Kripalu Guest Stories: Joyce Benitez
I first came to Kripalu in 1982—we were three Latinas from the Bronx going on an adventure! I was going through a bittersweet time in my life, having recently married and battling an eating disorder I’d had for many years. I was tired and fatigued a lot of the time.
Since then, I’ve been back so many times—I’ve taken programs, I got certified as a yoga teacher, and I served as a volunteer. Kripalu helped bring me through many transitions: when my mom passed away after battling cancer, before birthing my first child, when purchasing my first home. The yoga practice allowed the concerns and stresses to surface so that I could come to terms with them. Sometimes I’d be in a particular asana, feeling angry and wanting to run, but I would stay present and tune in to my breath.
Yoga changed my life. It helped me get past physical limitations that had previously defined me and do things I never dreamed I could do, including pursuing a long-held dream of attending art school. While standing in front of the blank canvas, I sometimes start out anxious or frightened, and not sure how to proceed. Then I remember that the breath connects me to the present moment, and I can mindfully pick up the brush and apply the first stroke.
I currently teach yoga at three different hospitals to nurses, administrators, and physicians. Having been a nurse many years ago, I see beauty in returning to this setting in a different capacity. My hope in teaching yoga to this often stressed-out population is primarily to help them pay attention to long-ignored signals from the body, mind, and heart. When they come back to the class feeling better physically and calmer emotionally, it reminds me over and over why I do this rewarding work. Yoga continues to help me believe in myself and to work past my imagined limitations.
At Kripalu, it’s not only about a particular posture and how flexible I am on a particular day; it’s about what I’m experiencing physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually on and off the mat. Yoga plants a seed, and it germinates into a deep appreciation of the self. When I am more compassionate, loving, open, and honest with myself, this branches out and touches all those around me. They, in turn, pass it on.
—Joyce Benitez, yoga teacher, Montclair, New Jersey