Bali | Is Health Culture Encouraging Unhealthy Habits?


Travel Dates | October 17th, 2017 to November 3rd, 2017

When I began this around the world trip, I swore off Bali. It just always seemed like this microcosm of ignorant health enthusiasts circle-jerking on clean-eating, coffee enemas, and finding themselves.

But I was also naïve at the beginning of this trip, and thought it would be a breeze to keep up my physical and mental health. I tried, but there have been really long travel days where my saving grace has been a packet of sugar with watered-down Nescafé.

So I put aside my expectations, and booked a trip. I would have a full week in Ubud, Bali to eat a balanced diet and challenge myself to at least 10, 90-minute yoga classes. 

Yet my intentions for this post changed the longer I was in Ubud.

A Culture of Pseudoscience

My questioning started at the Yoga Barn. I would say that this is the most known yoga studio in Ubud, and I’d venture to say in Bali. I can see why; they have a wonderful café with super healthy choices, the schedule is extensive, and with a card the classes are $5 each. So I had no issue with the Yoga Barn’s yoga and food.

I have an issue with this bullshit-yoga-pseudoscience-hippie culture that is subconsciously (or consciously) encouraging individuals to lean into their bad health habits.

Within just 7 days, I saw 6 different people showing physical signs of severe anorexia. One woman was so frail her elbows, knees, and palms of her hands were bandaged to diminish the impact of common yoga poses.

The onsite healing center boasts holistic medicine. Their “highly trained healers” connect one’s “physical, emotional, and spiritual self” through practices like Shamanic breathwork, Astrology(1), and colon hydrotherapy.(2)

Spare me. Where to even begin…


This is not a healing practice. It’s not self-love. Astrology has no scientific validity. Traditionally, Astrology is the contention that claims that the constellation the planets are in at the moment of your birth profoundly influences your future. Also it relied on the motion of the planets to determine people’s fate.(3)

So places like Yoga Barn promote Astrology and astrological healers who use your birthday to build a map that “represents the blueprint to your evolution.” Through only a 60 to 90 minute session individuals are connected with their “personal tune” and are aided in “dancing through life more gracefully and powerfully.” So the only thing separating you from a path to spiritual enlightenment is about $100, and a wasted hour and a half.

Shamanic Breathwork

Shamanic Breathwork is described as a “contained, sacred process of transformation, using the breath,” we let go of “what no longer serves us to gain clarity, strength and empowerment to take inspired action in our lives.”(4)

Uhm, what?

If you’re not well versed in drivel, let me break it down for you.

Shamanic Breathwork is an individual inducing hyperventilation by repeatedly breathing vigorously until an altered state of mind is reached. The goal is to maintain this breath-pattern until one loses consciousness.(5)

Yep, there are classes dedicated to disrupting the oxygen and carbon dioxide balance in your blood. These intense mouth-breathers are paying to have less blood flow and less oxygen reach their brain.(6)

I spoke with a nice guy named Kevin from California that told me all about his out-of-body experience. He proudly announced that he finally got to a point where his “muscles were twitching,” that it was just such “a cool experience,” and he couldn’t wait for his girlfriend to “find her way to the wonders” of Shamanic breathing.

“Neat.” I said.

But here’s what I wanted to tell Kevin.

Let’s say someone is a rookie when it comes to Shamanic breathing. If they attend a 90-minute class, their symptoms could include headache, weakness, fainting, and/or seizures. However, someone who was able to reach the point of losing consciousness might experience all of the above as well as carpopedal spasms. Just Google alkalosis, and you can see the medical world’s opinion on it.(7)

I think it is irresponsible for studios to be promoting Shamanic Breathwork to have even the slightest benefit to an individual’s health. I think there’s little coincidence that those who find themselves immersed in this salubrious-cloaked stupidity are the biggest proponents of the adult version of wrapping a produce bag over their heads.

Perhaps it’s Darwinism at play.

Colon Hydrotherapy

According to the Yoga Barn, Colon Hydrotherapy or Colonics, is the use of enemas to “detoxify the body and support the immune system.” First of all, the enemas are part of their fasting packages, which tickles me that you have to pay them more to help you eat less, and it will set you back $60 for one “treatment,” but up to about $330 for 6 sessions.

Believing that water up your ass 6 times is going to free you from health issues is just absurd. But that aside, people take this practice home.

So I don’t think it will shock anyone that individuals performing at-home enemas incorrectly have caused rectal burns, which results in “strictures, rectal perforation, infection…and sepsis.”

Even when performed correctly enemas can be the cause of proctocolitis(8) and septicemia.(9)

So even if a person wanted to ignore the potential risks, there has been no link between enemas supporting a healthy immune system or detoxifying a body. Also, if people are after “natural peristalsis,” as Yoga Barn puts it, they could just let their body digest naturally, because that’s what peristalsis is…(10)

“Today we are witnessing a resurgence of colonic irrigation based on little less than the old bogus claims and the impressive power of vested interests. Even today’s experts on colonic irrigation can only provide theories and anecdotes in its support. It seems, therefore, that ignorance is celebrating a triumph over science.” –Dr. E. Ernst, J Clin Gastroenterol. 1997 Jun;24(4):196-8.(11)

Ignoring Disorders

It absolutely pains me to see people in mental, physical, and emotional anguish pushing to go to over 3 hours – or more – of vinyasa yoga per day. The abundance of physical eating disorders I saw at the Yoga Barn made me think that all the “self-love practices” I mentioned above are encouraging one to feed their disease.

Eating disorders are serious. And in the 13 classes I took, almost every single class was someone with physical signs of an eating disorder. Not only that, I witnessed instructors push people deeper into poses, nudging their skeleton into a more intense lunge.

And you’re right I have no idea what is happening with each person. They may all be in recovery, and I hope so. However, unless Yoga Barn has a hidden rehab center, I don’t find it coincidental that these victims are drawn to this ultra-healthy and fit environment.* 


Personally I practice yoga to increase flexibility and get stronger, which then helps me be a better runner. I eat healthy because I care about my prolonged wellness. I also emphatically believe that if diet, exercise, sleep, friendships, and challenges are approached in moderation, I don’t need any foolish health practice to achieve my goal.

In short, Bali exceeded my expectations, and I don’t think that is a good thing.

*If you know of someone struggling with an eating disorder, here are just a few of the many great resources available that can help.

  1. National Eating Disorders Association
  2. Project Know
  3. Eating Disorder Hope
  4. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. (ANAD)