Hannah Teare learns the art of self-discipline at a yoga and meditation retreat in the jungle.
This is her diary…
I landed in Bali with mixed emotions and a sense of trepidation. I have visited several times before in different stages of my life – the gap year, the hedonist, the downtime from professional life etc. This time I am definitely on the yogic vibe but also filled with high hopes and intentions to ramp up my self-practice and mediation. A big ask, as with both, I have a long history of the struggling stop-start. When it comes to the school of Self Care, discipline is not my forte…..
The Retreat was entitled Deepening your Yoga Practice and Meditation. Yes, please and yes, please! I was particularly attracted to this as I sensed there would be a gentleness to these six days compared with other yoga retreats I have attended, where everyone seems to be as bendy as a pretzel and I find myself yanking my body into positions beyond my capacity and rushing to keep up with the asana’s ever hopeful that at the end I will receive a gold star and smiley face from the universe and return home a yogi with self practice engrained in to the extra hour I have also managed to create in my new 25-hour day!
There are no A roads or motorways in Bali so the hours’ drive from the airport took us through lots of little charming towns and settlements. I was struck by how many temples there were and ceremonies taking place in such a short stretch. Small blessings were everywhere, placed on every statue and altar.
There was a pace and busyness to the islanders day to day activities without the full on overwhelm of the senses you find upon arriving in India. There are lots of beautiful blossoms and lush banyan tress and rice padis. The sun was shining and it felt like a healing and happy place.
Kumara Sakti is a beautiful quiet spot just 600m from the bustling main street of Ubud. There was a friendly welcome from the staff. I was handed a delicious juice and booklet outlining the days ahead. My program was personalised for each day hence with joyous relief I handed myself over to the agenda and tentatively eyed up a few of the other guests.
The place has a lush Hanging Gardens of Babylon feel. Neatly kept pathways link the rooms and the yoga sala and pool and all spaces have a view of the rice padi. The approach to my terraced suite was lovely stepping stones surrounded by swishing koi carp and goldfish and gentle trickling waterfalls. After a quick assessment of the room ( big bed, a/c and fan, lux soft white sheets, water colour paper, paints, brushes and pencils provided, scented oil burner, petal touches , a seated buddha…) I knew, for sure, I was in the right place.
At 6pm we had an introductory talk and a presentation on Ayurveda. We were each gifted a traditional sarong to use for the duration of our stay and then were invited to introduce ourselves to the group and explain why we had chosen this retreat. So often the attendees to these yogic retreats are all women and rather refreshingly there were several guys on this one – attracted to, I imagine, the beginner slash intermediate level.
At sunset a small troop of Balinese men entered the Sala dressed in ceremonial white to perform a cleansing Agnihotra fire ceremony. What followed was a mesmerising half an hour of chanting purifying mantras whilst the flames rose during which we were doused and blessed with water and rice and invited to set our intentions for the next few days. The experience was both rousing and incredibly immersive. Its magic set the tone for a transformative few days.
We headed up to dinner in a semi trance and sat down to a delicious (and healthy) three- course meal which included Sesame Grilled Tuna, Gado Gado and Avocado Chocolate Mousse. Conversation was light and easy and time seemed to disappear.
The day kicked off before sunrise with the ringing of an old school bell. Rubbing our eyes we arrived at the Sala to large jugs of hot honey and lemon to energise us for the next two hours ahead. As the first sunrays appeared we started with some gentle breathing meditation moving through to hip stretches. The pace was steady and strong, building slowly to slightly deeper poses. I could feel my body awakening and unraveling as it was stretched and flexed. We finished the session with calming meditation and mantras that were simple enough for first timers and luddites among us.
Up we trotted to a wonderful home cooked breakfast. For openers there is a raw green juice then a fabulous spread which includes black rice porridge, toast, fruit salad, yoghurt, granola, a variety of delicious breads (for each and every diet)… Let it be said that this is not a Spartan retreat where one goes hungry. The options and portions were fantastic, tasty, clean and healthy and vices such as coffee are allowed!
The rest of my morning was spent in the spa absorbing the 3000- year-old Ayurvedic Chakra Dhara massage, which frankly, was 2.5 hrs of bliss. Ooodles of warm herb-infused oil was dropped on my chakra points to balance energy flow and purify the body, mind and spirit. Believed to be the oldest therapy in the world it focuses on illness prevention, longevity and natural healing. I was transported to a land far far way, somewhere that can only be described as holistic Ayurvedic heaven. The return to earth was not too shabby either – the spa itself is a beautiful traditional wooden building peppered with fresh frangipanis and offerings. Treatment rooms open out on to nature and ponds of trickling water are visited by little frogs, fluttering butterflies and dragonflies.
Lunch was an aptly named Happy Salad all made with crunchy, healthy, delicious produce grown on the One World Retreat property and a fruit salad for desert. I wandered back to my room still in a post treatment fog and promptly crashed out for one of those deep deep day time sleeps that happens once in a blue moon.
Late in the afternoon I took the optional Ayurvedic session that diagnosed my body type and made recommendations for diet and lifestyle. All very interesting and not too daunting to apply!
At 5pm there was an hour of evening restorative practice. Lots of lovely long poses and twists that set us all up for a nice relaxing evening.
And then the SILENCE. Ceremoniously I turned my phone off, tucked my computer away, waved goodbye to social media and embraced this opportunity to challenge myself and see how well I could manage the next 36 hours… eek.
The day kicked off with the pre-sunrise school bell followed by a rousing yoga class. There were a few nervous smiles and anticipatory glances amongst the group regarding the day of quiet ahead. I felt surprisingly excited and loved the idea of no outside stimulation. This truly was a chance to slow down, focus on my inner-self and hit a different level of consciousness. A day of doing nothing – no listening to music, with time to write and to outlay intentions and affirmations, paint, sit, create petal mandalas, and ponder the negatives in our lives.
Breakfast was served on my balcony, followed by a nap and then off to the spa for relaxing Balinese massage.
Lunch – beautiful salad eaten on my terrace looking out on to rice padi. Deep questioning thoughts swished around about my life’s journey…. am I on the right path, is my work still working for me, should I move countries… and yet, despite asking these challenging questions, I felt very content.
The afternoon passed very quickly – and finished with an intense yoga class which focused on chest opening. Working particularly in the heart space which was brilliant after so much contemplation. Yan the instructor has a charm and humour that kept everyone engaged and amused as they flexed and groaned through some difficult poses.
Dinner was pumpkin soup, steamed prawns wrapped in banana leaf and ‘no cheese’ cheese cake. Delicious. I felt as happy as the cat who’d had the cream and the canary. It was amazing how quickly the day had passed. The effects of not feeling tethered to my phone and leaving all emails alone was wonderful. It was amazing to give myself the permission to loose myself in contemplations and day dreams, to watch the palm trees sway and nature hop and flutter by. Simple joys. Simple pleasures.
We had an early start, bells and then off to Gunung Kawi Temple. After the silence it was good to get off campus for a few hours and take in the short drive through small towns and rice padis and past the volcano. There was a small trek down into a gully where we mediated and practiced some gentle stretches followed by a light breakfast of raw juice and fresh breads.
The Temple was built in the 11th Century. Carved into the rock by a brook, it has distinct Indiana Jones vibes. We had a short blessing ceremony before entering the sacred space where the air was so dense you could literally feel the centuries of prayer and worship.
Back at Kumara it was time for my private yoga class. Every attendee has one of these. It is a brilliant opportunity to focus on the parts of your practice that you are sticking on, or to set up a manageable daily sequence that you can take home. I chose to focus on alignment. With Wayan’s expert instruction I managed to reach some agonising new sweet spots that had alluded me for years.
The afternoon was left free for us to sit by the pool or wander into Ubud and the evening class was slightly more demanding. The night was an opportunity to cut loose and eat in town. After the previous day of silence, we were all ready to laugh and natter the night away.
We started the day with morning practice followed by a free morning for folks to shop for the much loved sarongs, singing bowls and gongs.
Then there was an fabulous raw food class which was very informative and a chance to get stuck into making energy balls and raw chocolate pies, dressings and juices.
In the afternoon, it was my turn to trip off to see a local healer. A wisened old sage who is as thin as a rake and shoots out diagnoses after a quick shoulder rub and a few painful foot pokes with a small stick. It was fun, abrupt and surprisingly accurate.
The afternoon practice was a revelation. After 4/5 days of consistent yoga my practice had markedly improved in both depth and alignment and I gleefully achieved two arm balances I had not managed before. As the class closed I felt a gentle sadness creeping in that my time here was ending. I quietly wished I could take all this magic home with me .
Our final night kicked off with glass of Balinese fizz in the owner of Kumara Sakti’s princely quarters hosted by the charismatic owner of the retreat Claude. This was followed with a dinner of spiced fish and raw chocolate pie. The mood was upbeat and happy with everyone aglow after a week of yoga, meditation, healthy food, touches of sun.
Our final morning was a class of guided meditation and self practice. This was a chance for us to practice all that we had grasped over the last five days.
We had a light breakfast and then the closing ceremony commenced. Without wanting to ruin the magic of this moment I would like to share this was nothing short of remarkable. There was a sacred fire ceremony where we had the chance to release negative energy from our lives and then a walk down to the river at the base of the property where we floated petals and offerings. The experience was incredibly potent and sealed all that we had learnt during this week.
The layers which make Kumara Sakti so special are entwined seamlessly to create a truly wonderful experience. The setting in nature and the spacing of the rooms and practice spaces and the scattering of pretty petals and shines all make for a special stay. The staff were experienced, friendly and efficient yet non invasive. And the food and hosting seamless with each and every request and wonky diet catered for without a ripple.
I left with a strong sense of calm, fired up with wishes to continue the daily meditation and yoga practice. Four months later I have sustained both which by previous experiences is nothing short of remarkable. Would I recommend One World Retreats? Let’s just say that I will returning. Very Soon.
CONTACT: +62 361 289752; www.oneworldretreats.com
PRICE: From £1,279 full board per person
NEAREST AIRPORT: Denpasar, Bali
TRANSFER TIME: 45 mins