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Yoga in Bali and the Joy of Sticking with Something

Written by Kate • July 19, 2019 •
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Ganesha in the garden with koi pond

2nd class at the Yoga Barn, with Malika

I arrived in Ubud, Bali on Jan 14, 2019. I don’t know exactly when but it was just a few days later that I started practicing at the Yoga Barn

Yoga Barn class upstairs with Ganesha

My first class at the Yoga Barn with Chris Fox

. The Yoga Barn is one of the most popular yoga studios in Bali, if not THE most popular. The morning classes are normally completely packed with up to 65 students in a class. The check in process can be quite impersonal but I kept coming day after day, 6 days a week most weeks. The staff became more friendly and I got to know the teachers. Some I immediately clicked with and some were quite off putting for me but there are so many classes that it’s easy to keep trying new teachers or stick with your faves. Lots of other students became familiar too and it started to feel like an easy to support routine.

Yoga studio beautifully set up

Yoga during my 2nd trip to Nusa Lembongan

I was so amazed and thrilled those first several weeks at the global reach of all of the teachers; Swedish/American, Jamaican, Spanish, German, Venezuelan, Japanese, Balinese, Canadian, and American. I worked hard to understand their accents and learned to love their varying emphases about breath, movement, rigorous adherence to yoga dogma or listening to your own body.

At first, I was terribly out of shape.  I was tight with weak muscles and hadn’t been serous about my yoga in months. I have a pelvic injury from carrying the twins (called Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) that I was ignoring for the past 4+ years. It caused me so much pain but it’s hard to not walk a lot with twin toddlers. So I ignored the pain and as a result, my hip and abs got incredibly weak but I was able to manage most days.  But yoga helps with the pain and tightness so I knew the yoga would help me strengthen and heal my hips, pelvis, and abs.. The first few moths of yoga were so hard. I was 50 years old and I was trying to get my body back in shape. It was so hard. Did I mention it was so hard? Sometimes, I thought I would pass out from trying to keep up with flipping my dog and transitioning to plan and doing my umpteenth chaturanga.

Mt. Agung

Mt. Agung on the way to yoga from Nusa Lembongan

Sometimes all I focused on was how much less flexible and strong I was compared to where I had been years before. And I sometimes I focused on my progress. I pushed myself so hard when I focused on the gap between where I had been and where I was. But that wasn’t healing my hips. Instead I realized I needed to just accept that I have an actual injury. My pelvis is hurt. I have tight and weak muscles as a result. And when I accepted what is, I stopped pushing past the pain and have started to strengthen the muscles. I’ve seen tremendous progress since I slowed down to speed up.

What I see now, 6 months into a consistent and rigorous yoga practice is how casual I have been about my practice in the past. I would reach a certain level and then allow a trip or something else pull me away from my practice. My practice was not a priority for me and my progress was slow, as a result. I see now that it takes time and consistency to become a better yogini.  And by time, that means it might take years to get to where I want to be.  I still can’t do a bind. I can’t jump back into plank or forward into a standing forward fold.  I can’t do any inversion except shoulder stand. But how you do anything is how you do everything. I’d get to a certain level of mastery and back off.

Now, I’m so close to my first bind. So close. At first I wasn’t trying to do a bind. I just kept doing the full expression of the pose at a more basic level and then one day I tried to do a bind and I could feel how close my hands were. It inspired me. Now I try to bind whenever I’m in certain poses, like in Parsvakonasana.

I’m also practicing jumping through and jumping back. It’s fun to try it. I also decided to practice headstands by doing figure Ls on the wall to work up to a handstand. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was so much easier than it had been months ago. I’m practicing with dolphin pose to work up to Pincha Mayurasana.  It’s exciting to do something so new.  And to see

Yoga studio beautifully set up

Yoga during my 2nd trip to Nusa Lembongan

progress. It might take me a year or 5. But I’m willing to give the time. What a sense of accomplishment to finally experience a different level in my yoga poses. I can feel my psoas and QL muscles tighten and give and maybe one day they won’t be so tight.

And something has clicked in me about yoking breath to movement. One breath, one movement. It just wasn’t important to me in my practice in the US.  Another serious work in progress is staying present while on the mat. Now I also dedicate my practice to staying present so I can practice and stay present on my own mat without worrying how well (or worse) others are doing theirs.

Ganesha outside the yoga shala from my second trip to Nusa Lembongan

Ganesha at the yoga shala

And again really, that old adage is so spot on, so beautifully accurate: how you do anything is how you everything. And at the start of my 2019 renewed yoga practice, I was rushing through my poses, breathing hard, totally trying to keep up with my teachers and fellow yogis rather than feeling my way through my own routine.

Now that I’ve stuck with a very regular and committed yoga practice, yes, I’m stronger, more flexible, and able to remember the yoga routines without as many cues from the teacher.

More importantly, now I see that my breathwork is so critical to a focused and loving yoga practice, that my transitions are as important as my poses,

Yoga on Nusa Lembongan

Yoga wherever I go

and keeping my focus on what’s happening on my own mat is far more helpful in becoming a “better” yogini, and a better person.

Recently, as I was noticing that my transitions are so much flowing and I’m almost- so close- to achieving a bind -MY FIRST- and my focus was on my breath. No matter where my family travels, where I can practice my yoga is an important part of the planning process. Yoga is incredibly important to me now and by making it a priority, others see how important it is to me and expect me to take the time to practice my yoga. It’s no longer a negotiation.

I’m so grateful. It feels so much more loving to practice this way. And I’m such a better yogini!

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