Ubud is an international yogi’s paradise. A Mecca for teachers, students, retreats and the curious; people flock to Bali with the hopes to find something nestled within the thick, lush forests, while practicing yoga and meditation to move closer to themselves. So naturally, being that I am a yoga instructor and my husband a fitness instructor, we couldn’t come clear across the world and not experience what Bali had to offer us.
As per our research and many recommendations, our quest for yoga led my husband and I to the famed Yoga Barn for a Gentle Yoga class. We left our hotel, Komanka Monkey Forest well before class time to ensure enough time to walk to the shala and drink in the sights and sounds of morning-time Ubud. With our mats strapped to our backs donning our lululemon we bounded off. Immediately, my pants affixed to my body as they formed an uncomfortable second skin in the tropical heat and we perspired through our tank tops. Ripe with sweat, we meandered in and out of shops preparing for their day as they opened their doors and placed offerings and incense on the side walk.
Still quiet from the cloak of the morning haze, the streets weren’t quite alive with the energy of the scooters and cars that normally make it virtually impassable in a wall of traffic. We approached The Monkey Forest. Monkeys mischievously ran across the outer wall, pranced in and out of the street, and played. As we continued our trek, I heard some banging up ahead of me. I looked up and noticed that there were two monkeys up ahead sitting in a parking lot banging rocks together, and then rubbing them on the ground. I stood on the sidewalk, giggling in excitement and wonderment for this sight that I was so privileged to see—wild animals playing, simply enjoying the simplicity of creation.
We continued our walk to Yoga Barn and arrived at 9:40am. We were almost an hour early for the Gentle Yoga class that Greg was eager to take to help ‘ease his body and mind’ into his yoga practice. However, we learned that a level 1-2 Vinyasa Flow class was starting at 10am and much to my husband’s dismay, this was the class I wanted to take and was glad that our early arrival permitted us to take it. Begrudgingly, Greg agreed to take the class. We were instructed to ‘follow the path down and pay there’. We disappeared down into the vast complex through thick trees, windy and narrow pathways and terraces, that took us through a restaurant, juice bar, an outdoor kind of dance floor-like space, then finally to the front desk. We purchased our classes, took off our flip-flops and climbed the spiral staircase to the expansive outdoor studio space. Sights and sounds of international yogi’s preparing to practice together overwhelmed me. The massive space was almost packed with still 15 minutes before class. Together, we navigated the room, weaving in and out of people’s mats, eagerly trying to find a place to set up shop so that we could practice next to one another. Yogi’s whispered, some manipulated their bodies into impressive shapes, and others were quiet in meditation. As we continued to try to carve out a space to place our mats, much to my utter shock and disbelief, no one even attempted to move over to let us slip in.
I looked around to assess the room, trying hard not to slip into “Teacher Mode” and to continue to hold space for myself as a student: I noted the space between mats—2 to 3 feet in most cases, more than enough room to let others in to lay their mats. Finally, a voice from across the room,
“Are you two OK separating for 90 minutes?” said the instructor.
“Of course we are, but we are on our honeymoon” I shared, with the hopes someone would hear that and then move to accommodate us both so we could practice together…Yet no such thing occurred. Eventually, Greg ended up behind me and a few mats over. I chatted up the Canadian’s who moved over to let me squeeze in. Shortly the buzz amongst the room came to a lull. From what I could gather, at least 60-75 yogi’s sat cross legged on their mats, eyes fixed on the instructor poised in front of the Ganesh statue.
Our instructor was named Les, a westerner. He started class with two concepts: Time and Honeymoon. In his matter-of-fact, no nonsense approach, Les brought us into his world addressing that time is something we try to control when in fact we cannot control it. He continued: we fill our lives with so much stuff—the necessity for things to end so that something else could begin; such as our need for the class to end promptly at 11:30 so that we can make our massage appointment at 11:45 and so the cycle continues. And then Les’ transition: Why have we moved away from the honeymoon phase of living? Are we really living or just existing? Where is the love, passion, joy and excitement in what we do? Why we do it? How we do it?
I liked Les immediately and knew Greg would too. Real, approachable, and clearly inspired by the two of us on our honeymoon, he framed class around us and did so brilliantly.
The start of our practice was signaled by a single om and call and response to Ganesh, the elephant God who is the remover of obstacles.
Sweat penetrated my pants and sports bra. I was dripping and slipping on my mat but savoring Les’ words, cueing, and the warm air on my body. At one point, Les offered to let us use his phone to call our jobs and quit so that we could live more fully. I chuckled to myself and knew that Greg was thinking the same: YES, let’s do it!
Class was an invigorating and energizing flow. The instructor was jovial, light, and funny. I was present in my body and practice, celebrating each and every bead of sweat as a gift, and I found peace knowing that my husband was [hopefully] enjoying the class too.
After class, we befriended the women next to me: one a Canadian from Vancouver named Sandy whom has been living in Bali teaching yoga for the last year, and another young woman who is traveling the world alone who just arrived in Bali from some time in Thailand. We chatted about our love of yoga and lululemon—for Sandy will be visiting Singapore shortly and is eager to get her hands on some sweat-whisking garments, as everything in Bali is loose cotton. We bid the girls farewell and strode off in our yoga fog.
While class was amazing, the only Balinese people to be found at the shala were working the desk and cleaning the facilities. Which makes sense, considering my research and discussions with the Balinese peoples from across the island confirmed that yoga is an expensive unnecessary luxury [note, that to this Angeleno, a $10 class was a steal!]. This class and studio could easily be transplanted in LA and it would thrive; the familiarity of the cueing and flows felt like home. But more importantly, for the first time in the 2+ years I have known my husband, his interest in yoga has been peaked and he’s tantalized by it. So far, Bali for the win, folks.