On my travels through the Americas and Asia last year, I realized that I intuited a checklist of all the things that made a particular place a viable home.
Platforms like Nomadlist list do a thorough job of assessing the surface necessities but one thing stood out as a shorthand on whether the place was going to be a vibe match:
If there was a well-maintained yoga shala there.
This mneumonic worked so well that when I got to Bali and saw the amount of care that goes into the yoga shalas here, I knew I found home.
A yoga shala is just a place - a container.
The word 'shala' means a room or house, but the physical practices of yoga there make them spiritual and intellectual homes.
Shalas are simple relative to the Catholic churches I grew up in that tended to flex their wealth with gold and other materials chosen to last generations.
In contrast, the yoga shalas I've practiced at tend to be open air with a focus on natural light and open vistas.
The building materials are natural, which requires regular care. They inherit the energy of the community that takes care of them because they tend to rely on a lot of labour - perhaps like all places of worship.
Shalas are a place of worship, but you are the altar of your own experience.
That usually also means a healthy investment in the people into themselves and I find conversations that help me eat better, buy more consciously and exchange energy from well-grounded humans.
The whole point of the shala is to hold a familiar space to go inward and synchronize the mind and body so that together they can be yoked to Source with conscious practice.
As much as yoga is a solo practice, I love practicing with others.
The vibe of a group in a shared pursuit doing something hard and witnessing each other's journey is motivating.
During the early part of the pandemic, being estranged from my usual yoga spaces left me with a sorrow I hadn't predicted. These places were a regulating function for me - a place to dedicate a physical and spiritual practice toward self-improvement.
Just me vs me. Steel sharpening steel.
Bali is a world center for yoga training and personal practices owing to landmark investments in yoga shalas like Yoga Barn. Still, I can quickly check the health of a specific community by stopping into their yoga shala.
So here in Bali, and wherever I am called to next, you can easily find me by tapping into the healthy communities that keep me healthy - in shala.