Yoga, Pilates, Ecstatic Dancing and Tibetan Bowl Meditation


When in Rome – do like the Romans. When in Ubud – do Yoga, Pilates, and Meditations!

As I quickly discovered – Ubud is the hot bed of Yoga, Organic Food, Pilates, and like activities – including Mediation in Bali – and since Bali is one of the major places to go for these kinds of activities – that means that in Ubud – Yoga is big. Really Big. Almost every other building either featured Yoga based Home Stays, Yoga Studios, or both! Curiously – all this healthy life style stuff is smack dab on top of a society where the average wage is $200 a month. Interesting counterpoints are simply bound to happen, eh?

So where to go in Ubud for the best Healthy Life-Style experience? I’ll be frank – I don’t know. I did one Pilates class at Ubud Pilaties, one Sunrise Yoga class at Intuitive Flow, and 3 Ecstatic Dances at the Yoga Barn. In addition – I also did a Tibetan Gong and Bowl Meditation at the Yoga Bar. I have my favorites – but as to a definitive ‘best’ – nope – not going there!

But since I’m always willing to share my opinons – I’ll start by comparing the studios – then I’ll talk about the classes!

The Yoga Barn in Ubud is a giant, multi-level space where hippies of all ages hang out. As I blogged early in this series – it offers a board spectrum of different types of Meditation, Yoga, and Movement based classes, courses, and community events. It also is the home for the Bali Yoga Spirit Festival – one of the top 5 Yoga related festivals in the world. Clearly – I was absolutely going to try some of these activities out – it was really just a question of picking and choosing.

I ended up doing 3 Ecstatic Dances and a Tibetan Bowl meditation class at the Yoga Barn. I would have simply loved to do more there – the Yoga and Meditation Music Experience class sounded fun, and I’d have liked to participate in the Spirit Festival – but time and airline tickets proved limiting factors. Maybe next time I visit Bali…

The Lady in Pink’s palace was located in a ‘village’ near but not in Ubud. We were a 15 minute walk to the outskirts of the city – and over a hour walk from the Yoga Barn. Clearly we were taking taxi’s to sessions at the Yoga Barn – and best intentions aside – that seemed to contribute to us doing less – not more – there.

However – within about 10 minutes walk from the Palace were Intuitive Flow (for Yoga), and Ubud Pilates. Liane had already purchased bulk tickets for sessions in both places – so clearly they were on the hot list of places to go.

Despite planning on doing more – I ended up just doing one class each at these smaller studios. Enough to get the idea, but not enough to do any accidental damage.

Ubud Pilates first. I loved the feeling of this space – open to the gardens on 2 sides, closed by bamboo screening on the other two sides – the feeling was calming and comfortable. The teacher worked on a slight raised platform, which made it much easier to see what she was doing – and I loved the tiny gardens on the two open sides – the sound of running water is so relaxing.

Pilates for the uninformed – and I’m pretty uninformed – consisted mainly of laying on a mat and doing core exercises – knee pushups – full pushups – crunches and the like. All done slowly – concentrating more on breathing correctly than on high number of repetitions. It wasn’t exactly hard to do – but fear of harming my back made me stop after only a few reps of each exercise. Anna – 80 years young – is one of the strong students – and some people go every day. If I wasn’t so keen on seeing Bali – I’d have loved to do more of this – and I was highly impressed with how well the Lady in Pink performed. Something to think about when I get back home I suppose.

Is there a Pilates class in my future? Who knows!

Intuitive Flow is more of a broader based exercise space/program. Unlike Ubud Pilates – it is on the 2nd floor of a building, has windows on 3 sides (all of which were slid open) – and has a marvelous orientation towards the East North East. You can enjoy watching sunrise over Mt. Agung – Bali’s active volcano – and can admire the way the birds celebrate the birth of a new day while you hold Yoga poses.

The specific class we attended was a pretty much a beginner’s version – and I quickly learned that Backwards Leaning Dog isn’t going to happen for this body. I simply couldn’t hold that position without my back talking to me – and what it had to say wasn’t very nice. The good news – the very nice instructor (slim, pretty, in awesome shape) quickly caught on to my seriously beginner status – and just would say – you are doing fine when I collapsed into the Chakra position of knees on floor – head on floor – arms out.

I did find that there were some stretches I could do with ease. Other positions needed the leader’s gentle hands on my back and sides and shoulders to get things just so. I seriously have tense shoulders – relax your shoulders and breathe were constant reminders. Really should work more on that.

So – 5 stars for Intuitive Flow (mostly for that amazing view), and 3 stars for the Pilaties – it was more expensive, and the leader didn’t really come by to help me out at all. Maybe I was doing everything perfectly – but I think it more likely that she made the business decision of working with the people most likely to return.

On to the Yoga Barn. I’ve talked about the Ecstatic Dances – Friday night and Sunday morning – several times. These are dance till you sweat thru your clothes events – or as the DJ said – we’re trying to get a natural high. No talking – no thinking – just free movement. Lots of fun – and a 5 star – must do rating – for these. If you end up in Ubud on a Friday night or Sunday morning you must go. Only one hesitation – I have serious trouble turning my over active brain off – even in Ubud, even at the Yoga Barn.

Good thing I don’t mind my own constant internal monolog, eh?

Tibetian Bowl and Gong Meditation – that’s a class of a different animal completely. Held in the same space as the Ecstatic Dances – wide open, roofed, amazingly beautiful wooden big plank floor – it’s strictly limited to 35 participants. The mats are carefully arrange in a giant 1/2 circle around the leader – leaving most of the space open between our heads – pointed towards the bowls when we lie down – and the bowls themselves.

The session begins with us all filing into the space as they call our names – a strangely intimate way of counting heads. We climb the stairs barefoot to the upper level, put our belonging against the wall or in the provided open shelves, and pick a mat. We sit in lotus position, quietly waiting for the instructor to begin.

He starts by lighting candles and placing them at the cardinal points – then he invites us to lie down on the mats – heads pointing towards the bowls. No instruction, no advice – just the suggestion that we relax and let the music of the gongs and bowls carry our thoughts away.

I make a serious first mistake – I lie down flat on my back. Which is not totally comfortable for me. I should have gotten onto my side – and put a pillow between my knees. It would have been more comfortable and more conducive to meditation.

Then the leader started to play the bowls and gongs – occasionally letting them continue to ring as he walked around the space holding different kinds of incense over our heads. I know it was different – partly from the smell – and partly because I opened my eyes. One time the incense was thin long sticks – another time it looked a bit like an ear of corn on the cob. Great smell either way.

I know that for some people – this became a period of serious relaxation – there was definitley a guy snoring to my right. For me however, the uncomforable position, and my wide ranging mind spent most of the time occasionally listening to the bowls – which were highly melodic and very comforable to hear, and mostly musing on my own thoughts.

About half way thru I became aware that the wooden floor was conducting the vibrations of the bowls and gongs into my bones – a strange singing sensation. I’m not actually sure this was expected – and since we had been asked to be silent until we got back down to where we’d left our shoes, I had no way to ask.

That tingling sensation lasted well into the night – and made it a bit difficult to sleep – although it had totally disipated by the time I got up the next morning.

So bottom line on Tibetian Bowl and Gong Mediation – I need to take a meditation class for beginingers before I try this again – it bothered me that I wasn’t sure I was doing it right. Which is probably wrong too.

But would I recommend it – absolutely Yes. It’s a wonderfully peaceful way to spend an hour or so – and it’s so important to find Peace in Your Life. Definitely 5 stars.

Signing off to go consider where to find a beginner’s beginning meditation class – The Soup Lady

** Appreciation Challenge – I appreciate the existence of Pilates and Yoga – even if I con’t ways get a chance to participate.

Irresistible things to do in Bali ….


Being in Bali Makes you want to… (PART 2)

Do Yoga or Pilates – it’s almost a national sport here in Ubud – at least among the ex-pats and foreign visitors. Everyone in all the Yoga classes and Pilates classes I’ve peeked in on has been a foreigner – I think the Balinese are too busy working to need to go to class to stay fit. I’ve tried one of each – plus a Tibetian Gong Mediation class – but more on that in another blog! While you wait – do put one of these classes on your ‘got-ta do it’ list for Ubud.

Visit the Rain Forest – Oh wait – you don’t have to visit it – you are in it – all the time. The flowers are amazing. But when the heavens decide its time for rain – it’s like someone unzipped a huge bag of water – torrents pour out! It’s generally warm water – but still – you, the cars, the dogs, the roads, the rice fields – everything gets soaked. We got caught in one yesterday – We’d gone up to visit Mt Batur to see the volcano – and just as we paid our entrance fee – the black clouds and rain rolled in. Nothing to see – a wall of grey. Absolutely grey. You could imagine that someone had built a room around you, painted the walls light grey – and wished you good luck finding a way out. Clearly we’re going back tomorrow. I do want to see that Volcano!

See Mt Batur, Mt. Agung (the Volcano), and the Mother Temple! It took 2 drives up the mountain roads, winding and curving thru villages and rice fields to get the job done – but we succeeded. First day was a total rain out – 2nd day was Glorious. Amazing photos, beautiful place, and the mother Temple is worth at least one visit. It would be nicer if you are Hindu of course – but I’m still glad I went.

Pat a Snake or a Bat – or both. Why not. Snakes are easy to find if you really want to hold one – big ones too – I’m talking over 15 feet long – minimum. But I just smile and shake my head – no thanks! (Bats on the other hand…)

Pick something you eat that grows wild in Bali! The choices are endless – Mangasteens, bananas, cloves, coffee, cocoa beans (chocolate eventually), pineapples, jack fruit, dumum, vanilla beans, star anis, madarine oranges, the list goes on and on.

Admire the Poinsettas – They grow wild on the slopes of Mt Batur. Both Red and White are considered weeds – they just grow to huge sizes! Diana tells us that they used to grow wild around Ubud – but they actively killed them off – they are weeds – and poisonous to boot.

Perform Kajeng – Every 15 days you must feed the spirts – otherwise who knows what will happen. They might get upset, the good ones desert your family and your compound, and the bad ones, who apparently love food too – will find their way in. And this particular offering series is quite important. Diana’s car – which up to now has not been sporting an offering – today has one. It’s Kajeng.

Chat with School Kids. Okay – this might just be something I love – but they are all learning English after about 10 years old – so the odds are that at least one in the group (they only travel in packs) – will be willing to take a chance and answer your ‘Hello’. Once you’ve broken the ice – it’s a free for all of English – you’ll learn their names, their ages – and you can be sure they will ask ‘What is your name’ – which often comes out as ‘What is my name’ – and eventually you’ll be fast friends. In many cases – the teacher eventually will show up to see what the kids are doing/saying – and this too generates those amazingly beautiful Balinese smiles.

Eat a Paddle Pop – or one of the many competitors. These cost from 3000 to 4000 ruplies – (30 cents to 40 cents) – and are uniformly delicious. They come in tons of flavors, often 3 or 4 to the single pop. Sometimes I think I recognize the flavor – and I do know when it’s chocolate – but sometimes I’m just going for the great name. Coco Lava, Mama Blue, Sunshine, Magic, Red Rocket, Frozen Frenzy – those are just the ones that attempt an English translation. Diana has decided that I’m the Lady that stops for Ice Cream, and I think he’s absolutely correct. It’s hard to pass by a freezer without checking to see if there’s a new surprise hidden in it’s depths.

Side note – a friend of mine has challenged her followers to find something to appreciate every day this month of April – so here’s my April First Appreciation note – I deeply appreciate The Lady in Pink for inviting me to accompany her to Bali. Thank you – Lady in Pink.

Last irresistible thing to do in Bali – Dance till you sweat thru your clothes! That’s my plan for today. I’m waiting at the Yoga Barn for the Sunday Dance to start – 150 people jamming for the fun of jamming – all hot, all sweaty, all smiles.

Signing off to register for my turn to sweat till I drop – The Soup Lady

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Math at the Yellow Flower – Ubud, Bali


Food in Ubud is dirt cheap by Western standards – seriously really really cheap. Dinner for under $10 isn’t a surprise – it’s the norm. The last time I remember seeing these kinds of bargain prices was in Laos.

But just because the prices are reasonable doesn’t translate to great food everywhere – there are clearly pecking orders – and so far we’ve eaten in 2 restaurants – The Yellow Flower and The Yoga Barn’s Garden Grill.

First the Yellow Flower. It’s in a great location for us – seriously close to where we are living, just an open air space with a kitchen smaller than mine at home and about 10 tables. Max. There is one waitress – maybe 2 (there’s one gal that triples as cook, bartender and waitress.). The rest of the staff (another 2?) does the cooking and I’m guessing the washing of dishes. Never actually saw that happening!

Anyway – we ordered a dish described as 7 Indonesian Dishes in one – turns out it was a sampler platter – served with 1/2 red, 1/2 white rice. It was delicous – and enough for 2 considering The Lady in Pink and I had agreed that we definitely wanted to try the 1/2 coconut dessert – which was bananas, coconut and a carmel sauce. It was quite tasty. In fact the entire meal was delicous. So where does the math come in? We first noticed a dog that relieved himself on every chair at any empty table. No one else seemed aware of this – which says something about the dog population of Ubud. Anyway – because we were watching the table – we noticed a man and his 2 young kids take a chair there. We started to chat – and the younger of the kids says something funny – so I ask his age. He’s 6. He immediately asks me my age – and I answer truthfully – 66. Then I ask him – how much older am I than you are. He thinks a bit – and comes up with 60. Pretty good!

Then here comes the challenge – I turn to his older sister and ask – what year will it be when your brother is half my age now. Blank stares. What is this lady thinking. Then she says – 33. Very good – that’s 1/2 my age. But what year will it be when your brother is that old?

The Lady in Pink and I, our jobs done here, leave stage right.

Now – the Garden Grill. You must understand that the Yoga Barn is the premier place to do holistic healings, yoga, meditation and the like in Ubud – which is a center for that stuff to start with. So the Yoga Barn is the center of the center – it’s a big deal.

And it is huge – the Garden Grill alone is probably 50 tables – there were at least 4 waitress – and it was 30 minutes to closing time. We get seated and handed menus (in English) and my jaw drops. There is something I don’t recognizee in every dish. Clearly these guys are the vegan, rushi, healthy body eathing specialist – but for some one just looking for dinner – the task is daunting. I end up by asking the adorable waitress – Do you have something for beginners – like beginners Yoga?

Yes – they do. The waitress recommends that we try the Balinese Pumpkin Stew. I do – it was great.

Our drinks where to my mind less successful. I got a mint lime slush – thinking it would be mostly shaved ice – nope. And very minty. We decided to try the vegan ice cream, it’s made out of coconut milk – should be yummy – but despite our ordering it in plenty of time, it never arrives. Oh well – a reason to go back I suppose.

I’ve heard good things about several other eating establishments – and I’m going to give them a try. But probably without the math quiz.

Signing off – the Soup Lady.

Being in Bali Makes you want to…


Get a tattoo – Maybe it’s a natural result of seeing so many people wearing so little clothing – but the number of amazing tattoo’s is hard to believe. Vines on feet, flowers on wrists, entire arms, chests, legs, if there’s visible skin – it often sports an amazing tattoo. One guy actually showed me the map of Indonesia on his arm. Handy if you get lost I suppose. I think I’d prefer a GPS or a good compass.

Fast – As in not eat. Overheard at the Yoga Barn in Ubud – “I’m on the third day of my fast – and it’s not so bad. I’m a bit dizzy – but it’s ok”. My idea of a fast – missing lunch!

Drink incredibly great coffee – Yes this is the home of the Civet Cats that eat the coffee beans and poop them out – which apparently makes for a coffee you must try to believe (haven’t tried it yet) – but even the normal – $4 a kilo coffee is incredibly yummy. Guess what friends and family are getting as gifts this year…

Take most of your clothes off and DANCE – I think this is a Yoga Barn/Ubud thing – but the Estatic Dances and Sunday Dances are pretty incredible happenings. 150 to 250 people crowded into a large – but not infinite space in order to jive to the sounds of a DJ. no partners, no talking, just dance. If you try to partner, or break the rule of silence, you can expect to be quietly and quickly corrected. This is a seriously no talking activity. My favorite part – lying down afterwards and relaxing to the sound of a gamalin.

Drink delicous Iced Tea with the sugar syrup on the side – It’s hot, Ice Tea is cold – so of course this is going to work. But the tea is particularly good here – brewed and iced, not instant junk – and having the sugar syurp served on the side makes it super eady to control your sugar fix.

Really listen to the words of John Lennon’s Imagine.

Eat Gado-Gado (vegetables in peanut sauce) in a different restaurant every night to compare recipes. This is possible because food here in Bali is very cheap – $3 to $4 for a main dish if you steer clear of restaurants that look fancy. Even a fancy duck dinner (and I’ve yet to try Duck – bummer) goes for about $30 for 2 – so it’s pretty challenging to run up a bill that requires using your credit card. Just don’t do buffets (so dangerous in this climate for our poor western tummies), and steer clear of a hotel brand you recognize and you’ll be fine!

Talk to strangers – I don’t know what it is about me and traveling – but I’m constantly chatting with strangers – and they get right to the nitty gritty of what is bothering them. I promise – this happened – a woman starts telling me about her hike up Mount Batur to see sunrise, and the fact that she missed it because her son’s tummy wasn’t doing great. I asked – is your family brushing their teeth with bottled water? Answer – No. Well – says I – try that. Might help your son’s tummy. (sigh – imagine – medical advice from the uninformed to the unwary on a walk thru the rice fields. Really?? Only in Bali.)

Get rid of your aggression by having your incisor teeth filed down. This is a traditional rite of passage for Balinese teens – and while I’m not sure it works to get rid of agression – it does go a long way to explaining why food here is so often served in tiny chunks of intense flavor. No Incisors – no cutting the meat off the bone with your teeth!

Ride a Motor Bike Taxi – Again – I haven’t quite worked up the nerve to do this yet – but everyone else does it. If I’m truly brave – I might work up my nerve – or get desperate enough to do it. That almost happened the other night – It was late, I was facing an hour walk back to the Pink Lady’s Palace – and the first taxi offer was a motor bike. Saved by the guy behind him! But it was a close call.

Stand out in the warm rain – just because you can! It’s hot here – and the rain doesn’t always cool things down. So risk of chill for us northern types is pretty well nil. On the other hand – locals wear long sleeves and even sweaters at night. I’m still in shorts and a t-shirt – and sweating! What a difference getting used to a climate makes.

And most importantly – Buy a stone statue of Ganesha (elephant headed Hindu God) to bring home in your luggage – but be sure to learn the story first. Ganesha is the God of protection – and all traditional homes (and most homes are traditional) have one. He sits just inside the front gate of all compounds – and his important job is to keep out those evil spirts. And he does a pretty good job! I really wanted to buy a statue – I was hoping for a Monkey King – but Diane – source of all local info – decided that I absolutely needed Ganesha first. He’ll look great guarding the entrance to my garden at home – just hope he doesn’t find the winters too cold!

Signing off to go White Water Rafting – another must do in Bali – The Soup Lady

Mosh Pit Party – Balinese Style – Getting High Naturally


Getting high – Naturally is the subtext – Enjoying yourself the point. This was totally way fun.

Tonight The Lady in Pink and I went to an Ecstatic Dance party held at the world famous Yoga Barn. This is a not to be missed experience that I’m going to attempt to describe – but trust me – seeing is believing.

The Yoga Barn is known for it’s incredible number of yoga related offerings – but it also has something happening every night. Monday night is movie night, for example. And Friday night is Ecstatic Dance night.

The rules are simple. No talking, Move freely, Leave electronics outside. No Alcohol. This is about getting high naturally – and while I’m not sure about high – and I definitely tell you it’s about getting hot.

There were over 250 people (unlimited is the that the gal taking the entrance fee used to describe the attendance) in a magnificant space – high ceiling, glorious wooden floor that I would love to take home with me, and shelves along the side for stuffing back packs and water bottles.

Average age – maybe 30, could be younger. Fitness level – high. Clothing – for Bali – very revealing – bra tops only were the norm for woman, bare chested the norm for the guys. The abs on display were ourstanding. Women wore loose fitting, flowing pants, yoga pants, or short shorts. I actually watched one woman go commando! Hair – loose and flowing – and that was true for the guys as well as the girls. I saw guys with such glorious long hair – every girl had to be jealous.

The dance started with dancers warming up in their own individual ways – one woman was even dancing with a hula hoop – and she knew how to use it. Once the serious music started – the crowd got larger and larger – and the temperature got higher and higher. There was actually a wall of heat around the core group of dancers – i couldn’t go there – although the Lady in Pink had no issues joining in and staying in.

I found a cooler (maybe 100?) spot – and danced my little heart out. The music wasn’t completely familiar – but it felt familiar.

After 90 minutes of non-stop dancing – people collapsed on the floor -formed a circle for the final meditation and hand holding. This is the Yoga Barn – you have to expect a spirtual aspect.

Then we pounded the floor to thank the dance master and headed home – tired but inspired.

I loved it.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

The dance started with dancers