Never too old for yoga

Just minutes from the hustle and bustle of Ubud, Satyagraha is an oasis of  peace and serenity with organic vegetable  gardens, a tea plantation, dense banana groves and a magnificent sprawling wantilan house that is available for rent. It is part ashram, part education facility that brings the benifits of yoga to children. I visit to write about their kids programs and stumble across the class for village elders.  Classes take place in a spacious open air pavilion surrounded by tropical foliage and stone statues. I visit late one afternoon, one by one the elderly Balinese trickle in, dressed in tee shirts and tracksuit pants. Some arrive on foot, others have ridden by bicycle from surrounding villages and their ages range from around 60 to 95. It is clearly quite a social gathering and the pavilion is soon ringing with the sound of laughter. Deborah arrives, a tall blonde American with a huge smile and everyone becomes silent as she leads them through a series of asanas. She is considerate, patient and gentle and I am impressed with the agility and strength of the group as they twist and stretch. Towards the end of the class she divides them into partners where they face each other, hold hands and plant the soles of their feet together then attempt to straighten their legs. Laughter erupts as some of the topple over, although quite a few of them manage to hold the position admirably. When the class is over everyone sprawls around the floor chatting and giggling.There is a great sense of fun and camaraderie and joining the class has been such a positive and happy experience that my jaw aches from grinning so much. After the class everyone huddles around Deborah to say thank you, it is obvious how much they like and respect her, and she them.

Made, a gentle, kind heardted and well respected village leader started the yoga classes because he wanted to see the elders “happy and healthy” in their final years.Deborah tells me how wonderful it is to see them  turn up week after week with, “Great gratitude and enthusiasm,” they tell her stories of being able to eat rice again with their hands, of feeling stronger, more balanced, happier, and more open in their hips and shoulders.   Deborah and her husband have been involved with the village for over twenty years and also run Yoga Adventure programs which incorporate ‘Yoga for the Village People’ on their trips to Peru and Bali. She tells me that, “Every time we have had the opportunity to share yoga with someone who had no access to yoga in remote villages, the benefits were profound and the word would spread.

A few weeks later I meet with everyone again at the Bali Spirit Festival where Deborah is leading a workshop entitled ‘Yoga for the village people,’ and 100 of the senior citizens turn up. Afterwards many join the Kundalini class led by the inspirational Rebecca Pflaum. At first they just watch, but are soon joining in, putting many of us much younger practitioners to shame with their agility. Mid-class Rebecca calls out “Its time to dance,” and cranks out some hip hop and the elders are the first on their feet to throw some funky shapes. It’s a wonderful moment and one that really captures the essence of Bali Spirit.   Afterwards I spot some of the elders  playing  Djembe in the West African percussion class and a few of the more adventurous have a go at hula hooping.

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