Yoga Is, Remembering Bali with Fondness

My friend, Caitanya and I are in the early manifestation/planning stages of hosting a Yoga Retreat to Bali, specifically to Ubud.  I am beyond excited as I watch one of my dreams for 2015 start to become a reality.  The planning also brings back fond memories and realizations of my previous trip to Bali and to Ubud. Specifically my 1st class at the Yoga Barn, Ubud's foremost yoga shala, with an amazing power yoga teacher, Les Leventhal.  I had taken his class in Sydney when he visited Barefoot Yoga but this was like nothing I'd ever experienced.  Yoga on a massive raised wooden platform above the jungle and rice paddies of Ubud's hidden back streets.  As I laid down to settle in before class, I could hear the distant noises of goats and roosters alongside various native bird calls.  Les entered and reminded us that what he offers is a yoga buffet.  A plethora of choices of which you only pick what you want to consume, those dishes that will serve you in that specific moment in time.  We started out simple but quickly the sequence built and built with more and more delectable options, some more exotic than others.

As the choices kept coming, the sweat kept building.  I had of course shown up to class at the Yoga Barn in my yoga finest wanting to impress (and show the world who I am).  Choosing my favorite outfit adorned with some yoga jewelry (mala beads, crystals etc) to match.  As the sweat, the heat and the class built, I started shedding these so carefully chosen items, as if peeling away the layers of my ego.  First my necklace went, that was not going to serve me as I flowed through a series of sun salutations, it kept hitting me in the nose.  Then my baggy tank was next, definitely not a necessary layer as we began going upside-down, the fabric kept falling over my face making breathing difficult.  As we started a few arm balances, my layers of bracelets impeded my ability to ground my palms, so off they went.  By the end of class, there was a pile of items beside my mat, discarded, like an old coat in the summertime, no longer useful to me.

These items, before class, had seemed absolutely necessary, as if they constituted the very fabric of my being.  Who was I if not a traveling, mala bead wearing, yoga teacher with a funky tank from Spiritual Ganster declaring that 'we are all one'?  Who am I if i stop subscribing to these stories I tell myself, these identities my mind has created.  That day in Ubud, as I stripped away the unnecessary layers it felt as if I finally understood, I was uncovering the creations of my mind or my ego, to access the truth underneath, the essence of my being, my soul.  My soul doesn't need crystals or patterned yoga pants, in fact, those items were actually hindering me, getting in the way of my poses, getting in the way of my ability to access this Truth.

Throughout class the roosters would crow and Les would say "that rooster is just making sure you're awake, are you awake, are you conscious" (in the spiritual sense of the world, no one had passed out.)?"  And so stripped down to the bare essentials, I lay in savasana, dropped in and thought, 'you know what Les, I think I am starting to wake up".