An interview with Ms. Meghan Pappenheim,
Co-Founder of The Yoga Barn, Director of The BaliSpirit,
Group & Executive Producer of The BaliSpirit Festival
In downtown Ubud, Bali’s culture and spirituality center, is located one of the most well-known yoga centers in the island, The Yoga Barn, which is now on the list of more and more people who travel to Bali for wellness experience.
Tucked away amidst a natural environment embraced by trees and waters, the Yoga Barn offers not only a wide range of yoga classes, but many other healing modalities as well, from meditation, Ayurveda, detox to music and dance. There are also accommodations and a health restaurant (Kafe) to support the several days’ retreat programs.
The Co-Founder of The Yoga Barn, Ms. Meghan Pappenheim, a yoga lover from youth, was born in New York and had her first encounter with Bali during her college years. She later moved to live in Bali and has been drawn deeply in love with the land ever since. With the vision to make Bali a healthier place and give back to the community, Meghan has continued to launch businesses and initiatives that transform the land and people’s lives. SpaChina has interviewed her.
As a New York native, what drew you to the yoga world and finally to Bali?
I took my first yoga class in New York when I was 13 and then continued occasionally practicing Iyengar and Hatha through my high school years. A few years later, I spent a month at the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, where I volunteered and continued studying Yoga, adding Ayurveda and Macrobiotics to the mix. It was there I began to understand the feeling and operations of a ‘retreat center.’
In college, I took my first trip to Bali in 1992, studying anthropology, museum studies and the arts of Bali. As a student, living with a Balinese family, I gained a deep understanding of the culture and the people. What I love about Bali is the people and their unique position in the world – there is no other culture like it, a blend of animism and Hinduism.
What inspired you to create Balispirit.com? What’s the purpose of the website and how does it work?
The concept for Balispirit.com arose after the Bali bombings in 2002. What followed was an economic tailspin that plunged the island into recession. I had a vision that a holistic directory would help shift the face of tourism in a positive way for Bali. Pre-2002 there was a lot of hard partying and debauchery on the southern end of the island and, at the time, the Balinese believed that the bombings were a karmic reaction to all that …In the 2000s, BaliSpirit.com became one of the top 5 directories for Bali and helped attract a new personality into the tourism sector Bali: the ‘conscious consumer” – mindful people on their personal journeys who love the island and appreciate her culture, and who can honor the best of what Bali has to offer with their pilgrimages here.
Today, the Balispirit.com website continues to be relevant as a primary online resource for all things holistic in Bali – yoga retreats and teacher trainings, wellness workshops and events but also holistic healing practitioners, eco resorts, NGOs who give back to community, eco-friendly and socially responsible businesses and more.
Balispirit.com provides a centralized list of Bali’s holistic living venues, services and activities, as well as insightful articles on Bali culture, healing and spirituality. Who are the providers of all this inspiring information? What is your criteria for deciding what to post on the website?
The Balispirit.com website was created in 2002 so it’s not a new initiative – we have built our database over time by connecting with local healers, retreat organizers and entrepreneurs. We look to highlight services / products / organizations which are earth-friendly, socially responsible and health-body-mind conscious. The articles on our blog are written by multiple writers, each with a unique perspective and deeper knowledge into the fields of yoga, healing, Balinese culture or as a result of interviewing practitioners in those fields.
Could you introduce The Yoga Barn? What’s your core concept? What experience and services do you deliver to the guests?
The Yoga Barn is an earthy epicenter for self-discovery, healing, wellness and renewal tucked into the heart of downtown Ubud. A welcoming and naturally-built environment, The Yoga Barn invites all who enter the grounds to connect within and to experience life differently; it offers an opportunity for visitors to heal, to gather and grow in community; to connect to Self and to open up towards inner transformation.
With 7 studios, The Yoga Barn offers over 130 classes a week in yoga, meditation, dance, healing, health and wellness sessions, Ayurvedic Spa treatments and more. In addition to classes, The Yoga Barn hosts international teachers offering workshops, retreats, and teacher trainings.
What is the distinctiveness of The Yoga Barn compared with common yoga and wellness centers?
It brings together in a nature-connected place an amazing variety of movement modalities (yoga / qi gong / dance, etc.), holistic healing therapies (reiki, TCM, esalen massage, kinesiology, naturopathy, colonics, etc.) and yoga and healing learning opportunities (from half-day workshops to 30-day teacher trainings). I believe that The Yoga Barn is one-of-a-kind for Asia, but we share traits with other venues in the USA, such as Kripalu and Omega Institute.
You are very active in outreach programs and community development. Could you share more details with us?
My goal has always been that my businesses and initiatives create positive ways to contribute and give back to the Balinese community. We have a non-for-profit foundation: Yayasan Kryasta Guna from which we offer community programs. The main outreach programs that are ongoing are:
Ayo Kita Bicara HIV & AIDS – an education and empowerment program targeted at local teenagers to guard their own physical and emotional health and act with empathy towards others living with HIV within their community.
Bali ReGreen – a sustainable environmental project aiming to fight land degradation in the island’s driest areas whilst also educating and training the people who inhabit the land. It is one of the most exciting projects in the region, with an emphasis on long term economic benefits for some of Bali’s poorest people.
Then there are many special events, fundraisers and other initiatives that our teams are involved in.
The BaliSpirit Festival – through the Festival we offer many opportunities for Balinese youth to experience world music and to have inter-cultural exchanges in the arts.
Considering your original vision of establishing The Yoga Barn and BaliSpirit Festival, are you satisfied with what has been achieved?
As an anchor for a global yoga community since 2007, when it humbly opened with one simple studio, The Yoga Barn’s expansion over the years into a ‘global yoga epicenter’ has been in direct response to ongoing teacher and visitor demands – fueled by the passion and positive intentions of all who participate.
Similarly, the BaliSpirit Festival started as a small event attended by 150 people in 2008 and now has over 6,000 attendees annually and has been the inspiration for many similar events to be created all over the world.
Based on the feedback that we receive from customers and participants, we know that people experience a special transformation and connection at The Yoga Barn and at the Festival that stays with them long after they have left – it inspires them to lead their lives differently and those are ripples of positivity and change that spread far beyond Bali. It has been very rewarding for me and our teams to continuously hear these stories and be witness to such transformations.
What is the belief that leads you on this way of continual giving?
I believe that generosity makes the world go round and that people who practice the art of giving will always be rewarded.
Do you find still any room for improvement in the wellness world of Bali?
Within the yoga and wellness industry in Bali, we can realize that there is enough room in this platform for all of us. I like to say ‘there is a teacher for every student,’ and that the need to compete for market share should be eliminated. The more of us working towards a healthier world, the better.
Believe that it’s not an easy job to run several companies and projects at the same time. How do you balance the work and a mindful living? How is your yoga practice now?
The good news is that Ubud’s holistic business world has many options and practices for healthy living. But the intensity of my day to day operations reminds me that keeping energy levels going mostly comes down to my personal choices and knowing where to draw the line.
To be honest, I am not practicing much yoga these days, I have taken up running and biking, but when I do practice yoga, a few times a month, I am reminded of how amazing the practice makes me feel and how graceful my life becomes as a result.
I gain great strength from spending time with my family and friends, so I have to make sure my schedule allows for them. I also gain immense joy knowing that my businesses feed people energetically and spiritually in a very positive way.