The following was written by NYC-based yoga teacher, Alanna Kaivalya...
Alanna is in Ubud, Bali where she is currently contributing to Radiantly Alive’s teacher training and having a general good time. Learn more about her adventures below!
As I sit at a beautiful cafe in Bali overlooking a lush ravine with a river flowing down below I can’t help but think to myself, “How did I get here?” This is a question I’m actually often asked by yoga students while on the road, “How did you get to do what you do now.” You’d think after 6 years and several loops around the world that I’d have a fast and savvy answer for inquiring minds.
But, here’s the simple truth. I have no idea. The first stamp in my passport was in 2005 to Australia where I taught yoga for a month. It’s been pretty much non-stop since then and all I can really say is that it’s a dream come true. When I began as a yoga instructor over a decade ago, I knew from the get-go that somehow I’d have to turn into a traveling yoga show, otherwise it was gonna be a no-go for me.
These days, I spend about 50% of my time on the road, which leaves me the other half to spend enjoying my time in my home base – New York… in my estimation the greatest city on the planet. It’s okay if you don’t agree with that sentiment, but I’d be happy to debate you until I’m blue in the face! While on the road, I generally make my way to points West all over America and often hop over so far west that I end up in what is often considered “the far east” in places like India, China, and probably my favorite place, Bali.
Bali is an extraordinary island. Long before the Eat, Pray, Love crowd started flocking to discover it’s charm, people have been eating, praying and loving here like crazy. Despite slightly over-commercialized hotspots like Kuta and Ubud (I love both places intensely, by the way) it also has small villages filled with people who spend 25% of their day in prayer. First time I landed on this island in 2008, I could feel the subtle shift in the quality of the air here, which is filled with incense, prayer and ritual. The moment I landed, I knew it was a place I could get used to, and also a place where the yoga practices I’d come to love have a real life of their own.
This is my fifth time in Bali and I’m starting to feel as if it’s my second home. My friend, Nyoman, has brought me to his home and shown me how to pray. He emails me periodically before I come to find out if the things I’ve asked the healer for have come to fruition (they have by the way, all of them). This time around, he’s taken me to the largest temple on Bali to pray to the goddess and arranged for me to see a famous Balinesian priest who told me about my life and my future. I’m supposed to live to be 90 years old. Awesome.
I try to do my best to engage in all these things not as a tourist, but as a full participant. Despite my blonde hair, blue eyes and shockingly white skin (we haven’t seen the sun in New York in 6 months), I sit on concrete floors and hold flowers up with prayer hands to my forehead. I loved the rituals of yoga before I came to Bali, but now that I’m here, it feels like these rituals have come to life right before my eyes and heart.
Now, I don’t want to get all cheese-balled out and metaphysical with this little travelog. Not my style. But, at some point all the “doing” of yoga has to become the “living” of yoga, and it’s supremely easy to do in a place like Bali where the locals have been telling the tale of the Ramayana through dance, chant and fire for centuries. Sure, the island has it’s typical island charms like other fabulous places. It has coconuts, palm trees, sandy beaches, fancy food, lots of sun and jungly spots. What it offers that other places don’t, however, is this living, breathing opportunity to make real the practices and rituals we engage in as yogis. People laugh and smile with an impeccable kindness and generosity. They raise their hands in prayer as they say hello. They speak of things in terms of the gods and goddesses we have printed on our yoga tops or tattooed on our skin.
Bali makes the esoteric personal and gives me a living, breathing context of my lifestyle and work. And, I love context. Just ask students who come to my classes – I’m a huge fan of finding a framework upon which to lay our experiences. No place on the planet, including India (gasp!) has done this for me like Bali has. For example, to get back to the retreat center I’m staying at, I have to take a right at the big statue of Arjuna wielding a bow standing on horseback. Interestingly, I just taught about the Bhagavad Gita today to a group of students who listened in rapt attention at the tribulations of this mighty warrior they’d recognized in that statue.
But wait, this is a travelog! Shouldn’t I be telling you about all the secret hidden hotspots and best places to have Gado Gado – a favorite Balinesian salad? I can tell you all that, for sure. Though, the only hotspot that truly interests me is the located in the center of my own chest. While I may call New York home, my spirit feels like it comes home every time I land in this place. I hope that someday you’ll experience this same kind of homecoming wherever your journeys may take you… in the meantime, I’ll give you a namaste-back guarantee that you can find it here.
Alanna is currently writing from Ubud, Bali, where clearly, she loves it. She’s looking forward to returning home in June to New York, her dog, Roxy, and her awesome Queens apartment.
Want to join Alanna in Bali? Sign up for her retreat with Dave Stringer this Fall – click here for more information!