Only two hours into my digital detox I felt the unremitting urge to take my phone off airplane mode to check my emails or see if I had any messages from friends and family back home. I still carried my phone in my hand like an accessory, using it as a camera while I explored the grounds of what would become my home for the next few weeks during my wellness and yoga retreat in Bali, but the absence of its vibrating notifications was causing my fingers to twitch in temptation as I gazed out over the beautiful black sands of Balian Beach.
I had come to Bali with the goal of leaving as a healthier and more self-aware version of myself, and already I could see the journey toward a healthier me would prove the challenging adventure of a lifetime. For three weeks I would stick to a strictly vegetarian diet, swapping red meat for sautéed squares of organic tempeh and jackfruit at dinner and morning sausages for thick strips of fresh papaya and smoothies sweetened with sapodilla fruit. We were encouraged to turn off our phones for a minimum of 16 hours each day (24 hours if possible) and switch from coffee to decaffeinated green tea, to be sipped only after the first yoga session of the morning. The routine seemed ruthless at first, but by the third day I was noticeably well-rested and accustomed to my new caffeine-free lifestyle … with my phone neatly stashed away and a sun-kissed glow already gleaming on my skin from afternoons spent surfing and practicing yoga on the beach.
Bali has been a beacon for wellness for centuries, where visitors often leave glowing on the inside and outside thanks to this Indonesian island’s intrinsic focus on spiritual self-care and whole-body wellness. Bali’s beautiful varied landscapes — ranging from rugged coastlines with sandy beaches to picturesque rice terraces and lush forests — produce an abundance of exotic fruits and tropical flowers, long harnessed by locals for use as natural remedies for fighting disease or healing common ailments. The Balinese focus on spiritual wellness began with the introduction of Hinduism on the island, and today Bali is home to the largest concentration of Hindus outside of India. Offerings of colorful fruit and flowers line the streets as aromatic incense perfumes the air.
Balinese Hinduism combines the ancient healing arts and rituals of the Balinese people with a spiritual focus on four main pillars — dharma (right way of living), artha (means of life), kama (enjoyment of life) and moksha (liberation and self-actualization) — with the goal of maintaining a balanced life. To help obtain balance, the Balinese have long turned to ancient balians, or local healers, skilled at healing everything from a broken bone to a broken heart. Currently more than 8,000 balians practice on the island of Bali (four times the number of doctors), each working to help restore balance for their patients’ health, whether due to internal or external factors.
Balians have become popular with tourists over the years — thanks in part to Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love — and today many of the island’s top resorts offer their guests private one-on-one sessions with some of Bali’s most well-respected healers along with a range of other wellness offerings.
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