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By Adele Wong | April 21st, 2020

Holly Wong and Doris Au-Yeung are the names behind online yoga initiative #namastayathome, which offers Zoom yoga classes for Hongkongers, with all proceeds going to local charities. They tell The Loop HK about the realities of living the yoga life in our city, during the COVID-19 outbreak.


Yoga is more than a physical exercise

Holly Wong: The most important thing to know is yoga isn’t just another form of exercise. Sure, you’ll get health benefits from practicing yoga regularly, but the point of the yoga practice isn’t to get into more and more advanced, fancy poses, nor is it to touch your toes — although gaining flexibility is often a benefit of doing yoga regularly! The goal of practicing yoga certainly isn’t to look cool or sexy, it’s a lot deeper than that. The original intention of yoga — and by yoga i mean the disciplines, techniques and philosophy that form the practice, not just the physical aspect of it —  is to help people seek happiness and peace, to search for the meaning of life. It’s a lot more esoteric than the mainstream activity that most of us practice.

If this is too philosophical, think about yoga as a practice to nourish your body, mind and soul. Hong Kong is by nature a very busy, fast-paced city, and it can be stressful for some people to keep up. To me, it’s highly beneficial for people to slow down, to observe their breath, body and mind. Yoga provides the opportunity for people to do that. The physical poses, among other things like pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation, simply serve as tools to connect with ourselves.

New to yoga? Try some Hatha…

Doris Au-Yeung: There are so many different styles of yoga offered in Hong Kong and the rest of the world — it can be overwhelming! In Hong Kong, a wide range of yoga practices are offered as Hatha, which is more suitable for beginners. Vinyasa and Power yoga is also suitable for all levels but consist of a more flow-y and stronger practice. There are also slower and quieter styles such as Yin and Restorative. My advice for those who are interested in picking up yoga is to try different styles and teachers to see what resonates. Embody the practices to see what feels good for your mind, body, and soul.

HW: While we don’t have the stats to know for sure which style is the most common, Hatha yoga tends to be the most accessible and (as Doris mentioned) a great place to start for beginners. The definition of Hatha is actually any type of yoga that teaches yoga asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and meditation, but generally in Hong Kong, Hatha refers to classes that are slower-paced compared to some other yoga styles and poses are held for a few breaths to give you the opportunity to observe your body in them. Most yoga studios in Hong Kong offer Hatha classes that cater to different experience levels.  Vinyasa is another popular style for those who prefer a more dynamic and active practice.

Practice makes perfect

DA: I believe the key to creating a sustainable yoga practice or any habit is: first, figuring out a routine that works for you and show up daily for yourself; secondly, finding a teacher and a yoga style that resonates with you; and thirdly, to do a small bit of it every day, and not to overwhelm yourself. Whether it’s five minutes of meditation or three rounds of sun salutations, every little bit will help make a difference.

Most importantly, have fun with it. Get onto the mat or on your seat without any judgment, and a ‘can-do’ attitude. If you miss a day, don’t be hard on yourself, hop right back on it the next day.

Online classes are an excellent option…

HW: At this time, all yoga studios in Hong Kong are closed (mandated by the government), and our activities are restricted by social distancing measures. Fortunately, there are many alternative options that allow yogis to take classes from home: we like the apps and websites Alo Moves, Glo, Yoga International… just to name few name. For those who prefer to follow their favourite teachers, most Hong Kong studios are offering live streaming classes online either via Zoom or IG/FB live, so be sure to check out your studio’s offerings. Many studios are offering online classes at a discounted rate so there are some great deals out there! Last but not least, there are some online classes to fundraise for charities in need during these trying times so keep an eye out for them too!

…but face-to-face classes can’t be beat

From a teacher’s perspective, virtual instruction would never replace physical, in-person instruction — it’s harder to see and pay attention to every student, and it’s impossible to gauge the group’s energy as you would in the classroom. I find it a lot more draining as I have to make sure that students can see and hear me clearly at all times, while demonstrating the postures throughout the class. That said, given the circumstances, I really appreciate the option of teaching virtually. Not only does it allow me to continue teaching to my regular students in Hong Kong, it also allows me to connect with a wider student population globally, which is especially important in a time when we all need connection and positive energy.

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