Updated: Apr 7, 2020
My Ubud street vendor market experience was marked by one more noteworthy event. That day I finally got the chance to wear my ripped jean shorts. The left leg of the front of my short was hanging on by a few measly threads and I knew it would only take one wrong move for them to rip fully. Well, as I bent over to pick up something I had dropped, they popped wide open. After an entire summer back home of my shorts slowly but inevitably ripping down the middle, I had finally popped the leg fully apart. As I made my way out of the market with my shorts flapping in the wind, tourists and locals alike fixed their eyes on me. They would look at my shorts, look me in the eye, see that I had caught them staring, and look away really quickly. This continued into the streets of Bali and all the way up the path to my guest house. Damn it, I really liked those shorts!
Lola, Marianne, and I
I needed to change so I opted for my swimsuit and a dip in the pool. I was joined by Lola, my American friend, and Marianne, my French-Canadian friend. Marianne is a young lady from a town just east of Montreal. I found it very interesting how there were four Canadians at the teacher training, all from within a stretch of highway we call “the corridor”. This stretch of highway runs from Toronto, through Belleville just north of Prince Edward County (my home town), and ends in Montreal. Marianne is an incredibly sweet lady. She sat with me almost every day and made sure she always checked up on me to see how I was feeling. I'm not sure if I got the chance to thank her for that, but I really appreciate it! Marianne is an incredible yogi! We worked together near the end of the training, and we were practising getting into a headstand using our core. This woman, the little powerhouse, moved so slowly and with such control, lifting her legs above her head like it was nothing. She absolutely blew every one of us away! Absolutely amazing! This woman is so quiet and sweet, but when you get to know her, you uncover a whole other side. She taught me that just because some people are quiet and seem shy in groups doesn't mean they’re necessarily wallflowers. She also showed us her fun-loving personality at the celebration on our last night, but I'll get to that.
I treated myself to another massage before heading to another restaurant, The Pomegranate, to study and eat. I had created a nice summary for myself of everything I needed to know for the exam. There would be three sections on the exam: Asanas (poses), Philosophy, and Anatomy. I was actually feeling very confident in each subject by that point. I utilized my memorization tricks from my acting training and it was really paying off. I had all of the Yamas and Niyamas memorized in Sanskrit and English. There are five of each and they represent the way we treat ourselves and others, such as non-greed, non-stealing, and truthfulness. I memorized many of the Asanas by making up silly sayings for each word: Plank pose (Santolanasa) became “Santa lands on snow”, and Cobra (Bujangasana), “BoJangles”. I remembered Boat pose (Navasana) because the Navy uses boats. But my favourite memorization trick came from Lola. She sang to me, “hold me closer Natarajasana,” the Sanskrit word for Dancer pose. I will always and forever remember this pose with a little help from Elton John and Lola.
I was enjoying the view from the restaurant as I studied when Jannik came in and joined me. Jannik is a very kind Danish man who frequently shared his beautiful time lapse videos of the sunrise in Bali. They red and yellow hues were absolutely stunning as they sped by the lens in double time. Jannik and I shared a great conversation about the previous day’s meditation, and talked about our home countries. Jannik asked me what the most recognized Canadian food be. I thought for a moment, then decided that the most recognizable Canadian cuisine would absolutely be poutine, a dish of french fries with cheese curds and gravy on top. As soon as I said poutine, a young man at a table beside us turned to me and said, “Eh, Canada?!” I said “yes!” Then he asked me where in Canada I hailed from, and as it turned out, he was from the Toronto area as well! What are the odds of that happening? Sometimes it amazes me how small this world can actually be. I guess poutine truly does bring Canadians together!
I had a fantastic second Sunday off, and I capped it all off with a deep conversation with my roommate, Nina. I told her a bit more of my story of childhood trauma and abuse, and she told me more about her life back home. Nina is a personal trainer and fitness model. At the time of our trip, she had taken first place in the fitness model competitions in Germany, and had quite a following on social media. She had also started a podcast to help motivate people to reach their fitness goals. Nina found inspiration in my story and asked if she could use it as materials for one of her podcasts. She explained that she would interview me and then edit it to create an enticing episode. I didn't hesitate. I am open about my story, and if sharing it means I can inspire or help someone else, I will gladly give an interview. I wasn't sure how much I would share or exactly what I would say, but I was ready to tell my story. I had gotten to the point where telling some or all of my story no longer sent me into a tailspin of depression. This, to me, marked a major milestone in my healing journey.
Kati, Kelly, Me, Maggie, & Laura on our Way to the Yoga Shala
The next morning I was still much too sore for practice, so I chose to sit out and observe. There was still value to sitting out and watching the instructors. I noted how they moved around the classroom, who they adjusted and when, and picked up on some more terminology and ways of explaining postures. I made up for sitting out during the evening class by working as hard as I could. The next day, Monday, we began our student-taught classes. They broke us up into two groups, split between the large and small Shalas. There were three students scheduled during our normal class time to teach in each Shala. I was scheduled in the big Shala to teach Wednesday night. Monday night, my friend Kelly was scheduled to teach first. She did very well and put us through a rigorous routine. I kept grumbling and glaring at her, all in good fun of course. She taught a really great class and I was really proud of her for doing so. Kelly had her own journey to becoming a Yoga Instructor, and this was just the beginning of her finally reaching her Yoga teaching dreams. Despite the groaning and stank-eye, I pushed hard and worked to get to the final expression of each pose. This would be the routine for the following day as well.
Getting Ready to Teach My Class
During those two days I wrote up a routine that I knew would put the class through a good workout. Himanshu looked over my draft and had me remove a few Asanas in order to fit everything into my half hour time slot. A lot of the Yogis were nervous for their teaching portion of the exam, but I was honestly not worried at all. I knew that I had my routine memorized, I knew my adjustments, and knew that my voice would reach all of my students. When my class time came around, I confidently introduced myself and started my students in a cross-legged seat. We worked our way through our warm up, stretching our backs and legs and working up an internal heat. I guided the students through my flow and wrapped up with a short cool down and Corpse pose (Savasana). The feedback I received was fantastic. My instructor had no constructive criticism to give and neither did my fellow Yogis. They said I was a “drill sergeant” but enjoyed my humour. I was also told afterwards that my voice carried all the way to the small Shala and the Yogis there had a hard time not following my instructions. I suspected something like that would happen, considering I was so used to projecting.
Ariani (My Amazing Masseuse) & I
I treated myself to another massage after I taught my class, and this time I got my masseuse's social media information so I could add her to Instagram. She has since followed my journey and liked many of my photos. This woman is an incredible masseuse. She got so deep into my aching muscles and knew exactly which spots to hit to release the tension. She also knew exactly where my sore spots were in my shoulders blades and took extra time there. I always walked out of the Spa feeling relaxed and refreshed.
The next day, I was so relieved to be done with the teaching portion of my exam. I spent my free time studying and listening to some music, and really enjoyed my walks to the Yoga Shala with my headphones. As I listened to my electronic dance music, I could hardly keep myself from shaking and grooving along to the beat. When I got to the Shala that afternoon, it struck me that I needed to take a picture of myself looking out to the scenery behind the Shala with my headphones on. Mimi, another German lady, was happy to oblige me. This picture will forever be my favourite photo from my trip. I call it “Beats in Bali.”
Beats in Bali
Nina & I
That night, Nina and I prepared for our podcast interview. I felt slightly anxious about revealing my story, but also happy to be able to share it. She set up her interview microphone with the sound filter attached, we sat on her bed, and began. Nina introduced me to the audience and then allowed me to talk freely. I hadn't prepared what I would say, but I ended up revealing most of childhood. I talked about the abuse and severe bullying I suffered, and the entire decade I spent struggling to overcome and heal. It was difficult to keep it all flowing chronologically, because I would forget things and go back. I recalled some horrible events and abuse I suffered as a young adult as well. It was difficult to admit that I was a full blown pothead for my entire twenties, but at the time of the trip I was about 4 months sober.As I talked through the timeline of my life, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. When I arrived at that present moment, I found I was completely fine. I wasn't sad or emotional. I wasn't angry or agitated. I did have some trouble sleeping that night, but that was the only side effect of telling my story. To me, it showed major progress in my healing. I was slightly nervous about how much I revealed on such a public forum, but I took comfort in knowing that the podcast would be popular in Germany and not in Canada.
Nina's Instagram Ad for My Podcast Interview
After Nina produced and published her podcast, I had a few of her listeners contact me to tell me how inspired they were by my story. That in itself made the entire thing worth it. I opted to not listen to the podcast. My rationale was that I already knew my story. I also wasn't sure if hearing it played back in that way would be too difficult to hear. I am very grateful to Nina for recognizing my story and the inspirational value in it. I am glad that my horrible childhood and young adult years can inspire someone else to seek the help they need and show them that life really does get better. To anyone who is currently suffering: seek help! Look into resources in your community for individual or group therapy. It takes strength to ask someone for help or to talk about how you are feeling. I am proof that life improves when you make the changes necessary to find peace. And maybe, after enough time and healing, you can find happiness too.