Churning The Ocean Of Jakarta

By Jane Mountain | June 15, 2014

14,966 km so far.

Not even a full minute after we stepped into Bliss For Wellness this morning, the rain started bucketing down.

In LA, this kind of storm would mean that yoga students would stay home and the class would be empty. In Jakarta, most of the students had already arrived, and more poured in with every rain drop.

Backbends For Bliss

Stephen will tell you I requested a backbends class today. The way I remember it, I simply said “you hardly ever teach backbends” and left it at that. I would never knowingly request backbends.

But, a teacher’s role is not to give their students what they want, but what they need.

I needed backbends.

I love seeing the faces of a new group of students who have all decided that today they will step out of their front doors and take a risk. They have decided to commit to spending two hours with a teacher they’ve never met before, probably never heard of before.

It doesn’t sound like much, but in the yoga world, as much as yoga teaches us to be courageous, most students prefer to stay in the comfort zone of the familiar.

It’s great to feel the energy shift in the room as Stephen starts to teach. The students gradually relax, their initial wariness transforming as they begin to realise, “Hey, this guy just might be able to teach me something.” Eventually, this blossoms into a class full of people freely enjoying themselves as they fold and twist and bend their bodies.

Stephen demonstrating Wild Thing at Bliss For Wellness.

Stephen demonstrating Wild Thing at Bliss For Wellness.

At some point I forget all about the other students, as I try and bend and fold and twist my own body according to the instructions.

After class, we enjoyed a buffet potluck prepared by some of the students, with enough food there for all 40 or so of us. Apparently, this is par for the course in Jakarta, partly because food is so central to Indonesian culture, and partly because Jakarta is so busy that people would probably faint from hunger before they got home.

Thanks to all the students and Bliss For Wellness for a great morning!

Thanks to all the students and Bliss For Wellness for a great morning!

Thanks so much to Chris, Jusnani, and Bliss For Wellness for building such a strong, friendly community and inviting us to be part of it for a morning.

Wet Wet Wet

We had arranged to meet Mona and Deera at Gudang Gudang, another studio just around the corner from Bliss For Wellness. When it came time to leave, the rain was still hammering down.

Relentless rain, Jakarta.

Relentless rain, Jakarta.

Cycle tourists are out in the elements all day long, and are not scared of a little rain, but even this was too much for us. A kilometre walk in this kind of downpour would have had us soaked beyond recognition by the time we arrived.

One of the students graciously offered to give us a lift, which was when things started to go wrong.

As we left the studio, she was waiting in the outdoor parking lot for us, but as we were saying our goodbyes, it was decided, in Indonesian, that she should drive down into the parking garage so we wouldn’t get wet walking across the parking lot.

On our travels, we’ve learned to let people perform these little courtesies for us, even if our Canadian instinct is to deny any special treatment and muck in with everyone else.

So, we walked down to the parking garage, piled into the car, and away we went.

Except, oops, not so fast. The ramp to the parking garage was a steep and slick cement path of trechery. Our new friend revved up the ramp, but not fast enough. The car stopped halfway and as she tried to gun it to make it up, the tires squealed and burned, filling the interior with smoke from burnt rubber.

Then the car slid sideways and the front right corner slid along the wall with a screech.

Oh shit.

If you think Canadians feel bad about being treated with special distinction, how do you think we feel when someone gets into a car accident on our behalf?

We hopped back out of the car to lighten the load, and this time, with a little more squealing and smoking, she made it up the ramp. We ran out into the rain to get back into the car, and by then we were soaked.

Drowning In Abundance

But the fun wasn’t over. It had been raining hard all morning, and Jakarta’s infrastructure is not so good. All of a sudden, roads were becoming rivers and small dips were turning into lakes.

man walking through flooded street in jakarta indonesia

Smiling in the rain, Jakarta.

At one intersection, we saw four boys making their way down the middle of a cross street, half-swimming half-walking, up to their waists in floodwater (and backed-up sewage, we imagine).

Our drive, which was only about 2 km, took ages as we navigated the streaming backstreets.

Fighting through the downpour, Jakarta.

Fighting through the downpour, Jakarta.

When we finally found the yoga studio, we were shocked to see the road directly in front of it was another deep lake.

Still raining, outside Gudang Gudang, Jakarta.

Still raining, outside Gudang Gudang, Jakarta.

I tried to urge our friends to go back, but they assured me Jakartans were used to this kind of thing. The driver, whose name we never actually learned, plowed her little car into the lake, but it didn’t plow out the other side.

Instead, it stalled right in the middle, in the deepest part of the water. We wanted to get out and push, except getting out was impossible. The bottoms of the doors were submerged and water would have flooded into the car had we tried to open them. Luckily, there are always lots of people around in a city like this, and four men were soon pushing us through the lake to safety.

The men who rescued us, Jakarta.

The men who rescued us, Jakarta.

We hiked up our pant legs and hopped out as soon as was possible, to make the pushing easier for them. Stephen gave the men a little money (probably too little, we’re never sure exactly what amount is appropriate in a situation like this) and we ducked under the cover of the yoga studio awning.

Our friend’s car wouldn’t start, and we could see she would be having to deal with that all afternoon. We could also see that it would probably be easier for them if we, a couple of complete strangers, weren’t around to make things any more stressful than they already were. So, feeling guilty and useless, we left the two women to the problems that we had helped cause, and made our way inside Gudang Gudang.

The Business Of Yoga

We had another great afternoon of getting to know some more yogis. Mona, who has just opened her own studio, Gudang Gudang, gave us shelter from the downpour, fed us, and entertained us with talk about the headaches and joys of opening your own yoga studio.

Her space is one part art gallery, one part yoga studio, and all parts beautiful.

gudang gudang yoga studio jakarta

Reception desk at Gudang Gudang, Jakarta.

We’d have loved to have a chance to practice there, but since we’re staying across town, the Jakarta madness makes it, if not impossible, at least extremely inconvenient.

yoga studio empty jakarta indonesia

The main studio at Gudang Gudang, Jakarta.

Luckily, we will see her and Deera, a teacher at the studio, again in Bali when we all meet for a Noah Mazé intensive. It will be great to already know some people when the workshop starts.

We didn’t hang around long though, because we had made arrangements to meet with Chris from Bliss for a quick cup of coffee and some more yoga chat. We talked about the struggle of fitting a yoga practice in when you’re working two jobs and/or cycling around the world.

And then it was back home, through the less jammed, but still busy Jakarta traffic, where we fell into our room, exhausted from an action-packed day.  


  1. Comment by Andrew Murphy

    Andrew Murphy June 19, 2014 at 5:46 am

    Siiiiiick! Will you guys ever come to japan?

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen June 25, 2014 at 12:41 am

      I was sure I replied to this. Maybe on Facebook? Help me find a yoga studio to teach a workshop at, and I am there.

Comments are closed.

Go top
Share via