One reason I was so excited to go to Bali this year is that I recently completed my 200 hour yoga certification. Many people have asked what made me want to do it, and I usually reply with some combination of the fact that I love learning and that yoga (asana practice) helped me heal from a foot injury a few years ago. But, if I’m being honest, there was no solid explanation for the day I decided to do the yoga training. It was more like the cliche description of a light bulb turning on above my head—I got the email in my inbox announcing the training and I simply knew I needed to do it.
While throughout the training I had to track my progress, detailing what I was learning, how my practice was deepening, and what changes I noticed, it's still hard to put into words exactly how incredible the experience was. The training was like a butterfly’s chrysalis period; it was time to grow, not to talk about the growth. Not to show it to anyone. It was just for me.
But what I’m finding now is that the growth has only continued. And the more I progress—the farther away from that caterpillar state I become—the harder it is to track the changes, to remember what it was like to not be who I am right now.
And that brings me back to Bali.
Like I mentioned in my previous post, the island of Bali emanates peace. Whether you're surrounded by cars, beach, or forest—whether revving engines, crashing waves, or chirping cicadas filled the air—that peace is constant. There, it was easy to be present, to appreciate the moment, to be in tune with the body, to feel a connection to the people around you.
So when my sister and I arrived in Ubud and I realized there might not be time to do all of our sight-seeing and explore the yoga studios in town, I was actually excited to just take advantage of our hotel's yoga class offering.
I was the first to arrive to the open air hut overlooking a rice paddy field. The teacher, a short and stocky local, arrived after me. He noticed I was left handed when I signed in and said he used to be too.
“Used to be?” I asked.
“I have a twin brother who’s right handed,” he said. “In my culture it’s frowned upon to be left handed, so my father tied my left hand behind my back until I stopped using it. But it didn’t change that my brother became the engineer and I became the yoga teacher.”
We shared a smile and talked about the difference in yoga trainings there versus in America as the other students showed up. The teacher explained he would lead us through a meditation, a warm up, sun salutations, asana, and then savasana. We started cross-legged, eyes closed as we listened to the ambient sounds of the cicadas and doves on the wind. Aside from the tiny white spiders swarming the condensation under my water bottle, I did my best to focus on myself and no one else.
It was after the warm up as we moved from sun salutations to asana poses, that I began to grit my teeth. The couple next to me, in their fifties and clearly not regular yoga practitioners, were completely out of alignment. The woman’s downward dog looked more like a painful plank and the man seemed to find every pose extremely amusing and not worth his while. What’s more, the alignment the teacher demonstrated was more traditional and less for body health. With the knowledge of my training, I was able to correct my alignment to work for my body type, but the other students were trying to copy him exactly.
I couldn’t contain myself. By the woman’s fifth downward facing dog I craned my neck and whispered, “shorten your stance.” She glanced at me and I tapped my finger an inch above her feet on the mat. “Move your feet here,” I said.
It was then I noticed the teacher moving toward us. I hadn’t even thought about the fact that he might not like me telling his students what to do with their bodies. Instead of heeding my advice, the woman collapsed to her knees. Both she and her husband seemed to have given up on the class. As the teacher attempted to help them back into their poses, I did my best to refocus on my own breath and movements, but I couldn’t shake the self-consciousness of what I had done. It was like being a backseat driver when you had been adamant about not driving.
I spent my savasana in an agitated state, warding off flies and ants with eyes clamped shut. But after class, the teacher smiled at me, asked how I liked the class, and offered me tea. And I realized that he wasn’t mad or upset at what I had tried to do. He understood I was trying to help. That this was part of my journey; reckoning with the newfound teacher in me.
And there in that little hut in Ubud, I solidified one of the most important lessons I’ve learned on my yoga journey: acceptance.
Acceptance of where I am now. Acceptance of making mistakes. Acceptance of other people’s journeys and where they are now.
As Ganga White states in his book, Yoga Beyond Belief, “Yoga is not the goal at all—it is a lifelong process of living and learning that nurtures our being and that enriches the quality of our days.”
And for me, that is refreshing. A goal without an end. One that requires you to enjoy the process. Don't you wish they were all that way?