my first kripalu experience + training with chakras expert Anodea Judith

rock message by an anonymous lovely soul in the Kripalu meditation garden I feel like I've been away from the blog much longer than I actually have been. I suppose it's a positive sign that this has become so much a part of my life and routine, but I had to respectfully disagree with some guilt demons earlier this week about not staying consistent with my at-least-once-a-week schedule. (At some point I would love to have a supply of posts ready for the times when it's not convenient for me to write -- but for now, it is what it is!) I'm also so glad that I took the opportunity to unplug as much as I did. It certainly wasn't *completely* unplugged, as there were some work things I had to tend to, and I snuck in a few texts and social media posts in there along with brief nightly calls to the beau. But I was *way* more disconnected from technology than I am in my day-to-day life, and it was a welcome break.

All that aside, I need to say that I am completely head-over-heels in love with Kripalu. HOLY. CRAP. I really had no idea what I was getting into -- I just knew that I wanted to do this training with Anodea Judith, and that it was held at a place that vaguely registered on my radar as something I'd heard of in passing. It was unlike any other training I'd been to before, and the environment of yoga, spirituality, whole foods, and self-care was as soothing as melting into a bathtub of dark chocolate. (Minus the messy clean-up.) I was actually in the minority of first-timers, because Kripalu is not a place you go just once.

For peeps who are unfamiliar, Kripalu (kri-PAH-loo) Center for Yoga & Health is "a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to empowering people and communities to realize their full potential through the transformative wisdom and practice of yoga." Located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts since the early 1980s, Kripalu is largest and most established retreat center for yoga, health, and holistic living in North America. The facility hosts year-round retreats, workshops, and trainings "to support optimal living through education for the whole person: body, mind, and spirit."

To spare you from a play-by-play of my experience, I wanted to share a few of the significant takeaways from my week.

Working with the energy in the human body is just as critical as working with emotions and thoughts, because they are all inextricably linked.

This training with Anodea was my first formal foray into working with energy (or chi, qi, life force, charge -- it goes by many names). The first step in working with your own energy is to get familiar with tuning into the charge present into your own body -- to track it and notice when you are in high-charge and low charge states. Then, you can learn to intentionally charge or discharge when you need to work toward balance and equilibrium. You can also take note of the ways you have been unconsciously charging or discharging in your life, and consciously decide which ways work well for you and which you may need to adjust. Charge in the body is affected by many factors including body type, personality type, past trauma, energetic "blocks" at certain chakras, and the present situation you're facing. This topic is too much to go in depth on in this post, but now that I have a stronger foundation of knowledge and experience working with energy, I'm excited to write much more on about it on the blog. Oh, and if you're curious, the particular training I attended was Therapeutic Techniques of Mind-Body Integration for Somatic Trauma Healing, which is a prerequisite for the Chakra Therapy course. (Chakra Therapy!!!)

I cannot speak highly enough of Anodea Judith. I'm just halfway through her one of her books, Eastern Body, Western Mind: Psychology & the Chakra System as  a Path to Self  (it's a bit of a whopper at 450+ pages), and I have learned more clinically from this book than I did in most of my grad school classes combined. I feel incredibly grateful and excited that I have found a teacher who is so in alignment with my philosophy and the vision of my career path, and I can't wait for the next training I'll do with her. (Hoping to do another by next summer, and it's now my goal to eventually complete her Sacred Centers Healer Certification which includes about 6-7 trainings in addition to supervision and special project work.)

Dancing the primal, instinctual movements of the body is one of the most profound and spiritual things the human body can do.

Most days I was at Kriplau, I participated in "Noon Dance," which, as it sounds, is a dance class that happens everyday at noon. I was incredibly lucky to get to experience three different instructors who have all created their own methods of dance to integrate body, mind and spirit: Dan Leven with Shake Your Soul, Toni Bergens with JourneyDance, and Megha Nancy Buttenheim with Let Your Yoga Dance. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have always loved to dance, but lacking any sort of formal training, I just whirl myself around in whatever way the music moves me, and the result is some pretty ridiclous(ly awesome) interpretive dancing.

The instructors above both inspired with their own movements and suggestions, and ignited the creative fire in the 40+ of us in the room to allow our bodies to dance the unique prayers inside each of us. Of course, afterwards I immediately thought, I HAVE to train with one of them! I want to be able to catalyze this kind of movement with people. So, we'll see. I have so many trainings on my "dream list" right now that I'll have to prioritize, but I could definitely envision bringing this into my professional path. One of the training assistants also suggested that I read Gabrielle Roth's Sweat Your Prayersso I picked up a copy at the bookstore and can't wait to start it (but have to finish one of the other 5 books I'm reading right now first!)

Don't suppress your inner mystic.

I had my first tarot reading, and it was actually pretty awesome. As I've loosened up my skeptic side and woken up my mystic side over the past several months, I have gotten a couple of oracle decks and used them a few times. But I'm still a complete novice with them, and paying to get a tarot reading takes it to a whole different level: If I'm paying someone for this, does that mean that I really believe in it? Do I have to know whether or not I really believe it? Are they just going to tell me what I want to hear so I'll speak highly of it to others? Are some tarot readers "for real" and others are just in it for the quick cash, and if so, how do I know which this person is? How much weight do I give to what they say?

As I've I've grappled with some of these questions over the past few months, I've decided at this point in my life that I'm rather agnostic about much of the mystical world. I'm not sure if/what I believe, but I don't *not* believe. And if any of these practices or tools helps me connect to the deep wonders of myself, others, and the universe -- and deepen my own intuition and spiritual connection -- then why the hell not? My tarot reading was overwhelmingly affirming and optimistic, and even though the little skeptic voice on one shoulder tells me, "of course she'd say that!", in my heart and in my gut, it felt real -- and most importantly, validating.

The permission that I sometimes struggle to give myself -- "give yourself a break, acknowledge just how successful you already are and come from that place" -- was a very welcome message. The reader (I can't remember her name or find it online, but I'm pretty sure she had a masters degree in something) was obviously very intuitive, and I liked how she framed the importance of listening and trusting my own deep intuition, rather than just coming from the logical/cognitive perspective. In that way, it felt that I could both heed her "advice" and insights, but also deeply trust my own, so there was no power differential. I'm sure that just like in any other profession, not all tarot readers have this philosophy or the same level of skill, but I was glad that I choose to do it and surprised at how therapeutic it was.

I'd love to hear: what topics do you want more in-depth goodness about? What questions do you have about your energy, movement, your own internal battle of skeptic vs mystic? xx

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.