This is my third summer leading yoga on the boardwalk at Busan’s Gwangali beach and each year gets better and better. Sure, our beach may not be a white sandy one with palm trees galore; it’s more of the man-made type with neon lights, but there is still a lot of beauty to be seen during the practice. Here are a few specifics to Busan’s beach yoga scene that I’ve observed in the past three years.
- Boardwalk vs. Sand – It is my experience that practicing on the boardwalk is more beneficial than on the sand. One reason is pretty obvious – keep those grains of sand off of you. But if you have no problem being one with nature and getting sand in all your nooks’n’crannies, then by all means, give it a go! The second reason, and more importantly, is that the boardwalk provides a flat, even surface that is needed for balancing poses. Actually, in any and all circumstances, I would suggest practicing yoga on a flat and even surface because it allows for the best support for the wrists and ankles. It may seem idyllic to plop down into Downard Facing Dog on the sand, but you’ll be brushing the sand away endlessly and you might even be straining your wrists.
- Accept Your Performance – Practicing yoga in public is not a time for you to feel as if you’re being judged, really at no time should you feel as if you’re being judged, other students are more concerned about their own practice than seeing what’s going on over on your mat. There is no judgement in my classes, but for sure in Busan at beach yoga, there are pedestrian observers. Here is why: There is a different sense (or lack of?) of personal space here than we are used to in many of our home countries, people brush up right next to you, stand uncomfortably close in lines, on buses, and almost everywhere. Practicing yoga is no exception, people will stop and watch, try the poses with you, and many even take out their phones and take pictures. At first I tried to protect my students’ privacy by shooing them away, but I have come to accept it now as a major cultural difference. It’s not harmful, just different. As a student practicing on Gwangan’s boardwalk, I hope that you can remember that by practicing in a public space you may be subject to what we in many other countries consider an invasion of privacy, but try to see it from the eyes of the country that you are in and know that things are just different here. People are curious. And as for taking photos of a group of strangers practicing yoga, well their kakao story has to be updated with something today!
- Prepare for the Elements – The sun has left it’s mark on me even through a cotton shirt, so I try to wear screen when I practice on the beach. It helps as well to have sunglasses and/or a hat. These days I’ve been wearing a baseball cap to shield my eyes yet still make it possible to look students in the eyes without being weird in my sunglasses. I look a bit like a yoga camp counselor, but it saves me from early-onset-crows feet!
- Practice with the Sun – The best times to practice are when the rays aren’t so strong. Early morning, around 7AM and sunset, at 6PM are good times here in Busan. My 10:30AM class is also a good time slot and has been much more popular than the sunrise class – understandably, it’s not easy to wake with the sun for most of us! Sunday Sunset classes have been well attended as well, a great way to end the weekend and start the week.
Wherever you are located, I hope that you can seek out a yoga class in the elements. Beach, park, riverside, your own backyard – they’re all great locations. If you are here in Busan and would like to join a class, then please follow below.
Beach yoga classes led by Kara are held most weekends in Busan. Follow the Busan Yoga & Meditation group on Facebook and check out the group’s events to find out more.