And what a year it’s been. It’s crazy to think that 12 months ago I had the opportunity to spend a week at a Kripalu retreat, surrounded by hundreds of women, practicing yoga, sitting in an auditorium listening to speakers, and eating communal meals. Since March, this has all seemed so foreign. I can’t believe how much I took for granted, and every time I drive past Kripalu to get groceries or go for a hike, I realize how amazing these activities that once seemed so simple really are.
As I’ve been reflecting on the past year, I remembered I never posted the piece that I wrote for Bust on my personal site. Better late than never, so here it is. May we all strive to feel, love, and appreciate our community and our connection to one another, no matter how difficult that feels right now.
During a moment in history that can feel dark and full of despair, how do we move forward? What can give us hope, enough hope to inspire revolution? This month, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, the largest retreat center in the nation, hosted its inaugural Women’s Week. The Revolution Within came from the idea that while equality, peace, and justice require outer work, they also require a commitment to inner work. In true yoga fashion, the week aimed to prove how much can be accomplished through community, connection to others, and connection to oneself.
Image c/o Zollshan Photography and Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
I had the fortunate to attend, take yoga classes, and listen to speakers discuss race, privilege, and growth. Authors, yoga teachers, civil rights activists, artists, and speakers came together to teach, spark discussion, and ultimately bring about collective change. A common theme I witnessed throughout the week was the cyclical nature of feeling compassion for yourself and for others. It was a powerful reminder that the more we accept ourselves, the more we accept those around us. That acceptance affects everything—the way we show up in our own lives, and the way we treat others. It is fundamental to our humanity, and it’s especially important to remember during a time that feels so divisive.
I was able to discuss this more with Kripalu’s CEO of four years, Barbara Vacarr. Here’s what she had to say.
Barbara Vacarr, CEO of Kripalu. Image c/o Zollshan Photography and Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
What inspired you to host a women’s week?
This is an aspiration that’s lived here for a long time. So many people have wanted to do this and were involved in making this happen. We are living at a pivotal moment for women in our country – women’s voices are being heard and this was an opportunity for us to push that paradigm. The goal here was to strengthen women’s voices. In community, that happens. Bringing people into a place of reflection on their own lives, and leading them to observe without judgment… this leads people to accept more parts of themselves, the dark parts that we’re maybe taught to hide. This week was an encouragement to think about the parts of yourself that you don’t find acceptable. There is empowerment in that – it inspires us to reach our full potential.
How does that relate to feminism?
There are so many messages we internalize throughout our lifetimes, often without even realizing or reflecting on them. Patriarchy silences parts of ourselves, and how powerful we can be if we don’t internalize those messages. Finding this kind of strength means speaking when you’re afraid, and finding agency in every environment. There is no revolution externally if there isn’t a revolution internally.
Do you feel like this week accomplished what you set out to do?
I feel very full. I feel like this week has touched a lot of people.
What powerful message do you hope was given life this week?
The question that Valarie Kaur asked was, is this transition the tomb or the womb? This moment in history is testing our ability to breathe and push, the same way we are tested during the transition phase of childbirth. Our abilities to navigate transitions is guided by our hopefulness or hopelessness. This time is so painful, and it feels like tomb, but what if it’s the womb? What if the end of this is the beautiful beginning of something new?
Speaker Valarie Kaur. Image c/o Zollshan Photography and Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
Cover image c/o Zollshan Photography and Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health