As we walked into the lotus studio one by one, I was surprised by how nervous I was. As I stepped into the welcome ceremony, I was taken back by the beautiful mandala (a traditional geometric configuration of symbols) in the middle of the floor. A Yin Yang mandala was created by fresh flower petals arranged to perfection and their vibrant colours seemed almost unrealistic. Sheryl, placed a long-stemmed white rose into my nervous trembling hand and gave me the warmest and most comforting hug that I have ever received from a stranger. As she released her embrace, my nervousness dissolved and I stepped forward to silently greet Carlos with a namaste-like nod. His eyes radiated a warmth and familiarity as he proceeded to feather the smoke of burning sage over my body. My remaining tensions effortlessly evaporated just as the scented smoke, and I allowed the sage to perform its age-old ritual of cleansing my energy.
I politely nodded to thank Carlos and then noticed a crescent of people sitting crossed legged on the floor. While some may have needed something stronger than Sage to soothe the nerves (including me), others were immersing themselves in the beautiful sounds of the live musicians. I sat down, took a very deep breath, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to tune into the beautifully soothing music. The musicians and singers had an extraordinary way of creating a full sensory experience. The effortless sounds merged harmoniously with the smells of various incenses and I began subtly feeling the sound vibrations, bouncing back and forth on my skin.
I looked around at 30 new faces, all obediently sitting in a circle, like the first day at school. This circle would become my family for the next three weeks. We all travelled from all over the world to come to the island of Bali, left our egos at the door, and walked into this space to learn more about Yoga. It seemed a simple enough agenda. However, I soon realised that each and every person seated around this yin yang mandala, had a story, a pivotal moment in life, a loss, a break up or unidentifiable pain. Some simply came with a question, a wish, or inquisitive curiosity. Some wanted expansion, others just needed their life’s GPS system updated. To say we had an interest in Yoga as common ground would be a surface level observation, and yet, this was my first impression, however, we were all searching; searching for answers, guidance, liberation, freedom, hope, peace; the list can go on.
Part of our foundational task was to study the philosophy of Yoga and to explore the notion of what Yoga is? This question was stated for us to answer individually and I was taken back by how diverse the answers were. The language to define Yoga seemed infinite and every description added new layers to this enigmatic philosophy, which has now ultimately become a Western exercise routine. I guess we didn’t have ‘Yoga’ in common; our definitions of Yoga, or reasons we stepped onto the mat, were very different.
Without diving deep into the 5000 year, intricate labyrinth that is the history of Yoga, I was fascinated to learn that the earliest findings of texts which mentioned Yoga, showed no resemblance to the physical practice of Yoga that we know today. It was more about rituals to gain control of the mind and finding ways to escape the cruel cycle of life and death, or ‘Samsara’. Ultimately, it was a search for liberation.
“Yoga as an intervention”.
The practice of Yoga can been used as an intervention in the pursuit to open up a space for authentic expression and intimacy. “Intimacy = into-me-i-see.” (Carlos Romero). Practicing yoga and meditation is like a metaphorical toolbox for life, and we find what we need, when we need it. However, we won’t know what we need, unless we surrender to bridging the space between mind, body and soul.
“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” – The Bhagavad Gita
The course was held at the Yoga Barn in the heart of Ubud. Walking through Ubud’s beautifully chaotic and busy streets, it’s hard to imagine that there’s a jungle-like, Yoga utopia just a narrow street away. The serene energy cultivated within this campus is hard to deny and even if you are skeptical of ‘energy-woo-woo’, you will at least be able to acknowledge the equanimity of the environment.
Every morning started with a Yoga practice and meditation. The practice of ‘noble silence’ was enforced, which essentially meant that we were asked not to speak to each other before the practice. As a non-morning person, the silence came naturally to me, and I was quite relieved that my inaudible ‘hello-nod’, would not be interpreted as unfriendly. A dedicated three hour morning practice is a rare luxury for someone like me, who lives a busy city life and has a dog, who hasn’t quite grasped the fact that me standing on my head does NOT mean playtime. These hours felt far detached from reality, yet closer connected to myself and the tranquil presence of nature. With only thin window walls separating us from the green panoramic view of the jungle, I was easily entranced and fascinated by the vibrant colour palette – the kind that I thought only existed in the green screens of Hollywood.
I have to be real; not every day allowed for an effortlessly serene and mindful practice. Some days, my mind was chattering so loud and became completely ignorant to the idyllic environment. The infamous ‘monkey-mind’, was a term to describe that tormenting, anxious, and irrational chattering thoughts that we have sadly adapted to unconsciously live with. I naively assumed that meditating in such a space with such inspiring guidance was the cheat-sheet to getting rid of my ‘monkey-mind’; I very quickly learned that I was scammed.
There are no short-cuts, no cheat-codes, and no vouchers, there are only consistency and the willingness accept inconsistency. Sitting in a state of consciousness and discovering a way to detach yourself from the ‘monkey’ chatter can be difficult and painful, and it’s at this moment that I can conveniently circle back to the “Yoga as an intervention” reference. I think what fascinates me the most about yoga – or perhaps my own relationship with yoga – is its fluidity and multi-faceted complexion. There are so many layers to be discovered, questions to ask, and answers to uncover. It is an infinite, circular practice.
I will confess, I had very stereotypical expectations about immersing myself into a well-known yoga community and rather keenly prepared myself to embrace a vegan diet, detox from caffeine (at least attempt to) and to speak only with calm and positive vocabulary and be grateful for the earth, the birds and the bees. The first evening, we celebrated with a dinner together and I was happy to see plenty of chicken skewers, chicken stir fry, sour cream yogurt dip etc. The tree-house cafe, where we always hung out and ate, had incredible delicious vegan and non-vegan options and therefore I was still able to enjoy my avocado, eggs and toast brunch every morning. There was never a shortage on coffee and I felt a little silly and ashamed to think that yogis don’t enjoy a good caffeine fix.
The Yoga Barn cafe, became the backdrop to the most moving and inspiring conversations I shared with fellow students, ‘la familia’. At first, I was surprised that our schedule allowed for a two-hour lunch break, however I found listening to people’s stories, ideas and perspectives was a classroom within itself. My fellow yogis were some of the most inspirational and authentic people I’ve met. A ‘container’ was created in which everyone immediately felt safe to share and contribute to the collective growth and healing. It’s like we skipped the ‘small talk’ and effortlessly delved into deep and vulnerable topics – which I, most probably, would not even have tackled after a large glass of wine.
This ‘container’ gave us the resources, insights, and wisdom to complete the course with so much more than a Yoga Teacher Certification. A certificate never felt more like a formality. The personal growth, friendships, and connections that were formed, were simply invaluable and unmeasurable. The certificate was just a welcome bonus gold star to round off the experience.
Carlos Romero, Bex Tyrer, Haylee Clare, Sheryl Sharaswhaty, Hayden Rain, Ricardo Roestenburg, were our team of teachers, guidance, support, and family. They gave us the tools and the inspiration to not only become competent Yoga teachers, but to honour our authentic selves to ultimately be able to share our light and energy with our students. It’s not about creating ‘the best class’, give the most cues, or have the perfect playlist. It’s about creating and holding a space which naturally invites students to step onto their mat with a brave vulnerability and to allow the inevitable self-exploration and discovery with compassion, non-judgement, and acceptance.
In these 21 days, we shared a lot of OMs, namastes, white sage, laughter, tears, and mosquito repellent. It is impossible to articulate the entirety of my shift in perspective but I am immensely grateful for the this incredible and transformative experience. I have experienced a true Bali blessing.
All my love, Namaste, Xx
“The Yoga mat, is your brave space.” – Bex Tyrer
Thank you to Livin’ Inspired for the incredible 200hr YTT. Thank you to The Yoga Barn for the idyllic environment. Thank you to Wari Om Yoga Photography for capturing such beautiful moments throughout the course.