Yoga in a Concrete Jungle: IRIS Yoga & Wellness Event in Hong Kong
Hong Kong, home to the iconic Big Buddha, Victoria Peak, Star Ferry and…Lan Kwai Fong! The city is a wonderful mix of concrete jungle and lush greenery, country parks and hiking trails, but is also famous for being the international finance hub of Asia and a serious “work hard, play hard” philosophy. It’s no wonder that people are embracing yoga for the physical, mental and spiritual benefits and yoga studios are popping up like daisies across the city. Hong Kong is also home to a growing number of yoga and wellness-related events including the Evolution – Asia Yoga Conference and more recently, IRIS. I missed the IRIS events last year as I wasn’t in Hong Kong, but jumped at the chance to attend the latest event, hosted on the beautiful West Kowloon waterfront space, providing amazing views of the city skyline.
Registration and attendance was 100% free (what what!), and getting to the event was easy enough and was just one subway stop from the CBD. Once we arrived in Kowloon however, there was a slight lack of signage which resulted in a longer-than-usual walk – at least we got our step count up! We bumped into a few other girls who were also headed to the IRIS event and were also slightly lost, but together we found our way. The event offered a diverse lineup of events, including eight yoga classes, a meditation tent with guided classes, live performances as well as a health + wellness marketplace (think pressed juices, organic veggies, vegan snacks, yoga apparel and…a dating app?!).
We made it to the event a little after 3 PM, and caught the tail-end of a vinyasa flow class. I cannot imagine that teaching a class to more than hundred people is an easy feat, and I have the utmost respect for these teachers. In a setting like this, there are benefits and also limitations: practicing with a large community of yogis is an incredible experience and there is a buzz in the air that energizes you; however, you lose the personalized attention that helps you “up your yoga game”, to learn and truly feel each and every dynamic tension in the pose, as well as ensure safe and proper alignment. I found that while I wasn’t necessarily offered a challenging asana practice, the classes were dynamic and offered something different from the usual studio class and self-practice at home. For beginners, I would imagine that the event offered a fantastic taste of yoga and a glimpse into the diverse and supportive yoga community in Hong Kong.
We also popped into the “Meditation Dome” for a session which ended up being more hectic than we had hoped: the location of the tent (right next to the main stage) meant that everyone and everything was drowned out by music, pranayama (a full five minutes of Woodchopper pose!) and asana cues. It made for a less-than-enjoyable attempted meditation experience, and eventually we had to call it a day and give up.
Setting aside our time in the meditation dome, IRIS was still a well-organized event overall, and yoga events like these are much-needed in Asia – while there are bajillions of yoga retreats in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and India, there is no large-scale equivalent to the Wanderlust Festival or Yoga Alliance-hosted conferences that brings the yoga community across the region together. Events like IRIS are a sign of great things to come for the yoga community in Hong Kong, and I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Update: IRIS just put up event photos from the day! For more photos like this one below, check out their Facebook album!
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