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Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
|Former names||Yoga Society of Pennsylvania|
Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health
|Former names||Yoga Society of Pennsylvania|
The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health is a non-profit organization that operates a health and yoga retreat in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Its 160,000-square-foot (15,000 m2) facility is a former Jesuit novitiate and juniorate seminary built in 1957. The center has described itself as North America's largest residential facility for holistic health and education. It employed about 626 people as of 2008 and can accommodate more than 650 overnight guests.
Kripalu Yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga using inner focus, meditation, standard yoga poses, breathwork, "development of a quiet mind", and relaxation. Kripalu emphasizes "following the flow" of prana, or "life-force energy, compassionate self-acceptance, observing the activity of the mind without judgment, and taking what is learned into daily life."
In 1965 Amrit Desai founded the Yoga Society of Pennsylvania, later called Kripalu, to provide yoga classes as well as training for yoga teachers. Desai is a native of Halol, India, where he met guru Swami Kripalvananda, for whom Kripalu is named. During the 1970s, Desai established yoga retreats (ashrams) in Sumneytown and Summit Station, Pennsylvania.
Kripalu acquired its Stockbridge property in 1983. Soon thereafter, Kripalu legally became a religious order. Residents took vows of celibacy and obedience to Desai. However, Desai's estimated annual compensation was $350,000 to $450,000, including housing and other benefits.
In 1994, Desai resigned after admitting to sexual intercourse with followers. Kripalu paid $2.5 million to settle a purported class action lawsuit brought by more than 100 former residents who had served as unpaid staff. Kripalu financed the payment partly by selling its adjacent Foxhollow property, which it had acquired to provide housing for its most senior members.
In 1999, Kripalu changed its legal status from religious organization to secular nonprofit, with a stated mission to teach the art and science of yoga.
In 2004, Kripalu added birds, fish, and caffeinated drinks to its hitherto vegetarian menu. Today it also serves mammals, including locally-raised pigs, and posts meat-based recipes on its website. Lacto-vegetarianism, seen as a practice of ahimsa, or non-violence toward others, oneself, and the earth, had been one of the founding principles of Kripalu. According to Cathy Husid-Shamir, Kripalu's former director of media relations, the change in the Kripalu's dietary policy was made in response to guests' demands. However Kripalu president Richard Faulds writes that the move from a vegetarian-only diet was made in response to the belief by a significant number of Kripalu long-term residents that the Center's vegetarian diet was not meeting their needs. Former executive vice president Ila Sarley claimed that the policy change was made to "reinvigorate Kripalu's culture."
Kripalu's 350 acres (140 ha), include forests, lawns, gardens, and access to Lake Mahkeenac. Conservation easements on 225 of the acres were granted in 1997 using funds from the U.S. Forest Legacy Program.
Kripalu's principal 160,000-square-foot (15,000 m2) building was constructed by the Jesuits in 1957 to replace the Gilded Age mansion "Shadowbrook Cottage," destroyed by fire in 1956. Jesuits acquired the former estate in 1922 as a novitiate, but moved away in 1970.
A $15 million, six-story housing annex with 80 guest rooms, completed in 2010 and designed by architect Peter Rose incorporates sustainable design elements and won a 2010 award for specialized housing from the American Institute of Architects The institute commented on the building's interior natural lighting, and noted that the architectural design and climate control systems are integrated and consume 40 percent less energy than a conventional building. Rose also developed a master plan for increasing the center's capacity and developing it into "a model of environmental responsibility" through improvements to existing buildings, landscaping, and new construction.
The Kripalu Center formerly operated its own water supply. Groundwater from onsite wells was used for its water supply source, supplemented by water purchased from the Lenox water department. There were regulatory agency concerns about the water supply's potential vulnerability to contamination, and as of 2009 the center's water supply had been converted to rely solely on purchased water obtained from surface water sources.
As of 2008, Kripalu Center in Stockbridge said it offered more than 750 programs and spiritual retreats attended by about 25,000 people annually. Total annual visitation is reported to be about 30,000 people. Many workshops are conducted by outside presenters. Kripalu Center also offers a semester-long program for young adults; projects in music, weight loss and post-traumatic stress disorder.
About 2,200 independent instructors using the trademarked term "Kripalu" pay training and certification fees. These affiliates obtain access to liability insurance and other business and marketing support.
From 2004 until 2010, Patton Garrett Sarley Jr., served as Kripalu's president and chief executive. Sarley, who goes by the name Dinabandhu, a Sanskrit name meaning "friend of the poor and the helpless", had been Kripalu's chief operating officer under Desai, but left at the time of Desai's resignation. During his absence from Kripalu, Sarley headed the Omega Institute, a holistic educational center. In 2004, a struggling Kripalu rehired Sarley to be its president and chief executive officer, and gave him a seat on the board. His wife, Mary "Ila" Sarley was also brought on, as executive vice president.
Over the next five years Kripalu saw its bookings increase steadily and its total revenue double. By 2008 revenue have grown to $27.4 million, a seven percent increase from the previous year. Expenses in 2008 rose nine percent, to $26.23 million, with payroll and employee benefit expenses rising 4.4 percent from 2007. The Sarleys were given a 35 percent increase in their combined pay and benefits, raising their total executive compensation from $422,000 in 2007 to $584,000 in 2008.
The steady increase in business came to an abrupt halt towards the start of 2009. Caught in the wake of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, Kripalu saw bookings for 2009 plunging as much as 25 percent from previous levels.
Kripalu's leadership responded to the expected drop in business in several ways: in January 2009, they eliminated 35 full-time and 26 part-time positions (roughly 15 percent of Kripalu's staff); they canceled bonuses, and they reduced senior and executive pay by 5 to 15 percent. According to Dinabandhu Sarley, a steep drop in business and high expenses necessitated the cuts. "All told, we went through and we had to cut," Sarley said. "We have very high overhead and very high fixed costs. There is no wiggle room on some of these things." After the cuts, the Sarleys received a total 2009 executive compensation of $538,000.
In 2009 the organization reported revenue of $25.51 million and expenses of $24.35 million. Revenue in 2012 grew six percent to $32.5 million.
In October 2010, the Sarley executive team was replaced by David Surrenda, who was previously (since 1987) director of an Oakland, California, consulting firm called Leadership Edge. In August 2012, Surrenda was replaced as CEO by Richard "Shobhan" Faulds, who had served as the chairman of Kripalu's board of trustees since 2001 and had been president from 1998 to 2001. Faulds has also been Kripalu’s legal counsel since 1989. David Lipsius was named chief executive of Kripalu in September 2012, after joining Kripalu in January "to pursue his personal dharma." Faulds became Vice President of Yoga Development. During 2012, Surrenda's salary and benefits were $260,097, and Faulds' were $200,762.