There are not many evenings that you can walk around Ubud without being invited to or at least hearing a performance, usually of dance and gamelan music. The traditional gamelan music carries across Ubud, enticing and inviting to everyone that hears it. One of the best places to hear a concert is just next to the football field in the centre of Ubud, in the large temple. As you walk along the roads next to the field it feels like you are actually attending the concert!
If completely enamoured by the music, on the adjacent side of the field there is a small library, called Pondok Pekak, where they run gamelan lessons. They are very flexible and can organize a gamelan lesson for any group size at any time you want it for Rp.75000 each. (Within one hour of speaking to them, my brother, sister and I were sitting down for our first ever gamelan lesson!)
They have you sit next to each other, each with your own gamelan – essentially a large xylophone with just five repeated notes, A-E. You have two sticks to play with and straight away they test your coordination, having you play a simple motif with both hands at once. It is learnt completely without sheet music so they gradually build up the complexity, giving those who are advancing well new rhythms and tunes to add over the top of the original motif. Not only does this mean that the music becomes more elaborate and varied, it also means that all levels are catered for, as you are left to attempt whichever difficulty you feel up to! As the group gets better you really start to hear the essence of gamelan.
Of course, then the two teachers sit down and show you how it’s done “properly” and you realize just how incredibly complex the art of gamelan really is.
The library itself has an array of books, in a number of genres, fiction and non-fiction. It costs just Rp.300,000 to join, and you can take out 3 books at a time. There is a large number of philosophy books, including some perfect reference books for the topics covered on the Shades of Yoga Teacher Training. It is run by Made, a local Balinese man who also runs Boreh Pijat – catering to your literary and spa needs!
The Shades of Yoga Teacher Training is held in Ubud: a haven for healthy living, with dozens of the restaurants offering delicious raw, vegan and vegetarian meals. While working on your yoga practice and self-awareness, it’s ideal for experimenting with a completely new diet – and quickly, feel the benefits too!
Eating raw is often said to boost energy levels. Because the food is not heated enough to kill the enzymes, let alone the food itself, it still has all its life energy stored inside for you to ingest. This can mean a boost in energy leading to less need for sleep, and more rewarding sleep when you do need it!
If you think back to how the first humans would have eaten, cooking wasn’t an option so it makes sense that our bodies work well with raw food (this may include meat, but that is your dietary preference). Cooking not only destroys some of the antioxidants and enzymes in the food, it can also kill some of the bacteria that can be classed as “good”. Cooking foods in some oils can also produce traces of trans fats, which are very undesirable to add into our diet.
A raw diet, like other diets, will not suit everyone’s body type. Some people will find raw food is cleansing for the mind, body and soul – it can lead to a feeling of heightened awareness and sporadic thoughts, however for some people this is not necessarily positive. In terms of Ayurveda, it can lead Vatta types to become more Vatta!
For most people in the West, raw food may go only as far as a salad. In Bali, the abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and other food stuffs mean raw eating is diverse and delicious, and has a number of health benefits as well. And raw eating does not necessarily mean just fruit and vegetables! It is actually defined as not heating food over 46ºC, which means that food can be prepared using a dehydrator or low temperature oven. This means even warm foods are possible!
So why not try it?
The Kali Yuga is the fourth stage of the yuga cycle described in Indian Scriptures. It follows after Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga and Dvapara Yuga. It is the final stage when Kali, the demon rules over existence. According to the scriptures the Kali Yuga, or Age of Vice, will last 432,000 years before the complete annihilation of the Earth and a new cycle begins with Satya Yuga again. The entire cycle is said to be just one day in the life of Brahma.
We are supposedly now within the Kali Yuga, so lets look at some of the indicative events that were prophesized and see if they apply.
- Rulers will turn away from spirituality and become unjust, raising taxes unfairly
- Wrath and animosity towards our fellow man will be commonplace
- Lust and sexual promiscuity will become seen as acceptable and normal
- Sin, substance addiction and deceit will become more frequent
This is just a basic outline of some of the things we should be watching out for… Seems like we might be ticking quite a few of the boxes that would imply we are descending into the Kali Yuga!
However, there is one last hope before we resign ourselves to a world of descending into Hell. The Indian Scriptures also describe 10,000 Golden Years that occur during the Kali Yuga. During this period, all the saints and gurus will come down to Earth to guide humanity towards Enlightenment so they can escape the disparity of the Kali Yuga. Supposedly we are currently in the middle of the 10,000 years which will be the last time these enlightened spirits will descend to Earth to help us, so now is the time to turn to your Eight Limbs of Yoga and get enlightened – Join the gang who get to escape to the light!
Ayurveda and yoga are both branches of the vedic teachings, that encompass all life and energy in the universe. As each person has an individual ayurvedic make-up which can be used to tailor diet, this constitution can also be used to address yoga practice. For each dosha, there are different ways to approach asana practice that will optimize the effectiveness but also reduce and balance the dominant dosha.
For Vata types
Vata is associated with air and space, and being cool, light and mobile. Because of this, the best approach to asana for vata types is to focus on remaining grounded, warm and focussed. Asanas with strong connections to the ground while keeping the gaze on the horizon or slightly downwards are more beneficial than balancing asana with the gaze thrown to the sky. A slow but steady approach, imagining all movement to be met with resistance will keep the practice focused on strengthening and stamina rather than draining and muscle exhaustion.
For Pitta types
Pitta is associated with fire and water, building up heat, intensity and movement. To pacify the Pitta dosha, an asana practice that incorporates the opposites is preferable. Pitta types should focus on a cooling, relaxed and compassionate practice – moving slowly through poses, concentrating on the exhalations but remaining light-hearted and relaxed throughout. Opening poses and twists help to extend the body, but do not push too hard!
For Kapha types
As almost the opposite to Pitta, the Kapha type is water and earth, comprising density, coolness and apathy. The asana practice should therefore involve movement, feelings of lightness and warmth. The Kapha practice should build heat while moving continuously and incorporating feelings of lengthening upwards. Holding poses for an extra breath, such as balancing poses, will create more focus and awareness to the breath. For Kapha types, it is all about challenging yourself – do not give up.
Once you have determined your Ayurvedic constitution, i.e. balance of pitta, vata and kapha energies, it is important to understand how you can keep the energies in as equal balance as possible. This can be approached through every day life – considering your outlook, exercise regime and, of course, diet. To pacify the dominant energy type, activities and foods that are opposite to the dosha are most effective. “Feeding” your energy type with similar energies will only exacerbate your imbalance.
Someone with a Vata imbalance will prefer cooler, fresh foods, but to pacify vata energy it is best to eat sweet, sour and salty foods. These tastes do the opposite to the bitter or pungent flavours that a Vata type may generally prefer. Sweet flavours, such as wheat, with sour and salty tastes will help to create warmth in the vata body and also moist foods will provide a lacking density to the Vata type.
A Pitta individual may enjoy spicy food, sunbathing for hours, drinking caffeine and alcohol – but these “hot” activities aggravate the Pitta energy. It would be better for Pitta types to tend towards sweet and bitter flavours, turning to a diet of cool, fresh, simpler foods.
In terms of diet, the Kapha energy is almost opposite to that of Vata. The sweet, sour and salty tastes that create warmth and density for a Vata type are exactly what a Kapha individual should avoid. They should tend towards pungent or bitter flavours, such as chilli pepper, green vegetables and herbs. Maintaining a predominantly fresh, clean diet will help reduce the dense, grounded feeling of Kapha energy.
Through maintaining more balance in the diet, all three doshas can work simultaneously – reducing the number of ailments felt, improving digestion and circulation and increasing the general sense of well-being. Because each person has their own individual Ayurveda constitution (Prakriti) no one diet will suit all, and it is important to realize your own doshas in order to adjust your diet and lifestyle accordingly.
Ayurveda has been practiced in India for the last 5000 years. It is an ancient way of interpreting all things on Earth, through three types of energetic dosha. These doshas combine the five different elements – air, fire, water, space, earth.
- Vata energy combines air and space, best represented as light, clear, dry, cold manifestations.
- Pitta energy combines fire and water – it is hot, volatile, mobile, liquid, penetrating.
- Kapha energy is water and earth – it is dense, heavy, stationary, dull, oily.
These three doshas can be seen in everything around us, but nothing would be attributed with just one dosha – there are elements of all the energy types in each individual object or person. A human being may have majority kapha energy, but it does not mean they do not possess pitta or vata energies as well. Ayurveda, and its teachings for a healthy life, require a balance of these energies, whereby we work to ensure that there is no one prevalent dosha.
The Vata Type:
Someone who is predominantly Vata will tend to be fast, creative and somewhat “flighty”. Their body tends to be slender, with dry skin, small lips and dark eyes. They will often dislike cold weather, be prone to anxiety and depression. Vata is generally associated with movement, so all the motions of the body – chewing, breathing, muscle movement and elimination.
The Pitta Type:
A Pitta type may have an assertive, fiery character; a medium build with rosey complexion and large appetite; warm body temperature and a disposition to sweat. They tend to be intelligent with a clear memory, but can also be jealous and sexually passionate. Pitta is associated with transformation, so all the sytems in the body –digestion, perception, temperature control and metabolism.
The Kapha Type
Kapha types tend to be of a larger frame, with pale complexion and full lips. They prefer the familiar, routine and can be passive; requiring long periods of deep sleep. They have good endurance and stamina; food and security are often important. It is associated with structure, so is linked to the skeleton, organs and fatty molecules making up the body’s form.
To find out your Ayurvedic constitution and more information on the doshas, go to www.banyanbotanicals.com/ayurveda.html.
To the untrained eye, and even the untrained yogi, Mountain Pose may seem to be just standing there having a rest before taking off on another sun salutation. However, the Mountain Pose, or Tadasana, is actually one pose where all the muscles, bandhas and diaphragmatic breathing are engaged. This is not to say that the whole body is tensed, but it should be a sturdy and unmovable yoga posture, like a mountain.
The directions below can be used to ensure that Tadasana is done correctly. You will know when you are doing it right because of the feeling of grounding and stability that reverberates through the body. In fact, you should build up heat in the body (and even sweat!) with the amount of energy pulsing through you.
- Stand with the feet hip width distance apart (measured by putting your two fists between your insteps)
- Lift and spread the toes, before grounding them back down and pushing into the floor
- Turn the heel slightly in, so you have the feeling of the feet stabilizing from three points – the heel, big toe and little toe (pada bandha)
- Engage the calf and quadracep muscle group, whilst “lifting” the kneecaps (so as not to lock the knees out)
- Tuck the tailbone inwards without tensing the buttocks, engaging moola bundha
- Lift the shoulders and roll them back down away from the ears, opening the chest
- Keep the head on a long neck, with the chin slightly down to open the airway down the back of the throat, engaging jalandhara bundha
- Don’t forget about the arms – keep the intensity going right down to the fingertips.
By following these instructions, you should feel every part of your body is working in some way. Once in the posture, you can close your eyes and use it as an opportunity to focus on your diaphragmatic breathing which will further intensify the posture by strengthening your core.
Good for your yoga class, and also great way to work your muscles while standing in line at the supermarket or bank!