Yoga in Chiang Mai has a long history. When I moved to Chiang Mai I was delighted to find a hotbed of yoga teachers and students from around the world. I’d taken classes with maybe 100 yoga teachers over 45 years and had come to appreciate the difference a good teacher makes to each class, and Chiang Mai is home to some of the most gifted teachers in the world. And the beauty and tranquility of Northern Thailand provides the perfect backdrop for deepening my practice, connecting with my breath and keeping my health and wellness a priority.
My current favorite studio is Satva Yoga, two minutes from the Maya Mall, which teaches Aerial Yoga. What’s Aerial Yoga, you ask? Well, take a look at me doing the Batman Asana, above, and that’ll give you an idea: it lets you do poses that you simply cannot do on the ground. And best of all, it’s fun and much easier than, say, Ashtanga Yoga or Bikram Yoga.
In 1970, I started doing three hours of yoga a week and have never regretted it. (Holy cow! That’s 6,500 hours on a yoga mat!) I’ve never been hospitalized, taken pharmaceuticals nor needed to diet. More important, I feel good – bodily – all the time. I’ve noticed that feeling good all over is not a big priority for most people. (They seem to be content to merely be breathing). But it’s my first priority. It’s not that I love yoga. I don’t. But I love, love, love the way yoga makes me feel all day, every day. Keeping me out of the clutches of doctors, pharmaceuticals and hospitals is just a bonus.
If you’re an experienced yogi you’ll love falling into Chiang Mai’s community of like-minded adventurers, the endless parade of famous teachers and the neverending classes, workshops and special events. If you’ve never done yoga before you’ve also come to the right place – many people dip their toes into yoga’s waters for the first time here in Thailand – so you’re sure to find a class and teacher that’s right for you.
Whether you’ve been practicing for ages or don’t know what a downward dog is, this guide will help steer you in the right direction and make the most of yoga in Chiang Mai.
Types of Yoga
More than just a way of stretching or getting some gentle exercise, yoga is a complex practice combining mind, spirit and body to create complete wellbeing from the inside out. With a centuries of history, there are naturally many types of yoga – each focusing on different aspects of your alignment, flexibility and breath. Here are some of the most common types of yoga:
- Hatha – Hatha refers to any yoga practice that combines poses, known as asanas, with measured breathing techniques, known as pranayama. The connection between breath and movement creates a deeper sense of relaxation. Most often, teachers will lead you through a series of postures that flow together. The class intensity will depend on how quick or slow the teacher keeps the pace.
- Iyengar – B.K.S. Iyengar systematized 200 classical yoga poses and 14 different types of Pranayama (with variations of many of them) ranging from the basic to advanced. This helps ensure that students progress gradually by moving from simple poses to more complex ones and develop their mind, body and spirit through a step-by-step approach.Iyengar Yoga often makes use of props, such as belts, blocks, and blankets, as aids in performing asanas (postures). The props enable students to perform the asanas correctly, minimizing the risk of injury or strain, and making the postures accessible to both young and old. Satva Yoga holds regular Iyengar classes at 8 am Mon-Sat.
- Vinyasa – Sometimes called “power yoga”, vinyasa focus on constantly keeping the body in motion with quicker-paced flows base around the famous “sun salutation” series of postures.
- Ashtanga – One of the more challenging types of yoga, ashtanga uses a set series of 70 postures and requires both strength and endurance.
- Yin – If you’re looking for something slower paced, try yin yoga. Centered around stretching and relaxation, yin is a restorative form of yoga good for calming the mind, improving posture and increasing flexibility. Just because it’s slower doesn’t mean it’s always easy though, you’ll often hold deep stretches for up to several minutes to give your joints and muscles enough time to truly release and stretch.
- Bikram (hot) – Named for Bikram Choudry, this is a single, set series of difficult poses done in a room heated to 104ºF. Definitely worth a try!
- Restorative – You may see classes listed as “restorative yoga”. These sessions may involve different aspects of several different practices but focus on relaxing and rejuvenating your body. Instead of pushing it into a pose you may use supports and props to comfortable relax into a pose that helps your body rest and repair itself.
- Laughter – If you haven’t heard of laughter yoga you will once you’re in Chiang Mai. Consisting of prolonged, self-induced laughing and yogic breathing techniques, laughter yoga lets you connect with your more carefree, playful side and even has been proven to help benefit your cardiovascular system and overall mood.
- Aerial – Poses that suspend you off the ground so you can do things that would otherwise be impossible. Satva Yoga’s aerial yoga classes are limited to four students and run from 4:00-5:30 Monday through Saturday.
Yoga Studios in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai has evolved from a backpacker haven to a sanctuary for health conscious travelers. Among the plethora of organic cafés and wellness centers that have surfaced within recent years, yoga classes and retreats have become a popular and plentiful option for yogis. They range from beginner to the most advanced classes and offer yoga styles in an impressive variety.
Satva Yoga is two minutes from Maya. Regular
Namo Yoga –has moved to its new, central location on SRIDONCHAI RD. inside MANINARAKORN HOTEL, 10 minutes walk from the old location and 5 minutes from the Night Bazaar.
Freedom Yoga – Adam and his partner, Ning have been running a new yoga studio in chiang mai for about 8 months now. They told me it’s been a challenge but extremely rewarding at the same time. It’s a relatively new yoga studio located just east of the famous Thapea Gate in a refurbished traditional Thai House. Freedom yoga has a relaxed and friendly vibe, with the yoga studio situated upstairs and Freedom cafe and Juice bar below serving up pre and post yoga juices and healthy meals. Freedom offers a thorough yoga schedule covering a variety of classes with something to suit students of all experiences. Their classes have a strong emphasis on correct body alignment and correct breathing. Their schedule:
Monday: 10am-Vinyasa 6pm-Hatha Flow
The Yoga Tree – Enclosed within a lush garden area in the southwest corner of the Old City, this studio’s peaceful surrounding is prized by its students. With special focus on Beginner and Restorative/Yin Yoga styles, instructors also emphasize proper breathing and correct poses without being overbearing. The Yoga Tree frequently changes its yoga class line-up, which also includes dance and movement meditation classes. Don’t forget to check out their events, small festivals, trainings and workshops, which are held several times a month.
Wild Rose Yoga – Housed in a gorgeous traditional teak wooden home, Wild Rose Yoga is known for its range of intermediate to advanced weekly classes and specialized workshops. Classes are lead by various local and international teachers emphasizing and usually offered 3-4 times a day during the week and 1-2 times a day on weekends.
Yoga Kuukan – Known for its positive energy and beautiful space, Yoga Kuukan offers several styles of Yoga in addition to Tai Chi and Chi Kung. The instructors encourage balance and exploration and teach with the basic intention to improve the health of both the mind and body. Located in the northeast corner of the Old City in a quaint teak house, this studio encourages drop-ins and private lessons.
Blue Garden – This small yoga and massage studio is hidden down a quiet street in the center of the Old City near Wat Pha Kaaw. Step into a beautiful open-aired garden studio and stretch, strengthen, and tone your muscles with flow, hatha or yin yoga. Classes are lead by Remco, an instructor who brings his knowledge of healing and abdominal Chi (Chi Nei Tsang) and Thai massages to his yoga practice. His style also emphasizes restoring energy balance and detoxifying the body.
Weena’s Yogasana – This small friendly studio is easily accessible and nestled in the up and coming Nimmanhaemin area of Chiang Mai. Lead by Weena herself, she emphasizes simplicity and focuses on four types of yoga: yoga asana, hatha, vinyasa flow and power yoga. Weena’s style delicately balances a challenging but supportive environment for students and accommodates skill levels ranging from beginner to more advanced.
Loft Yoga at Kantary Terrace – If you’re staying close to Nimmanhaemin Road, check out Loft Yoga on the second floor of Kantary Terrace. You can call 081-377-7306 for more information and a class schedule.
Mahasiddha – Just north of Suan Buak Hat park in the southwest corner of the Old City, Mahasiddha Yoga school focus on meditation and tantra yoga. Through the practice of tantric yoga one gains awareness of who he truly is and what he can become. Whether you are a
Wise Living Yoga Academy. This yoga academy is based in the beautiful countryside of Chiang Mai which offers regular yoga teacher training programs, ranging from around 200 to 500 per hour courses. They are registered with the international Yoga Alliance and affiliated to The Yoga Institute of Santa Cruz, Mumbai which is the world’s oldest yoga institution.
Om Ganesha Yoga. This yoga teaching academy takes a different approach to yoga. They focus more on the therapeutic side of yoga and focus on the benefits it could lift to each and every person that practices this holisitc approach. All levels of classes are open and offered in a traditional Thai wooden sala set in a relaxing garden.
Yoga Retreats in Chiang Mai
Along with yoga studios and classes, Chiang Mai and the surrounding region is also a popular place for yoga and meditation retreats held by teachers from around the world.
Naturally, my favorite retreats are run by one of my own teachers, Christophe Cappon, a Canadian instructor who’s been living in Chiang Mai for the past eight years. Not only is Christophe one of the best yoga teachers I’ve ever met – his adjustments are among the best in the world and he has a killer sense of humor – he also knows how to truly appreciate and take advantage of everything Thailand has to offer (especially its food. The boy knows how to eat). Thailand Yoga Holidays runs 10-night retreats that combine a yoga focus while taking full advantage of the true beauty of the north and all that Thailand has to offer with stops in places like Pai, Chiang Dao, a permaculture farm and even a floating retreat center. By discovering the area through one of the Christophe’s retreats, you’ll practice yoga in some unbelievable places you never would have found on your own while also learning more about the country, culture and, of course, eating delicious food. You can check out Christophe’s upcoming yoga retreats in Chiang Mai here and see where Christophe teaches, in this dreamy video:
Feldenkrais in Chiang Mai
The world’s funniest (ha ha) yoga+Feldenkrais teacher, Tara Eden, sent me this: “If you’re interested in adding Awareness Through Movement to your routine, I am starting Feldenkrais classes at Yoga Tree on Fridays at 130. I am sure you’re retiree community would benefit greatly from this class too”.
And remember, when it comes to yoga in Chiang Mai, there are always a wide range of workshops and retreats going on around town. Every yoga studio or vegetarian restaurants will have a bulletin board with notices and fliers promoting various offerings so see what catches your eye.
Hotels and Fitness Center Yoga Classes in Chiang Mai
While there are a few standalone gyms and fitness centers throughout Chiang Mai, the workout scene here is quite different from the more fitness-oriented countries in the West. It’s popular for expats to sign up for monthly memberships at one of Chiang Mai’s larger hotels and use not only the fitness area but the additional facilities such as the pool and sauna, too. Many of these centers also offer classes that include yoga. Here are a few:
Duang Tawan Hotel – Located across the street from the Le Meridien Hotel on Loi Kroh Road, Duang Tawan Hotel has a well-equipped fitness center with an excellent assortment of free weights, newly fitted machines, and cardio equipment. The fitness center also runs nightly group classes, including step aerobics and yoga. Outside is a saltwater pool that offers views across the city and of Doi Suthep with a nearby café serving up a light fare and fruit smoothies. To top it off, members and visitors can relax in the saunas or giant jacuzzi.
Fitness Thailand – One of the largest gyms in town, Fitness Thailand has a beautiful view of the city from it’s 8th floor location and evokes the feel of a Western gym with it’s bright spacious rooms and thumping background music. It has an excellent assortment of classes (up to seven per day) that are split between group exercise, yoga and spin studio rooms. To top it off, Fitness Thailand also has a personal trainer program and a health and juice bar.
Touch Shape and Fitness Center – Located on the fifth floor of the Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center on Huay Kaew Road, this fitness center features high quality machines, plenty of cardio equipment, and specialty classes such as Spin, Hammock Yoga and TRX. It’s modern design evokes a hip and energetic feel that will sure to keep you coming back for more. Personal trainers are also available onsite to assist in your fitness goals and offer training techniques.
Dhevi Spa & Wellness Centre – If you’re looking to really splurge, the Dhara Dhevi Resort offers a Wellness Retreat Programme featuring a Ayurvedic Healing, Lanna Wellness, Yoga, and Meditation Retreats that include access to a steam room, sauna, fitness center and even hydrotherapy. Their entirely holistic approach to wellness will stretch and strengthen both your mind and body. Hatha yoga and children’s yoga are among the classes taught. If needed, personal training is available on request.
Free and Donation Yoga Classes in Chiang Mai
Yoga doesn’t have to cost you. It’s not unheard of for locals, expats and visitors to participate in or even lead free yoga sessions in Chiang Mai. What’s even better, is that these classes often take place in a wide outdoor area that make for a unique experience! For example, The Yoga Tree usually runs a weekly laughter yoga class, but you’ll often see fliers or Facebook events with donation-classes at the park or around town.
Again, keep an eye out for notices around town, or try joining some of the Chiang Mai events, yoga and wellness groups on Facebook such as What’s Happening in Chiang Mai and Chiang Mai Wellness Community. With so many different offerings, you’re sure to find something that fits with your ability and preferred style!