“A colourful international tribal gathering of sacred fun for mind, body and soul,” – is how the Bali Spirit Festival has been described and pretty much rings true.
Now in its seventh year, the 2013 edition takes place in Bali from 19-23 March and has rapidly become Southeast Asia’s premier celebration of yoga. Although yoga is the major component of the festival, it also covers a broad sphere of ‘holistic’ happenings from meditation, conscious movement, world music, dance, wellness, art, healing, vegetarianism and a sizeable dose of Balinese mysticism.
All the action takes place at two sites in the town of Ubud, at the Purnati Center for the Arts during the day and Agung Rai Museum of Art (ARMA) after dark. The scenery at both venues is idyllic and the perfect environment to lose those inhibitions, seek solace, learn a few new tricks and get creative. You can certainly do that; there are over 100 workshops over the five days.
In addition to every strand of yoga you could possibly imagine, there are demonstrations and instruction in massage techniques, Capoeira, healing through song and dance, philosophy, detox cleansing, vegan cookery to name but a few. It has a very arty vibe where it is easy to express yourself without being self-conscious and it’s much less pretentious than many other new age happenings.
If you are expecting it to be populated by only ageing hippies, dreamers and tree huggers, think again. While it does attract more than a few eccentric characters, there is a broad range of visitors, young and old, from baby boomers, stressed-out urbanites and middle class families. What they all have in common however, are fairly deep pockets. A pass valid for all five days costs a whopping US$600 or US$165 for single day ticket.
What to expect at BaliSpirit Festival
Throughout the five days, the “Dharma Fair” takes place, offering a carnival-like sideshow to the main action of seminars and self-help. This is the community village – an alternative marketplace of assorted tarot readers, mystics, lifestyle gurus, star gazers and tribal musicians. You can browse stalls selling all manner of holistic goodies from herbal remedies, artisan clothing, crafts and gourmet raw foods. Most vendors are not-for-profit. It’s a great spot to mingle and you will also find talks and seminars taking place on more practical topics such as responsible waste management, renewable energy and eco-friendly lifestyles. You can also enjoy performances of world music, dance, martial arts and more.
As is tradition each year, the final day (23 March) is given over to families and younger children in particular. It’s a big cultural coming together as local Balinese families, who wouldn’t normally be able to afford the entrance fee, are invited free of charge to participate in special kids’ bilingual workshops along with tourists. These include Hip-Hop and Indonesian dance and percussion, music, yoga, circus skills, art and crafts and acting.