Bali Spirit Festival, Ubud Bali May 1-5, 2024

Yoga Dance Music Healing

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Waking Up

Have you ever seen a festival just as it’s waking up? It’s remarkably similar to a person. It yawns. It stretches. Perhaps its first few steps are a little tentative, as though it’s sniffing the air to test out what the day will bring.

As I stroll through the glorious grounds of Bali Purnati at 7:45 this morning, I can feel BaliSpirit Festival 2013 waking up. After a truncated night’s sleep (top tip: for maximum relaxation, don’t undertake an editing assignment for a major humanitarian organisation just prior to the festival), I feel the same way. Strolling through the grounds of Bali Purnati, however, my cells begin to warm up. The sun on my skin and the early morning bustle of the traders brings life to my tired limbs. The buzz of anticipation is just beginning to translate into the zip of activity.

As I settle into Louisa Sear’s morning Vinyasa yoga Sadhana class, I make my first important discovery of the festival. It would have been a good idea to bring my mat. Fortunately, I’m able to borrow one from a good friend. Thanks Charley. I did my best to avoid sweating on it.

Australian-born Louisa has a pedigree that would inspire envy in the winner of Crufts: over 30 years of yoga practice, more than a quarter of a century of which has included teaching. She was leading classes while I was still in primary school.

We assume a comfortable seated position to start the class, and Louisa intones the first instructions of the morning: “Close your eyes. Soften your face.” She brushes my third eye with her fingertips as she passes by, highlighting the fact that my face is anything but soft. Yeah; guilty as charged, Louisa.

Normally, I’m a bit of a yoga adrenaline junkie. Handstands, forearm balances, deep backbends; you name it, I’ll give it a go. In my exhausted state, however, a more calming class is exactly what I need. Louisa has a talent for imparting strength through gentleness. The postures she describes seem simple but, following her words, I feel like a teddy bear built on a steel frame. My relaxed exterior belies the intensity of my internal experience.

Nuthin’ like a bit of early morning lunging. (photo credit: Ulrike Reinhold)

We work our way through a selection of standing poses, backbends, and twists, each successive posture reaching a little more deeply into the core of the body. I enjoy a series of satisfying clicks and pops as my stiff muscles relax and become permeable. “Hear the breath, feel the breath,” Louisa repeats. I do. At the start of the class, my breathing is shallow and irregular. Half an hour on Balinese roads will do that to a person. By about two thirds of the way through the class, I’m inhaling deep draughts of air with an audible ujjayi breath (in case you’re not aware, ujjayi translates as ‘victorious’. It’s a sonorous, nourishing breath that flows through the entire body).

Hands up if you love yoga. (Photo credit: Ulrike Reinhold)

For me, the most profound aspect of the class comes in Prasarita Padottanasana (wide-legged forward bend). Ask pretty much any male yoga practitioner, and they’ll tell you this is a killer. It requires openness in the hips and hamstrings, precisely where most of us are tight and contracted. Folding into it this morning, I feel a deep, satisfying stretch that both calms me and leaves me more alert.

When the time comes to relax into Savasana (corpse pose), I can hardly believe that we’ve already been practicing for nearly two hours. I sink deeply into relaxation, then rise refreshed and head for the pool.

Written by : Robert Wolf Petersen


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