yoga center (the largest in North America). It has a "Retreat & Renewal" program that includes yoga classes and other workshops taught by Kripalu faculty. The center also hosts outside presenters who lead weekend or week-long workshops in yoga, health, self-development, outdoor activities, creativity and lots more.

It is located in the Berkshire Hills (close to the border of New York) and the surroundings are really beautiful. Lots of hiking trails that I am loving.

(The main building is like a beached cruise ship - it's gigantic - 4 acres of floor space!)

*The Volunteer Program:

A crew of 60 volunteers helps to run Kripalu and we work for 4 months at a time. In addition to living and working at the center, volunteers take part in weekly classes in yoga philosophy and pyschology, peer mentoring groups, and are free to attend any yoga classes, other workshops or events (see perks below) when they're not working.

A big part of the program is simply living in community and being part of each other's lives. I live in a room with two other women in a big building with lots of other people. A lot of emotional, personal things come up while in the program and there is a lot of space held and support provided for doing personal work and self-exploration.

The people here are wonderful.

*My Seva:

The program is considered karma yoga: the yoga of action, and a big part of this is our work. Our "seva" is our selfless service to the community and mine is veggie prep and I LOVE IT.

We prepare all the vegetables for the kitchen, which means we chop veggies for 7 hours/day.

We work in the basement kitchen and we have a great time. We listen to music and chat and dance and sing and haul around giant boxes of kale and sweet potatotes and carrots, cutting and washing and putting all our love into the food.

We feed 200-600 people 3 meals every day and so the quantities are incredible. The other day I chopped 98 gallons of kale. It took me ALL DAY.

Because it's such a big kitchen, we have all sort of fun machines to help with the big quantities, like a Robot Coupe and a Halde (big chopper-dicers) and a fancy big scrubber (we drop in big bins of carrots or beets and it spins them around with big rolling brushes and water - way cool). Another thing I think it just great fun is that we get to power wash the floors at the end of the day. I mean, when do you get to dump soapy water on the floor, spray it with a giant hose and then squeegee it? Okay, I'm sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but right now I'm having so much fun with it.

*The Food:

Kripalu has AMAZING food. If you know me, you know what an important factor that is in my satisfaction with the place. It's really healthy, mostly vegetarian, lots of gluten-free stuff (even decent gluten-free bread!) and most of it is organic and local. It's beautiful and fantastic.

*Perks of the Program:

I am really impressed with how awesome they make it to be a volunteer. In addition to yoga and other workshops, there are nightly events like concerts, drum circles, kirtan (traditional Indian devotional chanting), speakers, and movies.

There is also a whirlpool and sauna we have free access to, we get discounts on massages and other healing arts, several free guest passes for friends and family, and two free programs (weekend workshops by outside presenters, normally $200-$400).

a) if you are in the area, come by; I can get you in free!
b) I'm extremely happy here and know I'm in the right place in my life right now


Jackson Davis said...

Missed one of your pictures there ;).

Jennifer said...

I just wanted to share that I stumbled upon your blog through my Google alerts (keyword: Kripalu), and I look forward to reading more about your Seva experience. I was at Kripalu in Oct-Nov 2006 for the 200-hour YTT and fell in love with the place. I admire everyone who volunteers there; I swear you can honestly taste the love put into that food. Enjoy your time there, and keep blogging

Ali said...

whoops! good eye ;)
I go through and write the whole thing, noting where I think I'll put pics in, but I didn't end up taking the one I wanted, so it's empty for now!

Ali said...

Jennifer - thanks for reading! glad you enjoyed your time here, I obviously do too, and I'll keep posting about my experiences!

Jackson Davis said...

Interestingly, I actually do almost the exact opposite. I usually look through my most recent pictures, and then decide what to write about. Doing that definitely means I'm skipping a lot of stuff, though...

Rachel said...

Okay, you've convinced me. I'm totally going to Kripalu. Soon. Well, maybe not that soon because I want to be in the Pacific Northwest for at least a year-- gotta tough it thru the long rainy winter in order to reap the benefits of the summer months. But then, after that: I'm so there. Miss you darlin. So glad you're in a wonderful place doing wonderful work. xoxo Rach

Anonymous said...

Hey Ali,

I've recently applied for this program and am waiting to hear if my application has been approved. Of course my life is going thru some major shifts (moving, etc) How did you know it was the right time for you to commit to this amazing program.


Rev. Patricia McDaniel said...

Hi Ali,

Thanks for your blog. I have recently applied for the volunteer program. I wanted to know what time do the production and grounds shifts end each day? Thanks. Peace...Pat