Ever since I left the ONEWORLD yoga retreat in Bali back in March, I have been wondering how exactly I’d explain it here on Angie Away. I think several posts are in order for the main stuff – yoga, food, spa & activities. And I guarantee at least a chapter in my yet-to-be written book for the juiciest details. So, stay tuned for that!
For now, here’s the short story, which isn’t actually that short. When I decided to go to Bali, I didn’t really know what to do or where to stay – I just knew I wanted to go. Google lead me to various hotels and villas, but I wanted something a bit more active and fulfilling than wandering around temples and chilling at the beach. I stumbled across the ONEWORLD Retreat website and was intrigued by their Escape the World concept.
The Escape the World Retreat appealed to me for a million reasons, most importantly the escape part. While I loved every minute of my time in NYC, sometimes it felt like I didn’t have an inch of mental space in my head for meditation or simple thinking about what I really want or most importantly, a relationship with God. Escaping to Bali for some seriously needed, forced quiet time seemed like an easy way to sort out my insides… and, the 3.5 hours of yoga each day and healthy food would help trim up the outside just a bit, as well. (You wouldn’t believe the junk I ate in Australia!)
One concern I had when researching various yoga centers was the perceived conflict with Christian beliefs. I took that very seriously when researching and ultimately that’s why I chose to do my yoga in Bali instead of India. I already knew I would not be down with chanting or focusing on any deity other than my own, so that was a big factor in making my choice. I also read a really instructive book just before I arrived, Yoga for Christians by Susan Bordenkircher, which helped me to prepare for the Eastern influence in my yoga practice.
Iyan, our flexible yoga instructor with the big smile.
“Inhalation, exhalation, inhalation, exhalation, inhalation, exhalation. Up, up, up!”
Since I was most certainly not seeking a spiritual connection to a polytheistic religion, Escape the World’s itinerary seemed to comply with my desire for quiet time and lots of yoga*. Admittedly, there were two activities in the ONEWORLD schedule that I did not participate in because of the conflict with my beliefs, but that was never questioned or frowned upon. One was a purification ritual in a holy pool and the other was creating offerings to leave for temple gods. (For those wondering why that’s such a big deal to me… a. I’ve already been baptized by my own choice in the Christian church to signify my purification in Jesus and b. in the Ten Commandments it clearly says Thou Shalt Not Worship Anyone Other Than Me. So I am not messing around with offerings to other religious figures.)
So, what happens at a yoga retreat in Bali? Each day, I woke to the sound of a bell ringing three times just outside my bedroom door at around 6 a.m. Such a simple touch, but so much nicer than an alarm clock! Iyan, our yoga instructor, recommended that we lie in bed a bit after the bell to think about the day, what we wanted to get out of it, etc. How about that? Mental space, time to think and peaceful, non-rushed waking up… I never got that in NYC!
We made our way from our hillside rooms into the yoga pavilion where Iyan and Wayan had all the yoga equipment set out for each of us – mats, straps, blocks, chairs, blankets, towels, etc. We started with about 20 minutes of meditation – YAY! – and then moved into various postures for the next two hours. In Eastern yoga, meditation is a time to clear the mind of all thoughts, however as a Christian practicing yoga, I used it to think about how awesome the Creator is. It’s amazing how 20 minutes of reflection on God’s wonders can brighten you up from the inside out.
Many friends have asked me since I got back, and honestly, it was nothing like the scenes from Eat, Pray, Love. No chanting or waving around – just challenging, physical yoga. After yoga, the 10 participants had breakfast together in the dining room and then continued with the day’s itinerary. More about that next week!
*As much as I loved many aspects of the experience, I really recommend soul searching before signing up for any yoga retreat that has spiritual implications and not just a physical focus. Many folks come to reputed spiritual hubs like Bali and India hoping to use yoga practice to feel something – anything – and in doing so they open themselves up to all sorts of unworldly shenanigans. And that’s a mild way of putting it. For the whole story, buy the book.
Up next… Getting My Yoga On
Special thanks to Claude, Iyan and the staff at ONEWORLD for hosting me at Kumara Sakti!