With the Indian monsoon still in full flow, I’ve taken shelter back in Bali. Last time I came here, I felt that I had rinsed Ubud of all the yoga it could offer. So, this time, I decided to check out the surf & upcoming yoga hotspot of Canggu.
I’ve been practicing at the conveniently named shala, The Practice. Here, they teach traditional tantric Hatha yoga. The last 6 weeks or so I’ve been doing a lot of Vinyasa (fast-flowing, sweaty yoga) so it’s been nice to slow things down and really take back control of the breath. Hatha, quite literally means balancing of the Sun (Ha) and Moon (Tha) energies. Here is a summary of both:
Sun (Yang) qualities — Energising, hot, active, masculine, bright, moving, heavy, solid. Good for those who are feeling lazy, stagnant, inactive or slothful.
Moon (Yin) qualities- Calming, cooling, passive, feminine, dark, still, light, spacious. Good for those who have a busy overthinking mind, feel anxious, are easily rattled and like to move.
A simple understanding of the above can be very powerful if you want to balance the mind. Traditionally, Sun yoga is practiced at sunrise and Moon Yoga is practiced at sunset. It makes a lot of sense when you think about the qualities each bring. We want to feel energized before starting our daily activities and once those activities are completed we want to calm the mind and relax before sleep. I’ve been very fortunate to experience this potent combination over the last two weeks. My day looks like this:
7am to 10:30am- Sun Yoga
4pm to 7:30pm — Yin followed by Moon Yoga
On an energetic level, Sun Yoga involves inhaling more often then exhaling i.e. inhaling for 8 counts, exhaling for 4 counts. This will be paired with backbends to really open the lungs and ready them for ripe oxygen absorption. Backbends also bring a bit of heat and sometimes fire into the lower back. The breathing pattern is reversed for Moon Yoga and the poses consist of forward folding and twists. For those more familiar with the intricacies of Yoga, the teachers will also advise the application of bandhas. Bandhas are interior locks to channel the energy in a specific direction or area, usually from the base of the spine up towards the crown of the head. The ultimate goal of Yoga is to unify the individual consciousness with the cosmic consciousness. Synchronising the body with the daily cosmic cycles provides a little practical glimpse of how such a unity can be practically achieved.
The overall affect has been profound. Ever since I started practicing 5 months ago, there was a definite boundary on the yoga mat and outside of class. I didn’t extend those techniques that I learnt on the mat, off the mat. It wasn’t even on my radar and so there was no desire. Perhaps the first major shift off the mat occurred back in Ubud when I realised the importance of conscious eating and the affect it had on my mood. Since then, I’ve noticed more subtle observations. They’ve come in many different forms, from realising and limiting my use of the internet, assessing my spinal posture, breathing patterns, habits when I’m hungry and cravings for sugar! They actually have a saying here at the practice, “on and off the mat” and teacher also said, “If you’re a yogi, there is no holiday from yoga”. Fortunately for me, the extension of yogic practices off the mat has happened naturally with minimal aversion. Reverse integration if you like, something which has been a rather pivotal moment for me.
On the topic of observations, I observed a bit of poop come out my backside during the recent earthquakes on the neighbouring island of Lombok. The first quake happened during my first week of stay. I literally woke up 2 minutes before it struck and was still in bed. During the earthquake, me and my hazy brain simply froze (don’t do this) and waited for it to stop after 20 seconds. After I realised it was an earthquake I came out my room to discuss but no one was to be seen. My next thought was tsunami and after about 5 minutes of pondering (again, don’t do this), I decided to jump on my scootie and head inland as I was perhaps only 500m from the beach. I soon realised there was no tsunami and drove back to Canggu. Once back home I bumped into the Airbnb owner and asked him about it, his English isn’t great so he simply responded by raising his hands, shaking his hips and said “ooooOOOo natural massage, very niceee.” Humour in the face of potential devastation, I love it!
The second earthquake happened a week later. I just so happened to be in Ubud (inland) for 2 nights visiting a legendary school friend by the name of Kirit. Although, after meeting Kirit’s brother Teghpal, I think I’d rather hang out with Teg. Sorry Kirit! I was mooching in a restaurant waiting for latecomers Kirit and Teg to arrive, I saw them just about to enter the restaurant and that’s when the second earthquake struck. Only this time 5 times more powerful than the first one. The waitress ushered everyone out of the restaurant onto the street where we waited in silence for the quake to stop, there were no screaming, just faces full of fear. After 5 minutes or so we all went back into the restaurant and took the photo on the left.
Around 25 minutes after the first major quake, there was a powerful 5.4 aftershock, which was more of a jolt. Once again we ran outside the hotel and we were all a bit emotionally drained by the quake onslaught. Unlike the first quake, there was a tsunami warning issued this time round. We knew we were safe in Ubud but unfortunately the same could not be said for those in coastal regions such as the Gilli Islands where tourists followed locals to higher ground. Thankfully the tsunami warning was lifted and only small 10–15cm waves were seen.
Along with the Tibetan folks up in north India, the Balinese are the most calming, kind and respectful people I’ve ever come across, pretty sure I wrote about this in a previous post. They possess many Yin qualities if you like and I’ve always been fascinated to understand how this can be. I thought there must an equal and opposing force. I think I felt the answer. Indonesia is situated on the pacific ring of fire prone to volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis. Back in 2004, Indonesia felt the full might of mother nature in the form of an 8 minute (yes 8 minute!), 9.1 magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami that killed over 150,000 people here in Indo. Over 100 people have been killed over in Lombok as a result of the current quake. Perhaps the current and historical trauma influence the Balinese in such a way that they live each day as it comes with great respect for the environment and each other.