Best Yoga Studios in Saigon

By: Brennan Lagman

When it comes to healing, strengthening, and opening your body to untapped physical potential, yoga is a practice worth every penny! And there are plenty of options right here in Ho Chi Minh City.

Yoga saigonImage source: innatthecove.com

YogaHaus+

Location: 106 Street No. 2, Cư Xá Đô Thành, Ward 4, District 3, HCMC 
Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 21:30 a.m.
Styles: Vinyasa, Hatha, Acro, Ashtanga yoga
Levels: All
Price: $

If you are looking for an intimate, affordable, no-fluff yoga practice with small class sizes, YogaHaus+ yoga studio is a perfect choice in HCMC. Daytime hours are very limited in this young studio that opened in 2017, but the schedule suits exercise in the evening.

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/YogaHausPlus

In 2017, Tram Le, a hard-working businesswoman and entrepreneur, started YogaHaus+ to share her passion for yoga.

The studio is straightforward: one large room with mirrors, mats and basic yoga props.

“If you are looking for a spa, go to an elite studio. If you are coming for yoga, I am here to share my passion”, Tram said. Come to YogaHaus+ to work with one of the best yoga teachers in Saigon with years of Vinyasa, Hatha, Acro yoga and fitness experience.

Yoga Living

Studio 1: B building, ITAXA House, 19 Võ Văn Tần, D. 3, HCMC 
Studio 2: 11B Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm, D. 1, HCMC 
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 7:35 p.m.
Styles: Hatha (variety), Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Power yoga, yoga teacher training and more.
Levels: All
Price: $$

In terms of the variety of classes, affordability and locations, Yoga Living is one of the best yoga studios Saigon has to offer. It is one of the first large yoga studios in HCMC to serve a wide variety of clients. There are two studios on either end of District 1. Teachers usually teach at both, so if one studio is not accessible, you can still catch the teacher you love.

The Võ Văn Tần Studio has three large classrooms that can accommodate 50+ students. Classes get rather full during peak hours, but luckily the class schedule changes every week providing plenty of options from open to close. Enter either studio and you are greeted by the sound of relaxing zen music and a smiling Yoga Living employee guides you where you need to go.

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/YogaLivingStudio

The rotating schedule includes everything from high-intensity fat burning flows to gentle and restorative classes in Vietnamese and English. This is a great option for people to try a variety of class styles and yoga teachers to find what fits their body best.

The facilities are simple and include lockers, showers, complimentary water, mats and towels.

Yoga Pod

Location: 28 Thảo Điền, Ward Thảo Điền, D. 2, HCMC 
Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Types: Vinyasa, Hatha (Variety), Restorative, Yin yoga
Levels: All
Price: $$$

Tucked away in a secret green haven in Thảo Điền, this yoga studio feels like a magic portal to the natural landscape of old Saigon. To find it, you have to wander past a beautiful family garden with open grass. It is easily the best yoga studio for reconnecting with the elements in Ho Chi Minh City.

Yoga saigonImage source: tripadvisor.com

The small space includes two classrooms for up to 20 people that connect patrons to the surrounding nature. There are simple facilities that boast an all-natural, earthy ambience to match the environment. Bathrooms, showers, lockers, towels and mats are included.

The owners of Yoga pod maintain a rotating variety of classes so clients can experience different teachers, philosophies and practices.

Mandala Wellness

Location: 41 Trần Ngọc Diện, Ward Thảo Điền, D. 2, HCMC  
Hours: (Variable)
Types: Vinyasa, Hatha (Variety), Qi Gong, Tai Chi, yoga for Older Bodies, Reiki Healing, Sound Bowl healing, Meditation
Levels: All
Prices: $$$

Mandala Wellness is much more than a yoga studio. Founded by two mothers looking to provide a holistic wellness sanctuary, this centre is dedicated to giving back to the community by “empowering [people] from within.”

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/mandalawellnessvn

Mandala is a top-tier wellness retreat and yoga studio perfectly located in a Thảo Điền villa, just far enough from the noise of the city. When you enter the driveway, you are greeted by a lovely garden that wraps around a stunning white, vine-covered façade. The facilities include bathrooms, showers, lockers, a juice bar, counselling and therapy rooms, and two classrooms for up to 40 people at a time.

When it comes to the restorative aspect of yoga, this one-of-a-kind HCMC studio is unrivalled. Apart from some of the more popular types of yoga, Mandala offers many services including counselling, reiki healing, meditation, sports-therapy, Tai Chi and more.

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/mandalawellnessvn

Yoga Sculpt and Shape (SNS)

Location: 3 Võ Văn Tần, Ward 6, D. 3, HCMC 
Hours: 9 a.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Types: Advanced, Prenatal, Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga yoga and more.
Levels: All
Price: $$$ 

Yoga Sculpt and Shape is one of the pioneers of yoga in Saigon. It is on the 16th floor of a high-rise, nested high above the noise of the city centre.

Besides an impressive history and height, what makes the studio stand out is its advanced level of yoga training. It has produced some of the most famous names from the Vietnamese yoga scene and still attracts master level yoga teachers from around the globe.

Yoga saigonImage source: Yoga SnS Studio

The studio is simple, with two large classrooms and basic facilities. Class sizes can contain up to 40 students, but smaller advanced groups and private sessions are also common. It boasts mid-high level pricing, but is worth the money for a world-class yoga training experience.

Yoga Plus

Studio 1: Plus Yoga Center Aeon Mall Bình Tân, 2nd Floor, No. 01 Road No. 17A, Quarter 11, Ward Bình Trị Đông B, Bình Tân District, HCMC      
Studio 2: Plus Yoga Center Thảo Điền Pearl Plaza, 3rd floor, 12 Quốc Hương, Ward Thảo Điền, District 2, HCMC   
Hours: 6:30 a.m to 8:30 p.m
Types: Over 20 yoga types + Aerial, Pilates,
Levels: All
Price: $$$$

When it comes to luxury, world-class facilities, high-end equipment and specialised yoga training, nothing compares to Yoga Plus. Owned by the same company as UFC Gym, Yoga Plus offers up to 22 different types of yoga in their two Saigon studios, with highly trained professional yoga teachers from around the world.

Yoga saigonImage source: facebook.com/yogaplusvn

The modern facilities ring of elegance from ceiling to floor. The lobby boasts large ottomans complete with pillows, ambient lighting and music, a small yoga shop and juice bar. Clients can find themselves practising in large, naturally lit classrooms or in specially designed private rooms for one-on-one instruction.

Almost every yoga niche can be found here, as the studio contains every yoga and Pilates prop imaginable. Locker rooms include saunas, steam rooms, showers and hair dryers.

Banner Image source: hellobacsi.com


Across Asia Youth Film Festival – Submit your film today!

By: City Pass Guide

For the first time, the Across Asia Youth Film Festival (AAYFF) is coming to Vietnam. After the first two editions were held in Singapore, the third festival will take place at the International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC), presenting an exciting opportunity for both student filmmakers and film fans.

Founded in 2017 in order to give young filmmakers a chance to connect with people across the continent, AAYFF has attracted partnerships with some of the world’s top media and film companies, including HBO, Disney and Lucasfilm.

The festival will bring together students from three age groups creating films across seven categories: drama, horror, animation, documentary, experimental, music video and short short.

David Procter, AAYFF’s founder, shared his joy at the festival’s arrival in Vietnam. “I’m really excited that the AAYFF has moved to Vietnam, where it can take in the rich culture of one of the most rapidly developing countries in Asia”, he said. “The festival has already seen a number of winning films from students in Vietnam, but I’m looking forward to seeing more submissions from the country this year. The AAYFF also provides a wonderful opportunity for the media and film industry in Vietnam to get involved with supporting youth film”.

This is also a symbol of ISHCMC’s forward-thinking mission to connect students with the international community, while also bringing innovative programmes to Ho Chi Minh City.


Soul Man: Mark Bell Fine-Tunes Saigon Music Classes

By: Frank B. Edwards

Six days a week, Canadian educator Mark Bell rides a scooter to District 3’s Soul Music & Performing Arts Academy (SMPAA), determined to change the course of music lessons in HCMC.

His strategy is simple: teach children to play music by winning their hearts instead of rapping their knuckles.

Midway through his first year as principal of the revolutionary music school, the 56-year-old church organist, choral leader and passionate teacher is excited about his mission to shape a new generation of Vietnamese musicians by teaching them in a softer and friendlier fashion.

The Soul music building

He calls his courtyard campus at 214-216 Pasteur an oasis for children where they can study music and dance in a way that will inspire them throughout their lives. There are no teacher tantrums here, and the only raised voices heard are those lifted in song.

While we’re teaching music and the arts, we’re also developing a generation with a different outlook and way of being,” he says. “Yes, we’re informal but (also) formative. It’s about celebrating where you are and where you can be.

Now in its fifth year, the Soul Academy is the brainchild of 33-year-old Thanh Bui, an Australian-born Vietnamese pop star who moved his musical career to HCMC in 2010. A natural teacher with no formal training, Thanh recruited Mark to strengthen the teaching credentials of his academy.

They met by chance at District 7’s Canadian International School, where Mark was the elementary principal. Having arrived early to speak at a rhinoceros conservation rally, Thanh was invited to wait in Mark’s office. It didn’t take long for Thanh to discover his host’s passion for music education. Meanwhile, Mark learned of his young visitor’s pop-star status when the students went ballistic as Thanh entered the school auditorium.

Happy boy dancing SOUL Music ho chi minh

Months later, Mark agreed to run an educational training course for the musicians Thanh had recruited as SMPAA teachers, and later signed on as full-time principal of the academy.

Today, SMPAA has about 600 students from age four to adult, studying voice, instrumental music and dance in the evenings and weekends. While much of the curriculum is contemporary, classical training is also offered. Students wanting a taste of public performance can audition for a number of enrichment programs, including a popular dance troupe known as The Young Lyricist, whose members serve as inspirational ambassadors of the arts for young Vietnamese.

 

The HCMC campus now consists of three elegant heritage houses crammed with studios, classrooms and performance spaces, and there are two more buildings in the planning stage. Mark’s office is located between two drum studios whose walls do not quite shut out the sound of nine-year-old drum-kit phenomenon Trong Nhan.

Mark understands the rewards of musical success as well as the sacrifices parents make for their families. The youngest of six children whose father worked three jobs, Mark was allowed to take piano lessons after a neighbour realised he was teaching himself music by replicating her young daughter’s weekly lessons.

Happy girl at Soul Music and performing Arts Academy

During a summer job cutting grass at a famous Catholic institution near his village home, he met a Jesuit brother who taught him to play the church’s classic pipe organ. A few years later, at age 16, he became the organist at Canada’s famous National Martyrs’ Shrine in Huronia – and its director of music, a position he held through high school and university. At 24, Mark was made executive coordinator of music for Pope John Paul II’s visit to bless the shrine. Part of his job was to amass a 700-voice choir for the visit that attracted a congregation of 70,000.

 

Later, Mark filled his spare time as a church organist and directing community and church choirs in Toronto, and studied to become a teacher before becoming a principal. Today his passion is teaching children to sing and SMPAA is giving him the chance to work directly with young singers again.

He and Thanh are influencing a new style of popular music by moving students away from the popular Korean sound that has saturated the country.

We’re training people who want to be professional musical performers in this country,” Mark says. “And maybe do it in a different way... we are definitely rooted in Vietnam and Vietnamese culture.

Taking a visitor on a tour of the Soul Academy, Mark points out the encouraging slogans and quotes that adorn the walls. He pauses at a neon sign that spells out “Soul Live Project”.

That’s what it’s about,” he muses. “It’s all about soul.


Feeling Fitter in 2021: 5 Alternatives to The Gym in Saigon

By: City Pass Guide

A Confidence Boosting Workout

A Fuss Free Workout

A Flexible Workout

The festive season already feels like it was a million years ago. But if you’re anything like me, you’re probably still trying to shake off the after effects of Christmas dinner and too many glasses of fizz on New Year’s Eve. Also, if you’re like me, the thought of grabbing your trainers and heading to the nearest gym is about as appealing as reliving 2020. Luckily, Ho Chi Minh City is packed with a variety of options to help us shake off that festive food coma and start feeling fit and fresh again!

Pole Dancing at Pretty Pole

91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh

Immediately after Christmas may not be the most obvious time to take up pole dancing, but if you are looking for a workout with a high calorie burn and a massive confidence boost, it could be worth considering.

Alternatives to the gym in SaigonImage source: Pretty Pole

Located in District 1, Pretty Pole offers classes for both pole and aerial hoop dancing. All fitness classes accommodate a range of abilities, from absolute beginner to experienced dancers, so there is no need to feel shy about joining in. Be prepared for a full body workout as trainers Ms Anne and Ms Vy put you through your paces to ensure that you not only gain fitness and flexibility, but confidence and strength at the same time!

For full details of the classes available at Pretty Pole visit their Facebook page for more details.

Rock Climbing at Push Climbing

188/1 Nguyen Van Huong, District 2

If you’ve ever seen a pro-rock climber, you’ll know that if you do this activity properly, you’ll be waving goodbye to bingo wings and muffin tops forever. Rock climbing engages almost every major muscle group in your body, whilst increasing flexibility and being low impact, which makes it an incredible work out for participants of any level.

Alternatives to the gym in SaigonImage source: Push Climbing

If you are looking to ease your way into climbing, Push Climbing in Thao Dien offers a variety of courses and events for participants of all levels. They even offer ‘Date Night’ Friday where entrance is Buy One Get One Free between 5pm and 10pm. Early morning memberships for those of you who like to get your work-out out of the way first thing, are also available.

For full details of the options available at Push Climbing visit their website for more details.

Calisthenics at Reborn Fitness

8/3b Duong So 3, Tran Nao, District 2

Whilst Reborn is technically a gym, it’s not a ‘gym’ gym. This is a stripped back, lean-looking ‘work-out space’. Here, your trainers put you through your paces with a work-out that utilises calisthenics (resistance training with your own body weight) to get you feeling the burn in no time at all.

Alternatives to the gym in SaigonImage source: Reborn Fitness

If you’d like to see what a membership at Reborn will give you, take a quick look at the promo video for their ‘Most Challenging Fitness Camp Ever’. If you’ve ever dreamed of walking up an invisible ladder, this is where you’ll get it done! With Fitness Camps throughout the year and a variety of social events too, a membership at Reborn is not just a passport to fitness, it’s also an invitation into the ‘Reborn Family’. If you’re looking for a support network as you try to achieve your fitness goals, that is certainly an invaluable bonus.

For full details of how to join Reborn contact them via the Facebook Page

Modern Dance at GS Dance Studio

129 Le Van Duyet (Dinh Tien Hoang cu), Binh Thanh

For some people even a ‘different type of gym’ is still too much like a gym. So, if you’re looking to totally avoid dumbbells and barbells, and all the rest of it, maybe a dance studio is what you are looking for? With nothing but a sound system and a some pretty cool neon lights, GS Dance Studio is a great place to ‘bring fun back into exercise’.

Alternatives to the gym in SaigonImage source: GS Dance Studio

Offering classes to cover levels from ‘Never Dance’ to ‘Advanced’, and a range of styles from Hip Hop to Jazz Funk to K Pop, GS Dance Studio promises a fun, energetic option to get you back in shape this year.

For full details, and amazing examples of what’s on offer at GS Dance Studio, visit their Facebook page.

Spinning at Body Shape

49G Quoc Huong, District 2

I think we can all agree that Saigon is not the best place to cycle. And if cycling is all you want to do, paying for a full gym membership for one bit of equipment is hardly going to encourage you to sign up. Thankfully, the smart folks at Body Shape offer both spinning classes and spin bikes for individual use, AND temporary memberships and walk-in rates.

Alternatives to the gym in SaigonImage source: Body Shape

High intensity, low impact and heart pumping, spinning is an effective way of burning calories, improving cardiovascular health and toning your lower body. Classes also offer a fun, sociable work-out, that will help you to push yourself to achieve your fitness goals. That, or at least there will be someone there to pick you up off the floor when your legs give way, as mine did last time I tried to complete a spin class!

For full details of flexible memberships and the variety of fitness classes at Body Shape visit their website.

Hopefully, this little round-up of alternatives to trudging along on a treadmill has inspired you to get out and about in this wonderful city of ours! Here’s to a happier, healthier 2021.

Image source: GS Dance Studio


A Life Well Lived: at Home and Abroad

By: Patrick Gaveau

Motivation to travel is often conducted by either push factors such as the reasons that drive us away from home and pull factors, which pull us towards a place.

These well known motives include escape from a perceived dreary environment, exploration and evaluation of self, relaxation, prestige, regression, enhancement of kin relationships and facilitation of social interaction; and two cultural motives: novelty and education.

Travelling often offers freedom from work and obligations. It is an escape from our traditional lives and social roles. With travel we have the liberty to spend our time as we see fit. In this case, tourism reflects an escape from something, rather than a quest for something. The primary travel motive then, is leaving the home scene behind temporarily without being concerned about where to go – but preferably to a nicer environment than what you experience during your daily grind.

A traveller’s needs and intentions can also stem from an inner feeling of wanting to search for something new, further fuelled by peripheral pull factors that promise just that. These kinds of travellers have a relatively clear idea of what they want and expect – they are not travelling away from home. Their basic needs spring from the feeling of absence stumbled upon in their own environment. This scarcity is subjective. If they cannot satisfy this deficiency, they must then look elsewhere.

Specific desires one may want to fulfill are another primary travel motivator. It may be about tangible matters, such as a specific interest like a birdwatching trip, a cultural interest or sports events.

Another example is medical tourism. The importance lies in the travelling and not in being a tourist. Participants do not alienate themselves from social status, and the idea of being in between two cultures does not play a part. Tourists know what they want.

“Some people may travel to stay in constant motion or run from their problems.”

The positive effects of travel are well-documented, including its ability to broaden our perspective, strengthen our relationships, help us appreciate home and increase the number of experiences we encounter. Because of this, some people are tempted to idealise, over-commercialise or overstate the benefits of changing geographies.

“While standing next to a 1,000-year-old building or hiking the great outdoors is cool and all, doing so probably won’t result in personal enlightenment.”

Some actually think that emptiness you feel inside can be filled with travel. You may distract yourself with it, which can be good for your health. But measuring your life by the number of trips taken will often leave you feeling unsatisfied. Kilometres travelled will never mask your personal insecurities. Lasting happiness is a work in progress that’s usually better rooted at home.

I’ve met globe trekkers who seemingly squandered much of their time overseas and learned very little from the cultures they were exposed to. And I’ve met sophisticated, tolerant and sympathetic people who’ve rarely (if ever) left home. In other words, ignorance can still be well-travelled. While I’m a big advocate for using travel as a mental and physiological enabler, the work of overcoming ignorance still falls on us.

I’m humbled by, grateful for and in awe of the many places I’ve visited and intend to visit. But this gift can never compensate for negligence at home. As awesome as it is, traveling does not grant a free pass from taking care of our financial, personal or familial duties.


5 Fantastic Hidden Getaways in Vietnam

By: City Pass Guide

Vietnam is, of course, packed with wonderful, exciting destinations for us all to get away from the city on occasion and enjoy. So many have become known throughout the world, The Mekong Delta, Halong Bay and Sapa for example. Many others are not as well known unless you live here, Hoi An, Dalat and Vung Tau spring to mind. But what of the places that remain relatively unknown to even many people living here in Ho Chi Minh City. If you are looking for some hidden getaways in Vietnam, here are a few suggestions for places that could be on your radar for 2016.

Phan Rang

Phan Rang is situated on Vietnam’s South Central Coast about 90km south of Nha Trang. It’s a new town that was called Panduranga in ancient times. This was a state capital in the old Champa Kingdom. An airfield was established here by the Japanese, utilised by the French and then became the US Air Force’s Phan Rang Air Base during the American War. The beach is excellent; early in the morning it will be packed as literally thousands of local people come to exercise. By 8am they will all have disappeared and you have the place to yourself, it’s truly magical. There is a new monastery complex close by on a hill affording amazing views. Also close at hand are two 700 year old Cham Temples. This is part of a triangle for tourism that includes Dalat to the north west and Nha Trang to the north, yet somehow remains relatively undiscovered. This is a true Vietnamese fishing village.

Vinh Hy

Just 30km up the coast from Phan Rang you will find the beautiful unspoiled bay of Vinh Hy. It has remained untouched mainly because of its proximity to the Nui Chua National Park. Fears were raised when Amanoi announced their plans to open the Amanoi Resort Vinh Hy Bay in 2013, but they have done a tremendous job. The design has had minimal adverse affect on the wonderful scenic beauty off the area, whilst bringing in much needed revenue. The scenery here is amazing, crystal clear blues seas with lush greenery rolling down rocky outcrops into the water; whilst all the time the mountains out towards Dalat provide the backdrop.

Long Hai

Long Hai was almost completely unknown until the Long Hai Beach Resort opened. It remains, though, a very peaceful spot especially during the week. It is just around the headland from Vung Tau and if the better known resort is all a bit too “bright lights” for your liking, then Long Hai should be right up your street. The beach gets busier at the weekends when many Vietnamese getting away from Ho Chi Minh City come to town. As the road from from HCMC to Ho Tram and beyond continues to be improved these places will become busier, but for now you can enjoy the white sand and unique weather, almost unhindered. The weather is unique, by the way, because this area has its own micro climate, making it dryer than the rest of the South.

Mai Chau

Mai Chau is the name of both a district and its main city in northern Vietnam. Whilst the stunning scenery of Mai Chau is starting to draw tourists, its locality ensures that it never gets overrun and spoiled. This scenic mountainous region is about 135km to the southwest of Hanoi. It is a quiet rural community where the local Black Thai and White Thai live in traditional stilt houses. The houses are dotted throughout the landscape, generally surrounded by trees. The Mountains provide the perfect backdrop and the mixture of cultivated and uncultivated land completes a very delightful scenic picture. Of course it also has the advantage of cooler air, for those who are fed up with the intense heat of Ho Chi Minh City. Mai Chau certainly firgures as one of the best hidden getaways in Vietnam.

Phuoc Hai

Phuoc Hai is also close to Vung Tau but much less well known. Just 90km away from Ho Chi Minh City, It has often been overlooked. The highlights here are beautiful beaches, great hills for walking, terrific seafood and one of the country’s more unique attractions. The Whale Cemetery is situated here. Fisherman have always held the whale as an almost mythical being and a bringer of good luck. When one dies here, either stranded on the beach or caught accidentally in a net. They bring the creature through the streets of Bung Tau and in Phuoc Hai. The animal is buried after a ceremony and months later the bones are exhumed and moved to a permanent resting place. This is a quiet little town yet has plenty to see and do.

Do you know any terrific hidden getaways in Vietnam? If so let us know. This is such a wonderful country and there is so much to explore.


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