Yoga tourism and teacher trainings in Bali
The Yoga Barn has a wall that displays posters of its workshops. The teachers are predominantly white.
Travelling to Bali brought up mixed feelings. Happy to be there, certainly, but also confounded by the rampant yoga tourism. Who can blame the people here for giving us what we want? Whether it’s cheap massages (which don’t seem be frequented by the Balinese), asana classes (taught by non-locals) or raw, organic food (the Balinese tend to eat fried rice), I felt like I was sloshing down a tourist water slide. And I also felt like I was in danger of missing the point of travelling to Indonesia.
I didn’t take any yoga classes in Ubud, because I didn’t feel like paying thirteen bucks to go to Geoff’s class in Bali when I can get great yoga at home. I wanted to experience Balinese culture, not western culture set in an Indonesian setting. Maybe everyone else got the memo, but asana is not a Balinese tradition. The Balinese are Hindu, yes, but their daily life revolves around bhakti (devotional) yoga and temple ceremonies. My guide Wayan explained to me that people in Bali seek balance and clarity. Through ceremonies and offerings, they create balance, love, and community. However, there has been a huge uptick in last ten years (especially since Eat, Pray, Love) of yoga-seeking visitors. Bali offers an insane number of yoga retreats and is a hot destination for yoga teacher trainings. I suppose the only reason this bugs me is because Bali has become known as a destination for yoga asana. Which is not Balinese.
Here’s my point. If you’re going to Bali to do yoga or do your teacher training, then know that you are going to a beautiful location to participate in something that is, well, taught by foreigners. It’s like doing your TT in Costa Rica: great setting, great experience, but not indigenous to the local culture. I’m not casting stones: for the first week that I was in Bali, I participated in a yoga retreat where I went to classes taught by a nice gal who had done her teacher training with someone from Colorado. It wasn’t great yoga, but yes, it was a nice vacation.
My advice: if you’re going to make the trek all the way to Bali, don’t settle for just the yoga. Seek out the culture that lies beneath the asana and massage. Go to the temples. Talk to your Balinese drivers. See Balinese dance. Eat Nasi Goreng.
I understand that – unless we decided to make our homes in Bali – we’ll probably never get off the tourist train completely. That’s simply the nature of travel. However, wouldn’t it be more interesting to get on a train that has an Indonesian view?