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
Yoga clothes (but you can buy local designs aplenty in Bali)
A long sleeve tunic to protect your pretty skin from the uber hot sun
Yoga reading list for your YTT or yoga retreat