When I first decided to start doing yoga in Chiang Mai I was super excited. I had read so many articles and blogs about how beautiful Chiang Mai was, but once I finally arrived it still blew my expectations out of the water. The unbelievable architecture of the Buddhist temples left me spellbound while the magnificent mountainside left me in awe. No matter how many blogs or article or pictures I eagerly read up on about Chiang Mai, it’s natural beauty and tranquil energy blew me away.
My first stop was Bangkok, it was only a day stop over so unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to try any of the yoga in Bangkok, but I didn’t mind to much. Bangkok didn’t feel like the right place for me to practice yoga. Bangkok is a place for city revelers, partiers, people who want Thai tattoos and bucket of booze as skyscrapers tower over them. I found myself often bothered by the traffic and feeling nauseous due to a layer of smog that seems to linger through the largest City of Thailand.
Once I arrived in Chiang Mai nothing could stop me from getting my yoga practice on. I started the very day I arrived. I checked into my hotel, I showered and then I hit the town in search of the best yoga chiang mai had to offer!
I asked around and found out that there was a yoga studio only 5 minutes away from where I was staying. The old city of Chiang Mai is small, easy to navigate and full of fun surprises around every corner. I even stumbled across a delightful vegetarian restaurant that I decided I would try in the evening once my post yoga hunger had set in.
Namo yoga was the name of the studio within 5 minutes of my hotel, I spoke with a manager who informed me that a vinyasa flow class would be starting in around 30 minutes and I was welcome to join. Vinyasa yoga in a dynamic flowing style of yoga that creates a connection between each pose with the one before and the one following so you feel like you’re in a constant flow of energy and movement. The nerves set it as I paid for the class and was set up stairs to nervously await my first yoga class in chiang mai.
The teacher was an older thai lady, she was super friendly and she guided us through I soothing yet powerful Vinyasa class that left me feeling grounded, balanced and sweaty. I was really happy that I had made my finally made my dream of practicing yoga in chiang mai a reality… and on the way home I stopped for for some delicious vegetarian food.
I awoke at 5am the next morning feeling wide eyed and energized, my planned taxi picked me up and we took the windy road up to doi Sutep Mountain to watch the sunrise. Doi Sutep offers a stunning view of the entire city of chiang mai, luckily for me thy sky was clear and the view of the sun creeping up from the horizon was something I will never forget. Even more amazingly, at the top of the mountain is a Buddhist training center that offers meditation retreats and learning course in English, these course included daily Buddhist meditations, Buddhist teachings and Buddhist meals for all visitors.
After a quick breakfast and juice at the hotel I set out for my second yoga class in chiang mai. This time I sought out Freedom Yoga Chiang Mai. This studio was situated in an antique style wooden teak house. The way is was laid out was the yoga studio upstairs and a vegetarian café located down stairs which was a really [pleasant surprise and I knew right then and there here I would be eating lunch J
Today’s class was a Hatha yoga class, there were about 12 students and the instructor was a younger thai lady which seemed to be the owner. She guided us through some calming and balancing breathing techniques at the beginning of the class and then we worked through I range of standing poses, seated and lying poses. The idea of this hatha yoga practice is to cultivate a connection between the body, mind and the breath. With practice this connection helps us maintain calmness, mindfulness and a sense of inner balance not only during yoga class but throughout everyday life. It turn out the Freedom yoga also run regular yoga reatreats in chiang mai
Over the next few days I enjoyed a few more great yoga classes at freedom yoga and a couple of other studios around town, each one was lovely and extremely inviting to all the travelers passing through town. I also found the yoga studios in chiang mai to be great places to meet likeminded travelers who are into health wellness and of course yoga. After a few days we had formed a group of about 5 of us all from different countries, we were enjoying sharing our healthy lunches and dinners together in between yoga practice of course.
Yoga in Chiang Mai vs yoga in Western countries
One thing I learned from my practice of yoga in chiang mai is that it is really very different to the usually practiced back in the western world. I almost felt as though the Buddhist culture of Thailand and Chiang Mai had somehow filtered into the way the teacher structured there class and communicated with their students. I found the chiang mai yoga to have a large emphasis on mindfulness, balance and “turning inwards” I learnt this phrase during one of the classes I took. It means to switch of from external stimulation, to let the mind slow down and to connect with yourself and your natural surroundings on a deeper more intimate level. I also found the instructions to be very accurate and timed extremely well to make each movement feel as though it is a graceful, purposeful movement. Students were also encouraged to push their boundaries in a responsible way.
I find that Yoga in the western world tends to miss out on a lot of the fundamental focuses, purposes and goals of yoga that were present in chiang mai. Instead of bringing balance into the mind, becoming connected to the breath and being mindful of the the body, western yoga seems more just like an aerobics class. To fast paced to connect with your breathe in the first place and to aggressive to have even the slightest chance of calming the mind. I guess it seems like a workout at the gym and nothing more.
Coming to this realization made me feel happy and grateful that I had stepped out of my comfort zone and explored a new country and experienced just how different the chiang mai yoga style really is. I feel inspired to continue my yoga journey. I’m hoping to return next year and do some chiang mai yoga retreats and maybe even a yoga teacher training course in Thailand in there somewhere. 🙂
If you’re heading to Chiang Mai and want to check out the best that this awesome city has to offer, read the ultimate 5 day itinerary for Chiang Mai.