01 Jun Escape to Bali: Part 3
Ending on a Watsu: the Balispirit Festival
by Eva Kincsei
An elderly man flouncing around in mini skirt like a reckless goat; a telecommunications manager belting out a Kirtan song; a Danish doctor shoving men to the ground to mount them – only in clothes and strictly as part of a fertility dance; kids prancing around their decent middle class looking parents who are showing off their acro yoga skills in the middle of a world music concert.
This is the image into which the concept and atmosphere of the Bali SpirtFestival can be distilled. These scenes have all happened somewhere on the fringes of Ubud – where the festival takes place –maybe not all at the same time. But that’s what it’s all about: you wear what you want, you move as you wish, you sing and dance wherever you want and no one wants to know about your background.
We are in the business of non-judgement – or at least we try – and we are all equal while we sing and dance and do yoga.
A battery of yoga, dance and music lovers flood the place called the Purnati Centre for Arts on the outskirts of Bali which has been hosting the festival since its start in 2008. The five day long razzle-dazzle has begun, and as far as fashion goes the gypster-tribal -shaman aesthetic prevails. Ubud’s communal note soars and you feel you can hug anyone.
I meander in and out of yoga, breathing and chanting classes when I am not wolfing down uber-healthy dishes in the food area, or spending time with some random people I’ve just met. Most teachers have this self-consciously elliptical treatment of the topic of yoga saying things like “Open your eyes and pull in new dimensions”, “Open your heart chakra”, “Access the place of tranquillity and innocence within you”. The problem might be with me, but I don’t know what to do with these instructions. So I’d just love to shout: “Could you please tell me how?”
The only teacher who rather demystifies than mystifies what he teaches is Simon Borg-Olivier. Originally a physiotherapist, now one of the leading lights of yoga, Simon Borg-Olivier is someone who truly knows the human body and can interpret the traditional teachings of yoga from a western scientific point of view. Finally I learn that if there’s ever been a heart chakra then it might be closer to your upper back not in your chest as most people seem to think. And if you want to open it you have to mobilize your spine.
Every day the program finishes early at Purnati – yoga people tend to go to bed early and get up early – and then the evening program starts at 7 in the Agung Rai Museum of Art in the heart of Ubud. I go dancing five times in a row, which is exactly five times as much as the number of occasions I went out dancing in the past 2 years. Between the concerts I loiter among the food stalls washing down gluten-free muffins with astringent lemon and ginger tea. This is my method for debauchery.
My crowning experience at the festival is a Watsu session with Michael Hallock. If I wanted to be truthful, I wouldn’t write a line about it: what you can experience during this hydro-therapy session is beyond the grasp of the rational mind. He makes me feel like a supple fish: he is floating and dunking my body in the warm, salted pool, then twists and twirls me underwater several times before I come out of my trance like a happy infant.
“This is an amazing life”, I blurt out to Michael sitting by the pool while he talks about how he spends his days in Ubud. “This is the life I’ve chosen to have. Not the one that was given to me”, he answers with his eyes blazing.
The festival is over and I’m sagging under the weight of the conglomerate of experiences but I know that despite my initial scepticism Bali has captivated my spirit and I will be back soon.