Many years ago, waiting in a bus queue at Bangkok airport, I got chatting to an Israeli guy. Turned out he was a conscientious objector and one of the many young Israelis who refuse to serve their time in the army. He had just returned from a Vispassana Meditation retreat in Myanmar, this one I believe. We had an enlightening chat on the bus and he passed me a short book which covered the philosophical angle of Vispassana. Reading through the book really struck a chord with me and sowed the seed of exploring spiritual avenues in the future - and yoga seemed the natural way to do this.
When I fist started going to classes it was with a Dutch teacher called Tessa who practicied Bikrim Yoga. Bikram is the famous 'hot yoga' usually conducted in a 40 degree heated studio. In Saigon, all you need to do is close the windows, turn off the fans and you have steamed mirrors,a lot of sweat and close to 40 degrees. After that first class of intense exercise I literally floated out of the room, the oxygen tasted sweet, my senses sharpened. That was the start of my yoga practice. There is nothing quite like unkotting the knots, ironing out the crimps and wiping the mental slate clean through 90 mins of deep breathing and stretching.
Yoga in Saigon is alive and well after what might be described as brief slump. Saigon Yoga closed its doors to its main studio after 6 years in the business. During that time it was the focal point of yoga for expats in the city. In recent years despite demand obviously growing growing no one seemed to have their act together. Those days seem to be over.
Yoga in Saigon
Daniel Degrood, ex teacher of Saigon Yoga, is now working on a new project at The Yoga and Meditation Center. I made my first visit there on Saturday. The studio doubles as a tea room during the day and is situated on Dien Bien Phu just before CMTT. It has a comprehensive schedule of classes.
Another teacher at YMC, Michelle Lloyd, also has an extensive freelance schedule and her own site, http://www.michellelloyd.com/. Classes include Saturday mornings at 'The Deck', a restaurant with wooden decking down by the Saigon River in Anh Phu, and Saturday afternoon classes in Phu My Hung. She also teaches at DanCenter Vietnam.
Saigon Yoga still exists in a smaller more personal format and modest timetable.
Yoga Living Vietnam is another relatively new space to open and has regular morning and evening classes at its District One location on Pasteur.
L'Apothiquaire, the upmarket spa and wellness center, has a small yoga studio and classes.
California Wow has a 'Planet Yoga' and have recently opened in D1 right next to Ben Thanh market.
Other places include Star Fitness at The Manor and of course numerous clubs catering to Vietnamese only students. If anyone is interested I can certianly post the details to those too. Chi, before being pregnant, regularly practiced with a group of trainers who work in various places around the city.
Anything I have forgotten please remind me in the comments section.... As a final note, a quote from a Huffington Post piece for those cynical about yoga - well here is a 'yogi' getting cynical in return - 10 reasons not to do yoga.
As a longtime yoga teacher, I remember when part of my job used to consist of talking resistant people into trying it for the first time.
Then maybe they love it, they lose weight, look better, feel more awake and aware, their relationships transform, blah, blah, blah. But most never set foot in a studio, never take that first step onto a sticky mat, sure from what they've heard that they won't like it, or won't be good at it, no matter how in pain they are physically, mentally or emotionally.
Well, I'm done with all that.
Yogis are fond of saying, "save your breath to cool your porridge". And let me tell you, my pot o' porridge bubbleth over.
After 15 years of conversations with two types of people--those who crave personal growth, and those who don't, I have come to believe that for many people, there are some darn good reasons not to do yoga, beyond the obvious ones, like a body cast or a deep aversion to lycra.
If you fall into one of these categories, then you shouldn't ever let some chipper, well-meaning yoga teacher like myself convince you that yoga is the right choice for you.
Michelle Lloyd Yoga in Saigon
The Yoga and Meditation Center
Yoga Living Saigon Vietnam