Pretty Girls Do Yoga
In truth, attractively challenged girls do yoga too it just didn’t make for as catchy a blog title. Plus that’s what I noticed as I was looking around my Forrest Yoga class when I was supposed to have my eyes closed, “looking into myself”, or something equally esoteric, as our teacher Kat had instructed. I scanned the room. “Hmmm…there are quite a few pretty girls in this class” I thought to myself. None as pretty as my darling wife of course. That said she was often still comatose in our bed as I slipped out of the wooden double doors of our villa into the early morning sunshine to head to The Yoga Barn, one of several places of yogic worship in Ubud.
Ubud, located in the mountains to the north on the island of Bali, is about as diametrically opposed to New York City as you can get. The pace is slow, the local people are outwardly friendly and all the Westerners (expats and tourists alike) seem to be on a quest for healthy living; eating vegetarian, drinking daily wheatgrass shots (only slightly less disgusting than a shot of Jaeger), getting massages, and, of course, practicing yoga.
Francesca and some of the “tight white guys”.
The first class I took was called “Tight White Guy” and the tag line was “You don’t have to be white, you just have to be tight.” Since my hamstrings are about as tight as a tube top on an opera singer I figure I qualified on all three requisites. Francesca joined me while Brett, our American yoga teacher, took us through a series of poses that stretched out our entire bodies and got us into a relaxed state of near meditation.
One of the main goals of yoga seems to be to correct poor posture and Brett was constantly reminding us to lengthen our spine saying things like “pretend someone has a string attached to the top of your head and is pulling you up by it.” He would also have us stretch out our feet and legs long and our arms over our heads calling it “the yogic rack.” He was continually telling us to breathe into a stretch until it “felt juicy”. I had no idea what a juicy stretch should feel like, but I got a kick out of him saying that.
The Yoga Barn
I definitely enjoyed my first class, but it didn’t seem like hard core yoga and I needed more to be convinced if it was really for me. Francesca and I met a girl named Sharon at Jan and Avi’s party the night before who encouraged us to take the 7am Pranayama yoga class taught by “Skye” as it was a great way to get your day started. We winced as she mentioned the start time and she laughed and said “people in Ubud get up around 6am.” The next morning I dragged myself out of bed at 6:30am and donned the only wardrobe I thought would be yoga-acceptable – a pair of loose, brown drawstring pants purchased in the Night Market in Laos and my favorite yellow t-shirt from Bangkok that read “Free The Weed” on it. Francesca respectfully declined so I set out on our scooter by myself to cover the short distance to “The Barn” (as the cool kids call it).
Sharon – who did not show up that morning – was right. It was an excellent way to start the day and I felt invigorated and alive. I was glad that I took the Tight White Guy class the day before as I felt more confident in knowing some of the basic poses. During Skye’s class I also improved my siddhasana pose, essentially sitting “Indian style” (although that’s probably not p.c. anymore). As you can see from the photo below I was still not very flexible (ideally my knees would be touching the floor), but I was now able to sit up tall and straight on my Ischial Tuberosity (aka “sits bones”) for a longer period of time.
Tight White Guy
What made the class seem more authentic than Brett’s TWG class was that for one, Skye was Indonesian and two, she would use the Hindu terms for all of the postures and chant mantras during certain poses encouraging us to chant along with her. That said, it was mostly a stretching and breathing class and we only got into a few of the basic yoga poses, but I was hooked nonetheless. I couldn’t wait to return the next day for the 8:30am Hatha Yoga class which was a hugely popular (and apparently more difficult class).
The entrance to The Yoga Barn from the inside looking out.
That night we went out hard with our local friends Jan and Avi and didn’t get home until about 4am so needless to say neither Francesca nor I made it to the 8:30am class, but I managed to drag my alcohol reeking body to the 10:30am Forrest Yoga class. This class was taught by an American girl from Boston named Kat. (That sounds like a very yoga teacher name doesn’t it?). Forrest Yoga is, according to the blurb in the brochure, “about breath, strength, integrity and spirit” and is essentially a core workout.
I was curious to know more so I googled “forrest yoga” and found the following entry. It seems to have been invented by a former bulimic, alcoholic, epileptic. Wow, now I get it.
Forrest Yoga is the invention of west-coast yoga teacher Ana Forrest. Known for her acrobatic, dance-like yoga demonstrations, Forrest drew upon her personal history of abuse, epilepsy, alcoholism, and bulimia to create an intensely physical vinyasa-style practice that aims to heal psychic wounds. Forrest incorporates elements of Native American healing, encouraging students to go deep within and to use their yoga practice as therapy. Forrest Yoga pays special attention to abdominal work and breathing. Vigorous sequences of poses are intended to build heat in order to sweat out toxins and release emotions stored in the body.
Looking up at the ceiling of The Yoga Barn from savasana or “corpse pose”. I like this pose. It’s just resting.
While I found myself getting into yoga I still didn’t feel completely at ease with the jargon. Kat would say things that I just didn’t know what to do with. For example, she would say “breath into your pelvis” or “find your truth” and I’d look around the room like “WTF, does anybody know what the heck she is talking about?” Of course I’m sure the majority didn’t, but much like surfing, looking cool in a yoga class is the primary goal of many practitioners it seemed.
Zen fountain in The Yoga Barn courtyard.
Francesca and I did make it to the 8:30am Hatha Yoga class on our last day in Ubud and it was definitely the most challenging session yet. This class is taught by a British woman (who’s name I did not catch) and it is a very popular class, always a packed house.
Hatha Yoga class.
This class was definitely more hard core as the teacher took us quickly through the basics (child’s pose, cobra pose, upward facing and downward facing dog and camel pose) and then into some more challenging poses (like warrior poses I & II, tree pose and eagle pose) and finally to ones that my body had no business attempting (like cow-face pose, shooting bow pose and lotus pose). I definitely felt like a tight white guy during that class. To make matters worse the teacher would come around and force my body into positions and hold it there. Isn’t that illegal? In a soothing, mellow voice she would say “let me know if this is too much”, but of course she had bent my body into a pose that cut off my windpipe so I was unable to inform her.
Francesca not happy about having to wake up early for a yoga class.
But we lasted the entire class and I felt great; stronger, more flexible, more empowered. I found by the end of the week that I was walking straighter and taller and with more confidence. There may actually be something to this yoga thing after all. Both Francesca and I think we’ll continue with yoga once we get to Los Angeles. Then again, maybe we liked it so much because of the zen-like environment we were in. Doing yoga in a thatched roof hut looking out over rice fields definitely adds to the experience.
View from The Yoga Barn studio.