This is also an invitation to all the participants from this and previous retreats, and to friends of the Ashram, to complete this basic/starter report with their own experiences of the retreats or of the Ashram in general, through the comment section. Some of those comments I may, as I see appropriate, include later in the body of this report (or, if you think it warrants a separate posting altogether, please email me the input directly for uploading and check the email address at www.baliashramyoga.com). Otherwise – enjoy!
Notes: *As we obviously can’t include all photos on the blog, more pictures from the retreat are available in June 2011 Yoga on Flickr **Early feedback from some friends who haven’t been to the Ashram and concerned over the ‘awesome’ photo of the big splash over the breakwater.. That breakwater is the ‘forward wave breaker’ and perhaps 200 odd metres off shore. The zoom camera work from Michele created that awesome picture but it is quite safe even from our outpost bungalows. ***For those missed out on the June retreat (and a bit of a plug), another is scheduled from Sept 25 to Oct 1 and again, details can be viewed at www.baliashramyoga.com
Our Yoga Retreat in a nutshell
One of the participants, Louise, kindly emailed us the following which succinctly describes our yoga retreats..
“..Yvonne Haddelton is a yoga teacher with years of experience and a deep understanding of the wider aspects of yoga. Her predominant force is that of Satyananda – an all encompassing style that includes breathing (pranayama), meditation (Dhyana), postures (Asana) and the wider principles of living such as yamas and Niyamas. However, she draws her teaching from many styles and sources. All of which Yvonne is happy to discuss further during the retreat.
In keeping with Ahimsa (non-violence to self and others & compassion for all living things) Yvonne is an advocate of self love and kindness. This is demonstrated in her practice with her pupils – adapting Asana’s for all abilities and enabling students to identify an intention for each practice (sankalpa) as well as appreciation at the end of each practice. Thereby developing self awareness, gratitude and connectedness.
Ashram Gedong Gandhi is the perfect setting for the retreat with the Gandhian principles of Ahimsa and self-sufficiency being primary. The retreat takes place with an ocean view, surrounded by a gentle breeze and bird song. Meditation and pranayama are held in the upstairs meditation room overlooking the lotus filled pond. These are perfect for enhancing inner awareness, satisfying asana practice and focus on the breath whilst promoting positive well being.”
Thank you Louise!
A retreat’s Diary
Despite a full intention of blogging ‘live’ from the Ashram, the numerous group and Ashram activities simply render that impossible. Yes, we’ve had dramas such as with one of the participants Claire hurting her ankle in one of those crab holes and was attended to by a departing guest chiropractor and was ordered to rest for the ligament sprain. After a couple of days of worsening swollen ankle and walking stick (and conflicting advices), she finally heeded the members’ advice to go to a local injury-masseur medicine man. She was given some manipulation (rather painful I believe) to release “the ligament squeezed between the bones” and was walking without the walking stick within a couple of hours (and promptly wrote on her fb “I now believe in Bali’s medicine man!”). Another was our maintenance man Pak Jata who was also rendered immobile courtesy of a motorcycle bingle as a matter of days prior to the retreat and, of course, as per Murphy’s Law, toward the end of the retreat the two far bungalows duly complied in sympathy with blocked toilets! That called for a mini working bee of the famed Gandhian ‘latrine duties’ with some members which, after some to-and-fro-ing that included a visit by an ineffective plumber who made the wrong call on ‘overflowing septic tank’ then promptly left us stranded, we managed to clear the blockage ( to our relief as the bungalows were booked heavily for arriving guests and we were already struggling with the delicate task of synchronising the check-out and check-in of guests for all the bungalows – ah the downside of ‘success’ do I hear you say?). Well just a couple of examples of the multi-tasking and improvisation needed to deal with the unexpected issues that keep bobbing up at the Ashram (not without its ‘collateral’ damage as I’d been seen to have ‘lost’ it a bit when the multi-tasking got too numerous – and ‘contrition’ at the following pranayama and meditation session!)
Well, this retreat has also been very special to me due to the many unforeseen personal challenges that I had to overcome even before I had the good fortune to land in Bali! Call it pre-destiny or sheer luck, everything fell into place in the very last minutes. The good vibes and karma that go with this Yoga initiative and with our Ashram efforts in general, must have something to do with it..
In the end we had five very vibrant ‘UN’ of participants with Louise and Claire hailing from the UK, Chancy from Hawaii, Juan from Argentina and Michele from Australia each bringing their own special qualities that contributed to the very good dynamics, atmosphere and ultimately the exceedingly good outcome of the retreat. I think the Ashram and our yoga somehow attract these discerning and gentle kind of visitors with the curiosity to delve deeper than the veneer Bali is known for to the average holiday makers. They wish to engage the local people, their lives, their social and environmental issues, spiritual pursuits etc. which the yoga retreat and the ‘not a hotel’ Ashram and its ‘flexibility’ of activities on offer in abundance.
Yoga with Yvonne at Gedong Gandhi Ashram
One complements the other to produce what is a magic experience of yoga and a Gandhian Ashram as described by Louise before – but will leave for others from the retreat and workshop to write their own take and experience. Her years of breathing and teaching yoga showed in her sessions whilst the House Yoga with the accomplished Kawi provided the break and the variety, especially the rather rigorous ‘Kawisana’ pose now adopted by Yvonne in her routines! (thank you Kawi)
We have ‘fine-tuned’ the sessions slightly with the first 7 to 8.30 am session now split equally between warm-up plus some asanas then sun salutation suryanamaskara with its variations at the open air hall ‘Bale Yoga’, followed by pranayama and meditation at the clinic’s upstairs meditation room with views of the pond, the tree tops and the solemn gazes from the paintings of Ibu Gedong and the great man himself, the Mahatma, to further add to the serenity of the room. This is a change from last year’s retreat and it was a great move that was welcome especially by Yvonne. It is much more peaceful away from the arriving kindergarten pupils and their parents (though they happened to be on holidays this time around) and very conducive to meditation, free of time constraints till we hear the gong for breakfast to bring us back to the present!
Breakfast is always an assortment of surprises from pancakes and steamed bananas in batter with syrupy palm sugar, black rice pudding, ‘kolek’ of stewed sweet potatoes and fresh fruits (bananas or, much preferably, jack fruits) in palm-sugared santan or coconut milk which made it very hard to restrain oneself to ‘breakfast in moderation yet allow for enough calories’ in preparation for the mid morning sessions of often quite taxing asanas from 10 am, mostly till till we are ‘gonged’ again for lunch which is at 12.30 pm.
Lunch is the time for a bit of ‘indulgence’ with the array of traditional delicacies, mostly from Ashram’s lands and some, such as the vegetables, from small trees or bananas at the ashram, or specific variety of edible ferns picked from the hills near Tenganan (the ‘early settlers’ Hindu village in Bali) when some members happened to be visiting or returning there, or from young jackfruits. Whatever, our modest cooks simply produced sumptuous lunch and dinner, day in, day out – unbelievable! ( strange if the excitable, heavy French accented voice of Henri Leconte describing some shots at the Australian Open, rings in my ear). I had to abandon (gladly) my reasonably strict diet of salad, fish, nuts and a little rice sans salt and put this temporary aberration to the periodic ‘treats’ and ‘spice of life’ that one should allow oneself periodically, without guilt. Besides, these dishes are simply not available in any restaurant once back in Melbourne..
On house yoga days on Tue, Thurs and Sat 4.30 – 5.45 pm we all joined Kawi’s extraordinary – but always joyful “..if not with a smile it’s not yoga” – classes and on the ‘off’ house yoga days we have our own 3 pm-ish yoga nidra for half hour or so, and some participants opted for afternoon acupuncture or relaxing massages with the lady who used to massage Ibu and also a mother of a couple of former ashram members who still comes to the ashram offering her services (I haven’t had one myself but I believe that she is very good). Night time after dinner the ‘gals’ tended to congregate in one of the bigger bungalows for some yoga discussions and chanting recitals. Somehow Juan never made it and I only made it once as invariably a visitor or two rocked up, or I needed to go for a visit to Budakeling or Amlapura simply to have a bit of ‘time out’ or I simply joined the Ashram members for their night puja.
I joined all the 5 am dawn puja bar one as I find it to be the most moving – perhaps I was still reminded by the romantic presence of a petite, slight but imposing figure of Ibu who used to be there without fail whenever she was at the Ashram. I think I managed to coax Louise, the participant from the UK now temporarily based in Perth, to join me one morning which helped her decide to include some of the English morning puja songs, such as Amazing Grace with all its numerous verses, in her impromptu post lunch English classes for the members, especially to help the younger and newer members (Louise was very busy with Ashram’s voluntary tasks with her ‘down-time’ from the retreat).
We managed only about three, as any more I think some participants would feel ‘rushed’ as there are other things to fit in, such as acupuncture or massage or pujas with the members, or stroll around the Candidasa shops or cafe establishments (the variety/’department’ shop across the road was very popular as it stocks daily needs as well as clothings and knick-knacks at fixed but very competitive prices which I didn’t manage to check out this time around – I simply had things to do and kept saying ‘nanti, nanti’ or ‘later’ which of course, like tomorrow as my boys fondly commented, never came!).
The best one was the full moon or Purnama Puja about 45 mins trip to a temple at the foot of Mount Agung which was simply majestic and appropriate for our Ashram chanting and puja. Though foggy (and very cold as I forgot how cold it could be there, so didn’t tell anyone, hence, most without warm clothing) Mount Agung did allow us a quick peek when the fog temporarily lifted for a close view of the seemingly arm-reachable crater. Won’t write too much as will give others their opportunities to write their personal accounts of the trip. But the picnic dinner (‘ngelungsur’ or communal eating of the ‘blessed-leftover’ of offerings to the gods with the Ashram members) was a new experience for the participants and hopefully something to remember this special trip.
Note for next time: bring flash lights or lantern as shunning temples with Purnama destroying bright, electric lights is one thing but choosing your dish and eating in the dark is another! A kind of ‘lucky dip’ on what you get from these ‘invisible’ dishes..
The other one was the 2 hour plus trekking from one of the back roads to Tenganan from the hills behind, with mainly fruit plantation and the hills on one side and the irrigated paddy fields on the other with Lombok Strait in the distance to make for idyllic shots, except one can not really capture all these on camera, and best left to the mental picture and the presence of the experience. Again will not elaborate for now as may be we may have some contributors about this trip, suffice to say that our timing was fortuitous as it was in the middle of their annual ceremony and their ancient wooden, Ferris wheels (of life) were out of storage – constructed and displayed for 18 days.
The very following day we made a car trip back to Tenganan as it was the start of the annual Pandan Fights for the bare-breasted men and young men of Tenganan as a symbolic military exercise for the defence of their defence oriented enclave. Not a pretty sight as they tried to rub the spiky edge of the pandan leaves on each other’s backs, but the ‘fights’ did not last long (though would still hurts) and I believe that no long term damage or wounds were inflicted. Had it on video as I hadn’t seen this famous annual event before.
By the way, the weather in Bali in the month of June has been excellent. The cool, dry air of the dry season has been perfect which is something that I hadn’t experienced for a long time in Bali. As this should continue to July and August I think next year’s retreat will include one in July (June is a hard one with end of fin year etc) and another one perhaps in October? Still to be worked out but if you have preference, now is the time to make suggestions before we ‘lock-in’ the dates.
Quite a generous spread of food and the Bale Yoga was elaborately decorated. We decided to do the role reversal and served the members first before we helped ourselves to generous servings of the numerous dishes. I had earlier went to Amlapura to do some errands but ran out of time to get cakes for the members and was relieved that they were not needed what with the great amount of food yummy food served that night.
Afterwards (again) the Ashram members performed their great repertoire of songs accompanied by Kawi on guitar, the old ‘genjek’ of Eastern Bali which showed the normally quiet and obliging members in the rather contrasting performance role of an unruly group of men, presumably in drinking session and at the end ‘letting their hair go’, lamenting over the need for education and study for their young ones about to enter (high) school, and to stay away – ironically – from the very same activities the men were indulging on. Perhaps a kind of pressure relief from conforming to the many delicate social constraints demanded on the traditional Balinese – well, they surely ‘let it rip’ on the show! Also the boys and girls performed the more sedate and traditional dances such as the welcome dance etc. I think us the visitors were saved from a complete whitewash by the tango (thanks Juan and Louise) and again Juan with his terrific guitar and singing of Quantanamera and La Bamba in his native Spanish that got all of us dancing! (thank God no one took video of me!). Chancy had us in a spell during the reading of her very moving poem that she wrote at the Ashram which I had asked her for a copy to include here, or the Ashram’s website. I would try to follow up with an email as it really was a good poem, and the reading was sublime. Thank you Chancy. Yvonne played her own song, so most of us had a go of sorts. I belonged to the ‘of sorts’.
Despite the joyous night, there was a touch of the unspoken message of ‘all good things must come to an end’ as the following day participants will start leaving with myself flying in the late afternoon to Jakarta for a two nights’ stay there for the nephew’s wedding reception.
Returning from Jkt I spent another four nights at the Ashram in the company of new guests: a family from Holland Ed, Haneka and daughters Mayka and Sitska (a pure stab at the spellng – slap me on the wrist for mis-spelling and, more importantly, tell me!), and Helmi a young man from Malaysia who were all charmed by the life (and the food!) at the Ashram. Robbie, a yogi student from Satyananda Ashram in NSW, Australia and Jane Sloane, an old friend of the Ashram from Australia, both late arrivals during the retreat week, and Louise who had decided to spend the rest her time in Bali at the Ashram. It was a nice way of cushioning the departure of the core yoga group as we chatted over a number of meals. Louise and I (ok mainly Louise the dynamo organiser) resumed our morning yoga and taking in the class with a number of older and the younger members of the Ashram, which was quite beneficial for everyone I think. Our attempts at leading forced us to try to remember and practise the poses we had with Yvonne which was the best way to practise which was greatly helped by Louise’s very organised and structured notes! On my last morning, however, as Louise missed the session with a stubbed toe and thankfully Rob offered to take the class which definitely saved me from ‘mis-leading’ the class. And Rob was also a good teacher (well, it is his craft!) and the members and me personally picked up a few hints that helped me with some poses (well Yvonne always encourages about trialling different teachers – and she was right). Thank you Rob and I suggested to him to perhaps run the morning classes to complement that of Kawi’s afternoons, esp as the younger members were still on holidays. I intend to stay in touch with Rob.
I will try to include some more pics in this blog and on Flickr and will alert first the participants and previous participants of the retreats for their comments/inputs. However, as some of the participants are still travelling and may not have easy access to the internet, I will keep re-editing this posting with additional material. So keep checking this posting for updates!
Finally, sincere thanks to all the participants, Kawi and all members of the Ashram, Pak Sadra for squeezing us in his super busy schedule, and a host of others who supported our programs right from the start. Without all these goodwills our retreat will not be as meaningful as we had. As we say in Bali – Matur Suksma or Suksma for short.
This retreat builds on the foundation set in September last year and this June 2011 retreat in turn triggers a few ideas which only augur well for our next one in September 25 this year, with the bookings already moving along nicely.