Yoga…How it all started in Vietnam


  • This is an introduction to ‘The 30 day Hot Yoga Challenge
  •  I am not only writing about this because of the fuss that is being made of Hot Yoga here in North America.
  • It is an attempt to answer a few questions floating in the WWW. ‘Is it really that good?’ – ‘What is the difference to regular Yoga?’ – ‘Does it make you loose weight?’ – ‘Will I feel nauseous?’ – ‘Can I stretch deeper than in regular Yoga?’
  • But mostly, I am trying to pay attention to my practice and have an intense learning progress, profit from my one-month-trial, and document it, to be an inspiration, perhaps mostly to myself, to not forget about how important Yoga can be for your life.


But before we start with that, I am now going to let you in on my personal Yoga Background. 

I found my way to Yoga exactly one year ago, with my arrival to Vietnam. My friend and roommate, who is very focused on taking care of his body, mind and health, talked me into it. He has been watching his uncle practicing Yoga every day, for hours, and was a witness of him clearing his body and mind through Yoga. He said ‘my uncle got rid of all his stress and bad moods that came from work. He is in great shape. He knows meditation. He can stay in one pose for up to an hour. I have never seen him more balanced and relaxed.’

[Uncle Duc, doing a Buddhist ritual to bless our house.]SONY DSC

I was convinced. I did Pilates years ago and liked it, I wasn’t sure about Yoga. I thought it might be too slow for me and I wouldn’t be able to believe in it. I tried it anyways.

He brought me to their studio, the teacher was his uncles former teacher. An older lady who is able to bend in every direction, I swear. It was 15 $ for a monthly pass. I went in the evenings. It was all in Vietnamese, so at the beginning I would just follow the poses by looking at the others, and the instructor would swing by and improve my position. With time I would learn to understand the important words like ‘right’ and ‘left’ and ‘breath in, breath out’, and ‘slowly’. Really the most important steps to follow in Yoga practice. I started loving it, mostly because of how I felt afterwards.


 [ The two Yogi in what they call the ‘Yogi Squat’ position in North America, which really is just a comfortable way to sit in Vietnam…] 

My posture improved quickly and I didn’t have any back pain at all. Usually I would wake up with an aching back. My first months in Vietnam, I would just go to bed on my almost rock hard VNese mattress on the floor and I would simply lie down on my back, hands together over my tummy, fall asleep and wake up in the exact same position. Whipped a smile on my face every morning.


 [Saigon’s evening traffic.]

The only thing I missed at this class was getting detached from the outside life by a nice studio. This one was opened completely to the side that faced the street, there was also no music so the noise of Saigon’s loud and crazy traffic would be part of your Yoga class. But the teacher was excellent, and when I left for almost a month around Christmas time, I was so touched to hear that she missed me while I was gone. She came to our block to talk to our Uncle about me, how much potential I have and that I shouldn’t stop. It was so motivating, but unfortunately I only went back for a month as by February 2013 my working hours collided with Yoga class. I got really stressed, I did up to 2 hours of driving every day. So I decided to teach at another school and live closer to work for my last month in Vietnam. And it was worth it. Settling in, I took my bike and looked for a new Yoga studio. I saw a sign by a house and the Vietnamese family happily let me in and told me about the evening class.

First encounter with Yoga in a heated room

When I entered the room I was welcomed by a teacher my age and a small classroom, we were about 8 people practicing. Her name was Anh. We started practice and I felt embarrassed. The room was closed, the fans stood still, the AC was off. It was so hot, I was sweating like a pig and I just couldn’t understand why the freaking fans weren’t working. Anh spoke a little English and commented on my sweating ‘It is good for you!’. I thought, I guess  it is, I’ll bring a towel next time! I felt great after class. It felt more like a workout than the regular Yoga classes and I somehow felt so much energy afterwards. I told my friend Ngan about my experience after a week of class. Always being up-to-date about newest fitness trends, she said ‘Ahhh this is Hot Yoga! It’s to loose weight, burn calories!’ I googled it, read about it, saw that it’s super popular in the Western world. Anh, my talented teacher who is even on TV in Vietnam every morning at 5AM, practicing Yoga, wouldn’t agree with that. She would come to class prepared, for me, I could clearly see that she studied the English Yoga vocabulary and from then on she would give all the instructions in both English and Vietnamese. It was moving. All that for a class that costs you 25$ a month, 6 times per week. So one day after class I asked her, ‘Is this ‘Hot Yoga’ practice?’ She grinned at me and said ‘Oh no. Hot Yoga is way hotter. Today we practices Ashtanga and we only practice around 28-30°C. Hot Yoga is more like 35-40°’. She was very accurate about it. But I guess the idea was the same!

I tried to attend her class as much as possible. She wanted me to pay her at the end of the month. When I had to tell my class that I was leaving, everyone was sad about it and they even wanted to throw a farewell party for me after class. I couldn’t even go one last time because moving my life from one continent to another got so hectic and I am very sorry about that. If you can read this, please accept my apology. It was a blessing to practice with you guys. And Anh, my Yoga angel, wouldn’t even take my money in the end. ‘You are leaving already, it was my pleasure to show you my practice and my honor to have you in my class.’

That definitely made it harder to leave the country.


[Saigon days….]

But I left with a goal. I wanted to continue in Canada. I did a few regular Yoga classes at a community center in Vancouver and now being all settled in in Calgary, I wanted to get back to Hot Yoga. I live in the South-East far out of the City Centre, but there are studios literally surrounding me to all sides. And I signed up. 40§ trial for a one month unlimited that regularly costs you the crazy amount of a whole 140$. I want to get the most out of it. Out of the forty bucks spent, and for my body. And for all the fuss that is being made about it. Let’s make it a challenge and see how each class feels, how my body feels and changes!

Click here to follow the challenge :)

Addresses to practice Yoga in Saigon: 

 With the excellent teacher in Go Vap district:

 You will find this studio on Nguyen Van Luong street, Go Vap District. Not far from Thong Nhat street. Has a big sign and usually evening classes.


 More demanding classes with inspiring Anh in Binh Tan District:


 You will find her on Ba Hom Street in Binh Tan District, the far West of Downtown Saigon. Drive up An Duong Vuong Street and turned right on Ba Hom, a few meters, watch out for the Yoga Sign to the right on the 2nd floor of one of the buildings.

– And feel free to contact Anh here if you are interested in practicing with her:   She gives lessons all over the city and all days!

 UPDATE: Anh happened to contact me a couple of days ago, sending me beautiful pictures from our classroom in Saigon, with greetings from all of them :)

17 thoughts on “Yoga…How it all started in Vietnam

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