Tropical Storm Brings Trash to Gwangan Beach

Last Sunday, July 12, 2015, was a turbulent day of wind and rain brought to Busan by tropical storm Chan-hom. There had been talk of a typhoon making it’s way to us, but it settled down into a tropical storm. Winds were high and the rain went from heavy to light throughout the day. This article on, states that winds were recorded as high as 47mph here in Korea.

Although it was not an ideal day for a bike ride, that’s exactly what I did during a period when the rain wasn’t so heavy. We took the boardwalk path on the way back to my apartment and were shocked by how much trash had washed up on the beach from the winds and surf. I snapped a few pictures, but most of the photos in this post are from early Monday morning, the following day. This amount of trash on the beach is extreme; there is always litter, casually dropped by beach walkers (cigarette cellophane, lighters, candy wrappers, straws, coffee cups, etc.) but the storm brought a whole array of trash.

Things that I noticed were shoes, balls, a lot of plastic drain filters, plastic beverage containers (water, soju, makgoli,) styrofoam and so on. There were great big styrofoam buoys, corners and bits from styrofoam coolers, and tiny pieces that had been broken down by the ocean. These little pieces are the ones that threaten the life of birds and fish because they resemble fish eggs so are consumed as food.

I noticed that there were still tourists snapping pictures at Gwangali Monday morning, however they were ignoring the length of beach covered in trash and instead aimed their phones at the bridge. I suppose to most people when they see a sight like that they think about how ugly it is and feel no responsibility to it so simply ignore it, but when I saw it, I wondered where was it coming from, how do we stop it, and how many innocent wildlife will die from our waste?

As I was taking pictures Monday morning, about half of the beach had already been cleaned up. Busan is great about getting crews out there every morning to make the (tourist) beaches look pristine. While the beautifying of the beach seems beneficial to us all, I can’t help but wonder if habits would change if people’s litter and trash stayed on the beach instead of miraculously disappearing every dawn.

Witnessing the debris that was washed up on the shore was depressing but also inspiring for me to question how I can decrease my impact on this finite planet even more. This month there has been a campaign online – Plastic Fee July, take a look at the link of their facebook page where you can get ideas about how to decrease your plastic use. Here’s a previous blog post of mine with tips. We can all do our small bit by carrying reusable bags, refusing bottled water, creating and using DIY cleaning/beauty products and most importantly sharing and inspiring others with our efforts.

How are you having a Plastic Free July and Plastic Free Life?

Better quality photos taken by Ben Lear.

Busan Beach Yoga

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.

Boardwalk Yoga

  • 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.

Sunset Yoga at Gwangan.

Sunset Yoga at Gwangan.