Nestled within the village of Ubud in Bali, Indonesia, lies a remarkable school and living experiment promoting a yogic lifestyle. You would hardly tell you were so close to the busy village, surrounded by beautiful trees, bamboo, running river, a cooling breeze and a stillness far from the touristic traffic.
Named “Satyagraha” – the same name Ghandi gave to his movement – meaning “Truth Force” (living a life in truth) in Sanskrit, the school has been set up to live and embody yogic values.
Currently, the project consists of an organic garden, herbal garden, a school for yogic philosophy and physical asana (posture) practice and a beautiful Wantilan Structure (Balinese style house).
The entire project encapsulates the deeper meaning of living yogic principles. The garden for instance is not just a source of organic nourishment and a healing herbal apothecary, but also a plot given free to villagers for flowers to be grown for temple offerings. In the distant past, women were able to pick flowers from the fields; now they have to buy them from the markets. Food is seen as a medicine so children learn about not just the healing properties of the plants but also the very act of how to harvest them with love and care.
Everything in the project is free for local villagers, and they are asked to contribute back to the project in a ‘receive 10 hours give 5 hours’ ratio. As all land sales for foreigners in Indonesia are leaseholds, the project will return the village to them to carry on looking after the land and taking care of it in the future. Everyone who works there is encouraged to practice yoga at least thrice a week so that it becomes a living example of a place that practices the philosophy of yoga. The food is all vegetarian with soya milk.
The school for yogic philosophy and studies allows village kids an extra curricular deepening in the Hindu religion. In addition to Asana practice, studies include working on the land, showing how a life based on yoga can work and teaching life skills ‘giving them a center into their authentic selves.’
The Wantilan, a traditional bamboo structure and Indonesia’s largest and tallest Balinese bamboo house was made with a mixture of bamboo, palm leaves, ylang ylang roofing, and river stones. All the flooring, steps and structures are made from bamboo. It’s a stunning building, full of beautiful artwork, large river stones and lots of bamboo serving various functions as well as luxurious pieces of Balinese wood craftsmanship. The inspirations for the house are multifold; to demonstrate sustainability in all of its building materials, for rental to guests when the founder is away which will then pay for the running of the school. There is no Air Conditioning; the sliding doors like a tree house capture the breeze, offering a sense of living in flow with nature which the organic feel of the wood and stone also bring out deeply.
The whole project has been blessed by the Hindu High Priest of Bali, Ida Pedanda Gede Made Gunung. He also helped in placing all the deities, shrines, buildings and a healing garden.
The centre is set up by Breath of Hope Foundation, a non-for-profit educational organization. Therese Poulsen, founder of Breath of Hope, says of the charity’s vision is to “really serve the understanding that life is our practice. And within the practice, we have an opportunity to look in the mirror and take responsibility and act accordingly.” Having taught children in the US, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia for many years, she learnt that yoga can strengthen children emotionally, physically, give them a greater sense of control, direction and concentration over their lives. “The future of our world depends on our children. Here we can make the greatest change.”
In 2004, following the Tsunami in Sri Lanka, the foundation went to serve those most traumatized by the disaster. Through the practice of asthanga yoga, the children were able to find an inner strength and spiritual nourishment that will never desert them. She added: “We work in orphanages, abused young woman refugees, schools for the deaf; where we trained children and teachers to guide the children through the breathing, poses and meditation as well as the psycho-social system that comprises the practice. In such gentle activity, the children experience the comfort of their own being – many for the first time – and awakened possibilities beyond their current suffering. As strength of body and spirit are rekindled in the child, pervasive anxiety and hopelessness give way to a growing sense of well-being.”
Currently Breath of Hope trains teachers to bring the practices into the classroom has worked with over 13,000 children and hundreds of teachers in Sri Lanka teaching them the 21 month course (interspersed with a three month break in the middle for integration) and there are schools in Phuket, Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand, Bali and one year ago they started to work in Germany.