Photo credit Matt Madd

Ubud Yoga: a guide for beginners

I’ve always considered myself quite the yoga enthusiast.

I’ve dabbled in hot yoga, yin yoga, power and hatha, completed 40-day challenges, spent far too much money at Lululemon and practiced with a very legit Yogi in India. However, it wasn’t until I arrived in Ubud that I realised I was a bit of a yoga-fraud.

There I was clambering out of my airport taxi, completely unaware that I had just stepped into a world-renowned yoga hangout. Perhaps it was my lack of research, perhaps it was because I pressed ‘stop’ on Eat, Pray, Love before Elizabeth had finished her spaghetti, or perhaps I was just not the yoga-guru I imagined myself to be. Whatever the reason, Ubud’s plethora of yogic-activities took me by surprise and sent me straight to asana-heaven.

It’s not difficult to see why yoga buffs are drawn to the town. It’s a pretty magical place. Set high in the Balinese rainforest, Ubud is a maze of rice paddies, hanging vines and green ravines. The environment is tranquil and the vibes chill. With everything from late-night anusara to early-morning Tibetan bowl meditation, this town has a class to suit every chakra need.

It’s not difficult to see why yoga buffs are drawn to the town. It’s a pretty magical place.

Here’s what you need to know to get the most of out the Ubud yoga scene:

Ubud Yoga Studios

Photo credit Tiger Mask
Photo credit Tiger Mask

Intuitive Flow

Penestanan Kaja

Head to the top of Campuhan steps and take a right. Intuitive flow sits atop one of the highest points in Penestanan, and the view from the studio windows is breathtaking. Maybe even the best in town (you heard it here first). You can be head down, bum up in downward dog and still watch on as tiny figures go about their day’s work in the surrounding rice paddies. Alongside traditional hatha yoga, studio owner Linda specialises in Yoga Pranala, a very low impact, and meditative form of healing. So expect chanting, and lots of it.

Yoga Barn

Jalan Hanoman

Ah, the Ubud Yoga Barn! Possibly the most well-known and celebrated of all of Bali’s Yoga studios. With a trusty collective of international teachers and a huge range of classes spanning everything from iyengar to yin, Yoga Barn offers the discerning yogi incredible diversity. This is a vibrant studio with an emphasis on socialising, so if you’re looking to make new, likeminded yoga friends then this is the perfect place to start. Offering retreats, master classes, teacher training and on-site accommodation, this studio has the young and hip yoga scene covered. Plus, Yoga Barn yogis tend to gravitate to Cafe Kafe, so you can pull up a seat and have a chat with other likeminded folk over a macrobiotic rice bowl.

Taksu Yoga

Jalan Goutama Selatan

Agung is a super gentle, softly spoken Balinese yoga teacher who takes a calming, yet intense, hatha class. If you can imagine practicing your pranayama breathing while suspended high above a lush valley, then you’d be spot on. This open-air studio perches on the edge of a deep, green ravine and the shade is a welcome relief from Bali’s humidity. Taksu’s main point of difference is its intimate class size. With close teacher-student interaction, the space makes for easy alignment correcting and personal advice. Taksu also offers African Dance, Touch & Flow Contact Dance and day spa facilities, if you’re wanting to indulge a little more.

Radiantly Alive

Jalan Jembawan

With huge glass windows that open out to brush the treetops, Radiantly Alive has nabbed a beautiful part of Ubud to set up shop (but then again, all of Ubud is pretty beautiful). The teachers here love to set an intention and will often deliver a mini address at the beginning of class, which really helps set the tone of the practice. Catering to a range of skill levels and availability, the early morning classes are a real hit with busy backpackers. If you can make it to one of their Roll and Release sessions, your tired body will thank you for it you later. That’s a promise.

What you need

Photo credit Lyn Tally
Photo credit Lyn Tally

To be honest, you really don’t need all that much. Logistically, a stretchy pair of pants, towel and drink bottle will never go amiss, but generally most studios are fully stocked when it comes to mats, blocks and straps. To enjoy an Ubud Yoga class you just need to:

– Be prepared to let your hair down (metaphorically, anyway; eating your own pony tail in downward facing dog is never fun).

– Let go of your competitive side. Most people are put off joining a yoga class because they think they need to be at a certain skill level. Yoga teachers will be the first to tell you that practicing yoga is not about comparing yourself to the person next to you, but working with what you’ve got. No judgements.

– Open your mind. You might be attending today’s yoga class purely for the work out, but yoga is very mindful and meditative, so enter the studio open to the idea of connecting with your thoughts.

– Be ready to work. Yoga is hard. Yoga will make you sweat. There is a time for relaxation, but generally that comes at the end of a pretty physical session. But hey, it just makes savasana all that much sweeter.

Tips and pointers

Photo credit Dashama Gordon
Photo credit Dashama Gordon

It can be nerve-wracking attending your first yoga class. You’ve researched the studio, booked in a time, perhaps even bought a mat for the occasion and now you’re feeling a little nervous. Don’t stress. Here’s what I recommend for most first time yoga students:

– If at the beginning of class the teacher asks if anyone is new, don’t be afraid to put up your hand. This will only mean the teacher will know to keep an extra eye on your poses to make sure they are being performed correctly, minimising any chance you might hurt yourself.

– Grab a spot towards the front. It’s your first time, find a space where you can actually see the teacher demonstrating. You’re probably going to be looking around a fair bit ’till you get the hang of the poses, so just bite the bullet and pick a space with a clear view.

– Get to class early. There is nothing worse than rushing into a yoga class, feeling hot, bothered and slightly stressed. Plus, you don’t want to be stepping over mats trying to find a space.

– Don’t feel embarrassed taking child’s pose when needed. Yoga can be tiring, especially for a beginner, so take the option to catch your breath as often as required. It will slow your heart rate and allow you to settle back on the mat.

– Grab a block and strap. These are just tools used to help you throughout the class. If you can’t reach the ground in a certain pose, you can place a block underhand to bring the floor to you or if you need help stretching, a strap can be wrapped around feet/hands/elbows/knees to assist. Basically, they are your friends.

– Finally, try not to eat or drink too much before a class. If you’re full from lunch and attempt a spinal twist, you could feel pretty uncomfortable. Try not to eat for at least the hour prior to practicing.

Whether you get to one Ubud yoga class or find the time to really immerse yourself in the Ubud yoga scene, just remember – every little bit of practice counts. So, go ahead and give your body and mind a much-needed break from the stresses of travelling. You never know, you might come to love it so much that you end up staying and doing your yoga teacher training. Stranger things have happened.