Practicing yoga in unexpected places

By Im Eun-byel
  • Published : Jun 20, 2019 - 17:17
  • Updated : Jun 20, 2019 - 17:27

Friday is a big day for yoga, as it marks the fifth International Day of Yoga.

In 2014, the UN declared June 21 the International Day of Yoga, saying that the sport could contribute to development and peace.

Celebrating the day, around 1,200 people gathered at Gwanghwamun Plaza on Sunday to practice yoga together. The massive yoga session at the center of Seoul drew attention to the thousands-year-old practice, which has lately seen a resurgence.

Boosted by a rise in its popularity, yoga classes are being held at unexpected places in Korea, including a concert hall and swimming pools.

Though it is common to practice Vinyasa flow with background music -- for example, to the tunes of Sam Smith -- classical music has not always been a part of the yoga playlist.

Still, Lotte Concert Hall’s “Rise & Shine Vinyasa Yoga with Classical Music,” held in collaboration with Lululemon Korea, saw online applications for 40 places fill up quickly, even for weekday sessions.

Violinist Lee Ji-yoon performs during a yoga class at the Lotte Concert Hall in April. (Lotte Concert Hall)

The class allows participants to practice Vinyasa flow yoga while listening to live classical music in the concert hall’s lobby or terrace. For classes in April and June, violinist Lee Ji-yoon and violist Anton Kang took the stage, respectively.

Though it is not easy to fully appreciate Bach’s Sonata No. 2 in A Minor in the middle of a fast-moving sequence, the live music does effectively kick in during “savasana” or “corpse pose,” the final relaxation pose.

Breathing to the rhythm of the music, one can truly immerse oneself in the classical music yoga practice.

If conventional yoga fails to offer a sufficient workout, yoga on water can be an option. One can practice yoga on water using a stand-up paddle board, a surf board or an aqua float as a yoga mat.

Requiring balance and strength, this kind of yoga burns a lot more calories compared to other types of yoga done on land. It also effectively strengthens the core. 

Yoga is practiced on an aqua float at Hidden Cliff Hotel & Nature on Jeju Island (Im Eun-byel / The Korea Herald)

Hidden Cliff Hotel & Nature in Jeju Island operates aqua float yoga classes every day for guests during the vacation season. In the early morning, the hotel installs aqua floats at its outdoor swimming pool, allowing guests to practice yoga sequences under the guidance of an instructor.

The important thing to keep in mind while doing yoga on water is to take one’s mind off of the possibility of falling into the water, instructor Kim Binna tells the class. If “not falling into the water” becomes the goal of the practice, it is impossible to focus on the sequence.

In Seoul, there are yoga institutions that offer yoga classes at swimming pools. For those who want to feel the natural flow of water, the Han River is a popular venue for yoga practices involving water in the summer.

Hanok, or traditional Korean buildings, offer another unique place for yoga. Though there may be no novelty in the yoga sequence, practicing in a traditional building may add an element of unfamiliarity.

Practicing yoga at art galleries is also trendy at the moment. Participants can enjoy artwork while doing yoga. The open space is usually vacant at night and can be turned into a spot for private yoga sessions. 

A Yoga instructor practices yoga at Coex Aquarium (Coex Aquarium)

Last October, Coex Aquarium held an event that allowed visitors to do yoga surrounded by aquatic life.

These yoga practices are mostly one-time events appropriate for those with yoga experience. Though the classes welcome beginners, it can be challenging for them to follow the instructions in the unique yet sometimes distracting settings. Such classes are also frequented by yoga instructors looking for new experiences.