How Yogic is Bali?

Balinese man looking at camera in jungle

Balinese temple
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Vivid jungle, dream beaches and dramatic, powerful, live-giving volcanoes at sunset. Stunning food, postcard waterfalls and gorgeous, tattooed, model-types taking pictures of their hot-dog-legs while drinking kombucha. The island of the gods. This can only mean one thing – Instagram. But seriously, Bali looks super-ridiculous. Yogis from all over the world flock to tick it off their bucket-list. But how yogic is Bali? We checked it out.

The North is. The South... Not so much.

Rowdy Aussies in Bintang vests raid the South of the island like British expats hog the Costa Del Sol. Need we say more? Scooter north beyond the hot concrete and the neon, fried chicken signs of Kuta and Denpesar, to explore from the more yogic Ubud and beyond. Into the jungle we flow, gents. Follow us.

Gratitude is all around

Flawlessly beautiful Balinese ladies are either at ceremony, making offerings for ceremony, or sleeping. The daily laying of banana-palm-leaf (canang sari), containing anything from fruit and flowers to biscuits and cigs, by your home-temple, door, or scooter, is a perpetual practice of thanks. Embrace it. It’s contagious. Thank you.

Elderly Balinese lady
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Yogic sleeping patterns

The best bit. Just five hundred miles from the equator, days and nights are pretty much the same all year round. It get’s light around six and it gets dark around six, give or take half an hour. Get super-tuned to your circadian rhythm. Avoid late nights, go early to bed, and rise like a wildling with the jungle. Island self-care. Meow.

A connection to nature

Beyond Kuta and Denpasar, the island wildlife comes into it’s own. Coconut palms, rice paddies and outrageous landscapes are home to weird and wonderful snakes, fancy birds, shy lizards, far-too-intelligent monkeys and prehistoric dragonflies. Vast worlds of wonder beneath the active, Mount Agung. There’s no better place to feel at one with the natural world. And remember, they’re more scared of you. Honest.

Balinese landscape
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It’s easy to eat vege if that's your thing

Unimaginable bounties. Papaya. Coconut. White mango. Salak. Mangosteen. Red dragon fruit. Durian. Rambutan. Guava. And this is just the fruit. Never heard of half of these? Neither had we. They’ve to be experienced to be believed. What? You didn’t share annoying images of your food on Insta before? You will now. And for a silent yoga and meditation retreat with divine food, stay at the Bali Silent Retreat.

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A doorway to magic and mystery

Fred B Eiseman Jr wrote, ‘the best book on Bali for the serious visitor’, Sekala & Niskala – the seen and the unseen. Give it a whirl. An island of magic and myth, where the local people live closer to the spirit world than is sometimes comfortable. One hotelier told us, ‘staff miss work, not due to sickness, but because of ghosts by the bed’.

No end of places to practice

Take your pick. Hot yoga. Iyengar. Retreats. Renowned studios. Little known gems. Ashtanga. Good yoga. Bad yoga. Fly-by-nights. It’s all here. Big, touristic studios like The Yoga Barn have a lot going on and are fun, but we found a gem in Penestanan. Intuitive Flow has a panoramic view over the jungle to Agung, local teachers and genuine integrity.

Balinese lady sieving grainImage credit:

Easy 8

Asana and meditation is just the start. With space, fresh air and less distraction, all eight limbs have a chance. Self-restraint is easier when the culture is more about tea and juice than booze. Breathe and withdraw in the clean, peaceful North. And with so much yoga available, you’ll be practicing with regularity, you’ll have improved concentration, and you might even find samadhi. Enter The Matrix.

Massage and healing

Three English Pounds or four US Dollars will get you an hour treatment of varied quality in one of the thousands of massage salons. A full Balinese massage is not to be missed. But you can literally get any offbeat therapy here. Get to the Pyramids of Chi for a truly bizarre sound healing, or try out the secret, sexy and somewhat puzzling Russian sauna in the jungle, Bali Dacha.

Balinese farmer carrying grain sack
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How Yogic Is Bali?

We asked a few folk in Ubud what they thought…

Ford Purves is a Senior IT Engineer living in Ubud
‘It’s an unfortunate thing that there are some profiteers in yoga in Bali, as in all places. So asking for recommendations is a good idea.’

Cheryl Kirchner is a Wealth Manager on a travel sabbatical
‘I spent 18 days in Ubud this past winter and went to class at Intuitive Flow. I enjoyed every single instructor. Each class started with some type of meditation, which really set the tone for the rest of the class. There were never any more than 15 or so students in the class and the other students were not pretentious at all. It really changed the intention of my yoga practice and I have found it difficult to find the same type of instruction back in Canada.’

Savitri Devi is a yoga teacher based in Bali
‘I was born and raised in Bali, went through the school system here but lived in Canada for almost 30 years. I’ve been practising for 22 years, teaching half of that, and I’ve been a teacher trainer in Hatha-Vinyasa and Kundalini Yoga since 2010. My classes are holistic, safe and student centred. Although now known as a Kundalini Yoga teacher, I also teach Scaravelli-inspired Hatha Yoga. I’ve been leading Yoga & Wellness retreats internationally since 2003, for 15 years. Yoga in Bali is more devotional in nature than in the "West". You will leave feeling enriched, with a deepened sense of yourself, like a return to your own divine nature.’

Catriona Smith is a Business Consultant from London
‘I found Geoff Brooks at Radiantly Alive to be great - cues and alignment spot on. But India is a truer yoga experience.’

Kevin Garber is a tech entrepreneur
‘There are many exceptional yoga teacher practitioners from around the world that facilitate retreats in Ubud. They fly in and fly out though.’

Bhavana Gesota is an Indian emotive artist
‘If you want a yogic pilgrimage, you ought to go to India. Most of the teachers in Bali - resident or fly in fly out - would have done a Yoga immersion or pilgrimage in India at some point in time. Go to the roots where the system originated if you want a real pilgrimage. In Bali, there are some very good Balinese teachers who teach in English. I recommend them. For a real pilgrimage, I would also suggest to avoid retreats. Instead, sign up for regular classes - daily or alternate days. This allows the time and space to integrate and develop your practice over time - for the teachings to seep in. Retreats are just that - fly in fly out. Great for fun, but not a real pilgrimage.’

Cat Wheeler is a Candian writer and Reiki master living in Bali

I find most of the yoga in Ubud to be very poorly taught. Classes are too large. 'Teachers' are disengaged. You might as well be watching a video. After a torn rotator cuff in a ‘gentle flow’ class, I audited about 15 classes looking for a safe one. I was very disappointed with the lack of attention to alignment or care for class participants who were not 22 and could not put their toes in their ears. I've been doing yoga for 40 years and, generally speaking, this scene is a very long way from the intention of the practice. I call it ‘industrial yoga’.

Richard Hooker is a family man who lives and works in Sydney
‘Bali, Ubud in particular has a very special spiritual feel or magnetism about it. It’s a feeling that allows you to easily find peace in your life, which is impossible to find in major cities around the world.’

IMPORTANT MESSAGE: The recent magnitude 7 earthquake on 5
th August 2018 in Lombok (the next island from Bali in the Indonesian archipelago), and the hundreds of aftershocks, have left many dead and thousands without a home on Lombok and the nearby Gili Islands. Our friends at the Trawangan Dive School have set up a Go Fund Me page. Feel free to give them a boost. Thank you.


Balinese festival masks
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Things to check out in Bali

Sekala & Niksala: Essay on Religion, Ritual and Art. Fred B Eiseman Jr

Intuitive Flow Yoga, Penestanan, Ubud

Radiantly Alive Yoga, Ubud

Bali Silent Retreat

The Ashtanga Yoga Bali Research Center

Bali Spirit Festival

The Pyramids of Chi

Bali Dacha Russian Sauna

Delodsema Village Community Project

Alchemy of Breath

The Yoga Barn

Ron Lilley’s Bali Snake Patrol

Elderly Balinese woman in fieldImage credit:

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