Like so many of us, my life in the UK involves spending a lot of time sitting at a desk staring at a computer for hours on end. As you can imagine this does nothing but bad things to my posture, mood and overall sense of wellbeing. It is often said that a change is a good as a rest and so I set off on holiday with my sister for a change of scene. Rather than lay motionless on a beach in the sun we opted to go to Bali to seek out adventure. We chose one trip that blends adventure with something a bit more zen – The River and the Volcano plus an extra day of meditation and yoga.
Get your boots on we’re off to climb Mount Agung, Bali
Our trip featured an amazing climb up Mount Agung; we set off way before dawn and were rewarded with an amazing sunrise with spectacular views over Lombok and Bali. It’s actually pretty hard work climbing this mountain so you’d need to be in good shape to get to the top. Sadly my sister had broken her toe four weeks prior which added to the effort level somewhat! We managed to get half way up before the path became too narrow with lots of loose stones, far too treacherous for a poorly toe. We still had fabulous views and watched the sunrise so it was definitely worth it! Memories of the mountain will stick with me forever but the thing that really changed my life happened the next day in Sidemen at the Nirarta Centre.
A taste of yoga, meditation and chakra with a bonafide holy man
The Nirarta Centre is a living awareness, yoga and meditation centre set in a pretty valley full of rice terraces. I took part in a two-hour yoga and meditation class followed by an hour of chakra massage, both were led by Mangku Mastra, a local priest and Bayu Surya mediation master. Chakra massage was new to me and I really didn’t know what to expect. I’d describe it as a healing massage where you learn about what causes your body’s stresses and strains as they are eased away – it is a great mix of curative and preventative treatment. Mangku Mastra picked up lots about my mental well-being and overall health from the issues he found in my muscles. The whole experience is very spiritual with a lot of prayer and energy based worship, at first it felt a little strange as a non-religious person but on reflection I found it incredibly positive and an experience I’ll never forget.
As Mangku Mastra assessed me he found that I had a pain in the right side of my abdomen when pressed, this was caused by a build-up of gas, which he explained is a sign that I was holding onto too much anger about people in my life. He said I should forgive them and let go of the anger, I was also encouraged to think about the people I might have caused similar stress to so that I can internally apologise for my actions and be mindful of my behaviour when I next see them. If the situation means an apology is appropriate he recommended doing so.
The next thing he found was a pain in my head whilst he massaged it. He explained that because I overthink things I get stressed, he urged me to avoid this. My back has a whole host of issues caused by the computer time I mentioned earlier, he called it being lazy and said I need to be more active. He also found pains in my feet and explained that they are caused by intermittent poor circulation, I can help resolve by walking on big stones with bare feet. In practice it will be my own DIY version of reflexology and will stimulate blood flow around my whole body. My legs were sore but that was more likely because of four hours of volcano trekking and two hours of yoga rather than any longstanding reason.
Looking back, it really was an overwhelming and fascinating experience. I am determined to practice yoga and meditation as often as I can, ideally every day. I’d also encourage everyone to try yoga and meditation so to start I’ll share some of Mangku Mastra’s exercises with you:
A guide to meditation
• Place your index fingers and thumbs in a circle – your index finger represents ego and your thumb represents happiness – together they balance each other out. Your little finger represents thinking, your ring finger represents speaking and your middle finger represents action.
• Hold this position and then start with some breathing exercises – breath in and circulate your breath around the seven chakra points (crown, third eye, throat, heart, solar-plexus, sacrum and root).
• When your breath is in your solar-plexus you should hold it and count to 28 before breathing out whilst counting to 14.
• Do this for approximately 10 mins before going into the poses shown in the photos.
Strike a pose
1. Feet together and arms up towards an imagined sun and blue sky – this generates and absorbs energy.
4. Feet together and one arm up with head tilted to the sky. Imagine one of the sun’s nine planets moving from the tips of your fingers and down over your body to your legs and feet, absorb the energy of this planet as it moves.
Each of these positions should be held for a minimum of five minutes and maximum of 10 minutes. Try to do this once before breakfast and once before dinner.
• Hold your right foot in your left hand and put your right hand straight above your head
• Close your eyes and count to twenty
• Hold your left foot in your right hand and put your left hand straight above your head
• Close your eyes and count to twenty
• Do this three times on each side
• Put your arms out to the side and hold one leg 90 degrees behind you
• Focus your eyes to the front
• Hold as you count to 20 before swapping sides
• Do this three times on each side.
• Lay face down and grab both feet behind your back
• Pull up into boat position (rocking on stomach)
• Hold and count to 20.
• On your back hold your legs up at 90 degrees and count to 10
• Lower them slowly whilst counting to 10
• Do this three times.
• Progress the previous pose so that your toes are over your head
• Hold and count to 10
• Slowly raise your legs up and then bring them down to the floor (feet together and straight) whilst counting to 10
• Do this three times.