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Finding nirvana in an urban jungle : Hotel’s unique yoga program makes use of its downtown location

Aug 08,2017
A yoga instructor and a student stretch together in a garden close to the gym at the Intercontinental Seoul Coex in southern Seoul. The outdoor yoga package offered by the hotel provides guests techniques to fight off day-to-day stress. [LEE SUN-MIN]
Go to almost any yoga class and you will hear a lot of “close your eyes and focus all your energy on breathing in and out and try to let go of any troubles residing in your brain and body.”

But, while many imagine that the ideal place to practice yoga is a secluded forest or a quiet resort far away from home, one Seoul hotel is proving that you can let go of your day-to-day troubles amid the hustle and bustle of the city and the sounds of the streets by doing outdoor yoga near COEX in southern Seoul.

Among the many yoga classes offered across Seoul, this one has an unexpected twist: the urban noise of cars honking and people shouting. The unique environment poses an interesting challenge. But for those who live in the busy city already, finding a way to control your stress as well as learning how to apply the methods of yoga into your everyday life has its appeal. The Intercontinental Seoul Coex, close to Bongeun Temple in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, offers an outdoor yoga class every Friday and Saturday for the five groups who book its “Sunset Breeze” package. At 7 p.m., these five teams gather together for an exclusive hour-long yoga class. If the other people don’t show up, you may be lucky enough to have a session just for you. The class takes place in a garden surrounded by a two-meter wall steps away from the gym and a swimming pool. This covers the traffic rolling by on Yeongdongdae-ro from view, but the symphony of car horns and revving motorcycles continues to play at full volume.

While the summer weather may feel stuffy at the moment, considering that many sign up for hot yoga and work out in a steamy room, the weather actually is quite fitting for some stretching. With sweat running down your back and face, even the humid breeze feels refreshing.

With one stretch of my arm, I felt like I was growing tolerant to the troubles I face daily. With another kick of my leg, the urban noises that surrounded me seemed to fade away. I was becoming more focused on what my body could do in this extremely humid and hot weather, and focused all my strength on my core energy. When you can’t avoid the stress one gets from life in the city, maybe it is best to just try to fight it in the busiest place you can find. And after that, reward yourself for learning ways to find peace amid a hectic city life by taking a quick dip in the pool.

BY LEE SUN-MIN [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]

The “Sunset Breeze” package is priced from 270,000 won ($239) for two people, which includes a room, breakfast and a set of sparkling wine and finger food in the room, alongside the free use of sauna, fitness club and swimming pool, and is available until Aug. 26. More information on the package can be found at www.iccoex.com or by calling (02) 3430-8888.