My experience here at the Shanti Toya Yoga Retreat has come to an end and I can positively say it has been life changing. I arrived at the retreat really not knowing what to expect. Do I like yoga THAT much to be at this thing? I know I needed to go for myself…just didn’t know why. When I arrived in the middle of the night, with my friends Brody, Tamara, and Jackie, we didn’t know what to expect. This retreat seemed a little out of town, a little into darkness, a little into the jungle! To be isolated from everything and everyone is scary to think about, but it has it appeals. It allows us to focus on only ourselves and what we are thinking. When we woke up the next day, it didn’t feel as scary. The roosters in the neighbouring farm next door delightfully woke me up before my iPhone did. I walked out of my bedroom in my bare feet, and looked around — I was surrounded by lush palm and banana trees – no other place I would rather be at that moment.
The food at Shanti is all vegan/vegetarian. For a week straight we had a variety of meals, but all consisted of similarities: Protein mostly came from tempeh, tofu, or beans for lunch or dinner, and breakfast was always oatmeal with delicious green crapes filled with dates or banana. I was pleasantly surprised how good the food was here! It was all authentic Indonesian cuisine. I REALLY enjoyed the tempeh, which originated in Indonesia, and excited to try some recipes at home!
There was also activities planned for the day when staying at the Shanti Yoga Retreat. Some days we had free time after our morning yoga.. before our late night yoga and dinner. Most days though we had a schedule made out for us to keep us occupied. One of the coolest experiences worth mentioning was called The Balinease Experience. Our tour guide for the day, a local young man (I forget his name unfortunately), showed us around the local village.
In Vancouver, I’ve always been more into yoga for the exercise, not really stepping to much into the history or spiritual side of it. At Shanti, it seemed pretty authentic. The teachers were heart warming locals who definitely helped us work up a sweat, but were also authentic in their approach. We learned about meditation, breathing, and correct posture. I’ve learned that yoga is more than just the practice, it’s a way of life. Being placed in the middle of the Balinease jungle has given me time to reconnect with nature. In my morning yoga class I meditate listening to the buzzing of the beetles, the bird’s singing, and the grazing of the cattle. (Also worth mentioning… the massive spiders that are nesting between the banana leaves. They scared the living hell out of me the first night!
A week ago, when I sat on the floor with my legs straight in front of me, I couldn’t touch my toes. After spending the week using straps to assist myself (and realizing how inflexible I truly have become), I was finally able to grab my big toes on our last day at the retreat. Not a crazy improvement, but for me it was!! I also was able to finally do the wheel pose, which I could never do before because it would murder my back. The physical improvements were beginning to show in just a week of yoga!
Rome wasn’t built in a day, although sometimes I feel discouraged if something can’t be achieved in a swift amount of time. Being here has taught me to take time for myself, believe in the process, the change, and the pain. Being able to touch my toes doesn’t seem like a big deal but it represents what can be achieved. Practicing yoga everyday means you will progress into holding positions longer, stretching farther, and becoming physically stronger.
In everyday life this may mean working on your goals everyday. Even though you may not reach them in a day, a week, or next year. You are pushing yourself to achieve things you’ve always wanted to achieve. I have to believe in the process. Sometimes the wrong choices bring us to the right places, and the process is just as important as the final destination.
Yin yoga – which focuses on holding deep stretches for longer periods of time – was the most challenging practice for me. I avoided much of this yoga in Vancouver, but here in Bali it was presented to me so I took up the challenge. Most times, I felt like I was dyinggggg. Okay, a little exaggeration, but I’m not flexible what so ever! I couldn’t focus my mind or my breath; All I thought about was the discomfort. Negative thoughts rushed into my head. Your in pain get out. You can’t do this. You’re not flexible enough. Give up.
After a couple classes of this I finally understood what it was all about. The minute I closed my eyes, relaxed my muscles and focused on my breath, the stretch didn’t feel so intense – it felt kind of good! The negative thoughts left my head. And after releasing from the pose I told myself – Hey, you can do this. It can be done. You did it! If I applied this type of positivity to my everyday life – my goals, even though faced with set backs and obstacles, wouldn’t seem so distant and impossible. I need to be kinder thy self, as should everyone. Negative thoughts can manifest inside us and its our job to just breathe and replace them with positive thoughts and feelings.
I’m excited to see how more flexible I can become with yoga, it’s a goal I never thought I would want to set for myself but it’s a challenge I am willing to take!
In our free time, we had a chance to explore a bit more of Bali and take some time to look around. We had a week before going to the Yoga retreat in Seminyak, and another couple days in Ubud before we returned home to Canada. We are able to do a lot of site seeing… and relaxing of course!