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What a cliché to sit here under a coconut tree at the terrace of the Yoga Barn and journal about my broken heart. I need time to just sit with my thoughts and what better place than a yoga retreat in Ubud, Bali. Perhaps it’s just trend started by Elisabeth Gilbert, but on the other hand, I sense something unusually spiritual around me. Bali is not called the ‘Island of Gods’ for nothing. Maybe the atmosphere is us all here – searching for something, perhaps finding a way home.
A yoga retreat in Ubud in Bali was on my bucket list for years and this spring I was finally able to make it happen. Bali offers yoga retreats for every taste and budget around the island, but Ubud is the best-known centre for all things spiritual and practicing yoga and meditation.
The book by Elisabeth Gilbert and its adaptation to film, Eat Pray Love, has made Ubud into a popular destination among western travellers for the past years. But Ubud has been the spiritual centre of Bali for much before the rise in tourism, and the name Ubud is derived from the word Ubad, meaning medicine. Archeologists have discovered signs of spiritual rituals from Ubud that date to a time before the common era. The possible beginning of Ubud’s role as a spiritual centre was a vision of a perfect green tropic with its temples by a Buddhist priest Rsi Markandey during meditation. This led to possibly thousands of years of yoga and meditation practice in Ubud.
The Yoga Barn – an affordable and easy option for an independent yoga retreat in Bali
The Yoga Barn must be one of the most popular centres for yoga in Ubud and all of Bali. I used a lot of time considering many different options, but the Yoga Barn had so many recommendations, and it seemed like an easy place to start my own adventure in Bali. The price for a week-long retreat can stack up quickly as most of the time they include staying in a perfect villa with all the yoga classes and raw food included. Located in the heart of Ubud, The Yoga Barn offers retreat packages, but you can easily piece together your own package and in the best case save money, just as I did. Find out more about tailored and ready-made retreat packages here.
This is how I tailor-made my dream yoga retreat in Bali:
I booked my accommodation directly from the Yoga Barn with one yoga or meditation class for each day and added different treatments during my stay. On a couple of days, I had healthy raw vegan food at the Yoga Barn’s restaurant before venturing out to elsewhere in Bali.
The downside of an independent tailor-made yoga retreat is that you might not necessarily meet others introducing yoga into their life or get the support you might want. I have practiced yoga and meditation before and met new people in the restaurant
and on some of the classes.
I enjoyed my experience of The Yoga Barn, but in all honesty, I found the dozens of western yogis in their identical Lulu Lemon leggings and mandalas slightly amusing at times. A lot of them had once upon a time been enlightened in India and now practiced meditation all day long with their crystals in line. I understand spirituality up to a point, but to fully enjoy the experience, it was sometimes best to take some distance from the others and skip a couple of the meditation classes which were too eccentric for my taste. If you aren’t already a dedicated yogi, you could find the environment even a little lacking in authenticity at times – if you can live with that, an independent yoga retreat at Bali’s Yoga Barn could be just the thing for you.
The daily yoga and meditation classes of the yoga retreat
The Yoga Barn offers multiple yoga and meditation classes daily. It’s not possible to book the classes beforehand, and you must book around half an hour before the start of the class. Arrive early especially for the more popular classes, because they do fill up sometimes. There can be more than 15 classes available during a day.
I took part in a couple of meditation classes and yin-yoga. The yoga classes take place in two different spaces. One of them is an open space among the trees of the jungle covered by a roof, and the other is an inside space, which still has large windows that are often kept open, and the view is one of green nature.
The Yoga Barn’s yoga classes are large and often they can have as many as 60 participants, so don’t expect very individual training. If you are at least somewhat familiar with yoga, the large number of people is not necessarily a problem.
In the last couple of years, I have learned about the power of meditation and noticed a couple of minutes of morning meditation does help. At the Yoga Barn, I took part in two guided meditations that lasted for over an hour, but I have to admit I never reached such deep states as some of the other yogis during either of the classes. I giggled at a cute small lizard and checked the time, when some of the meditators cried, laughed and were shaking somewhere in their own deep meditation worlds.
One yoga class costs 130 000 Indonesian rupiah, which is around eight euros. You can save a little bit of money by buying a card that gives you access to a couple of classes as I did.
In addition to yoga and meditation classes, The Yoga Barn offers different types of courses and events from full moon meditations guided by a shaman to making your own Mandala jewellery. You can book workshops and events beforehand.
What was it like to visit a spiritual healer at the Yoga Barn?
I wanted to add one ‘healing session’ experience to my yoga retreat so I could make the most of it. The Yoga Barn has several different spiritual healers available with their own specialist areas. I wasn’t sure what to expect at the practice of a spiritual healer, but I booked myself a one-hour session with an Australian woman Kerry Clancey.
The hour reminded me of conventional therapy, and at the very beginning, I had to admit I wasn’t sure why I had come to see a healer. Kerry carried out a hypnotic exercise with me, in which I returned to my childhood and at the end, I was surprised by how emotionally powerful this experience as a whole was.
At the end of the one-hour session Kerry cleansed my chakra with crystals, but I didn’t feel anything and I admitted this to the healer. Fortunately, she understood me and gave me other instructions for improving my own mental wellbeing at the end of the session.
I recommend trying out a healing session as part of your own yoga retreat at least once.
Ayurvedic spa KUSH and daily treatments
KUSH is an ayurvedic spa in the middle of Yoga Barn. It offers massages and different treatments from colon cleansing to facials. I booked two relaxing full body massages and one pedicure beforehand and got a small discount on the package. The price for a one-hour massage varies between 12 and 25 euros.
I planned at the beginning of my stay to book a juice cleanse that lasts for a couple of days, but the package automatically included colon cleansing, which I was not mentally prepared for this time.
All the massages were excellent for relaxing and the masseuse professional. Note that you have to wear disposable underwear provided for the full body massage. Arrive 15 minutes before the massage. The session starts with a relaxing welcome tea.
The Nest and other options for accommodation at the Yoga Barn
Many visit The Yoga Barn just for yoga classes and to eat even if they are staying elsewhere in Ubud, but I wanted to stay here for more than one reason – the location is in centre of Ubud and suits travellers who can’t ride a scooter, the accommodation is
good quality for the price and a yoga retreat is always a bit more relaxing if you don’t have to spend time travelling to classes every day.
The Yoga Barn’s older side of accommodation in the Guest House offers comfortable double rooms and dorm rooms. The nine double rooms and one four-person dorm room share a small swimming pool. I didn’t get to see them, but they have received good
I stayed at the new side of The Yoga Barn, the Nest, which is a separate building with a couple of rooms in a quiet area on the edge of Yoga Barn (although during the day time there is some noise from a nearby school). The Nest offers slightly higher quality double rooms and a dorm room. Dorm rooms cost around 20 euros a night and doubles around 80 euros per night.
The Nest doesn’t have its own swimming pool, but I was pleased with my choice of accommodation. The room was very stylish and quiet at night. This was also my safe haven when I needed some time alone without being surrounded by yogis.
Garden Kafe: raw vegan food and fresh-pressed juices
Garden Kafe is located at the Yoga Barn site and offers healthy options from raw vegan food to smoothies and ayurvedic specialities throughout the day. Most of the products are vegan, but for example, at breakfast they also serve omelette.
The Yoga Barn has juice cleanses of different lengths for sale, but the food here is so good and healthy that I would focus on that instead. I’m not the biggest fan of raw food, but a week of the offerings from Garden Kafe was good for me, and nearly all of the food was surprisingly delicious – the biggest thumbs up goes to raw vegan lasagne, trust me on this one!
Of course, The Yoga Barn is in such a central location in Ubud that you should visit other restaurants in the city too while you’re there. In addition to Garden Kafe, there is a street-level juice bar which has smoothies, juices, kombucha, and fresh coconuts from morning to evening.
Flights to Bali: Qatar Airways allows you to start the health retreat already on the plane
I think the best route from most of Europe to Bali is on the wings of Qatar Airways. I choose a longer layover between my flights on purpose and do every time I fly through Doha so I can spend a day in the city before the connecting flight. I spent a day in Doha on this trip too.
This time I decided to start my health retreat already during the flight, as Qatar Airways offers healthy meal options on its flights for all passengers. I always recommend trying the Arabic mezze as a starter if you fly business. I flew in business class, where the options always include something healthy. All passengers can book healthier meal options such as gluten-free, reduced salt, low calory, and low fat, as long as you make the booking at least 72 hours before the departure. See all the healthy options available on Qatar Airways flights here.
When it comes to drinks, the options on offer are for example quality tea and chai-latte with saffron. If your yoga retreat allows and you fly in business class, don’t miss the chance to try their 2016 Californian Chardonnay – trust me on this one. Without noticing, I had booked all my flights for the middle of the night, so I could not take good pictures of the food.