What you missed at Bali Spirit Festival: Ecstatic Dance

When Yoga Journal Senior Editor Meghan Rabbitt found herself at an ecstatic dance class in Bali, she dropped all of her inhibitions.

I’m nervously standing toward the back of the main studio at The Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali, waiting for the ecstatic dance class to start. I have no idea what to expect, but have been told it could very well be “the most ecstatic experience of my life.” I’m sold—and stand in line a whopping three hours before the 7:30 Friday night start time to secure a ticket for this event, which is one of the most popular classes here each week.

I’m nervously standing toward the back of the main studio at The Yoga Barn in Ubud, Bali, waiting for the ecstatic dance class to start. I have no idea what to expect, but have been told it could very well be “the most ecstatic experience of my life.” I’m sold—and stand in line a whopping three hours before the 7:30 Friday night start time to secure a ticket for this event, which is one of the most popular classes here each week.

‘I Feel Like an Outsider’

At first, I feel like an outsider, despite the fact that I’m wearing my best harem pants jumpsuit to at least try to fit in on the fashion front. It’s just that everyone around me looks so comfortable and excited—like they’ve done this a million times before and know that ecstasy awaits. As I start to dance, I wonder, What will everyone think when they catch a glimpse of my movesHow can my dancing possibly compare to the girl with the glittery bra top who looks like she was born to ecstatic dance?

Then, something awesome happens. Maybe it’s the music, which feels almost trance-like at times. Or perhaps it’s the fact that when I glance around the room, lots of dancers have their eyes closed, which prompts me to close my own eyes and start moving my body however I damn well please. Within minutes of class starting, I start dancing like nobody is watching (because, as it turns out, they aren’t!) and it feels good.

‘I Am Present in This Moment’

My hips start gyrating like I was a Latin dance pro in my last life, and my arms take on lives of their own, swirling around my head and down my body. I jump. I shake. I kick my right leg as high as I can, and then my left. I drop to my knees and lie on my stomach (now I understand the elbow and knee pads!), and stretch my entire body out on the floor before rolling onto my back, undulating up to sit, and then jumping up into the air. I take up more and more space and move to more areas of the room as the class goes on—and as I do that, my thoughts take up less and less space in my brain. I am present in this moment, simply moving as freely as I like, in community with a hundred other people doing the same.