The best of Ubud (Part 1)

I wish I could say that I was going to break the stereotypical Yogi mould and tell you how horrible and underwhelming Ubud is, but unfortunately I can’t. It’s simply amazing and blatantly obvious as to why Yogis and those seeking spiritual solace flock here. With more greenery than a green room, the rolling hills and rice paddy fields provide the perfect backdrop for self-discovery and some much needed silence. With a name that comes from the Balinese word Ubad, which means medicine, Ubud has long been known as a mystical place, rich in healing powers and I whole heartedly agree.

As more people gravitate to Ubud, more amazing restaurants, health spas and yoga shalas pop up. So I’ve gone ahead and created a list of ‘best of’s’ for anyone visiting this beautiful haven.

The best organic vegan food: Sage

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Sage have got organic vegan Mexican food completely down pat. I’ve worked my way through most of this menu and EVERYTHING is a winner, which is why it has earned the nod for the best organic vegan food in Ubud. Located just a little further out of the centre of town, this new restaurant boasts clean, simple and stylish decor with friendly and professional waiters. Upside – because this restaurant is relatively new, you can always manage to find yourself a seat and are guaranteed a healthy and tasty meal. Downside – compared to a lot of other cafes and restaurants in Ubud the menu is relatively small, however if that’s what it takes to keep up this quality of food then Amen to that!

The best health food store: Earth Cafe

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Although Earth Cafe is probably most well known for it’s restaurant (with a huge array of vegetarian meals, snacks and drinks) they also have one of the largest range of organic food and health products in town. Stocking a decent array of international and local products, Earth Cafe has everything from organic Balinese wine to facial products. Their dried organic fruit is definitely worth a mention as is their locally made Konscious Kombucha. Upside – you won’t be without natural and organic products during your stay in Bali. Downside – if you compare the range to places such as Wholefoods or Terra Madre you will be disappointed.

The best health spa: Taksu

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Taksu is a hidden gem located just down the road from Earth Cafe near the markets in Ubud. At first glance the facilities look clean, simple and humble. Then came time for my massage. As I was escorted down into a valley with with tropical vines, flowers, palms and shown into my private room I was left wondering is this what nirvana is? It was ridiculous. But in the most beautiful way possible and the massage didn’t disappoint either. Compared to other places you may go in Bali, this place is on the more expensive side but compared to Western prices it is still an absolute bargain. Worth every cent. Upside – everywhere you look is stunning. There was so much beauty, my little brain didn’t know what to do with itself. Downside – it’s not wheelchair friendly.

The best place to do yoga: The Yoga Barn

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The Yoga Barn is an institution here in Ubud. Located right in the heart of town, The Yoga Barn hosts and houses some of the best international yoga teachers in the world. No matter what studio you find yourself in, you will be guaranteed a lush green view. Their ‘Garden Kafe’ is also worth a mention if raw vegan food is your thing. Upside – huge schedule of yoga classes and other holistic practices all of a world-class standard. Downside – classes are almost always full, so get in at least 15 minutes early to ensure you can squeeze your mat in. I also recommend bringing your own mat or better yet, spoiling yourself with a new ZenFlow Air. It’s superior grippiness is  a must in this humid weather!

The best view: Clear Cafe

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Clear Cafe is a huge 3 story restaurant situated opposite the Blanco museum with a million dollar view (USD not rupiah). I would do it a huge an injustice if I tried to describe it to you, even the picture doesn’t do it justice. Words that come into my head include vast, breath taking, inspirational – I even got a bit teary. This is a DEFINITE must see and the organic/all natural menu is filled with options and also deserves a nod.  Upside – you will always be able to find a table here. Downside – it’s not wheelchair friendly either.

That’s a wrap! I’ll be heading back to Ubud before trekking to Thailand, so keep your eyes peeled for part 2! Next stop, the Gili Islands for some much needed beach time and diving. See you there!

Bathing in the Bliss of Bali

I made it! After almost a month of travelling I finally made it to finish line in blissful Bali. I must say before I set out on this trip Bali was never on my radar. Even as a Yogi. The thought of hoards of tourists trawling the streets and beaches didn’t spark great interest. But after visiting Bali for only 3 days, I can definitely see why it has such a wide appeal. And to be honest, I’m hooked. Under it’s undoubtedly beautiful exterior of beautiful beaches and lush greenery, lied a place that truly touched me. The people are the most friendly I have ever come across and I felt the spirituality floating in the air.

By this stage of my trip I needed some serious one-on-one time with the beach. The hectic streets of Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh, the constant rain and plane rides had taken its toll and it was time for rest. So that’s what I did. 3 full days of nothing but lying on a beach chair, eating, drinking and swimming. And it was exactly what I needed. That was my Yoga. There was a little voice in my head telling me I SHOULD go and see more of Bali and I SHOULD be more social, but I’m so glad I chose to tune in to what I needed rather than what I thought I should do.

So my challenge for you is to catch yourself the next time you say the word ‘should’ and see if you can discern if the ‘should’ is something that will serve you in that moment or if it is an expectation you have placed upon yourself. And over time this discernment and honesty with yourself may take a little load of your shoulders and help you lead a more truthful and fulfilling life.

Bali will be there for next time. And from what I saw, there will definitely be a next time. Thank you all for following my travels throughout South East Asia and for ZenFlow for making it all happen. If you have any queries about my adventures or Nourish Yoga classes, please contact me by emailing hello@nourish.yoga. See you all back home in Melbourne!

Connecting with Nature in Chiang Mai

Before I begin, I would firstly like to send my love and condolences to the families of the people who lost their lives on Monday due to a bombing of a Hindu shrine in Bangkok. Though there hasn’t been much information released about the event, Bangkok has experienced a significant amount of political unrest, which has claimed far too many lives. I hope that no more lives are lost in the name of politics or war…

Chiang Mai is located in the mountainous region of Northern Thailand. Due to the prevalence of Buddhism in Thailand, there are many meditation retreats available for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and many delicious organic vegetarian restaurants scattered across the city. Food 4 Thought is a favourites of mine. Chiang Mai is charming. The pace andante. The people beautiful. The Old City is filled with temples and surrounded by a moat built by the Lanna kings around 700 years ago.

The highlight for me – visiting the butterfly park and playing with elephants. Butterflies have always been a fascination of mine. Their individual markings are exquisite and their frame delicate, but for me they remind me of the impermanence of nature and of life. Butterflies have a lifespan ranging from 1 week to 1 year and though our lifespan is a lot longer than a butterfly’s, it is humbling to reminded that our existence, like theirs, is but a blink in the universe.

Elephants, on the other hand, have a lifespan more similar to us humans and are anything but delicate. They are, however, simply majestic. There are several elephant parks located 45 minutes North of Chiang Mai, some teach you how to become an elephant trainer and some are more like an interactive zoo. It was my first time being in such close proximity to an animal of this size and I was blown away. What intrigues me about animals is the way they interact with each other and with nature. They seem to have this unspoken respectful connection.

We however, see ourselves as separate entities. Our skin the barrier between ‘I’ and our surroundings. Perhaps that’s why we treat the planet and other members of our species in the way we do. Because a lot of us have lost our connection in favour of our ego we feel alone and isolated. So, how do we reconnect? Unfortunately there is no manual. For some, it will be gardening or being out in nature. For me it is the practice of Yoga. It doesn’t matter so much HOW you connect, more that you find a way to do so. For the sake of our planet and for ourselves.

My next and final stop is Bali. Hopefully Mt Raung behaves itself so I can enjoy a few days in paradise! Follow me via the Nourish Yoga Blog to see where I’ve been and how my adventure around South-East Asia as the ZenFlow ambassador ends. A reminder that classes start on Monday the 24th of August in Richmond at 6:30pm on top of Crossfit. Drop-ins welcome. For more information click here.

See you in Bali!

Birthdays & Brahmacharya in Bustling Bangkok

Bangkok – a bustling city famous for it’s food, The Hangover and “professional sexual services”. On my first visit to Bangkok 10 years ago, I must admit I was rather overwhelmed by it’s chaotic and somewhat dark nature, but this time I was fortunate enough to spend my 28th birthday seeing a different side of the city. My day started on a farm 3 hours east of the capital. I was woken by the sounds of roosters and crickets, and started my day with a peaceful Yoga practice and a view worth bragging about (check out the picture on the left). In the past few years my birthday has been a day of reflection, an ‘Annual General Meeting’ of self-enquiry and things that I would like to work on. As I sat and meditated upon this, there was definitely a recurring issue arising – Brahmacharya.

Brahmacharya is commonly (mis)translated as ‘celibacy’ or ‘chastity’ but it can also be interpreted as the ‘right use of energy’. It is a component of the ethical framework in which Yoga is based upon, known as the Yamas and Niyamas. Perhaps it was the fact I was in one of the sex capitals of the world that initially sparked this train of thought but it became clear to me that I spend a lot of my energy lettings things bother me. There aren’t many things that do bother me but when they do, I let them completely take over.

So how does one redirect their energy? Especially when you’ve let it completely take over… A psychologist once said to me to leave a hair tie on my wrist and flick it when I start to feel something bothering me (as the body is averse to pain) but I needed something a little more drastic. I contemplated tattooing a symbol on my arm to remind me to chill out and I’ve tried screaming in my pillow in an attempt to get it out. But there are only 2 things that work for me – singing angry girl music and dancing until I can’t feel my legs. I just need to remember to do it when I recognise I’ve been triggered… So if you see some strange girl belting out Alanis Morrisette or dancing profusely on the street, it may just be me redirecting energy. The truth is, we all need to find our own way to redirect our energy. Yes it will be difficult, but look it as a welcome challenge to making your relationships and your life just that little bit easier.

After a long day of driving, my day finished with a few glasses of bubbly on the 48th floor of the Marriott hotel right in the centre of Bangkok. If you only have 1 day in Bangkok, this is the first place you need to head to. The 360 view gives you a whole new perspective on the city and is absolutely breath-taking. The breeze blowing in your hair, the fresh air (anyone who has been to Bangkok will know what I’m talking about) and the sheer size of the city is mind-blowing yet humbling. Another year older and hopefully another year wiser!

Next stop – Chiang Mai. I can’t wait to visit the elephants and eat lots of organic food! With only one week left of my Asian adventures, keep up do date with my travels by visiting the Nourish Yoga blog. Thank you to ZenFlow for giving me the opportunity to see a different side of Bangkok. In other news, I’m starting a Monday night class in Richmond, Melbourne on the 24th of August at 6:30pm. Contact Nourish Yoga to register your interest or for more information. Looking forward to seeing you all very soon on the mat!

Hanging in Heavenly Hanoi

Hanoi – the second largest city and my last stop in Vietnam. Second in size behind Ho Chi Minh, but not second in charm. Like Melbourne and Sydney, there are some clear differences:

  1. Hanoi – Communist, French architecture, picturesque and wealthy.
  2. Ho Chi Minh – Socialist, rooftops, modern cafes and edgy.

But what they do have in common is that the food is amazing and so are the people. During my stay I found Zenith Yoga & Cafe, a one-stop-shop for all things Yoga and healthy vegetarian/vegan food located in the old quarter of Hanoi. As much as I loved the street food in Vietnam, I was definitely ready for a salad and kombucha! I wasn’t disappointed. As a matter of fact I was so impressed, I ended up back there every lunch. If you’re a yogi, or just want a fresh vegetarian meal in a laidback environment, put this at the top of your list.

The Yoga class was delightful. I didn’t realise how much I missed Iyengar ropes until I found myself hanging in an inverted supta baddha konasana (bound-angle pose). For those who have no idea what I am talking about get to your nearest Iyengar or Aerial Yoga class IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner. Apart from being energising, increasing your immunity, improving blood circulation and making you taller, inversions can literally give you a new view on life!

And a new view was exactly what I needed. Despite loving everywhere I have travelled to so far, there have been more than a few hiccups and challenges along the way. Continuous natural disasters causing several re-routes, the lack of coeliac-friendly food giving me tummy issues, and my grandmother’s health rapidly deteriorating – the ‘relaxing holiday’ I had hoped for was yet to unfold and I was letting the stress get to me. I needed to go back to basics. After a few minutes upside down and a few minutes of yogic breathing (I like to call this combo ‘hitting the reset button’), I realised it was time to let go of my expectations and embrace all the exciting new experiences the rest of my holiday had in store for me. Ishvara Pranidhana – surrendering to highest. It was that, or continue to suffer – no brainer.

So if you’re ever in conflict, or struggling to make sense of a situation, perhaps it’s time to hit the reset button, get a new perspective and realise that there is very little in life we can actually control. Life unfolds in front of us, all we need to do is hop on for the ride. Sounds pretty damn exciting to me!

A big thank you to Zenith Yoga & Cafe for nourishing my mind, body and soul during my time in Hanoi and to ZenFlow for helping me make sure I’m on my mat when I need to be! Next stop – Bangkok, Thailand. Check out where I’ve been and where I’m going by following my blog.

See you in Thailand!

Getting Centred in Central Vietnam

This is what I’ve been waiting for. Central Vietnam – Da Nang and Hoi An. I expected pristine beaches, tropical vegetation, UNESCO heritage listed buildings and extraordinary people. I wasn’t disappointed. But before I continue, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the tragic effects of the Vietnam war on the people of Vietnam.

Prior to arriving, I knew little of the war. And I still don’t know much about it. But what I did learn and what impacted me the most, was the use of Agent Orange and the effect it is still having on the Vietnamese people. Without going into too much depth, Agent Orange is a herbicide that the American’s air-dropped throughout Vietnam to destroy plants and trees where Vietnamese troops could find refuge. They used more than 43 million litres of the deadly herbicide and though his happened more than 40 years ago, the effects continue to be catastrophic. And I don’t use that word lightly. No one can be sure how many people have been affected and how many more will be affected. And despite this, the people still have smiles on their faces and I felt welcomed with open arms.

Da Nang was home to one of the major airbases used in the war, but today it is becoming one of the most tourist-frequented places in Vietnam. A stroll down the boulevard by the river in the evening is world class, as is China beach. There is something about doing Yoga on the beach. The sound of waves lapping on shore, the smell of  salt in the air, but what I enjoy most is that you need to get a little dirty. The sand is uneven, it goes absolutely everywhere, every pose feels different and so does every experience. It reminded me to approach everything with a beginner’s mind, that we are all eternal students and we can learn something from every experience, even if it is a pose we’ve done a million times.

After 2 days in Da Nang, it was off to Hoi An. I don’t like playing favourites, but if I had to, Hoi An would be it. It was the first place where I can truly say I was consistently relaxed. The pace at which the town moved was delightful, the beaches were pristine, and the architecture is a beautiful fusion of native and international flavours. It is also a shoppers paradise, so pack light! What I truly loved about Hoi An, was that the locals moved at their own pace. There was very little rushing and a sense of complete presence in everything they did. Our Western society is so caught up on multi-tasking and doing everything quickly that we don’t actually DO what we are DOING. When we eat, we’re on our phones. When we walk, we’re thinking about where we’re going. Even when we sleep our minds are filled with thoughts….

So my challenge for you is to practice presence and see if you can approach the most seemingly mundane tasks with a beginners mind. I’d love to hear how you go via the Nourish Yoga facebook page.

Next stop Hanoi! To see what else I’ve been up to and what’s in store for the back half of my adventure around South-East Asia with ZenFlow, follow the Nourish Yoga blog.

Namaste!

Stillness in Saigon with ZenFlow

Vietnam has always been near the top of the bucket list for me. The picturesque views of Ha Long Bay and landscapes of central Vietnam are among the world’s best. But I must admit, I’ve never been a fan of large Asian cities. Most are loud, polluted, congested, my personal space gets constantly invaded and my senses overloaded. So as you can imagine, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) was always going to be an interesting experience! In some ways, Saigon is all of these things, but there is something harmonious about the madness. Yoga (union) can be found everywhere. But there have been 2 distinct instances, both very different from each other, that I have felt this vast sense of spaciousness similar to that found in meditation.

My first experience was on the back of a motorbike. I must admit it was nice to be on the other side of the chaos. Crossing a road in a city with over 5 million motor bikes and incessant honking feels like a life threatening experience… Every. Single. Time. But the traffic is like a moving organism, a well oiled machine. It is honestly a spectacle. Though people don’t really obey road rules and there are no such thing as lanes, it all just works. Someone speeds up, the other slows down. You drive on the other side of the road, others go around you. And all this happens just centimetres apart from each other. Like a flock of birds, there are little to no collisions and road rage just doesn’t exist. I’ve never felt so calm and safe in or on a vehicle. Everyone moving together as one – it was simply magical.

The second experience was on a rooftop of a building I found down an inconspicuous little lane way off the main drag. If you think Melbourne has awesome rooftop bars and grungy lane ways, you aint seen nothing yet! I was alone, the air was fresher, the breeze was light, it was about to rain, and the noise of the city slightly muffled – I had never felt so present. The vastness of the city and the 360 view of the never ending landscape of buildings helped me feel spacious and surprisingly grounded. It felt like my heart was beating with the pulse of the city and we were one in the same. Very cool.

Yoga seems to have stuck pretty close to its roots here in Saigon. Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar and philosophy classes was all I found and I thoroughly appreciated how they respected the tradition. Poses were instructed in Sanskrit and most people didn’t use mats. Thankfully, I had my ZenFlow Air with me. Humid weather and my sweaty palms does not make for steadiness and ease! Coming soon – my official review of ZenFlow’s Air.

Next stop, Da Nang in central Vietnam. Famous for being one of the cleanest cities in the world with exquisite beaches and marble mountains, you don’t want to miss out on what’s coming next! Follow my blog  to see where else I land in South-East Asia!

The Motherland with ZenFlow: Malaysia Boleh!

Having moved to Australia from Malaysia when I was 2 years old, you could say that I’m a fully fledged Aussie. Close your eyes and you would swear I was Australian, and I am, but every time I land in Malaysia this sense of relief washes over me. I instantly feel at home. There is something about the smell, the temperature and density of the air which feels like a welcoming, warm hug. Which got me thinking, where does this sense of ‘home’ come from? Do we need to be at home, or somewhere that feels like home to feel this sense of stability and ease? Or can we find it within ourselves no matter where we are?

And then it occurred to me, isn’t this why we hop on our Yoga mat? We practice our Asana to find stability and ease so we can bring these principles to the rest of our lives. So we can feel at home within ourselves. That’s why I keep returning to the mat.

I am a self-confessed lazy traveller. Especially when it comes to my Yoga practice. No mat, no asana practice. But lucky for me, I have one of the sleekest new natural rubber mats from ZenFlow following me around as I travel. I have to admit the thought of lugging a Yoga mat has prevented me from bringing one in the past but ZenFlow’s ‘Air’ mat makes it easy and painless. Now I have no excuses and no matter where I go, I can feel at home on my Yoga mat and at home within myself.

I must admit, the naturally consistent warmer climate is perfect for practicing Yoga. For me, I feel instantly more grounded and the millions of Malaysian’s who practice Yoga must agree. With several dedicated Yoga associations and a wide range of Yoga teacher training, it seems like Malaysian’s take their Yoga seriously.

Next stop, Ho Chi Minh! I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding some stillness in a city that is famous for it’s chaos. Stay in touch by following my blog. See you in Vietnam!

 

Asian Sensations with ZenFlow

I’m proud to announce that I’m off to South East Asia as ZenFlow’s brand ambassador to shoot at some of the world’s most beautiful and tranquil destinations. ZenFlow is one of the hottest new Yoga mat brands on the market. It’s “Air” is made out of natural rubber and is free from PVC, LATEX and other synthetic rubbers.

Not only is the “Air” delightfully light and eco-friendly, the open cell natural rubber makes it one of the grippiest mats I’ve laid my little paws on. The 4mm provides enough cushion for your knees and if you don’t like too much grip, flip it over! Fabulous for travel, sweaty sessions, and any home practice, it was the Air’s versatility and sleek looks (why aren’t all mats made with rounded corners?) that won my heart.

Their online store is coming soon, so it won’t be long before you can grab one for yourself and some for your studio. In the meantime visit their facebook page to stay in touch.

Our first stop is Singapore! I’m no newbie to the place, but it still excites me to see the mish-mash of cultures, people and national pride. It’s beautifully clean, the people are polite and sometimes you can forget you’re in Asia. Like Australia, Yoga in Singapore is trending. According to a study completed in 2014, it is the 10th most regularly practiced sport in Singapore behind activities such as jogging and swimming. Yoga studios are popping up left right and centre and you can even attend a class in a salt cave, which takes the health benefits of your Yoga practice to the next level!

Next stop, my home, Malaysia! Follow me on my Asian adventures via facebook and the Nourish Yoga blog.