Like many ardent practitioners of yoga, I make it a point to find a yoga class or two everywhere I visit outside of the US. With great gratitude, I recall some of my more memorable international yoga experiences:
1) LONDON: A friend gave me the name of a yoga studio in Chiswick near High Road House, the glam West End hotel I was staying in with my then-girlfriend, Sarah. We found the street that the studio was on but could not quite find the actual studio address. Several times we walked passed a group of heavily tattooed and pierced punkers that were busy smoking cigarettes. I was afraid to bother the group, but Sarah bravely approached one of smokers and asked him if he knew where the yoga studio was. The bloke took a long drag on his cigarette as he looked over her yogini body.
“Follow us upstairs,” he said. “We’re all going to yoga after we finish our fags.”
2) HONG KONG: I took a yoga class at Pure Yoga in Causeway Bay. The studio was on the 25th floor of a high-rise building that overlooked Hong Kong Harbor. Every time I tried to look straight ahead, I suffered from vertigo. My excellent Chinese instructor spoke mostly Cantonese but I recognized all of the Asanas as they were spoken by her in Sanskrit including “Chatalunga.”
3) COSTA RICA: I practiced yoga in Nosara for a week. The Yoga Institute studio is built on the top of a large hill that requires climbing many steps to reach. Once you reach the top of the hill, you are rewarded with an outdoor studio space that is built “tree house” style. The studio is situated at the top of a magnificent jungle canopy with sweeping views of the ocean. The yoga was especially invigorating because I spent most of the class keeping huge red ants off of my mat.
4) CAMBODIA: In Siem Reap, I had a private yoga class in my hotel room at Amansara, a former King’s residence. My yoga teacher was a stunningly beautiful woman that was very flexible and strong. When my challenging Ashtanga class was over, my teacher asked me if I wanted a massage. I didn’t hesitate. “I would love a massage,” I said. She then started to explain the pricing matrix for the various “services” that were available. And, just so there wasn’t any confusion, she also explained that “she” was actually a “he”.
5) MEXICO: In Playa Del Carmen, I took a yoga class with an instructor that was, in his own words, “mostly a bodybuilder”. This guy knew a lot about Chaturangas (he however called them “push ups”). I ended up doing about a hundred Chaturangas (in sets of 20) followed by a bunch of sit-ups. That was pretty much the whole class.
6) CHINA: In Shanghai, I found a mat in the Grand Hyatt Hotel weight room/executive gym. It was in the summer and the air conditioning in the gym was set at a temperature normally reserved for cryogenic chambers. After a few minutes of warming up, I nearly froze to death. I decided to take my practice outside to a nearby park where, after a few minutes of Pranayama, I nearly choked to death from the smell of car exhaust.
7) JAMAICA: In Montego Bay, I took a yoga class on the beach. It was a very beautiful setting and the class was moving along pretty well until some sand got on my mat. The sand and the movement combined in much the same way that sand paper works on wood – my hands and feet were given a Dermabrasion-like treatment. I also managed to get sand in my mouth (don’t ask).
8) FRANCE: I found a studio in Le Marais that offered Hatha yoga. In Paris, I was told, “yoga is more for relaxation than exercise.” We began with “les postures du chien” (dog) followed by “les postures du chat et vache” (cat and cow). Shortly after these warm up poses, my jet lag and the few glasses of Chardonnay I had an hour earlier started to kick in. I spent the rest of the class in pose de l’infant (child’s pose) in a delicious nap.