Yoga around the world

I have been practicing Iyengar yoga for about 10 years (wow, I can hardly believe that myself!). One of the things I knew I would miss the most about being home was having (or attempting to have) a regular practice. I never make it to class as much as I’d like, but when I do get out, my regular teachers are Bob Whittinghill and Patrina Dobish (Bob teaches at Chicago’s Yoga Circle and both Bob and Patrina at the Lake Street Church of Evanston, which interestingly enough has a great yoga program). When I moved out to the suburbs, I was thrilled to find Kathleen Wright, who teaches yoga and offers Thai massage out of her LaGrange studio, Garden of Yoga.

For those of you in the Chicago area, you should check out what will be a great Iyengar conference that is taking place this September – Yoga From the Heartland. I am sorry I will be missing it! You can find more info here.

I always knew I was lucky to have teachers I respected and liked. This makes class so much less like work and much more fun and fulfilling. However, I tried to think positive and look at traveling as an additional opportunity to try some new studios and teachers. It has been an interesting adventure! I normally started my search with the BKS Iyengar directory of certified teachers (\One of the things I think is most important about the Iyengar approach is the stringent system of testing and qualifying that teachers adhere to. As a student, you are getting a much higher quality of instruction than I have seen most other places, so I wanted to try to start with the method I know and love. When there are not Iyengar-based options, I either try to practice on my own (sometimes challenging when traveling on a budget and staying in rooms that are often short on space and lacking a healthy cleaning regimen!) or I may check out a non-Iyengar class or two. Here’s a summary of the places I have visited on the road:


Interestingly enough, I did not make it to a single yoga class in India! This is partly due to the nature of our traveling there (lots of time with family and at the ashram) and also due to the fact that many of the yoga options in India are geared towards a sort of “yoga traveler,” with options like retreats at organic resorts and the like. I do wish we would have made it to Pune, where the Iyengar family still lives and teaches. Oh well, maybe next time!

Bangkok, ThailandIyengar Yoga Studio

The Iyengar Yoga Studio is run by Justin Herold, an American who started the studio in 1999. I took a class with Justin and it was pretty similar to an American class (no surprise there!). The studio also employs several Thai teachers, something I found unusual in Asia. In most cases, the studios are set up by expats, the classes are all taught by expats and attended exclusively by expats as well. Not so at the Iyengar Yoga Studio of Bangkok. I think it’s great Justin is introducing Thai people to Iyengar yoga and helping develop local talent.

Chiang Mai, Thailand –

I attended classes at two different studios in Chiang Mai. First at The Yoga Studio, which I believe has since ceased to exist. The owner/instructor was an English expat who led a challenging class. The space he’d developed was beautiful, set off of one of the city’s main streets in a garden where you feel a million miles from everyone else. There was also an organic juice bar. Although I don’t believe he is running the studio any more (or maybe he’s just traveling right now), it looks like the space has morphed into something called The Space Within. They still offer yoga classes and I think would still be worth a visit, since it really is a lovely getaway.

The other studio I checked out was actually just a loft located above a restaurant near where we were staying – The Cathouse. We never had a chance to eat there, but the food looked great and the folks running the place are really trying to do some great things for the community, like offering yoga classes! I took a class taught by Gernot, a sort of multi-national expat who has an eclectic style of teaching. He has some Iyengar influence, but is not certified in the method. His classes were more flowing than I normally enjoy, but I found his teaching style really fresh and inspiring. He teaches at a number of spots around Chiang Mai and can be tracked down through his own web page Yoga Mind Yoga Body.

Siem Reap, Cambodia – Peace Cafe

When we reached Siem Reap, I was dying for a yoga class. We were spending every day trekking around in the incredible heat visiting the amazing temples of Angkor Wat and it had been a long time since we’d had a comfortable space for me to attempt any sort of practice. I found the Peace Cafe, which is a classic hippy-type establishment, which genearlly just annoys the hell out of me. But I needed a class, stat!!! So, I figured I’d go check it out. I was so pleasantly surprised to find a great space, friendly people and, in addition to yoga, a number of other community-based classes and events (including “monk chats” where they invite some monks in each week so people can literally just chat with them to learn more about Buddhism and their way of life, while they can practice their English, which is something young monks really like to do). Maybe these hippies aren’t so bad after all!

Hong Kong – Iyengar Yoga Center of Hong Kong

This was one of the best studios I visited. Clean and simple, the props were of great quality and well maintained. I attended a class with Teresa Wenk, which I thoroughly enjoyed. She is a great teacher and a very nice lady!

Sydney, AustraliaIyengar Yoga Bondi Junction

When I started searching Google for yoga studios in Sydney, I could not believe the number of sites that came up. It was honestly a bit overwhelming, but we were staying in Maroubra, so I was able to narrow my options down to those that were nearby or easily accessible by bus.

I ended up checking out Iyengar Yoga Bondi Junction, which is a pretty traditional Iyengar studio – good props, rope walls, etc. Luckily when I arrived, a regular student befriended me and explained that although our class started at 10am, we were to get started independently and then our teacher, Kay Parry, would turn up about 15 minutes into the class. I guess this is why her classes are two hours! The class was huge, probably about 30 people, and Kay had an assistant who did nearly all the adjustments.

The other surprise I found in Australia was the cost of yoga classes – $20 – 25/class. So, that was my one visit to a studio during our month in Australia!

Te Anau, New Zealand Te Anau Yoga

This was one of my favorite yoga experiences of the trip. Te Anau Yoga group is a non-profit organization established in 2010 to “ensure yoga is a permanent offering within the Te Anau and Manapouri communities.” They are trying to develop not just students, but also instructors so this tiny community can continue to have access to regular yoga classes. One way they do this is by bringing in more experienced teachers from other parts of New Zealand and the rest of the world for workshops, which seem to be really well attended.

Classes are held in a community room behind the local health clinic and all the mats and props need to be hauled in and out for each class. Class is sometimes canceled if the doctors or another community group need to have a meeting in the room. Despite all this, the great energy and inspiration created by the organization’s mission was palpable when I attended a class there. The entire experience was a good reminder of the incredible gift that yoga is to all of us.

Buenos Aires, ArgentinaStella Beguet Yoga

I found Stella from a simple Google search, but immediately liked the feel of her site and, from the information included within it, felt I would like her. When I met her in person, I found her to be sweet and genuine and her class was a reflection of that – professional and challenging, but with her kind spirit as the overarching vibe. She has studied Iyengar yoga in India and the US, so the manner in which she conducts her class is similar to those I’ve attended at home, with the added bonus of the opportunity to practice my Spanish!