I have been trying to write this blog for five weeks…
At first I didn’t quite understand why I couldn’t write about my yoga school experience… It was incredible and I’d like you to hear about it, hopefully understand what it was like. So why couldn’t I write this down for you? Why was it so hard? Well, I wanted to do it justice and no matter how expressive or detailed my words were, I didn’t feel like they were fair or accurate enough. After a few failed attempts and some frustrated conversations, I realised that quite simply, nobody can put my encounter into words.
Language was created to express feelings and experiences but even the most talented wordsmith will never truly be able to conjure up an exact representation of a feeling in a moment in time.
I learnt a lot and I felt a lot, if I shared everything it would be a book, not a blog! I wish I could recreate for you, what it was like to become a yoga teacher in the rice fields of Ubud, but my words will have to be enough.
So here are my highlights, in words, from feeling.
Yoga school took place in the middle of rice fields twenty minutes away from a magical town called Ubud. This place is other worldly. Seriously. It’s beautiful to look at but its true power lies in its ability to unexplainably make you feel… There’s so much energy that you feel emotion all the time, so much love and happiness and appreciation.
We were told on day one that there will be no eating of meat, no drinking of alcohol, caffeine (even green tea), no smoking of cigarettes, no consuming of drugs and no partaking in sex!
I lived with my teachers and 25 other female students and I shared a room with two other girls who I grew to love very dearly very quickly and hope to see again very soon.
We woke up in silence at 5am every day and shuffled to the Shala for meditation and yoga. The cockerels and singing jungle was our alarm clock.
Mediation came first. On the days I found meditation hard, this was a good opportunity to slowly wake up instead.
We practised yoga as the sun came up to the sound of bells and prayer song from the local village. This music from the village was honestly something that belonged in a fairy tale. When I was little, I used to believe that the sound from wind chimes were fairies playing music. Unexplainable beauty from up high in the trees, carried by the wind to my ears. My ears! How precious I felt to hear this fairy music. The music I heard in the shala, carried through the rice fields by the wind to me and my yoga sisters can only be described as REAL fairy music. I felt like a bare-footed, enchanted child again and my heart grew every morning.
Lying in Savasana (corps pose) at the end of my daily yoga practise was an opportunity to realise just how lucky I was to be there. For the first week (and part of the second) I cried in every savasana because I was so grateful to be exactly where I needed to be and to remember how it feels to be precious. My gratefulness didn’t dispel after this, but I was taught how to accept feeling so good.
The ceiling of the shala was decorated with lizards and sometimes butterflies too. When we weren’t lying on our backs looking up at them, the lizards reminded us they were there by either falling off and running over us or pooping on us from a great height!
Silence ended at 8am after asana and the rest of a typical yoga school day was filled with lessons of self-work, involving the sutras and the obvious teacher training, plus a welcomed four hour break to sleep, process, relax under coconut trees, do some homework or go into Ubud for a massage or some shopping.
We each took part in Karma Yoga, or selfless work. Some people swept the shala floor, took the bins out or helped weed in the garden.
The day ended at 7 or 8pm and silence started again at 9pm but we were often asleep by then. For the first time in years sleeping was easy. My body enjoyed the opportunity to rest, to absorb my learning and my mind seemed to agree. My body and mind were finally creating a respect for one another.
The land we lived on was a permaculture farm where all of our food was sourced. Because there was a large group of us, our food was supplemented by a farm nearby. We eat vegan and organic and a few of us were gluten free as well. The food was yummy but we had to eat what we were given, it wasn’t a restaurant and meals arrived at set times and the dignified gong in the shala was sounded to let us know when to meet for food.
Permaculture means that the land is gently cared for and encouraged to thrive as it would naturally. To respect this we did not bathe with or use any chemicals on our skin so that our water could be recycled and fed back to the land.
We became a family very quickly and I felt at home and loved. Years of jumping between houses in and around London had detached me from the safe feeling that only a steady home provides, and I was thankfully reminded of this feeling at yoga school.
We obviously each had the friends that we gravitated towards but we all took the time to get to know each other and we all got on extremely well. I can’t imagine many situations where thirty women, three semi-wild dogs and two volunteers could live, study and thrive together without dispute in the caring and easy way that we did; and you could tell everyday how grateful we all were for that. We laughed, we cried, we celebrated, we let go, we accepted, we danced, we sang, we hugged, we smiled and we went through all of these emotions together without judgement.
The sheer, constant gratification emanating from each person was enough to make living at yoga school feel safe and addictive.
My teachers were very different. One was a walking Indian goddess, beaming with knowledge who wore a magnetic power, attracting all beings and animals in her path. The other was a colourful Canadian who carried around a little drum and encouraged us to sing songs, some of which can only be described of as yoga inspired nursery rhymes. At first this was a little comical but I realised that was because I wasn’t used to it and I was self-conscious, it was fun in the end to let go and roll with it. Singing was a medicine to some of us and we have this lady to thank for helping us to realise that. My third teacher was a glittering Australian asana queen with anatomy knowledge that a Doctor would be proud of. I felt like she really joined in on the journey with us and she was kind enough to be open and honest about her journey, showing us that learning and self-evolution is ongoing.
We had days of optional fasting and silences, ceremonies, two assessments, it was a whirlwind of learning from books, movement and conversation.
So, yes I became more flexible… I learned some Sanskrit, I got my certificate. But the real lesson, the thing I really learnt was self-love. In 24 days I was pulled apart and the pieces of me were put back one at a time, once I had learnt to love them.
I left a new person. I am much calmer and much more aware of the beauty around me and the beauty of me.
I will forever be grateful and I wish that everyone has the oportunity to have an experience like mine.