Kaizen Korea, Busan – Studio Review

There has been plenty of mention in my writings of my good friend and mentor, Mindy Sisco, who has been running the only English language yoga studio in Busan, South Korea since 2012. She works as a team together with co-owner/teacher, Simon Kang. During my two years in Busan I had the good fortune of learning from each of them, practicing an array of classes at Kaizen.

Whether you’ve recently moved to Busan as an English teacher or are visiting a friend for a short time, you should make time in your schedule to get to a yoga class at Kaizen, and here’s why.

NO SMOKE & MIRRORS 

Yoga has a tendency to get frilly-la-la/hippy-tastic, which is nothing bad (I’m sometimes found guilty of drifting into that lotus-flower field,) but don’t expect so at Kaizen. Their yoga classes jump right into the deep end of the physical practice and stay there through the end. There might be some om-ing to end class, but it’s yoga – it’s expected.

THE STUDIO

The same can be said for their studio, which is minimal in nature, but has all the props a prop-aholic like myself could want – blocks, straps, eye pillows, and more blocks. There are cubbies for you to keep your personal items and mats for borrow (ask which are public and which are private first, since some students store their mats there long-term.)

THE TEACHING – They Know Their Stuff!

Mindy & Simon have done their fair shares of trainings and there’s no sign of slowing down. Teaching yoga is what they do, and they are good at it.

12983453_10156683111315567_662446499601727085_oMindy teaches Ashtanga-Vinyasa classes that bring in elements that feel like physical training. It’s never the same old, same old sun salutation warm ups in her class – she switches it up to work different muscles and prep students for what’s to come. As a fellow teacher, I highly appreciate the design details that each class has and I truly learn from classes, instead of just being guided through poses. The sign of a good yoga teacher.

Her teaching style is creative and unique. Students leave having worked their muscles, often in partner exercises which are an extension of the playful and challenging acro yoga classes that Mindy also teaches. If you thought I couldn’t compliment Mindy’s yoga teachings anymore, then you were wrong because her acro classes are an equally fun way to learn more about yoga, yourself, and yourself through yoga. You can read more about my Kaizen acro experiences here and here, oh, and here (I told you I went to a lot of her classes.)

Simon, the other half of Kaizen, has a background in body weight training which comes through in his classes that push students physically, but most importantly safely. Simon’s other trainings (he also teaches jui-jitsu) aid him as a teacher of yoga and therefore benefit the students by giving them a well rounded practice from start to finish.

His Handstands Club class for example, is a four-week series that works on form, Simonalignment, and technique. Rather than just having students hop up into handstand against a wall, Simon works the areas of the body necessary in the advanced pose, and he works on them for the full four weeks. It’s a continuous series, and while the goal isn’t to perform handstand in four weeks, which is very unrealistic, he will get you pointed in the right direction to maybe one day to master the pose.

DIRECTIONS

Take the green line of the subway (Line 2) to stop #212, KSU (short for Kyungsung University) or 경성대학교 in Hangul. Go out Exit 5 and walk straight. Take your first left directly in front of Artbox. Walk two and a half blocks until you see a boutique called Zebra on your left (on the right is a yellow cafe [of course – there are a gazillion cafes in Busan] called Compose Coffee.) Walk into the building entrance which is just left of Zebra, and take the elevator to the 6th floor. There is no sign for Kaizen in the elevator, look for Man to Man Fitness in Hangul on a red sign for the 6th floor, which is what the studio was called before Mindy and Simon took over.

 

COST

Since classes at Kaizen are designed and taught in four week series it is best to buy a month’s pass. You can buy a 4 class pass to cover a specific class, say Simon’s Handstand Club, or you can buy a bigger quantity, or you can get a one-month-unlimited-membership pass which covers all classes. Visit this page for details on pricing. Drop in classes are 20,000 won (roughly $18.)

mindy&simonacro

Mindy and Simon of Kaizen, Busan.


Disclaimer: The reason that I have not written my Kaizen studio review for so long is because I was a stand in substitute teacher at Kaizen when trainings and workshops took Mindy hopping around the globe. Teaching at Kaizen then became a regular class in my teaching schedule. I felt it unprofessional to review the studio while teaching there, so am writing the review after my Busan departure.

 

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Ride the Wind – Therapeutic Flying

This past weekend I performed with my Kaizen Acro Yoga Crew at a university festival.  We made the five hour bus trip up to Seoul to perform our two, four minute songs which we rehearsed for weeks prior. Indeed it was a lot of work, but it was well worth it.

For this performance we had a little less time to prepare than we did for the first one, maybe three or four weeks to create, choreograph, and rehearse which meant that we practiced a lot. Our high-flying group met 4-5 times a week and practiced for 2-4 hours each time. I was bruised up and my muscles have been achy, but in that way that I love, the rewarding soreness that tells me that I’ve been working hard.

No pain, no gain.

No pain, no gain.

But with everything in yoga a balance needs to be found. My well trained body was yearning for some relaxation and rest, which is why I was allowing myself frequent naps these past few weeks, a luxury that doesn’t usually make it into my schedule. I knew that my body needed to recuperate, so I hit the pillow for 10-20 minutes before training.

Last week on a Wednesday was one of those long training nights, we met at 6:30 to warm up, ran our routines over and over again, tweaking as we went, and then it was class time. From 8-10pm was the Big Birds class at Kaizen, the studio run by my very good friends Mindy and Simon. The class is usually really intense and forces me to push myself to my physical limits. Last week’s class however, was a little more on the chill side which was exactly what my body had been desiring.

In the middle of class Mindy asked us to switch it up a bit, so instead of drilling press ups (her new favorite activity,) she had us partner up and (thank the lord!) do therapeutic flying. You can think of therapeutic flying as receiving a massage in the air by your acro partner. The base is the masseuse and the flyer is the very passive, limp, receiver of the massage. It is the yin to the yang of the high powered washing machines in acro yoga.

At last week’s class we were instructed to focus on the shoulders, so my partner put me in folded leaf and started massaging my traps and neck. Folded LeafIt.was.wonderful! I also played masseuse and based her in folded leaf. Having those 10 minutes of therapeutics was so very welcomed by my tired body; I wasn’t actually sure that I was going to be able to push through an intense traditional acro class, and was pleasantly surprised when class ended up being gentler than normal. Also, I slept so well that night, which isn’t the norm; usually after finishing class at 10 and cycling home from the studio, I am up and wired for a few hours, finding it difficult to quite my body and mind for bed, but last night I had no problem sleeping – maybe partially due to the therapeutics.

If you get the chance to attend a class or workshop which includes therapeutic flying, then I suggest going. It can be done with a stranger or friend, or it can be practiced with a partner to create more intimacy and give you a skill that will keep on giving.


Acro yoga classes can be found here in Busan at Kaizen. Classes are offered for beginners, intermediate, and advanced students. Every Friday there is an acro jam, free for all to attend and play. Check their website for times and pricing.