IRIS: Your Escape fitness and health festival gives Hongkongers a weekend to relax

Heather Ng

Visitors learned martial arts poses inspired by Dragonball, and took classes on yoga and meditation during the two-day event

Heather Ng |

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A spot of outdoor yoga helps visitors at IRIS: Your Escape relax and focus.

Keto. Yoga. Pescatarian. Vegan. HIIT. Thanks in huge part to social media, these words are starting to enter our everyday language. Keeping fit and healthy has always been important, of course, but now it’s super trendy, too. There are countless Instagram and YouTube accounts telling us about new diets, exercises, and mindful practices to try.

The problem, however, is that it can be very difficult for beginners to know which of this advice is helpful, and which is harmful.

We decided to switch off our phones and head to Iris: Your Escape, Hong Kong’s biggest health festival. The two-day event, held at Central Harbourfront on April 27 and 28, offered a fun, safe, and inclusive way for Hongkongers to learn about health and wellness, as well as an escape from the chaos of the city.

Classes ranged from yoga and meditation, to dancing and trampolining, and there were plenty of healthy snacks for visitors to refuel on.

Andrew Pong, a Hong Kong-based martial artist, led a workshop on callisthenics, a form of resistance training in which you use your own body weight instead of any equipment. He was inspired to try martial arts as a child after watching film stars like Bruce Lee and the Japanese cartoon series Dragon Ball.

One visitor, Pamela Gonzalez, 25, sees fitness and wellness “as a trend that arose due to a greater emphasis in the media on health”. However, she says the movement is as much about happiness and mental well-being and physical health.

That’s why, in addition to helping visitors get their sweat on, Iris serves as a safe space for discussions about “taboo” subjects like mental health to take place. Increasing awareness of, and breaking down social stigmas around mental health are important, especially in a fast-paced, densely populated city like ours.

Inthira Phumara, 18, from YMCA Hong Kong Christian College, says that wellness and fitness are an essential part of her life, as they allow her to “heal, grow, relax, and get away from busy life”. Her schoolmates, Natalie Balbona and Keeyaan Tabakhi, both 17, agree, saying that they regularly go to the gym to unwind.

We all know that physical exercise is good for our bodies, but it is also proven to help us mentally, allowing us to cope with stressful situations. Scientific studies have also found a link between happiness and having a healthy lifestyle.

And for anyone worried about stepping out of your comfort zone, Jessica Lee, a long-time yogi and acroyoga instructor, says the key is to simply “have fun and to not take yourself too seriously!”

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge

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