There seems to be a lot of confusion, everywhere. No-one quite knows what to believe in anymore. There’s just so much information out there and other cultures and other people just seem to do things so differently. So where do you start? Your Facebook Newsfeed? Well apparently we judge each other. I’ve seen so many online debates concerning yoga – people loving it – people ridiculing it – people mindlessly competing for a prize that will never come. But why? Why are we being so mean about it all?
According to the online debates raging at the moment, if you say namaste in Bali, you will probably be laughed at. You have to say Om Swastiastu. Some expats in Bali seem to be battling with each other in terms of how much they know about Balinese Hinduism. The debates rage and there are some valid points. But the main fear seems to be this: Bali is changing, and people are scared. Yet we also have to remember that in the bleak darkness of this world, Bali is also shining with all of its organic food, community and environment action and health and mindful practices. And many people are coming for the yoga – the Balinese have been practicing it for centuries.
So what if, despite all the debates, it was as simple as ‘keep your body and mind healthy so that you can do more positive deeds on the planet’ or ‘moan about everything from your computer, but don’t actually do anything about it?’ (And let’s not forget that millions of people on this planet don’t even have clean water, let alone a computer – so if we moan, it should be about the important issues.)
Yet this debate is a slippery one – some yogis have fallen onto the path of money, that’s true, and people are always going to find black holes where all the love and tolerance seeps out. For the sake of this article, I’m not going to judge and I’m going to accept that yoga is very real for many people (including myself).
So where do you start in Bali? The first step might be to find a genuine teacher and practice that helps you to grow. The annual Bali Spirit Festival has many different yoga teachers from across Bali and the world, and houses different styles. It’s also quite expensive.
But there are lots of fair-priced places across Bali which organise good yoga retreats with a focus on sustainable living and the environment. Mandala Bali is one of those places and I recently had a chat with Kim Slippens about the project. “The Mandala Bali retreats are designed for anyone interested in a natural way of life, being one with the Earth and the ocean. The core intention is to get ourselves closer to this oneness of all – to connect deeper with our higher selves by cleansing our bodies and purifying the mind through yoga, breath work, nature explorations and creativity. We offer a variety of daily yoga classes and workshops including talks on permaculture and raw food, intuitive painting class, acro-yoga (partner) session, guided surfing and meditations. We are all here together, connected in one way or another. With everything moving so fast it is easy to forget what it is that we are meant to do here. We carry within us an immense power and responsibility to protect and preserve our Mother Earth,” said Kim.
Offering surfing meditation classes at Mandala Bali is Dimi who also runs his blog, Universe Lovers. I met Dimi at the cob workshop and was inspired by both his and Kim’s energy. As I slurped on coffee througout the day, Dimi munched on fruit and by the end of the workshop, Kim had us covered in mud and doing yoga poses – being in Mandala helped me to remember how to have fun.
I asked Dimi more about his practices in meditation which he combines with surfing. “Surfmeditation is the foundation of surfing on ocean waves and meditation with the raising of the kundalini energy, the disclosure of higher consciousness. Meditation is the knowledge and the ability to master the spiritual body. Surfing is the knowledge and possession of the physical body. Surfmeditation frees you from the inner fears of the future and lets us live in the present,” he told me.
Other centres are using yoga to enable them to explore the natural world, including Apneista in Amed, Bali. Using a combination of yogic practices and breathing techniques, practioners are using these skills to enable them to freedive to extraordinary depths in the ocean. William Trubridge currently holds the world record for no-fin free-immersion freediving reaching depths of over 100 metres and in the recent documentary Breathe about his life, William revealed that he practices yoga daily.
Yoga is growing in popularity across the globe and not just in Bali. But why? I asked Kim about how she first discovered this path. “My ‘yoga journey’ began as I started feeling more conscious about my body and mind. With all the troubles of the modern world I felt a great need to stay grounded and calm to discover what it is I actually came here to do. I am sure that this could be a reason why yoga is now spreading all over the world, not merely for the physical act of doing exercise but for finding that stillness within. I found myself experimenting with different types of yoga and meditations and realized that I enjoyed bringing my awareness into the present moment. Eventually my journey led me to India to study more intensively and I took a teacher’s training course. Back in Bali, I began sharing my practice and here I am teaching most days of the week, always learning something new – this is what keeps me on the path of yoga – uniting all that is, one step at a time.”
Let’s not forget that yoga’s sanskrit root is to yoke (to join) – union with the flow. Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in ourselves that we might think that doing yoga photo shoots in a sacred Balinese temple is a good idea. As the online debates continue, humility is considered to be a better idea and I quite agree; along with respecting the Balinese ways and each other, so that we can all evolve together within the flow, in peace and quiet, perhaps with a nice cup of tea.
For more information about yoga retreats at Mandala Bali, please email: [email protected]
Freediving and Yoga Documentary: Breathe (2011)
Bali Spirit Festival: www.balispiritfestival.com/
Apneista Freediving and Yoga: www.apneista.com