Healing in paradise: A group of Swedish women’s annual yoga retreat in Bali

Photo: Caroline (left) and Pia (right) teaching the participants at the 2023 retreat

In the heart of Bali, where spirituality and tranquility merge, a group of Swedish women embarks on an annual transformative journey. Every year, they gather in the warm embrace of Ubud, Bali’s spiritual center, to embark on a deep exploration of self-discovery through yoga. For these women, Bali isn’t just a destination; it’s a sanctuary where healing and self-development begins.

The genesis of the journey

The annual retreat is organized by the mother-daughter-duo, Pia and Caroline Westergren. Their story starts with a simple idea – what if they combined their love for yoga with their passion for travel?

“I had my 60th birthday in February 2020, so me and my husband took our four kids, grandchildren and daughters-in-law to Thailand. After two weeks, all the kids went home and then Caroline, me and her dad went to Bali. One night we were talking about running our own yoga retreat here in Bali. Soon after we started browsing for the right location,” Pia and Caroline shares. Even as they sit in the midst of the tropical landscape of Bali, their Scandinavian roots are irrefutable. The same goes for their shared genetics, as both their light eyes brights up, just by talking about their work at the retreat.

The idea for the Bali yoga retreat stemmed from a deep love for the Indonesian paradise. Having visited Bali numerous times, the mother-daughter team, envisioned a space where the serene Balinese surroundings could intertwine with the practice of yoga, leading to a profound spiritual experience.

“Ubud is the heart of Bali. It is also Bali’s spiritual center. The whole town is full of yoga studios and everything is just really beautiful. Ubud has always been the spiritual center of the island, so it made sense to choose this area for the retreat.

Photo: Lily Lane Villas
From dream to reality

The family’s love affair with Bali began long before the idea of the retreat was conceived. The mystical charm of the island, with its vibrant energy and spiritual allure, continuously drew them back to the place. In the search for the ideal location, the duo suddenly remembered their encounter with Lily Lane Villas back in 2014.

“We remembered the place was quite nice, so we decided to just drop in and say hi. Jillian who owns the place recognized us even after all this time. We explained to her how we were thinking about doing a yoga retreat, and so she showed us around.  We just knew that this was the right place,” Caroline explains with Pia nodding next to her.

They had thereby found the perfect venue for their vision and the pieces were slowly falling into place. Surrounded by nature, the two Swedes have managed to craft a haven for Swedish women’s self-exploration and growth.

Photo: Caroline teaching the class
Life altering turn of events

It wasn’t always in the cards, that the mother-daughter duo would teach Swedish women yoga in Bali. Mamma Pia, used to own her own nail salon, but after a health setback, she found solace and purpose in yoga.

“I had a small nail salon back home in Skåne, but all of the sudden, I got really sick. The doctor said it was the nail dust, and due to the condition of my lungs, I had to stop immediately. This was around 12 years ago,” Mamma Pia shares.

Pia’s journey from a nail salon owner to a yoga teacher turned out to be a transformational one. In 2016, highly influenced by Caroline, Pia took the plunge and became a certified yoga teacher. The decision to transition was abrupt, and Pia back then found herself at a crossroad.

“Since my husband was a captain on a cruise ship in Asia, and our four kids had moved out, I had to fill my days with something,” Pia says.

Her newfound passion for yoga led her to seek out private instructors, as she initially was too hesitant to attend group classes – fearing she would do it “wrong.” It was Caroline who then planted the idea that would lead to the creation of a yoga studio in Sweden – Skånes Yoga & Healing Center.

“She was spending a lot of money on private teachers, so I just asked her, what if she were to take all that money and spend it on becoming a yoga teacher instead. Then she could just do it herself,” Caroline adds. The two sharing a smile that shows the very special bond between them.

Photo: Caroline (left) and Pia (right)
Working together as a team in more than one continent

Encouraged by her daughter’s suggestion, Pia contemplated the idea. Though she was Initially skeptical, she gradually overcame her doubts. After completing her yoga teacher training in 2016, she soon after started her own yoga studio.

“Me and my husband had lived in the same house for 25 years, in a small town called Oxie, just outside of Malmö. After I completed my teacher training, we found a fantastic house with an annex. We moved 700 meters down the road just so I could have my own yoga studio,” Pia says with a small, but grateful smile.

Short after Caroline herself pursued her yoga teacher training in Nepal in 2019, which set the stage for their collaborative venture. Together, they have overcome challenges, including the constraints of the pandemic, and created a nurturing space for self-exploration – both in Bali and back in Sweden.

“At first, we had a full group of 14 or 15 women, and we were supposed to come here in November 2020. That was the first time we planned it. Then Covid came and we moved it to 2021, still covid. We then moved it to 2022 where we took 12 women here. This time we were only seven, including the two of us.”

Photo: group picture
Balancing chakras and nurturing souls

Each day of the retreat focuses on exploring the chakras – the body’s energy centers, one at a time. Through Yindalini yoga, a unique blend of yin and kundalini yoga, participants delve into a holistic journey of self-awareness and healing. Guided by Pia and Caroline, the aim is to balance the chakras and create a free flow of energy.

“Last year we did kundalini yoga, but this year we’ve mixed it up. We haven’t really heard of anyone else practicing Yindalini in Sweden, so it is kind of our thing. We do Yindalini with focus on one chakra at a time. The first day it’s the root chakra and then we keep going from there until we have been through all the chakras,” they explain.

Located at the picturesque Lily Lane Villas, the retreat offers an intimate setting in private villas – each with its own pool, where the participants get to relax after their daily morning routine.

“After our morning yoga, which is around an hour, we all have breakfast. Afterwards we have a conversation about the chakra we are working with that day. That way they learn more about what it is, and how that specific chakra works,” Caroline shares.

More than just a yoga retreat

Beyond the yoga sessions, the retreat includes a rich tapestry of experiences. From traditional Balinese massages to an excursion to Bali’s sacred sites – including the holy water temple, where the participants engage in the traditional purification ceremonies. The attendees get to immerse themselves in Bali’s rich cultural heritage and every day brings a new adventure.

“Of course, we go to the holy water temple where you get a purification. It’s this natural spring where the locals go to get cleansed. It’s all about getting rid of your bad negative karma and to purify all your chakras. That makes it very well in line with the theme of our retreat,” Caroline says.

Photo: the garden of Lily Lane Villas
Lily Lane Villas – It’s all about karma

The retreat’s home, Lily Lane Villas, is more than just a venue; it’s a sanctuary of its own.

The allure of the place isn’t just about its picturesque surroundings. It’s the embodiment of Bali’s core beliefs and way of life.

One of the features that drew Pia and Caroline to this specific location was its organic garden. Here, amidst the vibrant greens and colorful blooms, the majority of the food served during the retreat is grown. From the vegetables on their plate to the eggs in their breakfast – everything is either homegrown or sourced locally. Embodying a healthy and holistic approach to the retreat.

“One of the things that we really like about this place is their organic garden. It’s very holistic and the food is always beautifully served. And nothing goes to waste. They even share the leftovers with the less fortunate locals, which is truly beautiful,” they both agree.

Each morning, the compound comes alive with a unique Balinese ritual. The guests wake up to find offerings, meticulously crafted from coconut leaves, left outside their villa. These offerings, filled with flowers, incense and rice, are a symbol of gratitude to the Gods for the blessings bestowed upon them. During the retreat, a special offering class allows the participants to create their own personal offerings. Infusing them with their own wishes, and then personally present them at the Ganesha within the complex.

“A huge part of what we like about this place is that it’s all about karma. Everyone is very friendly. They’re very helpful because the basis of their belief is karma. You do good, you get good back.”

When you know better, you do better

“There is this expression. I think it was Maya Angelou who said “when you know better you do better.” That is the essence of what we are trying to do here. Because if you start working with yourself everything will get easier,” Pia says.

As the duo plan for the future, they share a dream of expanding their retreat and have more women join and experience the magic of Bali.

“Even though we teach in Swedish that doesn’t mean that the participants have to be located in Sweden. What is included in our price is the private villa, the yoga classes and activities plus breakfast and lunch. Flight ticket is something people have to purchase themselves. So, you can easily be located in Southeast Asia and still come and join us. You just have to understand enough Swedish to keep up,” the duo adds.

As of now, the next retreat will be in January 2025.

“If there are many inquiries to do one in 2024, we can probably be convinced,” they admit when asked.

If you are interested in joining the group for their next trip, find out more on their website: skanesyogaochhealingcenter.se

Photo: Pia (left) and Caroline (right)

About Miabell Mallikka

Miabell Mallikka is a journalist working with ScandAsia at the headquarters in Bangkok.

View all posts by Miabell Mallikka

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