Monday, April 9, 2012

Ashtanga World in Ubud, Bali

My husband and I were visiting Bali as part of our current round the world project, Year of the Durian. As an Ashtanga practitioner, I was pleased to discover that Bali also features a Jois-certified Ashtanga center, Ashtanga World. It had been awhile since I had worked with a teacher, and I was hoping to both re-inspire myself and get some help with a few particular postures.

Downtown Ubud is the yoga hub in Bali, the paradise vacation island. Of the 17,000 islands that make up the Indonesia archipelago, 95% of tourists visit only Bali. Ubud is only one of the many tourist hotspots, famed in the guidebooks for its displays of cultural dance and theater, its temples, its spas and retreat centers, and its organic, veggie-friendly restaurants. Hinduism is the major religion in Bali, and it meshes perfectly with the yoga atmosphere in Ubud. It's an upscale India, with more raw food restaurants and yoga shops than I've ever seen in one city.

Being a raw foodist in Bali is a snap. Decently priced tropical fruit is available at the two western-style grocery stores, Coco-mart and , as well as at a dedicated fruit market, Moana Fresh. For the more adventurous, check out Ubud's Central Market early in the morning. The real deals however, are found in the wee hours of the morning at the wholesale markets. Talk to one of the small warung owners, and they will most likely be happy to supply whatever you desire. I actually went to one of these markets with Bege, in search of durian for our project. Ubud is also loaded with raw and raw-friendly restaurants. For a complete list of raw-friendly accomodations and restaurants, check out And if Ashtanga isn't your thing, you can check out The Yoga Barn, IntuitiveFlow, Taksu Yoga, or one of the many other yoga themed packaged retreats offered by spas and nice hotels.

Ashtanga World is a small yoga studio in a neighborhood called Nyuh Kuning, only  a 15 minute walk through the Monkey Forest from Ubud's main strip. There are many nice places to stay right next to the studio, but because we are budget travelers we opted for one of the many cheaper guesthouses in the downtown area of Ubud.  On our first day in Ubud we decided to find out where the yoga studio was before picking a guesthouse, and so walked through the Monkey Forest carrying our uneaten lunch: a bag of bananas. I recommend that you don't repeat this. Within minutes of entering the forest the monkeys had stolen the bananas and were going for our water bottles!
Prem and Radha are old-school Ashtangis. Prem was one of Guruji's first students back in the 1970's, and Radha began her practice more than twenty years ago.  They are dedicated to preserving the integrity of the series, as they were taught it by Guruji. Class starts at 8 AM, and only traditional Mysore style is offered. They request that you are at least familiar with the series before arriving, and that you are dedicated to learning the Ashtanga practice. As it says on the website :"If you are just interested in dabbling in a few classes as an extra activity during your travels in Bali, there are other places that can better accommodate your yoga needs."

I happened to be there during a teacher-training workshop, and studio was crowded.  Every day was an intense, deeply focused session. Prem and Radha are "on" the entire two hours, roaming between the yoga mats assisting poses and barking corrections from across the room. Their approach is "tough love", and woe betide the unfortunate beginner who has lied about their proficiency. Several people arrived while I was there who said they knew the Ashtanga sequence, and then started doing postures all out of order. If you want to really get Radha's goat, do backbending after shoulder stand and head stand.

That said, they serve what they promise on their website -- a focused space, detail-oriented personal adjustments, and a traditional understanding of the Ashtanga yoga practice. I arrived with some idea of what I wanted to accomplish, and this experience reminded me of the importance of not getting ahead of myself and really establishing a foundation based on doing even the "easy" postures correctly. It's always better to ask then do it wrong. I walked away feeling like I learned some tricks for setting up a posture correctly and also improved my focus, something that has always been a struggle for me. It was nice to reconnect with the yoga community, and watch some amazing yogis and yoginis doing more advanced second series postures. I was re-inspired!

Me with Prem and Radha


  1. Great article. Ive been thinking of going there and this is just one more sign that I should:) Thanks for sharing.

  2. Loved having you Lindsay! Come back when you can and happy durian hunting :^)
    Love Prem & Radha

  3. Great Article Lindsay,
    Love Prem and Radha and the space they provide!


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