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by Caitlin Rose Kenney

published by Elephant Journal on December 5th, 2010

(photo: pinterest)

In May 2010 I graduated from CU Boulder with a bachelors degree in Psychology. I was proud of my accomplishment and ecstatic about the sense of freedom I felt. I was suddenly committed to nothing other than pursuing my dreams. I wanted to focus whole-heartedly on something I loved, yoga.

I began taking yoga classes when I was seventeen as a replacement fitness for ballet. Over the next five years yoga both grounded me and quenched my curiosity to know more about myself. Like many others, my early adulthood was ripe and dynamic. I struggled with mild depression and unabashedly sailed high on waves of success.  Luckily, over this time period I also developed an asana practice that began to tame my extreme fluctuations. Over the years my yoga practice evolved from being a purely physical outlet to a mental and emotional therapy. Interestingly, I was hardly aware of this process and it has only been recently that I have begun to appreciate the profound impact yoga has had on my personal growth. Yoga became a process of exploration in which I found my body, mind, and soul transforming.

One dreadfully grey and cold February I realized that yoga makes me a better person. I walked out of a yoga class and I was warm for the first time in a long while. Prana was pouring from my soul into my veins, pumping bright energy to my organs, limbs, and mind. And as I walked through the door from the yoga studio into  the “real world” a cupcake lay waiting for me. In the moment that the sweet cupcake touched the tip of my tongue my mind cracked open and there I was—reveling in bliss. Colors were brighter, objects were clearly defined, and the people! They were captivating! Oh the joy of actually seeing and feeling human beings moving around me. All of my numbed emotions and stale thoughts had crumbled away.

From that moment onward I knew that yoga was something I wanted to grow within me and carry with me every second of every day. I was not quite sure how to do this, so I set forth with the intention of dedicating time and energy to taking more yoga classes. By the Spring of 2010 I was 110% ready to take a leap and do a yoga teacher’s training.

In September, I tucked the pearls of wisdom I had gathered from my teachers in Boulder under my wings and I flew to Bali to do a six week long yoga teacher training hosted by Rachel Hull.

I was ravenously hungry in Bali, and not just for the buffet brunch that awaited me after 3 hours of pranayama, meditation, and asana. I was hungry for knowledge. I loved cultivating the practical skills of choreographing classes, talking students through postures and giving hands-on adjustments. I could listen to Emil Wendel’s lectures on Indian history and philosophy for hours. And I could read about ayurveda, yoga’s sister “science of life”, before bed every night for an eternity. Every ounce of me was stimulated from my cellular body to my intellect and my sense of childhood wonderment. All I wanted for was more time.

I spent the majority of my stay in Bali in the mountains in a small town called Penestanan, which neighbors the famous place of Ubud. This region has been a beloved spot for western expatriates, yogis, and local and international artists. While Ubud is fairly westernized, it truly stands up to its reputation as a magical place. The local people gracefully blend modern life with traditional Hindu devotion. Seven days a week my hostess Made (pronounced Madae) ran nine guesthouses and performed three (or more) Hindu offerings. (An offering is a small container woven from vegetation filled with flowers and rice for the gods. Several of these packages are given to the gods each day in a ritual that involves burning incense, praying, and flicking water). In this land of temples, life revolves around pleasing the gods. To do this, ceremonies must take place for a variety of occasions. There are ceremonies for the temples, the rice, newborn babies, the deceased, the cars, the motor scooters, the rupiah, you get the idea. During each ceremony there are hand-made offerings, elaborately colorful giant paper animals burning, and hundreds of Balinese dressed in their finest. Needless to say, a lot of love and time is poured into their faith, community and honoring their traditional culture. It amazes me that they have adapted these ancient practices to contemporary life.

My time in Bali did not change my life, but it did peel my eyes wide enough to see that inspiration lies in beauty and gratitude. Within this mindset, I found my life. I am not a different person from who I was because my true essence has always resided perfectly within me. In a balancing act of self-inquiry and passive observation I kindled a passion for yoga and for living. Having love for what I do, how it shapes me and turning it into a gift to be shared with others is immensely powerful. With these intentions, I continue my journey.

May the journey of all beings to gain experiential knowledge of the body and mind be as the Buddha says,

lovely in the beginning, lovely in the middle, and lovely in the end.