With an erupting volcano to deal with, this yoga retreat in Bali could have been a distant dream. Fortunately, with some swift rescheduling and a lot of open minded retreaters, the yoga and pilates retreat was rescheduled for the beginning of 2018. So, in the first week of the new year, from different locations around the work, we set off to arrive at the Om Ham Retreat, Ubud, Bali.
I was a guest instructor on this yoga retreat organised by Banu Malek of Bliss Yoga Retreatz.
I was to be joining a group of unknown (to me) yoga goers, mostly abiding in Bahrain, to give the trip a Pilates HIIT edge. In the excitement of accepting a teaching place on this trip, I had many a response from friends and clients of ‘oh I’d love to come but I don’t have the time/money/yoga experience/insert valid reason here’. But what I soon realised was that the cost in time and money was easily surpassed by the incredible holistic value of the trip.
And now I’m here to debunk all myths about going on a yoga retreat in Bali: You don’t need to be a yoga pro to go on a yoga retreat. Being in a small group of new people can be the most uplifting and eye-opening experience you may ever have. Balinese food tastes amazing, and it’s cheap. And a pre-organised trip takes away the stress, whilst maximising the experience.
Let me get into some details:
The group dynamic
Upon looking at our group, you may say that we were a group of misfits. Ranging from 30-65, male and female, with yoga experience of 5 years to 1 class!! We had Arabs, Brits, a German and our wonderful Indian Yogi with us. This rich and diverse group made the trip incredible. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was spent getting to know each other around a 12 seater table. Learning about our different cultures, what brought us to Bali, and laughing about literally everything made the meal times nourishing for the soul, let alone everything else!
“Truly life changing; I’ve made friends for life and a community I can count on” – retreat goer
The yoga (and more)
We had a physical activity every day. Not only did we have Banu teaching us yoga, and Pranyama breathing, but we had a local yogi, Luh, come to teach. She also led yoga on the top of a mountain at sunrise (except it was too foggy to see the sun!). The level was set just right, with lots of restorative and yin yoga to balance the lifestyles we had all left at home for the week. I brought the higher intensity sessions, with interval training combined with Pilates to offer those who wanted a challenge, a little bit extra. With the three of us instructing, we really did offer peace for the mind, body and soul.
On top of this, the owner of the venue, and yoga guru, Guru Arsana, took us through a Kundalini Tantra class. Positive energy flowed through his whole body, and this will perhaps be the most energising and uplifting class I ever attend.
The cultural outings
We had lots of free time around our yoga and meals, and some outings were organised, other times we were left to our own devices. It was the perfect balance of activity and down time. Of special note would be the silent walk up the mountain, followed by water purification at a holy water temple.
Food for thought…
The food was absolutely delicious. Fresh, unprocessed and plenty of it. Lunch and dinner were regularly a three-course meal. But you never left feeling bloated or heavy. The aromatic flavours from fresh herbs and spices made for a delectable delight. Often vegetarian, sometimes vegan, the meals were light yet filling. Without the hassle of worrying what to cook or even order, food became a pleasure to enjoy, and snacking throughout the day became non-existent. I came away lighter and excited to cook again.
The yogic result
It sounds like such a cliché to say it was life changing, but it really was. The luscious greenery, the local charm, the endlessly cheerful and helpful locals all made for an incredibly relaxing, humbling experience. Coupled with a restorative exercise practise, enjoyable meal times with fresh food and great company, and a journey into spirituality, this retreat opened my eyes to a simpler way of life. In such a short space of time we formed such a wonderful bond as a group. Perhaps because we knew we were all sharing in a special experience, or perhaps because we could all just relax. The whole experience was nothing short of transformational, and it was my honour to be a part of it.
And if I haven’t inspired you to take the plunge and invest in yourself, perhaps Elizabeth can put it more eloquently than I:
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.”
~ Elizabeth Gilbert.
Check out a short video of everything we got up to: