People come to Bali for various reasons. Some look for an easy breezy holiday; others long for spiritual healing and deeper enlightenment. I belong to the latter group.
It was thus fitting for me to find a yoga retreat center as soon as I arrived on the island. While browsing the Internet, I came across one that seemed to be a perfect match.
At first merely intrigued by the name, “Power of Now Oasis,” it reminded me instantly of Eckhart Tolle’s book that went viral after being recommended by Oprah, and later became one of my favorites.
The name also was somewhat of a major slap to my face, reminding me to rethink the importance of being present and enjoying the moment rather than drowning in the uncertainty of tomorrow (as people always do in the hustle and bustle of Jakarta). You might call it fate that I found this place.
It was a bright sunny morning in Bali when I drove myself down to Sanur where the oasis is located. It’s part of the Hotel Mercure, which sits by the sea. I was a bit sceptical. How can I find an oasis in a modern hotel?
I walked through the hotel, down to the south and smelled the sea breeze in an instant. When I finally stood in front of my “oasis,” I was stunned.
Power of Now Oasis resembles a huge version of traditional saung , a farmer hut commonly found on Javanese rice terraces. The building is made of bamboo, shaped to resemble a green turtle. Its arched ceiling made from organic dried thatches has ample open spaces for sea breezes to flow in. It is literally an open house. From the outside, its bamboo facades glisten amid the soft morning sunrays.
As I walked inside, the always smiling receptionist told me that I was just in time for the traditional Indian yoga session led by guru Mukesh. There is no admission fee to his class. The attendees are only asked to give donations that will go to the Jodie O’Shea Orphanage. Besides this “by-donation” class, there is also a regular class every morning, with admission Rp 40,000 ($4.20) for locals and Rp 80,000 for expats.
I went upstairs to the yoga/meditation shala where the class was held. Everything necessary is provided by the center, from yoga mats to soft cushions for support. I was all set.
There were local and foreign students.
Mukesh commenced the class with sun salutations, a series of asanas (yoga poses) commonly done in yoga class. But as the session proceeds, the asanas became more unique and complicated — in a good way.
Mukesh, a visiting guru from India, features many poses in his class that seem unconventional but are unique to traditional Indian teachings. Some poses, such as Ardha Matsyendrasana, or Half Spinal Twist Pose, require major body twisting.
I’m no beginner in yoga, but after taking a long break from practicing, I found the class to be quite challenging. Fortunately, Mukesh was really patient. He helped correct the poses and also explained their origins.
As the session neared the end, Mukesh surprised us by asking us to get up from our mats and form a circle.
“We are now going to do laughter yoga,” he said. As the name reveals, this exercise consists only of laughing, without any poses.
During the laughter yoga session, we rediscovered pure laughter, free from any inhibitions or expectations — just the way laughter was intended. It began with some warming up, followed by series of laughing sessions, where we had to mimic the laugh of humans and even monkeys. It sure served as testament that sometimes in the face of other people’s judgement and expectation, we hold ourselves back and show the “fake” acceptable public face instead.
By the end of the session, I felt free and at peace. The class had taught me to do what feels right and what makes me happy and also to care less about other people’s judgements. I’m pretty sure I’ve reached a mini-enlightenment.
This place radiates a unique charm that makes people linger.
They can do so at the first floor at the organic juice bar, the chill-out space or the library, or they can browse through mini holistic shops where herbal remedies are sold. The first floor also opens out to the lush surrounding garden where frangipanis and coconut trees grow strong, providing solid anchors for several hammocks for therapy. And how to do hammock therapy? The answer to this one is easy: just lie down and swing until you reach enlightenment, looking at the vast blue sky above.