Updated: Apr 7, 2020
The next morning was tough. I hadn't slept well at all. Nina had turned off the AC again and it was boiling, and I was pained by my rock hard mattress and blistered feet. To make matters worse, I couldn't contact anyone as the wi-fi was still out of commission at my guest house. So after I rolled over for the tenth time, I decided to just get out of bed and go to the restaurant to use their wi-fi. I was extremely frustrated and jet-lagged and I was beginning to feel very defeated. I wondered if I could handle that situation for the next 21 days. At '308 Kiss Me' I wrote in my journal and chatted to my friends back home. I was really upset with myself for feeling that frustrated and miserable in spite of my surroundings and was desperate to stay positive and enjoy every minute of Bali. I was also feeling a bit out of place, being the heaviest Yogi of the group. But I pushed through my irritation and went to morning Pranayama (breath control) and Yoga practice. Our Yoga practice was another tough, sweaty session and I was really feeling like I was in over my head.
During breakfast I called my mom. She could tell immediately that I was emotional and exhausted. I had a little breakdown during and after that conversation. I have always struggled with controlling my emotions, especially when exhausted. At that point, I was not only exhausted, but my entire body was in agony and I was feeling completely overwhelmed by the amount of yoga and exercise I was expected to practice. I felt like I wouldn't be able to complete my training and I was just wasting YogaUnion's time, as well as my own. I felt completely defeated with the air situation in my room and I was really struggling with the change in temperature. But despite everything I was feeling in the moment, I persevered and went to my next class.
Every morning we had Pranayama from 7am – 8am, and then we practiced Yoga from 8am – 10am. After that was breakfast until 11am, when we went back to the Yoga Shala for our Asana (pose/ posture) Analysis class. We had lunch at 1pm followed by a break until our next class at 3pm. This class was either Yoga Anatomy or Yoga Philosophy, depending on the day. In the last week we used this time to teach our half hour lessons to groups of other Yogis. We also had a second Yoga practice some days at 5pm, followed by dinner at 6:30pm. This was our schedule for six days of the week. The seventh day was a rest day, but us Yogis also did some sight-seeing and shopping on those days. At the end of our 23 day training, we would take an exam where we were required to score a minimum of 75% to earn our Yoga Teacher Training Certificate.
How Many Yogis In A Row?! Miss You All!
During my next class, Asana Analysis, I had a conversation with Lola, a young lady from the United States, and we bonded over our weight. I know some readers will understand this statement, and others won't, but when you are surrounded by people who have the “typical Yogi body”, it brings comfort to connect with the one other person who is not. A “typical Yoga body” is someone who gas minimum body fat and can therefore perform the full expression of every Yoga pose. Yes, the world is moving towards body positivity, which is amazing! But for myself, I grew being tortured about my weight, even when I wasn't overweight, so my weight is something I have always been self-conscious about. This is slowly changing, but it has been a long road to get to where I am now. I also want to mention that I have zero resentment towards those who have the “typical Yoga body”, I am just conscious of the fact that I do not. And honestly, I am okay with that! We all come in different shapes and sizes, and we need to love ourselves no matter what our outer shell looks like. Besides, I soon realized that neither the teachers nor the other Yogis were judging me for my size. Instead they saw me as a very strong and brave young woman.
I also made a connection with another Yogi name Kelly. She was from the Philippines and I absolutely adored her positive attitude and kindness. During the break that day I also had a chance to chat with my roommate regarding the AC issue. We both agreed this was absolutely nothing personal, but that for us to get the most out of this retreat, we both needed to sleep well. And for me, that meant having cool air. After a really tough morning, I had an excellent day and I learned a lot about myself, including that my perception of myself is not the same as how others perceive of me.
Nina, Elana, & I in our Guest House Pool
I had gone to bed early the night before, but when I woke up the next morning, I still didn't feel rested. I was absolutely exhausted and although I didn't realize it at the time, I was still very jet-lagged. This was made all the worse by the too-hard mattress and too-soft pillow, but on a positive note, the AC was on all night. Nina and I had decided that she would stay in the room of our neighbours, also Yogis in our training, to avoid further AC conflict. That morning our first practice was led by Ourania, an incredible Greek woman, and although it was shorter, it wasn't any easier. Ourania is the co-owner of YogaUnion and was very kind, caring, attentive and supportive towards us during the retreat. However, the teachers were not letting up on the strenuous exercise and I was feeling very frustrated and out of my league. But I continued to push through and my day only got better from there. Breakfast, as usual, was delicious. I went for a swim again with my roommate Nina and our friend Elana, also from Germany. We had a fantastic conversation and got to know each other on a deeper level. The pool was surrounded by lush, tropical greens and beautiful sculptures and stonework. It was so cool temperature-wise, which was a welcomed break from the stifling 31°C.
Entrance & Pool of our Guest House
Our evening lesson was a Yin Yoga practice with Ourania. Yin Yoga is focused on stretching fascia as opposed to muscles and has the participants holding one pose for a minimum of two minutes. The poses include anything where you use gravity and your own body weight to deepen the stretch. I was relieved to have a relaxing practice for a change. I desperately needed a massage after a few days of this rigorous schedule. Elana, Svenya (another young German lady), and I went to a spa on our path called 'Sri Bali Spa'. This would be the first of many massages here. The price couldn't be beat, and we treated ourselves to a half hour massage for the equivalent of... $7 CAD?! My masseuse was amazing! She got really deep into my muscles, and although I spent a lot of time cringing and wincing, my body felt released and a lot less sore after. We stopped at a cafe and had some vegan ice cream before heading back to the guest house to study for a bit. By the end of the night, I had all of the Sun Salutation A and B Asana memorized in Sanskrit and English and I was feeling confident again. I wrote in my journal for a bit before bed and made a promise to myself to trust in the process and my decision to be there.
My positive attitude was gone when I opened my eyes the next morning. I was still exhausted from a not-so-great sleep on Papa Bear's hard bed. I couldn't help feeling like Goldilocks every time I complained of my mattress. But unfortunately, unlike Goldilocks, I didn't get to test any other mattresses. I was stuck with that bed and had to deal with it. This would be the true test of how I handled tough situations during my time in Bali. That morning's practice was difficult as well, and I was left wondering why I had signed up and paid for such torture. I decided that morning that I would purchase some healthy snacks to munch on before morning practice to try and alleviate some of the “hanger”. I was finding that I was extremely low energy in the mornings and really needed something to give me a boost before an intense Yoga lesson.
I was also dealing with a lot of old patterns of thinking that made me feel like I was an outsider and did not belong. I have always struggled with these thoughts, but in this circumstance, I was the heaviest Yogi in the group and probably the most outspoken of us all. I knew these feelings were probably just my head warping the truth, but it was really difficult to change how I was thinking and feeling. It's like, how do you change your brains way of thinking with the same brain that thinks that way? The answer is time and practice. It's thinking the same way, catching yourself, and thinking something different instead. Then you do this every time you catch yourself using old patterns of thinking until eventually, you no longer think that way. It is a very long, tedious practice, and it can be very challenging to catch and correct yourself when you are in the moment. It is a practice that I have been working on for years, and I am still in the catch and correct phase when I am in high-stress situations. It takes time and determination, but it does work.
My YogaUnion Instagram Feature Photo
In Asana Analysis class, after we had learned the Sun Salutations, we began to teach them to each other as a way to begin building our teaching practice and skills. My fellow Yogis were impressed with my teaching voice, which left me feeling confident and reassured that I did belong there. I was aware that I had forgotten to cue the breath a few times, but that's why we were practicing with each other, and I was feeling very confident that I would leave Bali with a certificate. I was also really excited when I discovered that I was featured on YogaUnion's Instagram account. Magda, an incredible young woman from Poland, had snapped a picture of me while I was demonstrating and learning the proper posture for a Warrior One. This Asana is very tricky to perform properly because you must have your hips square. To do this, move your feet closer to the edges of the mat. This will allow you for more mobility in the hips to get them facing forward. I discovered after the retreat was complete that most teachers don't teach Warrior One because it is very difficult to get everyone into the proper position and avoid injuries.
My Leg Sweat Outline After Morning Practice
After lunch I went for a dip in the pool to cool down as I was still struggling to adjust to the temperature there. A few of the other ladies said the pool was too cold for them, but I thought it was just right. I was learning to just accept being hot and sweaty because I couldn't change it. My hair was frizzy and always tied back and I there a constant glaze on my skin. I watched my fellow Yogis wearing their hair down and wondered how they could handle it. The minute I let my hair loose I would begin to sweat on the back of my neck, making me even hotter. I found myself continuously adjusting while seated in class because my skin stuck to itself. My face broke out more and more with each day, and I even had a pimple on my calf! I also had intense heat rash on the inside and backs of my thighs and buttocks. I am the type of person who needs to shower after a good sweat, as I like my skin to feel clean. But in Bali it was impossible because the minute I stepped outside I would begin to perspire. Thinking back now, this could also have been making me cranky.
Philosophy was proving to be a very stressful class. I was feeling lost even though I understood what I was being taught. I found it difficult to link everything together. It wouldn't be until shortly before the exam that I would connect the dots of philosophy, and shortly after the exam that I would connect to the teacher, Savitri. Savitri is a powerful Balinese healer and Yoga teacher who had lived in Toronto for 30 years but had recently moved home. I capped this day off with another massage on the lower half of my body and a panini from another cafe on the path. Luckily they had Sprite to satisfy my sugary drink craving. I had another chat with my Mom and then a friend before calling it a night. Another night with a board-like mattress.
Natarajasana (Dancer Pose)
Morning practice was difficult again, but I was so thankful to Jerome had brought me some light snacks. Jerome was a flight attendant from Luxembourg. He had rented a scooter for the duration of our stay and had gone to the supermarket the night before. I had asked him before that if he would be able to pick me up something and was kind enough to do so. The snacks helped me incredibly for our practice and I wasn't as angry and frustrated during or afterwards. Instead of Asana Analysis we had a workshop on the difficult standing postures. Ourania, this time joined by her husband Spyros, another beautiful soul from Greece. These two people are so humble, kind, and inspiring. They are also an absolutely adorable couple and two very strong and knowledgeable Yogis. I was beyond thrilled when Spyros noticed me during this workshop and commented on my strength. This reassured me that I was doing well and deserved to be there. It reminded me that even though I cannot fold well, I can do strength exercises well. Every single person on this planet has a different body build. I just happen to be muscular, so it makes sense that my legs don't pretzel easily. However, I still have a long Yoga journey ahead of me, and I am confident that one day I will successfully perform a Half Lord of the Fish. Currently, I cannot place the sole of my foot and my opposite hip on the floor. Our last class of the day was a guided meditation called Yoga Nidra. Ourania was our guide. She talked us through every part of our body individually and our bodies as a whole. I was convinced I would not be able to stay still for the entire session, but to my surprise, I did, minus a few uncontrollable twitches.
Jerome and I had discussed going out for steak in Ubud a few nights before as we had been eating all vegan and vegetarian food at Kiss Me 308. We decided that night would be the perfect “steak night”. We looked on Google for a local restaurant and decided on the closest one that was still open. I was slightly nervous to ride on the scooter with Jerome as the day before he had gone off the path and landed in the ditch, leaving him with a nice scrape on his leg. But ultimately, I trusted the Universe and knew I would be safe. Jerome dug out his extra helmet and we set out for a ride through the streets of Ubud.