Category: Wellness

What does Core Stability really mean?

Whether you are preparing to hit the ski hills this season, play golf next season, perform fall yard work, or simply are wanting to continue to walk and perform all your household chores with ease and efficiency, it might be helpful to be knowledgeable about the term ‘core’ and how timing of our core contributes to quality of movement whether we are participating in sports or activities of daily living.

The ‘core’ can be interpreted in many ways, depending on who is explaining it. Some leading spine researchers debate that a true ‘core’ even exists (O’Sullivan 2012 interview here). Scientific reviews of high level (level 1) evidence conclude that there is not any one superior exercise for chronic low back pain. The popular belief that core stability exercises are essential to prevent and address back pain is not supported by research (don’t shoot the messenger) (Smith et al 2014). Sure, these exercises may help some people; but not for the reasons we may think. This debate is for another post. That said, we all likely have heard of the ‘inner core’ described as a group of muscles surrounding the trunk and described as a cylinder. The main function of these muscles is said to create spinal stability and control the intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) when the rest of the body is in motion. There are 4 main muscle groups that make up the inner core: Transversus Abdominus (TA), Multifidus (MF), Pelvic Floor muscles (PFM), and the respiratory diaphragm. TA is the deepest abdominal muscle that wraps around your abdomen like a corset, and is connected to tissue surrounding the spine. When TA engages, it assists in increasing the pressure inside the abdomen, which
can be one of many factors that contribute to trunk stability. MF is a deep spinal muscle which makes up the back part of the core. It is a postural muscle that helps keep the spine erect. The PFM’s are the bottom part of the ‘cylinder’ or core. More information about the role of the pelvic floor and the factors that influence its function is here.

The respiratory diaphragm makes up the top part of the cylinder. When all of these muscles engage in a coordinated manner, they help to maintain the pressure in the abdomen which then provides the stability to the spine and pelvis. It is important to note that the timing of these muscle engagements is needed for efficiency of movement and function, which is why I often like to refer to this phenomenon as “core timing” instead of “core stability.” For optimal core function, these muscles will activate in a sophisticated and coordinated during movement and are ideally engaging at a variety of intensities, automatically, throughout all movement, all day! Julie Wiebe, PT, describes the core strategy system as ‘piston science.’ Antony Lo, PT, discusses the refined recruitment that continually changes in response to each task as “tension to task.”

A common misconception is that “strong abdominals protect the spine”. In fact, as described above, the abdominal muscles make up only one part of the core. Furthermore, coordinated ‘timing’ of the engagement of the TA is important and not just the mere ‘strength’. The famous “6-pack” or Rectus Abdominus muscle that many fitness fanatics train is not the muscle we are trying to target here. Instead of engaging TA adequately, you may be using or over-recruiting the Rectus Abdominus (as evident by the abdominals popping out and up) to compensate for the TA that may not be recruiting appropriately.

Core timing or core training can play an important role in any rehabilitation program.  A healthy core means a healthy foundation from which our limbs can move with more power and efficiency. However, can we actually volitionally ‘train’ each muscle to engage in a perfectly timed and refined way? It’s quite a sophisticated and automated system: there is debate on whether or not we can actually cue the timing of the core adequately.  That is also for another post!

For now, I will say that in my clinical experience, cueing breath and ease of movement seems to improve core timing (therefore movement efficiency and performance) more than actually cueing TA, PFM’s or MF to voluntarily ‘engage.’

Brent Anderson, PT, PhD, explains a similar approach, and uses two real-time ultrasounds to illustrate this concept here.

Core timing can be an essential part of any regular workout routine. Whether you enjoy recreational sports, competitive sports, pilates, yoga, or enjoy working out at the gym, addressing your core (through breath) can improve your abilities and enhance your overall performance.

If you experience low back pain, then a visit to your physiotherapist or other trained health care professional would be a good idea. See “Truth About Back Pain” for more info on myths vs truths about back pain and the myth of core stability here.

**This article is not intended to act as medical advice, nor to diagnose or replace your current treatment. Please seek clearance and guidance from your licensed healthcare professional prior to participating in any of the tips, advice, practices or movements mentioned in this article.

By Shelly Prosko, PT, PYT, CPI, Blissology 200-hr YTT graduate
Check out Shelly’s teacher profile to learn more.  

YTT Day 3: Relaxation is the Final Preparation

Day three, the Saturday before the YTT begins is all about the final preparations. Teacher’s Training courses are like sailing: You’ve got to have all your knots tied, supplies and courses charted before you leave port.  I’ll be runnings sessions all day, everyday for the 13 days straight until our break. There is no chance to create new course materials now, especially in my case where 100 percent of the contact hours are with me.

I remember a decade ago when I was up at night creating manuals after long days of teaching and I reached new levels of exhaustion. Now, we’ve got a 300 page manual and it keeps growing.  I am also supported hugely. In fact, my last big preparation was meeting our epic assistants this year, Leanne, Gina and Gillian. Of course Ellie is always around and Christine Edwards, our Anatomy Geek, is arriving in a few days.

We met in yet another stellar Bali veggie eating establishment taking in some serious bowls of prana and kale-coconut smoothies.  We spent hours setting intentions and making game plans for transformational experiences.

After that meeting, my whole attitude shifted into relaxation mode.  It wasn’t that there wasn’t still plenty to do. The preparation could never end for this course, but instead of feeling like a student pulling an all-nighter cramming for an exam, I went the other way and chilled out as much as possible.

It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn. When I was younger I tended to rely on passion to carry me through. Because I had a mountain of passion inside me, I could do this. The tagline for Blissology is “Love is the Ultimate Renewable Resource.” This partly means that love doesn’t exhaust itself. Like the wisdom parables suggest, you can light a thousand candles from your candle and it doesn’t diminish your flame.

This is very true to a point. But, I’ve learned that sometimes the biggest gift you can give to others comes from self-care. This is really what a yoga practice is all about. It’s really me-time, not time to take care of others. But because we take this time to restore our energy, our candles burn brighter. The me-time serves the we-time.

I watched the sunset, more kites with their invisible lines. Then I took advantage of the plethora of $20 massages in Bali. It launched my own little silent retreat that still continues to this moment.

George Washington once said if “I had ten hours to cut down a tree, I’d take the first six and sharpen my axe.” I love this. But I wish he was a yogi and then we would have added that he would have taken 10 minutes to relax, meditate and practice pranayama!

Preparation is key and it has been done. Relaxation is Power. These are today’s lessons.

YTT Day 2: Life Mission Super Powers

My Friday started early here as I plan ever day to do. I’ve committed to these 4am wake-ups during the next month to get my lesson plans sorted, to keep one eye on my business projects, to write these blogs and even work on a book. It’s my favorite time of day in Bali. The peace and clarity is extreme as I type under the stars.

I’ve been amazed this trip at how easy the jetlag is to deal with. My friend once told me, “when you travel on an airplane your body moves at the speed of a plane but your soul moves at the speed of a donkey. It takes that long to catch up.”

My soul must be Pegasus because this has been a breeze.

Part of it, I realize is that I’ve cut out wine and beer from my diet recently. I am not a big drinker but I did start drinking one of those incredible craft beer IPA’s in California a day.

My friend asked me “what’s it like living in the U.S.?” thinking it must be radically different than Canada.  I told him, “Oh, it’s just like Canada except the Whole Foods has incredible craft beers!” (grocery stores in Canada can’t sell booze, for those who have never been)

The point is, I’ve consciously cut out this habit. Partly because I want to get rid of my love handles and mostly because even though I love the taste of beer and wine, I always regret it later when I sleep. After even one drink, I sleep better for the first two hours and shitty in the middle of the night.

I know people use alcohol as a traveller’s crutch and I watch people downing free drinks on the airlines pretty much from the moment they get on the plane but I really advise against it.  I’ve learned this trip.

My Bliss
It’s not just the clean, booze-free system that has given me my super jet lag avoiding powers.  I’ll be the first to admit that getting in the ocean surfing and doing yoga in the tropical heat help. But there is more; it is pure passion and stoke.

This is really the theme of yesterday. What life is like following your bliss.

I’m a professional “bliss-follower.”  I make my living from my bliss which is not just yoga; my ultimate interest is in creating deep, authentic human connection to Nature and Community (my working definition of Blissology.)

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t work my ass off yesterday. I am sure I spent 8-9 hours in front of a laptop. Sure a lot of what I work on I am passionate about like lesson plans and creating new course materials but mostly I do a lot of menial tasks. I am continuously buried under emails and a trillion small details that keep the filing cabinet of my brain over stuffed.

I know people think I am just doing yoga on the beach like my instagram feed suggests but the reality is “Bliss” and “Bills” are almost the same letters just rearranged to form some kind of cosmic joke.

I work a ton. But I am so inspired!

A large part of the upcoming Blissology YTT course is finding what we call our “Life Mission.” Mine is to be a Conduit for Love.

It’s just such an amazing feeling even when you are going cross-eyed behind a computer like Ellie and I did yesterday (Ellie is our awesome program manager for Blissology trainings who lives in Bali) to know that all of those spreadsheets and schedules will light a fire in the hearts of many; to know that what you do is a contribution to the flow of positivity.

It is incredible medicine for the combination of jetlag and computer drudgery.

Luckily Bali, especially Canggu (pronounced Chah-n-goo) has an incredible amount of tasty cafes and hip, organic restaurants. I can’t even begin to describe how it blows anywhere else in the world away for the number of hipster eating establishments per square meter. The closest I’ve seen is Abbot-Kinney in Venice Beach, L.A. but this is a whole other scale over here.

If you are an entrepreneur working behind an Apple laptop on a creative business, the café culture of Bali (and the more commonly known Ubud) is your Shangri-La.

Laptop Culture in Bali
There is a shadow side to this cushy, hipster ex-pat Bali life and that is the rampant disappearance of the rice patties. Like a mushroom out of control, L.A. hipness is transplanted where rice used to grow.

Ellie and I made the circuit of a few of those cafes.  I’m definitely going into this training feeling insanely prepared.  Stoke is one thing but preparation is the key for the A-Game.

As I scootered home during sunset, as often happens here, I stopped checked out the Bali sky.  I am saying that wrong: I didn’t stop.  I was stopped in my tracks and could not avoid taking in the stunning light.

They fly kites here in Bali in the April breezes.  I sat for a few minutes and stared up at a kite in the Bali sky. It was one of those moments where you are lost in time and don’t even realize you are doing what you are doing.

When I left Ananda and Insiya at home, we always tell each other about the “invisible line” that connects our hearts to each other.  I look at the kite at the end of the string and think how lovely that we have people in our lives that make our heart fly like this.

In this spontaneous moment of gratitude overwhelm, I sent them a silent prayer and toasted the strings that bind us all.

Bali YTT Day 1: The Journey

I’m blogging my journey through Bali during our Blissology YTT! This is always such a transformational journey for everyone including me so I thoughtI would keep a little blog/diary and share it every day. Check in and share in the adventures. Here is the first post.

It took a whopping 35 hours door to door from Santa Cruz, SFO to Denpasar Bali. The plane ride wasn’t so bad largely because of an extra large dose of gratitude I gave myself just to be on the flight! It left at 1:15 A.M. – I decided to take advantage of couch I spotted upstairs by the boarding gate. I set my alarm on my iPhone but didn’t hear it. I woke up with a start and made it to my gate with about a minute or less to spare.

Besides this elation for just making my flight it wasn’t as brutal as I thought it could be for these reasons.  I scored good karma seating with three seats to myself on my first leg from SFO to Hong Kong. I woke up in the morning and did airplane yoga in the 1st row while in front of zombified travellers attempting the inhumane art of sleeping vertically. I also worked on my manual for the trainings especially the  “Commit to Bliss” lifestyle program (I’ll explain more about this in future blogs). I never watch TV but somehow I got addicted to Game of Thrones and loved watching Nicole Kidman’s Queen of the Desert. Normally I am the king at picking movies which are popular but turn out to be brain numbingly stupid but this movie was amazing.

I also did some rocking yoga in Hong Kong and Singapore. It felt amazing to stretch out. My jet lag was kicking in but you have got to keep your chi moving while travelling. Some superflow and handstands did the trick.

I also help long, deep stretches and that felt so felt amazing. I feel like we are over emphasizing standing poses and not floor stretches in the new school yoga I see.  Headphones on, ugly carpet, I dropped into the zone of bliss right overlooking the boarding gates.

After reaching hot, humid Bali not surprisingly the 9pm the traffic was horrible. People who haven’t been here are surprised to hear this. “What traffic on Bali?” Oh yeah, it took about 2 hours to drive 20 miles to our villa.

I passed out around 10:30 after a quick Facetime convo with the fam. I was trying to not think about what time it was on the West Coast but Ananda was leaving for school which meant my biological clock should be saying, “time to wake up.”

Well, I had probably the best jetlagged sleep of all time—I woke up at 4:15 AM and all the sounds of Bali brought me right back. We have been spending about 3 months a year here over the last 9 years or so and I usually wake up at 4:15 – it’s cool for one but there is so much magic then. Once you step outside your villa in Bali, you are treated to open sky. Even the kitchen has no walls. I paused and took in the moon, Jupiter and the Muslim call to Prayer from a local mosque.  I made coffee, unpacked all my clothing, surfboard and props for the YTT making my little bliss army pad ready.  It’s a “Joglo” imported from Java I rented on Airbnb. I love these old houses.

I watched the sky turn bright orange with the first rays of the sun on the huge, nuclear explosion style clouds of Bali, took in the Hindu temple music about 100 meters away. After all these years sounds like cacophony with droning chanting and bell which seem to have no rhyme of reason how the rhythm is created.

Yoga in Bali felt amazing because of the humidity. Hot Yoga? Not required here. Yoga was born in the tropics and I see why.

I followed it up with a surf back in the warm Indian Ocean and lunch with Ellie who lives here and has really helped me organize the upcoming training.  We have 35 people in the course and 5 assistants including Ellie.  I’ve never felt more prepared for a YTT and I am so stoked to share what is about to go down in the next month over here.

Over lunch one of the highlights was when Ellie told me about her trip to East Bali to LINI where we are running our Blissology EcoKarma Coral Restoration project.  They are so appreciative.  The dates are April 14 so watch that day on the Blog for sure.

What was cool is that as a global yoga ambassador for lululemon we can allocate funds to charity of our choices. I allocated some of that funding to LINI and they are training five local girls in the small village of Les where LINI is based. For 3 months, they will train these girls at LINI’s Aquaculture and Training Centre to learn skills that could either help them to earn a living elsewhere or continue to work with LINI. These girls are young mothers in the community who would not otherwise have any way to earn money or learn new skills

More updates tomorrow!

Yoga for Digestion

The holidays are a definitely a time of indulgence and it’s easy to feel bloated as we are often eating or snacking more and more often during the day.  On top of this visiting family and travel can be stressful. Even the most dedicated of yogis have a hard time staying balanced since most of us end up out of our daily and weekly routine that provides discipline in our regular lives.

Here are some of my top yoga poses that will help to alleviate bloating and soothe and rebalance your digestion.

Child’s Pose
This restorative pose is not only good for the belly and digestive system since the thighs in the belly provide apana vayu (downward expelling energy), but it also offers a few brief moments of calm, introverted energy at a time in life where we get so scattered. This shift in our nervous system restores parasympathetic tone in the nervous system that is hugely beneficial to a stressed out digestive system.

Happy Baby
Yes, it stretches the hamstrings and lower back, but in this pose really concentrate on using the diaphragm muscle at the bottom of the rib cage to create the longest inhalation you can. Let your belly go and this will allow the diaphragm to really descend deep into the viscera (belly organs).  Yogis have long known that this “inner belly” massage is invaluable to stimulate digestion and relieve bloating.

Downdog
This is a great one because it is hugely calming to the nervous system and also counters the dull energy of excessive sitting during the holidays with calm, sustainable energy for your system.  When you press the sitting bones away from the hands, the whole spine gets long.  The belly organs also get inverted and are treated to more spaciousness. It truly is one of the best holiday treats.

Uttanasana
The act of folding forward places pressure on the abdominal organs and stimulates digestion. I also love this one because it helps me not to over eat as well. When I know I will be bending forward later in this awesome standing stretch somehow it is a reminder not to consume too much.  This pose feels so good when we don’t over eat that your body will not likely fall victim to gluttony. And hey, if it does, don’t beat yourself up. Start where you are at fold, breathe and enjoy.

Supine Twist
Twists act like a tourniquet for the belly organs. The yogic theory is that when we twist to one side, the belly organs on that side experience a temporary constriction to their blood supply.  When we come out of the twist the organs get a flush of fresh, oxygenated blood. It’s like pinching a garden hose and releasing it.  In particular the ascending colon on the right and the descending colon on the left are stimulated when we twist to each side.   The yogis knew how to remove blockages not just in our hearts, but in our bellies too!

Have a happy Holiday Season!

Eoin and the Bliss Team

How can we Rewire our Response to Stress?

Everything is connected to everything…

The longer I practice medicine the more I see that chronic stress has to be one of the major contributors to illness and disease.  Disease literally means “dis – ease”, not at ease.  Disease is a result of imbalances in our core functioning systems.  Our bodies are always trying to maintain this dynamic balance in every cell – this is called homeostasis.

Stress is the physiological response to the perception of a real or imagined threat to your body or self.  The key point here is perception.  An external event is not necessarily inherently stressful – it is how we interpret the signals and how it is processed in our mind and translated into our body.  The threat could be real (biking accident) but it could be imagined (an assumption that someone was mad at us).  In either case – if we perceive the event as stressful, a cascade of patterned responses ensues.  Adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones are released from your brain and permeate every cell in your body. Every cell has receptors for these powerful chemical messengers (hormones).  When you “feel” stressed, your cells feel this stress.  When you feel joy, your cells feel joy so to speak.  The stress response activates the sympathetic response (flight or fright) of the autonomic nervous system causing your heart rate, blood pressure to go up, blood more sticky, increases your blood sugar levels to prepare you for emergency action. This is the right response if there is an acute stressful event that requires you to take action (run away from the saber tooth tiger).  However, if we are chronically stressed, this adaptive stress response becomes maladaptive and it causes all kinds of problems on the body.  Stress has been identified as a major contributor of many chronic diseases – heart disease, high blood dress, thyroid dysfunction, mood disorders etc.

Prolonged stress causes chronic activation of this stress response and at some point – your systems begin to get depleted.  The whole neuro-endocrine axis (hypothalamic, pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, gonads) can go out of balance -dysregulated.  Higher levels of cortisol signal your metabolism to be in an emergency mode and reduces your ability to burn fat, suppresses immune system in the long term, can cause leaky gut – which in turn can over activate immune system potentially leading to allergies, auto-immunity, causes sex hormone, thyroid imbalances as well as depression and anxiety.

This is why it is vitally important that we become aware and mindful of how stress is affecting us.  You can have the perfect diet, workout everyday but without addressing how you deal with stress, much of the other good stuff can get cancelled out.

We are an incredibly complex and resilient organism.  It never ceases to amaze me, how much stress, trauma and illness the body can handle, heal and triumph from.  We need to pay attention to what our body is saying to us.  The body communicates to us through symptoms.  What is our body trying to say to us?  It is telling us to slow down, to quit that job that we know we should have done long ago but can’t quite make ourselves do it.  The body will say “No’—if we can’t say “No. Every symptom or illness should prompt an inquiry and reflection upon what is going on in our lives.

We are learning more and more that our choices we make each and every day contribute to our overall resilience to stress, dysfunction and illness.  Nourishing our bodies with nutrient dense, whole foods provide us with all the co-factors and molecules to ensure our systems are running well and have extra capacity.  Keeping our bodies strong, flexible, supple ensures that energy is flowing freely through our systems and stress is not getting trapped.  Ensuring consistent, restorative sleep is vital.  Learning how to breath – deeply and slowly have profound effects on our stress response. Do Yoga!

Understand our thinking patterns and begin to be aware of how we often make erroneous assumptions about situations and how this causes us stress.

Once we become more conscious and mindful about our perception and responses, we can then begin to re-pattern and re-wire how we respond.

Resilience is about having extra functional capacity so that we can handle increased stress without losing function.  We can all live healthy, happier lives once we begin to understand and shift how we perceive and respond to stress

In Health,
Dr. Lawrence Cheng

 

The Blissology Yoga Ecology Surf Hub: Santa Cruz!

After 4 weeks away in some of my favourite places on the planet specifically Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, it is amazing to come back to a place we call home. The beauty of this place overwhelms me. We’ve spent years searching for places that had incredible organic food, beautiful nature, cool people, access to city life and of course, surf!! And I can finally say, I’ve found the most rocking place. If it wasn’t, we’d be somewhere else.

We are so excited to share Santa Cruz with you for our courses coming up this fall, our September Blissology Teacher’s Training, Our level two immersion “Yoga and Mind Body Medicine,” and drop in classes every Wed at 9am at Pleasure Point Yoga (when we aren’t running our retreats and trainings in Bali this April and May!)

Santa Cruz is nestled between the mountains and the sea, and has a truly eclectic mix of people, places and experiences to offer! It’s just 1 1/2 hours from downtown San Francisco, an hour from SFO airport and 3o mins from San Jose. We’ve got world class surfing, mind blowing hiking,  great beaches, and amazing local food and restaurants.  Santa Cruz will keep both the foodie and nature lover in you satisfied!

The climate in California comes down to one phrase: dress in layers. Its common to start your morning in a jacket and beanie and end your afternoon in a tank top and flip flops. Autumn is California is the best time of  year for great weather (and that’s when our courses are happening!) Although mornings and evenings can be cool, the daytime temps often get into the 70′s and 80′s this time of year. Luckily Santa Cruz has no shortage of beautiful outdoor spots to enjoy. If relaxing on the beach is what you’re looking then go here for just a few stunning beaches to explore! If a little more activity is what you enjoy then bring your hiking shoes! The Santa Cruz area is home to some amazing redwoods forests and hiking trails. Here’s just a few to add to your list!

Ocean lovers be warned, Santa Cruz is going to blow your mind! It’s home to some of the best surf on the west coast, from the infamous Steamer Lane to the aptly named Pleasure Point. Santa Cruz offers waves for anyone from newbie to novice.  This is also a great place for bodysurfing, boogie boarding, stand up paddle boarding, ocean swimming! Surfing lessons as well as surfboard, SUP and wetsuit rental is readily available at many locations. Just blocks from Pleasure Point Yoga there is a RipCurl, a Freeline, and an O”Neil surf shop. All will be happy to help you with your ocean minded needs. If you want lessons for beginners cruise over to the Westside of town and check out: Cowells Surfshop.

If you’re looking to enjoy the Ocean without getting we think about joining on of the Chardonnay cruises. They offer a host of day and sunset cruises to enjoy.

A Santa Cruz classic is the Beach Boardwalk (enter the Beach Boys background lyrics here!) It offers rides, games and snacks, all while enjoying the sweeping views of the Pacific!

If your more the take a take a stroll, do some shopping, people watching type head to Downtown Santa Cruz for a variety or people and shops, or for a more mellow scene zip over to Capitola Village. Another fun area worth a mention is Swift Street. This is an up and coming par of the westside. Formerly old warehouses, it has  been converted into wineries, restaurants and shops. Be sure to swing by Sawyer Land and Sea Supply, Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, of one of the many Local Tasting Rooms! On your way out be sure to take a walk or drive along the scenic West Cliff. Don’t be surprised at dolphin, sea otter, sea lion and whale sightings!

And we haven’t even gotten to the Eats and Drinks this lively town has to offer! High on the list are the Santa Cruz Farmers Markets which happen a few times a week in various locations. This is a bustling display of a bounty of local, seasonal offering! Even if you’re just there to feast your eyes, this is an experience not to be missed. Go here for a list of times and locations.

There are lots of good eats to be had in this town! Just a few of our favorite restaurants include:

Ristorante Avanti: Farm to table Italian Cusine, Westside
Laili:  Afghani and Mediterranean cuisine, Downtown
Westend Tap and Kitchen: Fresh and Local Pub Food, Westside
Suda: California Cuisisne, Eastside
New Leaf Market: local grocery, Various Locations
The Verve: Local coffee that will knock your socks(or flip flops)off!

If your want to explore the surrounding areas, consider Carmel and Monterey 1hr drive, Big Sur is 2hrs drive, and San Francisco a short 1.5hr from Santa Cruz!

The Blissology Bali Guide

Bali is our second home. It’s intense, we won’t lie. It’s part of the forth most populated country of the world, Indonesia so streets crowded with scooters and plastic on the beaches is more common than you think. But it has incredible natural beauty and the expat culture is amazing and it’s bursting with great restaurants and yoga studios/retreat centers. In fact, we’ve never seen so many yummy, funky healthy restaurants per square mile on the planet. Maybe Venice Beach and Santa Monica might be a close second.

But perhaps the most incredible thing about Bali is it’s people. The Balinese are generally joyous, caring people who are incredibly grounded spiritually and have a incredible village culture.  The village still does raise a child in Bali.

We usually do our courses about 20 km Northwest of Denpasar (where the airport is) in a town called Canggu (pronounced “Chawng-Goo”)  It’s got great restaurants, fashion and surf beaches (Brawa and Echo Beach).  We will be running a YES (Yoga Ecology Surf) Retreat in April there at Desa Seni and a month of 200 and 500 level Teacher’s Training courses in May 2015 at Samadi.

 

FAVORITE THINGS TO DO IN BALI:

Ah… so many things but I think my top picks are: drinking fresh coconut water; immersing myself in the warm ocean, practicing yoga in a beautiful wood floored studio with my only walls the foliage of tropical ginger and palm trees; and catching waves.

 

BEST BLISSFUL BEACHES:

Of the beaches in the southern part of Bali, which incidentally is the only part of the island that has golden sand, Bingin is still quiet and beautiful and unspoilt. I love slipping away here for a few hours and swimming in the natural rock pools when the tide is high.  I also love the beaches north of Candidasa in eastern Bali, which is still a little more quiet.

 

BALINESE TEMPLE/SACRED SITE:

We’ve visited so many sacred sites in Bali over the years, but one that impressed me was Tirtha Empul, the temple of the holy water, a walk up a hill in the mid north of Bali.  The Balinese believe that this water is related to the holy water from the river of the heavens (like the Ganga in India) and they use the water from this temple in all their rituals.  The day I happened to be there was a ceremonial day for anyone afflicted with disease, emotional or physical, and families came in throngs to receive an immersion in the holy water.  The women dressed in their finest, the men ushering their families through and prayers and chanting.  There were tears, laughter, wails and joy, so many emotions, so many prayers, all in one potent place.

 

FAVORITE PLACE TO STAY:

Desa Seni is always our landing spot, a microcosm of Bali in its beauty and a beautiful community.  We know the staff, they’ve seen our son grow up and it feels like home.  We usually stay in a villa that we rent longer term after a few days at Desa seni!

 

FAVORITE HEALTHY RESTAURANT:

It used to be that most of the healthy and raw food that yogis love could be found in Ubud, but it has spread to the surf coast as well, thankfully! In Ubud, I still love Kafe, the smoothies in particular are so delicious, but in Canggu, I love the new restaurant at yoga + wellness center Samadi – they have fresh vegan food and their dosas are so yummy. A new café and juice bar that opened just last year is Sugarcane near Berawa Beach.  The green juice and smoothies are sublime and they have a kids play area, perfect for those with little ones! We also love Land of Green Ginger, which takes you on an Asian flavor tour and has authentic chai made from scratch. Closer to Seminyak Watercress is a standout especially for Brunch and their daily salad specials and Desa Seni has a lovely menu with most of the organic veggies grown right on the grounds.

 

BALINESE FOOD TO TRY:

I love Nasi Campur; a mix of vegetables and curries and rice, so delicious and healthy, especially with freshly ground sambals.  I also love a good gado gado, a fresh salad with a peanut sauce.

 

FAVORITE PLACE TO PRACTICE YOGA (STUDIO OR NATURE):

Some of my favourite spots have been at the studio at Uluwattu Surf Villas on Bali’s southern tip, as well as at the cliff’s edge where you feel as though you are part of the terrain. You can watch the waves and surf on your mat at the same time.  Desa Seni is another favourite spot and I so want to stay at Bambu Indah in Sayan near Ubud just to practice at their yoga studio!

 

HOW DOES BALI INFLUENCE YOUR YOGA PRACTICE:

There is a daily practice of spirituality in Bali.  The people are immersed in their Hindu faith and they don’t question it.  You see pure faith and rituals flow into the rhythm of each day. It is impossible not to be touched by that simple beauty and it inspires me to simply practice without expecting any outcome from my yoga practice.  It’s really the message of the Gita.  Perform an action and relinquish all expectations of the action.  Bali is a living, breathing emblem of that.  Of course I know this is interpretation and that the people are performing rituals to enhance the wellbeing of their families and themselves, but there is still presence and perseverance in their doing this day after day after day and living their life centered around their faith.

Also, Bali is one of the warmest, most humid places I have ever spent time in (and I grew up in India) and there is nothing quite like tropical warmth to allow you to go deeper in the yoga asana practice. I love that.

 

A SECRET GEM ON THE ISLAND

It’s not really a secret, but it can be hard to get a spot here as it is so small, but Mu Bali in the Bukit is one of my favourite hideaways.  Above the cliffs of Bingin beach, it is run by a French man and resembles a Tahitian inspired paradise. The homes are round and made of straw and curved wood, open on most sides. You can linger over fresh home made food and long table dinners with other guests or simply enjoy some chill time on your own.  We took our son there during the break of our intensive month long YTT a few years ago and really recharged.

 

BALI PACKING LIST

A journal + favourite pen

Bikini / Boardshorts for the guys

Surfboard

Yoga mat

Yoga clothes (but you can buy local designs aplenty in Bali)

Sun Dress

Sun hat

A long sleeve tunic to protect your pretty skin from the uber hot sun

Yoga reading list for your YTT or yoga retreat

Flip Flops

Sandals

Smiles