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Graduation: When Yogis go Wild

When my plane landed in Bali, I remember the distinct feeling of excitement/fear in having just arrived in the place I would be essentially living in for the next two months.  I had no idea what this new world held for me and what my experiences would be like over the coming weeks.  A little thing called time is well known for slipping away from us, and before I knew it the next 6 weeks had come and gone and I was approaching my teacher training graduation.  When I came into this course, all I knew was what the western world had shown me: a series of asana sequences with physical, and maybe some mental, benefits.  Now, I knew enough to be called a “yoga teacher” which includes information in the areas of anatomy, ayurveda, meditation, pranayama, asana, and philosophy.  I felt confident in the skills I had learned over the past 6 weeks, but a large part of me didn’t want this journey to be over.  Couldn’t this group of people just live here and dedicate all of our time and lives to every angle of yoga? Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible, and I knew this was the case as I gathered with the other students for the first part of the graduation ceremony.

yantra building

The Yellow Cloth and flowers to design the Yantra

I wasn’t sure what to expect with the whole graduation process, and when I received instructions to show up in clothes that “I didn’t mind getting dirty,” I became even more curious.  Where we going to be painting something? Were we going to do some karma yoga and clean the whole yoga compound? Are we having a mud fight? I really had no idea, and was a little nervous by my uncertainty.  I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into the yoga studio to find a huge yellow cloth on the floor with baskets of orange, red, pink, and purple flower petals around it.  The yellow cloth had a huge drawing of a yantra, which is a geometrical/artistic image used to concentrate focus for meditation.  They are also just incredibly beautiful.  We were instructed that we would be creating the yantra from the flower petals, or, coloring it in with them at least.  We went in groups, and Emil (our yoga philosophy teacher) was on close watch making sure the colors were right and every speck of cloth was covered with flowers.  It took us about 1 hour to do this, and the picture after was gorgeous.  It was huge design, covering about 5 feet by 5 feet on the floor, totally colored with flower petals.  We all took our pictures, were told to come back looking as beautiful as possible (girls in all red, boys in white), and to be back at 5:30.

final yantra

The Final Yantra

Catherine and I quickly got ready in our little room at Santra Putra trying to be as beautiful as possible by actually wearing make-up (which hadn’t happened in a while) and putting flowers in our hair, etc.  The only red thing I had was a sarong, so I wore that.  As we entered the yoga room at 5:30, all the lights were off and there were candles lit throughout the yantra on the floor.  Everyone looked beautiful and I knew right away that this was going to be special.  I was nervous when hearing the word “ritual” at first, thinking back to my sorority days and all the weird shit we had to do, but I knew this wasn’t going to be like that.  We all sat in a circle around the yantra and started with some nadi-shodana (alternate nostril) breathing.  We all had a flower in front of us, and on the last exhale of our nadi-shodana, we placed the flower under our nose and exhaled all of who we were onto the flower.  We then sat in open eyed meditation for a few minutes, and when we felt ready we all placed our flower on a tray with a candle in front of Emil.  It was also the celebration of Durga, and Emil told a quick story illustrating how the gods created Durga by focusing their attention on one point in order to solve the problem of “too much” or “too little.”  Emil then put the plate with all of our flowers in the center of the yantra, and we all focused on that one point together for about five minutes in open eyed meditation, creating a central point of all our energies.  Emil then took the plate and we went around the circle holding it for the person next to us, while we swept the energy of the candle over our heads with our hands.  This way we all shared each others energies and we connected as one.  As the candle was passed around, I started feeling so elated and emotional.  Being the sap that I am, I started crying about half way through, and had to control myself when I received/gave the candle.  I wasn’t the only one though, most the girls (and maybe even the guys had a tear or two) were crying.  It was obvious that this was a really special moment that I would cherish for the rest of my life.  After we were finished we all got up and took a zillion photos, not wanting to let this moment go.

girlsatgraduation

All of the girls

rachel and the boys

Rachel with the boys

The next morning we got to sleep in past our normal 6 am morning call for meditation, and met for our final ceremony and lunch at around 11.  We all sat in a circle around the yantra again, and went in a circle saying little things about the group and the teacher training that we loved.  Tania of course recited a 5 minute hilarious poem about each and every person in the group, and Suzy sang a maori song of respect.  We then received a bindi from Emil (little red dot on your forehead, like in India), our certificate from Anna and Rachel, a gift from Maurice, a poem from James, and a rose from Danielle.  It was very thoughtful and exciting, but I was still a little sad that it was all over.  After we all received our tokens of graduation, Rachel surprised us by bringing in two balinese dancer girls to do a traditional balinese dance for us.  They were adorable.  One was probably 10 and the other 14.  The older one definitely knew what she was doing, and the younger one was sort of watching her out of the corner of her eye the whole time to make sure she got the steps right.  They were the nieces of Wayan, the women who had been making breakfast and drinks for us over the whole training, who we LOVED.  The dance was very beautiful, and after we all went out for our last ayurvedic meal from Dr. Sujatha.  Everything looked AMAZING.  We all attacked the buffet and totally gorged ourselves in everything from tofu sate to jackfruit curry and delicious rice and vegetables.  Then the desserts came out.  Ice cream, chocolate mousse cake, carrot cake, and a mango-lemon cake.  They all looked sooo good.  I had to have a half slice of each, and maybe a whole slice of the chocolate mousse cake.  We left the table more than satisfied, and made our plans to meet at the Jazz Cafe that night for a little yogi style partying.

balinese dancers

Wayan’s nieces who danced for us

Some of us decided to meet for drinks at a place called “Bar Luna” before Jazz Cafe, and of course when Jason and I decided to head out it started to rain.  We sort of had this problem where whenever we wanted to go somewhere it would start raining, and this was no exception.  I didn’t really know where Bar Luna was, only faint directions that Rebecca had given me and I couldn’t really remember them (the one Bintang I had had already gotten to my head…).  After about 20 minutes of searching, we finally found it, and it was this super cute little cafe in this tiny alley between Monkey Forest and Hanoman Road in town.  Right when we got there it stopped raining, surprise surprise.  We rewarded ourselves with cocktails, and were stoked when we saw the prices were only 40,000 (about $4.50) and that it was 2 for 1 happy hour!  A few drinks later we realized we were late and headed to Jazz Cafe.  Jazz Cafe was this cool little bar and restaurant that played live music at night.  It seemed to be an older scene but once we all got there we made it into the “yogis gone wild” scene.  We were all chatting and eating and drinking, and after a few more drinks started to dance.  We definitely made this place into the biggest party they had seen that year.  Danita our ring leader and dancer/mic stealing singer led the way, and we all quickly followed her onto the dance floor.  We finally got Rachel and Maurice on the dance floor too, and soon other local patrons were joining us.  We all danced and hung out for another couple of hours, and the night was a total blast.  Jason and I scooted our way home toting Christine on the back (yes, we fit 3 people on 1 scooter) at around 11.  We really out-did ourselves this time! Haha, yes, when Yogis go wild.

dancing at jazz cafe

Danita, our ring leader takin’ the stage

heidi and jason

Jason and I after one too many Bintangs

Saying goodbye to everyone was extremely hard.  Over the last 6 weeks we had sort of formed a little yoga family, and were used to having the same people around.  Some of us were traveling together after (Jason and I were going to Nusa Lembongan with Greg and Catherine), but others were leaving right away.  Reflecting back on this time a few weeks later, I can honestly say that I think this 6 week teacher training will probably be the biggest life changing experience I have had as of yet (other then meeting Jason, of course 😉 ). All of the sudden I feel like I have a path and focus to follow that really makes me happy, not just a method to making money.  What exactly will happen from here I really have no idea.  But I feel like if this is the path that I am supposed to be on, then things will probably work themselves out the way they should be.  Hopefully I can get a job teaching some classes at home, and until then my family and friends will be my guinea pigs at my studio at home (hopefully thats ok with them).  All I know is that a whole new world of opportunity has opened itself up to me, and I cant wait to see where it goes.  And the good news is, there’s a 500 hour teacher training after this, so I can experience this all again soon, right? 🙂

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