Five times a week - competitive Hongkongers overdoing it

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 July, 2009, 12:00am

Giovanna Guerrera, 62, a part-time English and Italian teacher has been practising yoga for six years.

In 2003, she underwent operations for breast cancer, then she developed a leg problem. She couldn't balance and wanted to regain her strength, so she took up yoga at a gym in Sai Kung and then at Life Management Yoga Centre in Kowloon.

'I got my balance back the first year, and I was able to do any kind of exercise, and my mind strengthened as well as my body.'

With the activity, 'you're able to face problems from different perspectives, you're able to see thing things with detachment,' Ms Guerrera said. 'I've really learned a lot. I'm really grateful. I'm healthy, which is the main thing. I'm happy. The only thing that reminds me of my cancer is my wounds.'

Ramesh Ahuja, founder of the Life Management centre, says yoga, with its physical, psychological and spiritual components, is not only important for the individual, but for the community, too.

'Yoga can prevent anxiety, depression, crime rate, suicides and make people relaxed and therefore they become more productive which benefits the society at large,' he said.

Damien Mouellic teaches anatomy to yoga instructors at Pure Yoga. He also practices there. He says there is no need for government oversight. The yoga instruction he has seen 'is quite good'. The instructors 'are quite safe in what they do. They don't push people too much'.

'Of course, in every single yoga studio, you might have someone that tends to push a little bit more [in advanced classes]. But people tend to push themselves, too, on their own,' Dr Mouellic said.

The osteopath, who works for Lauren Bramley & Partners, a medical clinic in Central, says he has seen a few more minor yoga-related injuries compared with last year.

But 'yoga has become more and more popular in the last two years [in Hong Kong]. The number of people doing yoga has probably multiplied by 10, which makes absolute sense that the number of injuries is going to multiply also'.

The city's 'competitive nature' is also a factor when talking about the number of injury cases, he says. 'When they [Hongkongers] do yoga, they do it five times a week. Sometimes they do a bit too much.'

Still, the benefits of yoga - from stress relief to disease prevention - 'totally outweigh any muscular strain', he says.

In terms of safety, mYoga, a club with branches in Causeway Bay and Mongkok, says its classes are divided into three levels, members are screened to determine their health and ability before participating, and all instructors are internationally certified.

A club e-mail said: 'We also hold regular instructor workshops and ongoing training to continuously improve our instructors' skills, and have visiting yoga trainers from overseas to conduct these workshops for us.

'The approach is always from a safety point of view, emphasising good alignment coupled with the extensive use of yoga props to prevent injuries while achieving fitness goals.'