On Monday I woke up with an incredibly sore back so during morning practice I took it easy with back bends. I found the practice to be much easier and I made it all the way through. We practised head stands for the first time, and with some assistance, I made it up. This was the first time I had ever inverted, and I was so proud of myself. Yes, I used the wall, but the fact was I tried it, made it up and held myself there. My shoulders were extremely sore for a few days afterward, but it was worth it. I completely overate at breakfast that morning and ended up full and a little bloated. I laughed with my French friends Claire-Anne and Anne-Laure saying “Je veux une enfant de nourriture,” my attempt at a French version of “I have a food baby”. I spent more time with those ladies as the days went on and was very thankful for their friendship. They were incredibly supportive and became my own personal cheerleaders. On the path to the Yoga Shala we found a gigantic snail that was half the size of my palm!. I have never seen one that big, either before or since. It was just one of the many new and massive creatures on the island. There were also a plethora of colour-changing geckos. These little lizards were everywhere, including in our guest house rooms and hallways, and above us in restaurants while we ate. One night, while out for dinner with Claire-Anne and Anne-Laure at a nearby restaurant, there was a family of geckos on the beams above us. As we were mid-conversation, one of the baby geckos got a bit too close to a larger gecko. As we watched, the larger gecko knocked the baby off of the beam and it plopped directly into my friend's glass of water. We screamed and then laughed for the rest of the night. I was reminded of the scene from 'Matilda' with the newt in Mrs. Trunchbull's water. This was by far one of the funniest moments of the entire trip.
Anne-Laure, Claire-Anne, et Moi
Partnered Plank Pose - Hilary & I
Partner yoga later that evening was fun. Our instructors were Magda and Nicole. Nicole is a tough teacher and amazing Yogi. For this practice I partnered with Lola. We started off slow and easy, sitting back to back and slowly pushing ourselves to standing and then sitting back down. It was easier going up than down. We moved on to some partnered wide-legged stretches, where we sat wide-legged facing each other and forward folded to each other’s right side and then left sides. We moved on to a partnered plank, where your partner goes into plank on the floor and the other partner planks in the opposite direction on top of them. Planking on top of each other is actually easier than it sounds. You would think you would feel the full weight of the person on top, but you actually don't feel much at all. I tried both the top and bottom position, and found both to be enjoyable. We were all shocked at how easy it was. We tried some downward dog pyramids, andI was one of the Yogis forming the base. We were all laughing and having a blast. The most difficult pose of the session was a partnered handstand: the bottom person laid on their back with their knees up like at the beginning of a bridge pose. The other person placed their hands on the bottom persons quadriceps and leaned forward to place their shoulders in the bottom person's hands. The top person then lifted their legs all the way up as they would for a handstand. Even though it was the most difficult Asana of the class, Zhana and I were able to hold it successfully.
Group Pyramid Pose - Lola, Svenya, & I
Partnered Handstand Pose - Zhana & I (Photo Taken 1 Second Too Late)
Tuesday's morning practice was another difficult one. My back was on the verge of a spasm so I decided to take it easy during the practice. Himanshu taught us Hatha Yoga that evening. Himanshu is a very kind, gentle, sweet Yogi from India. I really enjoyed his style of teaching as he pushed us and worked us hard, but he understood when we reached our limit. He also made the funniest yoga joke of the trip. At the end of our practice, instead of instructing us into a 'Happy Baby' pose, he called it a 'Cry Baby'. We all chuckled, mostly because it was true. Himanshu’s classes tended to be shorter, but they were very intense, and we were all exhausted and sweaty by the end. I thoroughly enjoyed his Hatha classes because they felt more like what I had been doing at home with 'Yoga with Adriene' on YouTube. Our morning practices were more Vinyasa style, which flows with much quicker transitions than Hatha. I pushed really hard during this evening practice because I enjoyed it and I had more energy from eating that day. That was when I realized that I need to eat and wait a bit before I practice or do any workout. Everybody is different and functions better with different routines. Not everyone can handle working out without putting something into their body first.
The sunset that night was absolutely stunning. The orange sky slowly faded into red, pink and purple as the sun dipped below the horizon. It was the best sunset I have seen and the most perfect sunset photo I captured during my entire Bali stay. Zhana, Alana and I stayed after class and helped each other with some inversions. I helped Alana with various arm stands while Zhana photographed us. She also took one of my favourite photos of myself in Bali. I am in a Warrior Three pose and my body is in alignment with the skyline. It's perfect.
Virabhadrasana III (Warrior 3) Along the Skyline
The Path to the Yoga Shala & Restaurant
Wednesday was another tough morning practice. My back was even closer to spasm and I was still not well rested, despite sleeping 8 – 9 hours per night. I followed along with the class for as long as I could, but Nicole had planned a backbend practice so I went as far as I could handle and then cooled down on my own. Himanshu taught another Hatha Yoga class that evening, telling us beforehand that it would be easier. He lied. It was not easier, but I persisted with the practice and was proud of myself for doing so. I was really enjoying our Anatomy classes with Spyros. He is a fantastic teacher and it felt more like a review for me since I had already studied the subject in the past. They also have a skeleton that they use for the class that they named Henry. The story of Henry going from Greece to Bali was interesting. His limbs were detachable, so when he traveled, each one of the instructors stowed a few of his bones in their luggage. I wondered what the airport security would think when they scanned their suitcases.
Me, Janka, Alina, Zhana, Laura, & Kelly
I decided to sit out of Thursday morning's practice. My back was extremely close to a spasm, my entire body was exhausted, and I was very cranky. I took it easy until later that afternoon when we had a practice that was low to the ground. That class was all about strengthening our hips. You wouldn't think that lifting your legs a small amount in certain positions would be difficult. But I stuck it out and felt stronger for it. I was still really struggling with the old patterns of thinking. Luckily I had a very supportive friend back home who reassured me that I was just stuck in old ways of thinking and needed to try to see it from a different perspective.
I practiced Friday morning but by Saturday I needed to sit out again. Himanshu asked me to help him with adjustments since I was sitting out. I was really enjoying myself, and my fellow Yogis were grateful. I practiced pushing on their hips in downward dog to help stretch their heels to the floor, and assisted with the chest opening adjustment while in an Extended Side Angle pose. The easiest adjustment was helping to square their hips. Some Yogis needed help to get into some Asanas with a strap, so I was right there to help. All of this was going fantastically well until I asked one Yogi if she would like assistance, and she jarringly asked me why I was wandering around. I as well as a few other Yogis answered that I was giving adjustments. She replied with “oh”, but she had a judgmental look on her face. I knew she didn't mean anything by it, and we are friends today, but in that moment I was triggered to my past.
Alina, Tori, Me, Zhana, & Kati
I was bullied badly in school and at home. Their favourite thing to do to me, it seemed, was to humiliate me in front of people. As soon as the Yogi asked me why I was wandering around, everything inside of me went right back to those moments of humiliation. I instantly sat down at the back of the Shala as tears streamed down my face. It took me a few moments to realize that I was triggered and I would be okay, but I had to shed the tears and allow myself to feel how I felt in the moment so I could get it out of my system and feel better. Himanshu was very sweet, asking me what had happened. I told him I was okay and I just needed a moment. I was instantly comforted by his caring actions and was reassured that there were people there who cared about me. Other Yogis approached me after to see if I was okay and to tell me that what happened wasn't cool. This again reassured me that people cared.
The Chakras & Their Meanings
For our Philosophy class, our teacher Savitri guided us in a Chakra meditation. For so many reasons, I could have chosen to be skeptical and take the whole thing as a joke, but instead, I decided to open myself up to the healing possibilities that this meditation could provide. She had us all lie on our backs and get comfortable. She started by creating vibrations with her singing bowl, then she said a prayer and began. She started with the first of the Chakras: The Root Chakra. This Chakra is responsible for our safety and security and is red in colour. I instantly began to sob. All I could think about was my childhood and how much it affected me. She talked about opening the Chakra and then moved up to the Sacral Chakra. This Chakra is responsible for our emotional body, sensuality, and creativity. I continued to sob, thinking more about my childhood as she introduced us to the Solar Plexus Chakra, which is responsible for expression of will, personal power, and mental abilities. My sobbing continued. As we transitioned into the Heart Chakra, my sobbing turned to gentle tears. The Heart Chakra is responsible for love. The throat Chakra was next which deals with communication. My tears still ran, but slowly. I began to feel incredibly hot all over my body. I assumed it was because I was in the sun and pushed through the feeling. The Third Eye Chakra was next and is responsible for spirituality. Then finally, the Crown Chakra, which gives us access to higher states of consciousness. When the meditation ended we sat in small groups to discuss our experience. As my fellow Yogis explained what they felt, I began to weep again. When my turn finally came, I could barely speak. I could just squeak out that I had struggled my entire life with these concepts due to my upbringing.
The small groups chose one person to tell the class about our experiences. As we went around the class, we found there were some major similarities. A lot of Yogis stated that their bodies felt very hot, but some of them were not in the sun like I was. I found this fascinating as I had experienced the same thing. A lot of Yogis said they didn't feel anything, and later I learned that a lot of them thought it was a joke until they saw how upset I was and realized that the meditation really affected some people. Other Yogis said they felt emotional and faint. Kelly got up to speak for our group and when she talked about my experience she began to shed tears. She felt how I was feeling and couldn't hold back the tears anymore. In that moment I felt more connected to my fellow Yogis than ever. By the time we left the Shala that evening, I felt completely centered and renewed. Up until that point, I had wondered if I was losing my love of Yoga. My body was in agony and emotionally I was struggling. But that meditation left me feeling a new sense of appreciation of yoga and of my experience in Bali. I had been needing the emotional release as well. When my body gets as stressed as it had been in that time, I don't always realize that I am opening deep-seated emotional wounds, and that I need to vent this in order to finish releasing it. Before the meditation, I decided to trust in the process and see what would happen. After the meditation, I was convinced that I was on the right track and was exactly where I needed to be.