Despite its best intentions, the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and the subsequent movie starring Julia Robert as the divorced woman travelling the world in search of herself, have given some aspects of Bali a rather tainted image.
Amongst them the island’s many yoga retreats, which have somehow become a bit of a cliché. But despair not, Bali still is a fabulous destination for yoga, whether to learn, to practise, to meditate – or even attempt a bit of self-realization.
Bali first entered the consciousness of the world’s backpackers back in the 1970s and 80s when the island was little more than another rural tropical island in the vast Indonesian archipelago. Kuta was just a long pristine beach – already a paradise for surfers and hippies, but without the development one finds today. In fact, many parts of the island were completely unexplored and inaccessible.
All of that has changed today, of course, and Bali has become one of the most sophisticated holiday and second home destinations in the world with a host of extravagant resorts and private villas, world-class dining options and a lively nightlife and entertainment scene.
Despite the fast pace of growth, however, Bali has always offered a distinctive spiritual aspect and the island has therefore long attracted creative people in search of self expression. One of the reasons may be that Bali differs from the rest of Indonesia in that the majority of its population adheres to Balinese Hinduism, which gives the island a special character all of its own. As a result of this spiritual attitude, a number of yoga and meditation retreats have emerged catering to people seeking “exercise for the soul”.
Here are some of the island’s best choices for those in search of health and a sense of Bali spirit.
The Yoga Barn
Located in the centre of Ubud, a couple of hours’ drive north of the buzzing beach towns of Kuta and Seminyak, the modest town of Ubud is surrounded by picturesque rice fields and old Hindu temples, which makes it the perfect place to relax and stay close to nature.
In the centre of town there’s a forest growing around a temple where wild monkeys roam around, stealing whatever they can from unsuspecting tourists. Ubud also hosts art galleries and workshops where local and international artists display their work and where one can also learn the art of batik or pottery making. The town even boasts a number of health food restaurants and cafes and one of Indonesia’s best restaurants, Mozaic, which frequently appears on best restaurant lists for the region.
The Yoga Barn has five studios all of which are fitted with modern sound technology and wooden floors. The school offers one of Bali’s most extensive yoga programs with daily classes from 7am to 8.30pm, including classical Hatha yoga, Vinyasa flow, power yoga, Pranayama, restorative yoga, Iyengar, Yin and Anusara. In addition, there are regular workshops throughout the month for those wanting to learn something new.
Retreats at the Yoga Barn range from the three day Foundation Cleanse to 14-day custom-made retreats for those wanting something a bit more extensive. One of the most popular programs is the Detox Retreat Week, which is held once a month throughout the year and includes 8 nights accommodation at the Yoga Barn Guesthouse, juices and wheatgrass shots, guidebook and supplements, yoga and meditation classes, workshops in detox and nutrition, colonic hydrotherapy and enemas, as well as optional healing and Ayurvedic treatments.
Power of Now
Although many may argue that the spiritual centre of Bali is Ubud, there are other excellent retreats located elsewhere around the island. The Power of Now Oasis is located in Sanur, for example, a charming town on the lower southeast coast of the island in close proximity to the ocean. The studio is made entirely from bamboo and features a 140 sqm yoga and meditation ‘sala’ on the first floor, a shop, an organic juice bar and a lounge area and treatment rooms on the ground floor. The studio offers daily classes where visitors can just drop in, as well as private sessions where you can design your own class. The Power of Now Yoga, Meditation and Health Retreat lasts 7 days and 6 nights. It begins with a one-on-one Ayurvedic consultation. After that you can enjoy Ayurvedic-based meals, three customized body treatments, and unlimited yoga including flow, Hatha, yin and restorative practice.
Located in the up and coming area of Canggu, quite close to Bali’s most sophisticated beach enclaves. Inner Temple Retreat specializes in programs for women, focusing on small groups in a positive and supportive environment. The retreat lasts for 6 days and 5 nights and include accommodation in a private villa, spa treatments, daily Hatha yoga and bio energetic meditation, breathing work, pranayamas, yoga nidra, guided meditations and various workshops. The retreat also focuses on healthy eating with a mostly vegetarian menu, healthy juices using seasonal fruit and vegetables.
To compare the various options and offerings on offer for yoga enthusiasts around Bali, it’s a good idea to do a little online meditation using the links below. We have also added a couple of non-yogic highlights to enjoy before or after the sessions and retreats.
- The Yoga Barn: http://www.theyogabarn.com
- Power of Now Oasis: http://powerofnowoasis.com
- Inner Temple Retreat: www.innertempleretreat.com
- Mozaic Restaurant: http://www.mozaic-bali.com
- Komaneka Fine Art Gallery: http://gallery.komaneka.com