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Meditation and how to find balance

International Day of Yoga Hong Kong – celebrate with a rooftop class or get your children to strike a pose

Yoga is a 5,000-year-old tradition that melds physical and mindful pursuits to promote inner harmony. Head to one of these events happening around the city this coming week as the world celebrates its practice

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 7:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 June, 2018, 11:21am

Yoga is known to relieve stress and anxiety, and is believed to help improve your quality of sleep, fight depression and reduce chronic pain – in other words, to boost your quality of life. That is why, on June 21, we celebrate the International Day of Yoga. The 5,000-year-old tradition melds physical and mindful techniques, such as breathing exercises, meditation and strength work, to promote inner harmony.

This man helped introduce yoga to Hong Kong 30 years ago

Originating in India, yoga has spread worldwide. The United Nations General Assembly decided on the date four years ago, in line with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion to have it on the summer solstice. It is believed, after the first moon following the summer solstice, the first yogi – Shiva – began to share his knowledge of yoga with the world. Now, more than 170 countries support the day of yoga.

A growing roster of celebrities now swear by yoga: former soccer player David Beckham and his fashion designer wife Victoria, pop stars Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, lingerie model Alessandra Ambrosio, comedian and actor Russell Brand, rocker Adam Levine and screen queen Drew Barrymore are among its converts. The growing number of studios, classes and teachers in Hong Kong shows that yoga’s popularity is only increasing in the city.

If you have not yet embraced yoga, but are curious to understand how people can bend themselves into astonishing poses, you may want to try a class and join in the yoga celebration. Here’s a sample of some of the varied classes available in Hong Kong, for people of all ages. Even if you’ve never done an asana – a yoga pose – or tried pranayama – breathing exercises – you will find a welcoming smile and a kind and patient coach.

Rooftop yoga with a foam roller

Ce La Vi Hong Kong presents “Release”, a combination of yoga and trigger-point foam rolling, to align the body and mind. Charlotte Johnson has been practising yoga for over 15 years and studied with venerable yogi David Swenson. Expect a fun and dynamic experience that combines breath work, poses and a foam roller. Bring a mat, or rent one for HK$30, and a towel to have a shower at neighbouring Torq fitness centre (3F, Abdoollaly House, 20 Stanley St, Central). Take home a goody bag valued at more than HK$1,000 that includes a trial voucher for one free Torq class, discounts for Ce La Vi dining, and samples and offers from other wellness groups.

When: June 21, 7.30am-8.30am

Where: Ce La Vi, California Tower Sun Deck, 25/F, 30-32 D’Aguilar St., Lan Kwai Fong Central. Tel: 3700 2300. HK$120. www.celavi.com

Yoga for children

Yoga teacher Swati shows poses meant to make children stronger and more flexible, and takes them through meditation and breathing techniques to help them to focus and concentrate. The session is calming for restless young minds.

When: Jun 21, Jun 28, 5pm-5.45pm

Where: Harbourside Clubhouse, 1 Austin Rd West, Kowloon West. HK$180. Tel: 5681 2664; email: [email protected]

Invigorating yoga

Kate To of Yoga Topia takes students with some experience through a dynamic 75-minute class with a sequence of poses, breathing and meditation to help the mind, body and spirit glow. The session aims to increase flexibility, improve balance and coordination, strengthen and tone the body and boost cardio function.

When: Jun 21, 7.30pm-8.45pm

Where: Harbour Road Sports Centre, 27 Harbour Rd, Wanchai. HK$150. WhatsApp 6180 8094; email [email protected]

Slow yoga by candle-light

Experience Yin yoga with Ariel Tang, who has undergone training directly with Yin’s founder, Paul Grilley. This class is quietly challenging, so it’s perfect foil for an active lifestyle. Known informally as “slow” yoga, it aims to exercise deeper, denser connective tissues, known as fascia, through stretching and stressing them in long-held passive poses.

Yin yoga offers a chance to be introspective, and can calm the mind and emotions. This class is suitable for students of every level and physical condition. Class fee is HK$180 for a first-timer; HK$280 for a single class; HK$1,200 for five classes (valid for 60-day). Book at goo.gl/ptqJ2w. Classes must be prepaid and booked.

When: June 21, 8pm-9.15pm

When: SharedSpace, 31/F, The Sharp, 11-13 Sharp Street East, Causeway Bay.

Community yoga

The Andiappan Yoga Community (AYC), a non-profit, volunteer organisation, has partnered with Anahata Yoga and the International Yoga Academy to celebrate with yoga classes for all. It will also honour the volunteer leaders who teach yoga classes throughout the year for those who may not be able to afford them or who have special needs.

When: June 24, 10.30am-5.30pm

Where: Vocational Training Council’s Institute of Vocational Education at Morrison Hill, 6 Oi Kwan Rd, Wan Chai. www.yogacommunity.org/iyd2018/

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The opening ceremony at 10.30am is free, with a yoga demonstration by AYC founder Yogananth Andiappan and volunteers. Four different types of yoga sessions will follow (each costs HK$50 and are open to all levels, including beginners):

Detox yoga, 11.15am-12.15pm

This sequence of yoga poses combined with invigorating and energising breathing techniques will help to boost your blood supply throughout the body. It is designed to flush out toxins, which may help strengthen the immune system.

Sun salutation (Surya Namaskaram), 12:30 – 1:30pm

One of the most widely taught yoga classes, this set of 12 to 16 poses can be performed in a repetitive sequence. This helps the mind focus on one thing alone – the movement of the body synchronised with the breath. This may expand awareness of the body and the energies within it.

Yoga for office workers, 1.45pm-2.45pm

This class targets office staff and others who spend too much time sitting in one position. It will take participants through poses to relieve and avoid tension that can be done later in the comfort of your office space.

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Partner yoga, 3pm-4pm

Bring a yoga buddy or be partnered with someone for this fun and engaging session which helps build trust and confidence between yogis.

The event will close with a free mindfulness session, from 4.15pm-5.30pm. Learn easy meditation techniques that will be accompanied by a kirtan, or group chanting and singing. Join in or simply feel uplifted by the sounds.

Be aware that yoga studios and teachers in the city welcome newcomers, any day. Most offer free or low-cost, first-time trials, so you can sample different yoga types and teachers to find one that best suits you and your budget.