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Celebrating Yoga With The Bali Spirit Festival

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By Cat Wheeler

BaliSpiritFestival.com

Ubud – Bali – Indonesia – March 31st – April 4th 2010

CELEBRATING YOGA WITH THE BALI SPIRIT FESTIVAL

Meghan Pappenheim’s dream of putting Bali on the map as an international centre of excellence for yoga has become a reality.  By the last week of March this year, Ubud’s cafes and hotels were filling with a colorful tribe of young people gathering in anticipation of one of the world’s most inspiring events. They had come for the BaliSpirit Festival, which features internationally renowned yoga and dance teachers and global music masters.

Meg launched the BaliSpirit Festival with her husband Kadek Gunarta and their friend Robert Weber in 2008. With only three months lead time, the first Festival team pulled off a world class event that drew impressive reviews.  The Festival gets bigger and more professional each year.  “It’s absolutely grueling and breathtakingly expensive to put an international festival together,” says Meg.  “I’ve learned to surround myself with seasoned professionals instead of trying to do things myself.  But it’s so exciting to meet the world’s top yoga teachers here in Ubud, and to watch hundreds of people gather here to practice.”

This year, the Festival offered nearly 70 yoga, dance and music workshops over four days and drew over 500 participants. The range of yoga classes offered at this year’s Festival spanned Asthanga, Classical Hatha, ISTHE, Prana Flow, Vinyasa Flow, Kundalini, Iyengar, Anusara, Yogicarts, Yoga Trance Dance, Peace Yoga, Shrivatsa, WaveGarden, Intuitive Flow, Apple, Forrest, Gembira, Laughter Yoga, Yoga Adventure, Vibrant Living Yoga and Alchemystic Yoga Dance.   Shiva Rea, Mark Whitwell and Danny Paradise led a line-up of both Indonesian and international teachers which also included Duncan Wong and Ellen Watson.

It takes time for festivals to catch on, and for the first two years the BaliSpirit Festival lost money spectacularly.  In spite of this, the Festival honored its commitment to community support with generous donations to a safe birthing clinic and a community school. (This year BaliSpirit is using its funds to launch an ongoing HIV/AIDS awareness project in Gianyar Regency, Bali.)  The Festival still isn’t breaking even, but many people felt that this year was the tipping point, and that the BaliSpirit Festival has earned a permanent place on the international yoga festival circuit.

Meanwhile, back at the Yoga Barn, business is brisk. Built by Meg’s husband Kadek, it has become a lively focal point for yoga and associated activities in Ubud. The Yoga Barn’s patrons are both local residents and travelers.  The attractive compound comprises a rustic 2-story yoga studio which hosts over 50 classes a week, an organic garden cafe , yoga accessory shop and an Ayurvedic Shala named KUSH, overseen by yoga teacher and Ayurvedic specialist Uma Inder.

“Don’t try to make lots of money from your yoga teachers,” Meg advises other studio owners.  “ Yoga is what they do, sometimes its their only income source.  There are other revenue streams for studio owners.”  The Yoga Barn’s charming café overlooking the rice fields is one.  A popular hangout, it encourages people to enjoy healthy food and drinks while checking their email before and after class.

Meg and Kadek also run a Yoga Shop in town next to their thriving restaurant KAFE and their orginal Tegun Folk Art Galeri brimming with exotic Indonesian Crafts. . Meg also runs Balispirit.com, Bali’s definitive holisitic website. “It all started with yoga eight years ago,” she muses over a cup of tea with baby son Judha in her lap.   “I wanted to do something to help Bali’s economy after the 2001 bombing brought tourism to a halt.  I felt that yoga & healing could be a magnet for positive tourism, but didn’t realize at the time how much spin-off business and how many supporting services would be associated with it.”

The Yoga Shop, Ubud’s first and still the most comprehensive in town, is just such a business.  The successful shop attracts  hordes of yogis of all ages, nationalities, genders and sizes.   Besides the usual yoga props, jewelry, books, DVDs and & CDs, The Yoga Shop sells flattering and functional yoga- inspired clothing under the BaliSpirit label.

“We have three lines of yoga wear,” Meg explains.  “Besides our core line, there’s the BaliSpirit Organic collection made from organic cotton coloured with eco-friendly, low-impact dyes.  Soon we’ll be introducing a lycra blend to the Organic line, which has designs for men, women and children.  Other clothing in the store is designed by yoga teachers and practitioners who have caught the small business/creativity bug. The collections are available through www.baliyogashop.com

Meghan believes in supporting the local community as much as possible through her family’s businesses.  A percentage of profits is consistently used for a variety of non-for-profit initiatives such as the Ubud-based ‘Say No to Plastics’ campaign, the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, her husband Kadek’s ‘sustaining culture & arts project’ for Balinese children, and other Indonesian-based environmental and quality-of-life projects.

Meg feels that helping others is an inherent human instinct and that if you run a business that’s making a profit there’s no reason why you shouldn’t share your brains, time or money with others who can use them.  “Each business is part of a larger cycle…  What goes around comes around, and the picture is always much bigger than you think.  So I like to tell future entrepreneurs to not be self-centered and to participate in the bigger picture.  The long-term benefits and profits will be much stronger.”

Meet Meg at next year’s BaliSpirit Festival slotted for Late March 2011!

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