Balinese, Made Murni - ‘Yoga in Bali’ & her journey to teaching
Made Murni is a Balinese born and raised, Yoga Teacher at The Yoga Barn who like the island of Bali, has over time come to blend age old traditions and philosophies of yogic practice with her native spiritual Hindu beliefs. As a role model and leading female Balinese yoga teacher her unique energy and ability to express the depth of her connection to her beloved island expands the hearts and minds of her students. Her story offers an intrinsically woven tale that is representative of how Yoga in Bali and the influence of the native Hindu culture can be the turn key that’s starts many on a deeper spiritual path.
In an interview with Made Murni (Made meaning 2nd child born) we discussed the early beginnings of yoga in Bali and Ubud, acknowledging the parallel of her long tenure at ‘The Barn’ (as it was affectionately known) with the extraordinary explosion of ‘yoga’ as a tourism experience, and lifestyle choice. She laughs gently in her ‘quiet, chin tucked manner’ at the memories of her own personal yoga practice and journey of self-development. Recalling the spiritual shifts and commitment along her yogic path. It all seems a far cry from her taking the teachers seat, teaching weekly classes and running international workshops as a lead Balinese yoga teacher on various Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) faculties. Her teachings have become an inspiration for not only Indonesian yogis but a global travelling community.
Bali Yoga from an Ubud perspective
Over the last decade, Bali has become the Asian mecca for world class yogis and yoginis. People coming to practice, to explore and to heal. The rising trend making a destination of ‘The Barn’ and amplifying it to a market leading position which of course is an amazing thing but also carries with it the usual misconceptions. Naturally as yoga has become on trend the real essence and root of how The Yoga Barn has contributed to shaping Bali yoga, putting Ubud on the wellness travel map can fade with time.
Newer comers to The Barn may not connect with the depths of how a small and spiritual expat community shaped its course, the culmination and energy of many individuals journeying on a path to their own self-realization. Murni has been a part of it all from its very inception, but not always as a yogi.
Before the hype, social media and focus on Bali yoga within the ‘wellness tourism’ mix, it was a more committed spiritual seeker who practiced yoga in central Ubud, a town in the Balinese highlands. In more recent times there are a growing number of digital stories being broadcast by a more social media loving traveler with Instagram Yoga captures. And this is to be embraced, and not undermined when compared to the grassroots, unplugged experience of the past. For the goals and depths of each person need not be judged, because regardless of anyone’s yoga practice status, the traditional teachings and point at which the practice unveils a deeper meaning remains the same, it is all personal and perfect in timing.
Freedom offered through yoga.
The most important aspect of a yoga practice is about self-acceptance, transformation and the embrace of freedom. Freedom of accepting our own bodies as they are; of respecting and loving it to the very core. Freedom of movement, not only physical, but also, and most poignantly the ability to free yourself from self-limiting mental beliefs. It offers freedom to change, to choose and to live according to our own truth. And it is here a Bali yoga story starts with Murni, a hardworking non-practicing yogi.
Personifying ‘freedom to change’, Murni’s story indeed overcomes cultural expectations, and traditional roles of the female in Balinese society. Yoga has created freedom in her body, in her perspective on life, in her job prospects and her ability to rise to teach. Hers is a story of evolution and expansion.
As you would expect Murni was not always a yoga teacher. Sixteen years ago in 2002 she was responsible for the Administration and Control of the BaliSpirit Group in Ubud. Her patience and attention to detail started to develop here and was highly valued. “At that time - she remembers - there was only one yoga studio in Ubud, the Ananda Cottages.”
It was only in 2004, the idea of a Yoga Barn bloomed on the 3rd floor of what now is known as KAFE’, on Jalan Hanoman in Ubud town a yoga studio that was small and humble. It hosted max 25 people and they held 2 classes a day, classic Hatha and Vinyasa flow. When the demand of classes rose, the land on which the current Yoga Barn sits was purchased, and in 2007 the Wayan Studio opened.
It was in 2007 that Murni’s unveil and yoga path began with her very first practice.
“Before, I wasn’t attracted to yoga,” she says “but then Megan (the owner) insisted and I tried.”
“I still remember the first 30 minutes of my first class: a nightmare. I was worried of not being good enough. Almost self-conscious. My back was sore and I couldn’t even reach my toes. But then, I let go and embraced it. I was very busy with work at the time. Office work, staring at the screen. I went to class once a week. I felt that I finally had time for myself, time to calm down, time for me to finally feel.”
It was intention and intuitive craving to feel more-free, more often that ignited her love affair with yoga and her practice time became more and more. An accessible resource for relieving tension and creating spaciousness in her mind. She recalls at the time, “classes were small and intimate. We all felt connected and it was in the practice of simple asanas.” But it was not long before:
“I was doing my job in between my practice. And not vice versa. Yoga became my priority.”
The inspiration that lead her to be a leading Balinese Yoga Teacher
The Yoga Barn’s first yoga teacher training that launched was with School of Sacred Arts (SOSA). A Bali yoga course being debated at the time as to whether if it would get off the ground! And if you are familiar with yoga in Bali now you recognize that at The Yoga Barn alone there are over 30 courses run each year. And even in 2011 as Murni embarked on her first Yoga Teacher Training the burgeoning industry that now exists was only in its infancy.
And as with most yogis who make this commitment, Murni’s practice intensified more and more. “I was training up to 6 hours a day. I was pushing myself beyond my boundaries. And that brought me to have injuries.” She broke her toe, and in that moment of pain she learnt how to use other parts of her body and connect with those on a deeper level. Everything happens for a reason, after all, they say.
“That’s exactly how it is in yoga. The places where you have the most resistance are actually the places that are going to be the areas of the greatest liberation.” - Rodney Yee
Her initial approach to yoga was more physical than spiritual. “And that’s ok - continues Murni - as long as your purpose is strong enough.” Her purpose, initially, was to become strong. Her desired outcome was to truly connect with her body.
“I wanted to explore how to move gracefully. How to plug my shoulders in. How to strengthen my muscles. I had to go through this first, before anything else.”
She trained with Denise Payne, a long-term teacher at the Yoga Barn and only during her Yoga Teacher Training in India, she approached the practice from a more spiritual level. Not that it wasn’t before, as Bhakti Yoga is intrinsic to Balinese culture. “Balinese people” explains Murni “practice yoga in every gesture of their daily life. It’s in the culture. The act of service, the offering and the attention to every detail. That’s true timeless spirituality.”
Now, after 11 years of constant and intense practice, Murni has changed her perspective. She stepped back, a lot. More than a teacher, she calls herself a witness.
“When you teach, you are in service. You do and offer the best you can without expecting anything from your students. I cannot push people to understand what I want them to understand. That would be selfish. I’d never say ‘I’m going to change your life.’ I don’t have the right to change people. People have to change from within. If I change someone and then things don’t go well, that would be bad karma.”
A teacher should foster learning and not teaching per se; and help practitioners to discover their best. That’s Murni’s purpose, to help yogis and yoginis living and travelling to Bali to understand what is the desired outcome that they’re looking for in their own practice. It can be physical, it can be psychological, it can be spiritual.
“Everything can start from everywhere” she says. What’s important is to be true and authentic to ourselves and find a purpose in whatever aspect of yoga we end up choosing.
Advanced Asana in Bali
With a disciplined and devoted self-practice Murni is recognized for her advanced asana practice which makes her yoga brand and retreat Advanced Asana offerings so perfectly apt. A true Bhakti yogi she is an inspiration to yogi’s, to women and to human-kind and her growth into longer immersion retreats is warmly welcomed from students in demand.
However, if you are a new comer to yoga arriving at The Yoga Barn, every class taught by Murni offers every level an accessible practice. Her intelligent and intentionally planned sequencing and heart filled intentions are as genuine as her smile. To find her on our Class schedule see here.
When we close our conversation about the morphing global yoga scene and her thoughts on more travelling Instagram yogis and yoginis, she smiles without judgement, remembering her humble beginnings, understanding how yoga in Bali is the perfect starting point for unveiling a deeper spiritual path. And after pausing in a thoughtful moment she speaks the words of from a beloved mentor, and Heart of Yoga teacher Mark Whitwell offering the advice:
Stop looking. Start Living.
And this says it all.